March 14th, 2018 | Alexis Forsyth
Quite simply, today’s wedding is all kinds of pretty. From the bride’s beautiful bespoke gown to the dreamiest of floral arrangements, complete with plush hydrangeas and peonies – there’s lots of wonderful ideas and special touches from Maria and Simon’s celebrations to pin away to your heart’s content.
But, before we can even gush about these details, we have to talk about the fact that Maria underwent spinal surgery in the lead up to the wedding. We think you’ll agree, this adds extra significance to their nuptials, and we’re delighted to hear that Maria had a speedy recovery that didn’t hinder plans for their big day.
And what a big day it was! Exchanging vows against the grandiose backdrop of Leeds Cathedral, Maria and Simon then went on to host their celebrations at luxury Harrogate hotel, Rudding Park, set in 300 acres of beautiful gardens and woodland. Maria’s Italian and Greek heritage influenced their overall theme for the day, too, with pretty olive branches, a lemon tree and even Greek dancing all bringing Mediterranean feels to the proceedings. Read on as Maria tells all…
With images by Paul Read Weddings.
maria says: We got engaged in August 2015, in Rome, at the beautiful Giardini degli Aranci (garden of oranges) with its stunning view of the city. We went just before sunset, and it was such a romantic setting. I really didn’t expect the proposal and after being there for a while, I asked when we could go for a Prosecco! It was then that Simon said it would be nice to take a seat on one of the benches further back from the wall.
Long story short, he said there was a reason he had brought me to the most beautiful secret spot in Rome, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Once I had stopped crying and said yes, we could hear applause from around the park – such a surreal moment but one we will never forget and that place will remain special for both of us forever.
My mum is Italian so I think Simon always knew he wanted to propose in Italy and it was a trip of a lifetime. We ate at a Michelin star restaurant afterwards but spent most of the evening on our phones telling our family and friends about the amazing news!
We tied the knot on Saturday 24th June 2017.We chose this date as it was 11 years to the day since we first started going out.
We got married at Leeds Cathedral, where I used to sing in the choir. I have also known the priest (now a Monsignor) since I was a child, so it was perfect that he conducted the service for us.
We then held the reception at Rudding Park in Harrogate, voted number one hotel in the UK by Trip Advisor for three years in a row. We knew immediately we wanted our wedding to be attended by all our friends and family, and had considered Amalfi (where my family heritage is from) but given difficulties with older family members being able to get there, we decided that there would be nowhere better than Yorkshire, especially given that I’m a Leeds girl and he’s a Wetherby boy.
We’ve both known Rudding Park for years and it was the perfect balance between city and country. The service at Rudding Park is exceptional and the new spa was going to open the year of our wedding – we just knew we were in safe hands. Plus, I have a pretty huge family and it is one of the few venues in Yorkshire that caters for more than120 people. It’s everything we wanted.
I had spinal surgery for scoliosis in November 2016 – it was a huge procedure but I bounced back within three months – just in time for my wonderful wedding dress to be measured and created. I had often been really paranoid about my waist and I am so lucky to have had this corrected before I walked down the aisle. It seemed a long journey back to health and I had three months off work, but that just left more time for wedmin to take my mind off things!
We didn’t have a theme in the beginning, but once I started my Pinterest obsession, I realised I kept pinning things that were tagged as “fine art”. I tried to bring in a bit of a Mediterranean theme, along with pastel colours to keep things understated and elegant. For example, the olive branches on the cake and the lemon tree in the middle of the main hall, the soft candles, soft blues and pale pinks, and the menu was very much inspired by my Italian and Greek heritage. There was so much food! There was also Greek dancing and a bit of Italian Vin Santo which added much more alcohol to proceedings!
With regards to the pastel colour scheme, I wanted pale pinks and blues with Mediterranean greenery as I thought they would stand the test of time when looking back at the photographs. I also love hydrangeas and peonies which helped guide the colour scheme, and indeed the month of June for the wedding, when peonies are available and in bloom.
I had the most exquisite bespoke wedding dress made by Suzanne Neville herself. I still remember vividly how amazing it was being fitted by Suzanne in the Knightsbridge store. I first went to The Bridal Collection in Harrogate, and saw some of Suzanne’s previous collections and just knew her classical shapes and amazing corsets were right for me and exactly what I was looking for.
My beautiful wedding dress was called Melody. From the moment I started looking for my perfect dress, I knew Suzanne had to be at the top of my list. Being only 5 ft tall, a made-to-measure dress was the only choice. Stepping into Beauchamp Place is a dream – all the dresses are stunning but the girls all help you find the one for you. From then, all other dresses I tried on in other boutiques were just trying to live up to Melody (and I basically went to every single wedding dress shop in London!) Everybody really does go above and beyond to make sure everything is perfect. The dress of my dreams.
Simon wore a morning suit from Buckleigh, with a yellow waistcoat from Neal and Palmer (Jermyn Street). His shoes were Crockett and Jones with his tie from Hermes, and his cufflinks belonged to his late grandfather.
The groomsmen’s morning suits were either their own or hired from Moss Bros. As for the bridesmaids, they wore dresses from NABBD (Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress). The flower girl’s dress was from Monsoon and the flower crown was part of the flowers from Sally at Serendipity Floral Design.
Flossy & Leigh did my makeup and hair and also all my bridesmaids and my mum. They were absolutely incredible, and I had the VIP platinum service so they stayed all day and kept my makeup topped up and changed my hairstyle for the evening. I had an up-do later on in the day as I wanted to dance and not let my hair get in the way. I would a million per cent recommend them to anyone – they made us all look stunning.
For my bridal car, I wanted something fun and less traditional, given my Italian background and my love of red cars! I had a classic red Jaguar which I hired from a neighbour – it was his car and he let me borrow it for the day!
Our photographer was Paul Read and he was absolutely brilliant. As you can see from his portfolio, his work is so considered and thoughtful, without being intrusive on the day. We didn’t want to spend hours posing for photographs and wanted to be able to let our hair down and chat to our guests, as we had a lot of them, so we wanted to choose someone who was laid back.
We also booked York Place Films. Alex and Matt are the most incredible duo and some of the nicest Yorkshire people you will ever meet! Their efforts were absolutely heroic – they stayed right until the very end of the wedding to capture those final shots (even though their contract said they didn’t have to). They genuinely go above and beyond what’s required of them and our video was just brilliant – so lovely to be able to re-live the day and have captured all those moments that you simply missed. Our trailer can be viewed here.
My bouquet was so stunning and I wish I could carry it all over again! The flowers were from Sally at Serendipity Floral Design and consisted of white peonies, pink peonies, David Austin Keira roses, white Akito roses, ‘Quicksand’ roses, Sweet Avalanche roses, White O’Hara roses and pale pink astilbe. The bridesmaids, meanwhile, carried gypsophila with three pale pink Sweet Avalanche roses.
The urns in the church were a mixture of delphiniums (white/pink), pale blue, pale pink and white hydrangeas, roses, peonies and a mix of eucalyptus, asparagus and olive leaf greenery. The table decorations were also pale pink and white hydrangeas, white peonies, roses and gypsophila.
We also hired chiavari chairs from First Choice Event Hire, who gave us the best price for all the chairs we needed!
Instead of favours, we donated £2 per person to St Gemma’s Hospice, which is where Simon’s late grandma died a few months before the wedding. We thought that was a nice way to honour her and give back to charity at the same time.
The stunning wedding cake was handmade by Dominique Pickering of Poppy Pickering in Ilkley. We had various layers, including strawberry and champagne and chocolate orange. We were sad not to have been able to eat it all! All the flowers on the cake matched the wedding flowers too and were handmade in icing.
We chose a bespoke menu because of my Italian and Greek heritage, and we are both self-confessed foodies! We had a wonderful experience at Rudding with the chefs bending over backwards to give us what we wanted. Even better, one of the chefs turned out to be Greek!
The menu included a selection of cured and smoked meats and arancini. This was followed by king prawn spaghetti, with spicy arrabiata sauce, rocket and black pepper. For mains, we enjoyed Yorkshire lamb kleftiko with lemon and oregano potatoes. And to round off the meal – dark chocolate and honeycomb mousse with burnt orange and blood orange sorbet.
All the wines were Italian alongside the general Mediterranean theme, including La Contessa – Gavi del Comune di Gavi, Piemonte; Amarone Classico Costasera 2011 Masi, Veneto; and Da Vinci Vin Santo Bianco Dell’Empolese 2008, Toscana.
We booked Event Music Company after seeing them perform at a friend’s wedding. Years later we saw that they were Rudding Park’s recommended partner and it turned out to be the same band our friends used! They were absolutely fantastic – we had a pianist for the champagne reception and then Chris Hilton’s Little Big Band for the after party, with a DJ after the live set. We also had a photo booth from Yorkshire Booth Brothers.
We incorporated some additional personal touches throughout the day; we had Greek dancing, and Italian pastries with the Vin Santo, which again was a nod to my heritage. We also had a table with photos of deceased close family members, such as Simon’s grandparents and my grandparents, as it was really important to us to have them with us on the day.
Other suppliers we used included Noble Fine Art for our stationery – which was exactly what we wanted (letterpress, traditional and unfussy). We also had a stamp made with our image on, by a supplier on Etsy called Lili Mandrill. We added the stamp to our save the date envelopes, and it added a unique and personal twist! I also made our save the dates on Paperless Post which was a really cheap and unique way of doing it.
We also used Pamella Dunn as wedding co-ordinator on the day and she was completely invaluable in terms of organisational skills. We had a couple of buses to take our guests from Rudding Park to Leeds Cathedral and back, and she organised them with military precision. I would definitely recommend her to make sure things go smoothly and she was super helpful throughout the process. She also provided the lovely lemon tree in the reception hall and I hired some of the props from her, such as the lanterns outside the front door of Rudding.
Following our wedding, we would absolutely recommend our choice of venue to other brides and grooms. Rudding Park clearly excels in weddings and you know you are in completely safe hands. Nothing went wrong at all, all day, and the staff were completely dedicated to handling everything with the minimal amount of fuss. The house is gorgeous, and the grounds are lovely, especially in the summer. Everyone also commented on how fabulous the food was, and that it had been the best food they had eaten at a wedding. Mission accomplished, I think!
The highlight to the day, for me, was marrying my best friend (sorry for being cliché!) but also looking out into the room from the top table and seeing everyone we love, together in one place. I doubt that will ever happen again – it was such a special moment.
We went to Singapore and Bali on honeymoon, which we booked with Scott Dunn. It really was the trip of a lifetime and we can’t wait to go back one day.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be, relax and just enjoy the day with all the people you know and love. It really doesn’t matter about anything other than the two of you, together, and the fact that everyone is there to witness your love and commitment.
Also, make time to just hang out with your new husband on the day. It’s all such a whirlwind – Simon and I made sure we left the reception for five minutes just to walk around the garden and take a second to let it sink in that we were married!
During the planning I followed Brides Up North on Instagram and also read UNVEILED magazine. I really liked the ‘real weddings’ section on the blog, which served as inspiration but I also really appreciated the ‘suppliers we love’ section, as it can be a bit of a minefield without some recommendations.
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Originally from north of the border, Alexis has lived in the North East for the past 15 years and considers herself officially an adopted Geordie. A qualified journalist - Alexis took up the position of editor at the region’s longest running business publication in 2015 before moving into a marketing role for one of the UK’s largest independent arts and craft galleries. Alexis currently edits her own lifestyle blog, where you can find her latest musings on all things Newcastle-related, together with a smattering of her Instagram-worthy cocktail and foodie pics. Yet to find Mr Right herself, Alexis sees this as a mere formality when it comes to tying the knot, as she’s already picked out her dream wedding dress, theme and venue...
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