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la dolce vita: jenny packham for a fairy tale garden wedding in ripon – francesca & richard

June 18th, 2018 | Aislinn Thompson

A Garden Wedding in Ripon (c) Eyesome Photography (37)

Richard and Francesca’s dreamy engagement atop an Italian castle inspired the rustic Italian theme for their glorious ‘back garden’ wedding in the height of the English summer. And, when you have a back garden like that of Francesca’s parents, there could be no finer place to pitch your yurt, scatter your hay bales and soak up the atmosphere to the chilled-out sound of a five-piece band in the sunshine!

A wedding sign proclaimed “Let us make our own fairy tale today” – and Richard and Francesca duly did. They even enjoyed a sprinkle of fairy godmother magic: Richard’s late grandmother spoke to them across the decades in a letter 30 years old and gifted Francesca a gorgeous diamond ring despite never having known her.

Wearing a stunning Jenny Packham gown, Francesca looked every inch the modern princess. We love the capped sleeve detail and beading that echoes a sunbeam pattern across the bodice – the perfect complement to a sunny June day. Apparently, Richard planned most of the big day by himself and we have to agree with his bride that he did a marvellous job #majorgroompoints

With images by Eyesome Photography.

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francesca says: We got engaged in a small town called Calitri in southern Italy in August 2015. We were on holiday with my family and Richard arranged to have a tour of a castle in the town in the evening. What I didn’t know was that he planned the whole evening weeks in advance. He arranged for the castle to stay open after hours and for us to have a private tour. When we reached the top of the castle with views of the vineyards and open countryside, whilst the sun was setting I turned around from looking at the view and there he was, on one knee. As you can imagine I was shocked and taken back. Perfect proposal.

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We got married on 3rd June 2017, in a very small local church in Copt Hewick, Ripon. The reception was in my parents’ garden, a short walk from the church. This was the home I grew up in, so I had always dreamt of this for my wedding day.

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Our theme was Italian rustic. We chose this style because of where we got engaged and also because we have lots of family holidays across Italy every year and we love the food. We didn’t really have a colour scheme – just very rustic colours.

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For my dress, I went to The Bridal Collection in Harrogate and chose a Jenny Packham gown. I tried it on and instantly knew it was the one. My shoes were Aquazzura and my veil was borrowed from a good friend.

Richard, the groomsmen and dads wore navy blue suits with light pink ties, which they hired from a local suit shop in Harrogate.

My bridesmaids wore a navy dress from Whistles and we had our hair styled at Baroque Hair in Harrogate.

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We didn’t require transport on the day, which was perfect. Instead, I walked down the hill from my parents’ house to the church with my dad, bridesmaids and flower girl.

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Our photographer was Helen Spencer from Eyesome Photography. I have recommended her to many people already. We didn’t want to have any staged/formal photos, as we wanted to be with our friends and family as much as we could. We only wanted natural photos to capture the day as much as possible. Helen was so easy to deal with from day one – it all ran so smoothly.

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Our flowers were provided by Caine of Harrogate. I carried a small bouquet of small white flowers and Italian herbs. The bridesmaids held green herb bouquets and the boys all had a buttonhole of herbs.

We had very simple flowers: we had two olive trees outside the church and the windows were decorated in simple green foliage. Each table in the reception had a 3ft olive tree with herbs at the bottom. They were high enough that they weren’t in the way of people’s eye line (we were also allowed to keep them and they are growing in our gardens now). Caine of Harrogate again provided these and set them all up for us.

As extra touches, we had homemade wooden arrows from the church up to the house saying “nearly there”, etc. We also had straw bales in a circle with rugs over them so people could sit outside in the sun – it was a hot day, 24ᵒC.

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Our wedding favours were hand-painted green water glasses that doubled up as people’s place names for the tables. Again, this linked with our Italian theme: red wine glass, white wine glass and green water glass to echo the Italian flag.

For our cake, we decided on cupcakes and macarons, which were created for us by Mama Doreen’s in Harrogate.

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For the wedding breakfast, we went for Italian-themed foods, starting with a sharing platter for three consisting of breads, cheeses, meats and arancini balls. For the main course, we had another sharing platter for three comprising porchetta, lamb meatballs, cold pastas, salads and Caprese salad. For dessert, we chose pistachio cake with rhubarb, rhubarb granita and strawberries. To drink, we had Italian beers and also Italian wines, which the caterers – The Hog & Apple Food Co – sorted for us. In the evening, we had thin and crispy pizza.

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Our entertainment came from the band The Rebel Sounds, a five-piece band with a singer, two guitars, a keyboard and a drummer. They were unbelievable; we had seen them previously playing at a bar in Harrogate. They were playing very chilled acoustic songs in the sun as we arrived at the yurt and continued as everyone drank in the sun and soaked up the atmosphere. Then, at night, they were a completely different band, playing all kinds of music from Stevie Wonder to Ed Sheeran.

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My favourite part of the day, apart from marrying Richard, was walking from the church up the hill to the yurt with everyone following us, and then seeing all our friends and family together in the sun.

There is another moment from the day I will never forget. My new in-laws took me and Richard out of the reception for a few minutes, where I was presented with a letter from Richard’s grandmother (whom I’d never met and who had passed away when Richard was around 16). The letter was written for the attention of the woman whom Richard was to marry. This letter had been kept by Richard’s mother for many years and was only to be opened on his wedding day. It was a letter saying that she wished she could have been there to celebrate the day with us. To our surprise, there was also a present in there: a diamond ring that Richard’s grandmother had been given by her father on her 16th birthday. As you can imagine, emotions were high anyway but this took us all over the edge. I will never forget this moment.

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For our honeymoon, we went to the West Coast of America. It was a bit of a driving holiday, visiting a few places on the way. We visited San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, LA and Las Vegas. It was an amazing holiday full of food, wine and sun.

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It may be surprising, but my husband organised and sorted the majority of the wedding. He’s very relaxed about everything, so nothing was an issue to us with all the planning. So, my top tip to other Brides Up North is – plan and organise and enjoy the whole experience, as it will make the day a lot more enjoyable.

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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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