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foliage & finery: elizabeth gregory couture for a winter wedding at samlesbury hall – suzanne & bevan

March 26th, 2018 | Aislinn Thompson

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (34)

We may currently be praying for even the tiniest glimpse of spring, but today on the blog we have some breathtakingly beautiful wintery wedding inspiration, perfect for those of you planning a seasonal celebration.

The festivities were in full swing for today’s couple, Suzanne and Bevan, who invited Christmas into their wedding and threw a jewel-coloured, lively celebration that incorporated guest participation, with each guest asked to sing a line from The 12 Days of Christmas during the wedding breakfast.

Suzanne’s desire for foliage and no flowers to keep the decorations seasonal shows how incredible a bouquet can look without the traditional floral additions. Another show-stopper is the cake – an exquisite naked confection studded with foliage and feathers, which perfectly complements the Tudor theme of the wedding breakfast. With an artfully dressed chandelier presiding over long tables in the great hall, Suzanne’s love of this bygone period is evident in the evocative yet simple styling. If this was history coursework, we’d give her an A-star!

With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, Chelsea Shoesmith Photography.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (42)

suzanne says: Bevan and I met in Singapore on Tinder, despite both living around the corner from each other in London! One of the first places we headed to as a couple when we were back visiting the UK was Grasmere, where we walked up the Lion and the Lamb. So, when Bevan decided he wanted to propose, he took me back to Grasmere and up to the top of the Lion and the Lamb, where he suggested we take a break. He then pulled from his rucksack what appeared to be a Christmas present (Bevan proposed on 21st December 2016). I opened the gift and it was a book entitled ‘Our Adventures’. Each page was a different picture of our life together so far. When I reached the final page, there was a picture of a jewellery shop with the caption, “I want to ask you to begin another adventure with me” and the next page said, “Will you marry me?” Bevan got down on one knee with a vintage engagement ring – a 1930s blue sapphire with two diamonds either side.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (23)

We got married on 22nd December 2017, at Samlesbury Hall in Lancashire. As we live overseas, we tried to pick a date when our overseas friends would also be back in the UK. We liked the idea of making the day a big Christmas party. The venue is in my home town of Preston and I love history, especially the Tudor period, so a Tudor house seemed ideal. The ceremony was in the old chapel, the drinks reception in the antechamber and the wedding breakfast in the great hall. Some of our guests stayed overnight in the shepherd’s huts, which are located in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall. Angela, who runs the venue, is amazing at making your day run smoothly and the venue is bursting with character.

The wedding was not a religious ceremony. However, the ceremony itself was very personal to us. We used Cate Baines at The Ceremony Company and she was fantastic. She really set the scene with a flamboyant explanation of how we met.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (19)

In terms of a theme, I was keen to have a vintage feel to my dress because of my engagement ring but we didn’t really have a specific theme, other than telling everybody it was first and foremost a Christmas party.

For the colour scheme, I went with champagne (because of my dress having that vintage look), dark green, dark red and dark blue. I wanted to keep the colours simple and in tune with Christmas.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (39)

My dress was designed for me by an Irish designer based in Singapore called Elizabeth Gregory Couture. It was great working with Elizabeth. She designed my dress around my engagement ring and she also designed and made my fake fur stole, which I finished off with a vintage brooch that belonged to Bevan’s great grandmother. I added a back necklace by Tilly Thomas Lux and matching hairpins. I’d like to give a shout out to Chloe and Sarah for the fantastic hair and makeup – two lovely working mummies!

Bevan wore a suit, also designed and made by Elizabeth. Her suit brand is called Elizabeth Grace. Bevan wore navy with a beautiful grey waistcoat sporting bright red lining.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (4)

As I’m overseas and all my bridesmaids are UK based and different shapes and sizes, I let them each choose a different dress they felt confident in from my colour scheme. Two of the dresses were from ASOS, one was from John Lewis and one was from Chi Chi London. Our daughter, Eira, who is almost two-years-old, was also a bridesmaid. I contacted Pearl & Me as I had seen a dress on their website that I loved but it was not quite the right colour. The lovely lady kindly used the same pattern but in the red and champagne colours I wanted. I was so pleased with the final product. Eira also carried a wand rather than a bouquet made by Stitched by Sisters. It was in rose gold and personalised with Eira’s name.

In addition to my five bridesmaids, I also had a ‘man of honour’, who is my best friend from uni. My man of honour gave a speech along with my dad, Bevan and the best man. He wore the same suit as Bevan’s groomsmen. The man of honour, groomsmen, my dad and Bevan’s dad all wore navy blue Ted Baker suits with grey waistcoats from Moss Bros. Moss Bros were awesome, particularly as we had an army of groomsmen picking suits up from across the country and some who didn’t live in the UK doing measurements, etc. over the phone and then changing their minds! Moss Bros co-ordinated it all really well and took a lot of the stress out of the situation.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (7)

The night before the wedding, I stayed over at the lodge in the grounds of the hotel with my bridesmaids and got ready there. My mum hand-stitched PJs with our names and I gave each of my bridesmaids and my man of honour a bag of goodies, including personalised rose gold bracelets from Notonthehighstreet for the girls, and personalised cufflinks for my man of honour, also from notonthehighstreet.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (10)

Our photographer was Chelsea Shoesmith, who was recommended by my oldest pal and bridesmaid, who is also a photographer (Laura Kate Bradley, Hip to Heart Photography). We are delighted with the photos and Chelsea was such a lovely guest.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (15)

For the flowers, I wanted only foliage for my wedding and no flowers, as I wanted it to be seasonal. Our florist used berries, feathers and thistles to add a bit of texture to the foliage. We used Petal and Twig, who also dressed the tables with foliage and vintage-style lanterns in brass. The venue also had their Christmas foliage and trees up, which worked really well with the pieces our florist added. We were particularly happy with how the florist dressed the chandelier in the great hall, which was set with long tables as we wanted it to be in keeping with a Tudor banquet. Each place setting had a menu tied with string and some foliage or a feather tucked in.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (20)

Our favours were Christmas tree decorations lovingly made by my mum and sister. We had them hung on a wooden tree made by Bevan’s mother with fairy lights draped on it. The favours each had a tag attached indicating people’s tables, so they doubled up as our seating plan.

My friend Laura’s mum Terri Bradley made the cake. I left the design of the cake to Terri, as I trusted her completely! She really went above and beyond for us, making gingerbread men and cupcakes to accompany our cake. The cake was a naked cake and Terri dressed it with foliage and feathers.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (25)

In terms of the drink, we wanted to provide free-flow booze all day and had a mixture of red and white wine, prosecco, champagne, beer and tequila shots as the night went on. Needless to say, there were a few sore heads the following day! We also worked on the basis that good hearty food would work best and plenty of it. We had a range of canapés, including mini Yorkshire puds and pigs in blankets. Then, for the wedding breakfast, we had an antipasti starter followed by lamb pie and chips and topped off with a very large chocolate brownie and ice cream. At around 9:30pm we served bacon sarnies and cheese-filled croissants.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (29)

For other special touches, as it was Christmas, during the wedding breakfast we surprised our guests by giving them each a part from The 12 Days of Christmas to sing. I also had our menus designed by the same small business that made our wedding invitations: PocketPrint Designs. Two young mums working from home with their babies at their feet, they let me edit and mess around with the stationery so many times; they were incredibly patient! I loved the personal touches I was able to add; for example, an Oscar Wilde quote on the invitations and a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory quote on the menu cards, which also acted as place settings. They also designed the table numbers, which were very personal to us (e.g. table one was for our only daughter Eira; table two was for Lenny and Columbus, our two cats, and so on. We also made our own confetti holders out of old newspapers and string, which worked well.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (31)

For the entertainment, we had two musical performances: one by my cousin Katy (singing Perfect by Ed Sheeran) and one by Bevan’s stepbrother Chris (singing and playing the guitar to Van Morrison’s Sweet Thing). We were so fortunate to have both Katy and Chris play a number of classics, such as Jolene by Dolly Parton and Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits. We also had a ceilidh to get everyone dancing. After the ceilidh, we had a band called Captain Atlantic; they played our first dance (Tiny Dancer by Elton John) and then a fantastic mix of old and new hits. Katy and Chris even got up and did a few numbers with them!

Our favourite part of the day has to be the amount of live music we had. It really made it for me! I also really loved when it got to around 1:30am and most people had left and one of my talented uni friends sat down at the grand piano in the great hall. It was such a perfect end to the day. The next day was also lovely, as we had breakfast with friends and family at Samlesbury Hall.

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (46)

For our honeymoon, we went for a minimoon back where it all began in Grasmere at the Forest Side Hotel. It is a beautiful boutique hotel with an amazing restaurant and we had a wonderful tasting menu paired with different wines. We are off to the island of Kurumba in the Maldives for our main honeymoon (which was a total surprise to me – Bevan gave an envelope with details of it to one of my bridesmaids, who surprised me with it on the morning of our wedding).

A Winter Wedding at Samlesbury Hall (c) Chelsea Shoesmith Photography (48)

My top tip for other couples is to have a spreadsheet! Other than that, I would say use small businesses as suppliers. The attention to detail and time they take is incredible. It also means you get much more of a personal/unique feel to your wedding. The main thing people have said to me following our wedding is “it was so personal to you guys” and that makes all the planning/co-ordinating worthwhile. Finally, I did look at Brides Up North to steal some ideas. The real weddings section is great because it shows ideas that are attainable. I found some of the Pinterest ideas beautiful but impossible!

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about the author

Aislinn Thompson
Aislinn has a background in journalism, having filled all manner of publishing roles from editor to copywriter to feature writer. She is a former wedding photographer who ran her own business with her husband Michael. Together, they have travelled as far as Australia to photograph a client’s wedding (and spent all their earnings on a campervan trip up the Aussie coast!). Aislinn left wedding photography behind to take on the biggest commitment of her life as mummy to her young son Tom. She has been a bride, bridesmaid and even best woman (she has the speech to prove it!), which is almost all angles covered!

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