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fashion flair: vintage nods and bespoke attire for a striking wedding at thornton manor – louise & lee

July 23rd, 2018 | Aislinn Thompson

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (45)

There’s a very arty feel to today’s real wedding between Louise and Lee; from the editorial style images captured by the photographer, to the clever details produced by the bride.

As a fashion designer, Louise’s creative talents came into play throughout the planning – and yes, she did design her own wedding dress, which certainly lived up to the guests’ high expectations. We adore the statement leaf detailing and Louise’s careful consideration on exactly where the lace should be placed. Her attention to detail results in a gown that is both majestic and unique.

Further personal touches can be found in Louise’s fantastic handmade decorations, including the inventive table plan crafted from an old door displaying wonderful sketches by the bride and dressed with lush eucalyptus, as well as the table names, also beautiful sketches that represent important elements of Lee and Louise’s life together, such as the lovely drawing of their dog, Salvador Dali.

The cake, also designed by Louise, is wonderfully dramatic with silver leaf and a cascade of silver and green foliage down one side of its elegant three tiers. It would appear that this bride’s talents know no bounds!

With images by Tim Simpson Photography.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (41)

louise says: We got engaged in Paris in September 2015. Lee took me to Paris to finish off our annual holiday to the South of France. Since I had previously worked in Paris at a fashion designer’s atelier, I had always wanted to show Lee why I loved the place so much. We stopped for a sit down in the Louvre’s Tuileries gardens. I was checking my map and Lee was waiting until we had complete privacy before he slipped down on one knee and presented the most perfect diamond ring to me. We then quenched our thirst drinking pink champagne in the stunning Renaissance hotel!

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (9)

We got married on Friday 13th October 2017. We have been asked “Why!?” many times. Our answer? “Why not!?” To us, every other day of the year except Christmas, birthdays and New Year have no significance. Friday 13th has impact, controversial connotations and raises eyebrows regularly. Sounds perfect for us. As one of my gifts to Lee on our wedding day, I had tattooed the number 13 on my finger. I revealed this to him at the altar in church! He thought I had drawn it on with eyeliner until my bridesmaid corrected him after the confetti throwing! He now has a matching tattoo.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (31)

We had our ceremony at St George’s United Reformed Church, Thornton Hough. It’s beautiful and ornate with wonderful curved ceilings, stained glass windows and calved patterns into the brickwork and is just 40 seconds from Thornton Manor, where we had our reception. The night before the wedding, my bridesmaids and I stayed in the Gate House at the manor. We got ready there and then I put my dress on over in the manor in the stunning Lady Lever Bedroom. Lee stayed in another of the manor’s many cottages in its grounds with his three best men

We chose Thornton Manor after scouring the north west for our ideal venue, marking every manor, castle and abbey within one-and-a-half-hours of our home (Lee made this distance rule to reduce the enormity of the mission). We spent many weekends visiting and analysing them. When we finally came across Thornton Manor, it ticked every box we had. Our guests stayed in the whole of the manor and the surrounding cottages and, inside, the manor was impeccable with original features, fabulous, grand rooms and gardens. It was faultless, and the décor and details were extremely tasteful and regal.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (16)

We would absolutely recommend the venue to other brides and grooms. There are so many rooms to use at different stages of the day; from a cosy lounge to the grand ballroom where we held the reception, to a long lobby room that looks out onto the gardens, to a music room. Everywhere you look the décor is fabulous. There’s even the Queen’s Bedroom and Queen Mother’s Bedroom, where royalty used to stay when they regularly visited Thornton Manor. Lee’s mum stayed in the Queen Mother’s Bedroom, which was special! The staff were very professional and I even had someone assigned to me throughout the day; he was literally on hand to help me whenever, wherever. He even stood at the side of the dance floor and would hold my drink! I felt like royalty myself and this treatment was never expected!

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (27)

We didn’t have a theme. We wanted our guests to have a ‘feeling’ – a feeling of the wedding being very current yet thoroughly genuine and in keeping with the regal, old manor, the opulent décor and mine and Lee’s taste. We had Sinatra, Ray Charles and Dean Martin’s bluesy and mellow jazz tunes playing throughout the day in every room. The vintage cars, timeless tuxedos, Lee’s pocket watch and my hair style giving a nod to the 40s just all came together. I suppose it was an unintentional eclectic feel. We have strong interests in art, architecture, antiques, fashion and music and we feel we tastefully managed to portray this in every detail.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (29)

We didn’t have a colour scheme but I used notes of grey/silver throughout the day as it worked very well with the green foliage and everything else in our life is grey basically (car, kitchen, dog, sofa …. my usual nail colour!). I sprayed the ends of our personalised confetti cones in light grey, the cake was brushed with silver leaf and our flowers had cold silvery/light grey tones. I even persuaded my mum to have her hair coloured an icy blonde to match her look!

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (11)

As my occupation is a fashion designer and stylist, my dress was eagerly anticipated by what seemed like every man and his dog. After debating whether I should attempt to scour the shops and buy my ‘dream dress’ or if I should set upon the mission of designing it myself, I went for the ‘easiest’ option. I made appointments at many wedding dress shops and had the most wonderful experiences. I tried on everything from strapless, fishtail, and slinky with overlays, to skirts and even cropped lace tops! I couldn’t stop my critical design head from analysing every stich, seam and lining and I liked different parts of different dresses, so I nearly bought two. I realised I had no other option – I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t design every inch myself!

To design my dress, I teamed up with a previous colleague of mine, a very talented seamstress who is very much the perfectionist like me and she’s brought my vision to life many times before. I analysed the 17/18 couture shows, visited London’s Soho and designed my dress using silk tulle, silk satin, and Chantilly and Italian lace. I had always wanted the dress to ‘creep’ up my torso and knew exactly where I did and didn’t want to place the lace, so I couldn’t resist appliqueing the lace onto the dress myself.

My dress had the traditional, wonderfully voluminous, long-trained skirt, yet was fitted at the top with the daring, open back. The leafed lace ‘grew’ from my bodice, up and underneath the top and crept up my neck asymmetrically. It was heavily embellished up my right side, with the left side showing more of the Chantilly bodice.

My wedding day look wouldn’t have been complete without my ultimate accessory. In true 20s style, I had a white stole that I would occasionally drape over myself (and Lee!). I also had four pairs of shoes for my wedding day!

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (35)

Lee wore a bespoke, tailor-made suit by the Yorkshire-based Saville Row tailor, Dale Rhodes. We decided to have a black-tie wedding because it’s timeless and the epitome of smart. The groomsmen wore three-piece, satin collared tuxedo suits and the page boys wore adorable Jasper Conran tuxedos and bow ties.

The bridesmaids wore fishtail crepe dresses with plunging v-backs, teamed with nude shoes, nails and lips, and elegant, neat up-dos.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (28)

For transport, we hired two 1970s shell grey Rolls Royce from Silver Lady Wedding Cars. These were stunning, original model cars that were good enough for Kate Moss so…!

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (37)

Our photographer was Tim Simpson and we would absolutely recommend him. We were first drawn to looking at his previous work as we had heard he was cool, quirky and had had his work featured in Vogue magazine. I instantly wanted to check him out! He has a strong, fashion look to his work. His images aren’t necessarily the stereotypical wedding imagery. When we first met him, he had teamed his brogue shoes with some quirky stripy socks and wide-brimmed glasses and a beaming smile. I got the feeling he was as inspired by me and Lee as we were intrigued by him. He was a grafter on our wedding day. Arriving before sunlight in his Mini Clubman, he didn’t stop until well past sunset, climbing walls, sinking into bushes and sliding across the grass to capture the images. He will go to any length to capture the moment and he was fantastic at finding locations to shoot.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (44)

Our flowers were white, light grey and leafy with touches of silver. Kirsty Fullerty from Harpers Floral Artistry created them. My bouquet and that of the bridesmaids was classic yet ‘overgrown’.

When deciding on décor, I stayed with the idea of ‘overgrown’ and ‘in keeping’ with the very old building. We had around six blossom trees (the more, the better!) and didn’t decorate them, as they spoke for themselves. We had eucalyptus cascading down the side of the wedding cake, around the table plan and lying around the base of the candelabras on each of the tables. I sketched my idea for the top table and Kirsty executed it perfectly. It was a wonderful waterfall of fresh foliage, creeping along the table and then tumbling down in front of us to the floor. No flowers – just beautiful green and grey leaves.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (14)

For other details, I made the table plan from an old door with my dad. He attached hinges in the centre, so it looked like an open book. As we didn’t have a distinct ‘theme’, other than the whole day being about me and Lee, it made sense for the table plan to be totally personal by each table, being named after an aspect of our lives, for example, we had ‘Salvador Dali’ (our miniature schnauzer dog) and ‘Fir Lane’ (our street name). I illustrated each of the table names by hand and each image was displayed with a brief description on each table too.

I also made the place names from transparent and marble printed pages, attached with a bow tied in ribbon. On the reverse, there was a short quote thanking each of our guests and explaining that we had donated to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, Royton, on their behalf in memory of mine and Lee’s late grandparents due to cancer.

When it came to the cake, I was very specific about how I wanted it to be. I originally briefed a wedding cake designer but, as the final touches were coming together for the wedding, I knew exactly what the cake should be like so, like mostly everything else, I ordered three very large cakes from Marks and Spencer and planned to decorate them myself. I sprayed them with pearlescent white and grey/silver spray in an ombre effect. I then applied scattered silver leaf down one side. On this same side, I asked Harpers Floral Artistry to create a waterfall of grey/silver sprayed leaves on the stand as if they were growing down the side of the cake. Each of the tiers was a different flavour, so there was something for everyone.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (4)

The wines we chose were the ‘winners’ from a wine tasting night we had held at our house with our three best men. The top-rated ones made the cut and we provided and consumed in bulk!

Our food was traditional and hearty with an ‘arty’ touch. The dessert was carrot cake in a small plant pot with tiny watering cans of trifle. Marzipan carrots were ‘planted’ in brown sugary soil. We would recommend Barretts Caterers – they were fantastic. The team was very helpful and professional.

For entertainment, we hired a DJ who I had vowed to use when I witnessed his musical talents years earlier at a friend’s wedding! He was fantastic – so good, in fact, that I never actually left the dance floor as I couldn’t pull myself away! He just knew what music to play: current chart music; lots of northern soul and Prince mixed with the Courteeners and Oasis.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (4)

On reflection I struggle to choose just one part of the day as my favourite! I loved putting on my dress in the Lady Lever Bedroom, with the sun shining in and everything and everyone in there looking fabulous. It really felt like fairy dust was being sprinkled over us! I remember my bridesmaids adjusting my dress, my dad walking into the room, seeing me and his eyes filling up. And then there was me revealing my (first ever!) tattoo I’d had done for Lee (on my finger) to my parents! I also loved the part after the ceremony, back at the manor when Lee and I were together in the gardens. Tim was photographing us and the sun was shining. I looked back and all our guests were outside against the fabulous manor backdrop, all having a great time.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (20)

Our honeymoon was a thrilling, South African adventure and ended with a Dubai rest. In true, traditional newly married style, we decided to leave for our honeymoon just hours after our wedding. For four days we self-drove through the Kruger National Park, being greeted by the most amazing sights; from live kills with vultures and hyenas, to stopping to let families of elephants cross the road. We then stayed in a private reserve, nThambo Tree Camp. Here we really were at one with nature, living in stunning tree houses with nothing but trust separating us from the animals themselves.

After a week, our honeymoon adventures shifted a gear when we flew to Durban and checked into The Oyster Box (aka heaven!). Voted no.1 hotel in South Africa with TripAdvisor, this place didn’t disappoint. If it’s good enough for the Royal Family, the England Football team and The Kardashians …! This place was faultless. The hotel staff dressed in impeccable colonial attire and our mornings were spent indulging at breakfast with constant champagne refills, oysters and a school of dolphins even greeted us one morning. We then unpacked our outdoor gear and drove on to our final African destination, the Drakensberg mountain range. Here we hiked, explored and rode horses.

A Fashionable Wedding at Thornton Manor (c) Tim Simpson Photography (19)

My top tip for other Brides Up North is to take it all in. Enjoy your day. Everyone is there because they are happy for you and want to support you. Don’t sweat the small stuff: if something doesn’t go exactly how you intended, remember it really doesn’t matter as everything else will be fantastic.

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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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