September 2nd, 2015 | Rachel Parry
Last month our real life bride and celebrity columnist Jane Witherspoon, took a brief break from her hectic showbiz reporting schedule to jet off on her hen do to the south of France. Fancy!
Joined by her top ladies, Jane and her squad enjoyed a memorable weekend (well sort of), of culture, relaxation, fine food and wine – oh and champagne, oh yeah, and vodka!
Here she reveals all they got up to (well the bits she can remember), as in true bride-to-be hen do style, Jane adopted a somewhat go hard or go home approach. Jane, we salute you!
Now back home in the UK, Jane has less than six weeks to go until the big day and so is shoehorning in the last minute preparations and planning around her numerous work commitments, which includes covering London Fashion Week. Sounds glam hey? But seriously we don’t know how she fits everything in, she certainly works hard – and from what’s about to follow, she plays hard too…
jane says: It’s often billed as a last big hurrah for many brides to be but I feel like I’ve been practicing this partying business for quite a while now. As for my hens – they definitely know how to have a good time.
I’m very lucky to have some amazing girls around me especially as I approach the six-weeks-to-go milestone. They threw me the most brilliant bash in the south of France and this blog post is dedicated to each and every one of them for the part they played. Mam, Emma, Emsy, Nicole, Karthi, Sara, Karyn and Krysia – love you ladies!
An early start in drizzly Stansted didn’t dampen our spirits as we began our little jet-set jaunt. We were soon air bound having cleaned up on free shots in Duty Free. That’s as tacky as it got…who am I kidding!
On arrival in Lourdes we were soon in a taxi and taking a short detour to nearby town Tarbes to pick up Nicole who was travelling by train from Poitiers to meet us in the Pyrenees. I arrived wearing a fancy dress nuns habit which the girls had insisted on. Not even a ‘hello’ let alone a ‘bonjour’, ‘where’s my prosecco?’ Nicole asked. That’s how it started…
Karyn and Krysia had invited us to spend the long weekend at their 18th Century farmhouse in Bernac-Debat, Midi-Pyrenees. As we pulled up to the iron gates we muttered ‘wow’ in unison. The place was incredible. Shutters, chandeliers and champagne. After a not so quick (the place was huge) tour of the grounds and pool, everyone bagged their four-poster beds and it was down to business. We had a weekend of eating and drinking ahead of us.
For anyone thinking of a trip to the region I couldn’t recommend our base in Bernac-Debat highly enough. It is 20 minutes from the airport on the edge of a fabulous mountain region and nearby Tarbes town and Lourdes is a must.
After a few rounds of hum bug (a guessing game where you hum songs. Sadly these videos have been deleted) we had the most amazing roast duck meal cooked for us. So I’m told. I sadly had to leave the girls to enjoy this without me after a forfeit involving a tumbler of vodka put paid to my plans for the evening. Yes I missed the first night of my own hen do. On the plus side, my 13 hour sleep meant I was fresh as a daisy for day two.
A short bus ride meant we spent the day exploring the beautiful town of Tarbes, its cafes and fountains. A quick trip back to the house to freshen up and we were on our way to dinner.
Emsy had booked us into a restaurant which features in the Michelin guide called Trait Blanc – albeit the booking was for the week after we were there. Our lack of French vocabulary was brushed aside and waiter Jean-Henri sat us in a private garden out the back (which was just as well because of the noise we made). The reviews said ‘look nowhere else’. The food was incredible. I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for great food that’s reasonably priced.
Sunday was pool party day. We soaked up the night before with a fry up then cranked up Gloria Estefan on the music system and went for the burn. More cheese, wine and laughs from the moment we woke till we slept. The weekend was drawing to a close far too fast. But, there was one tourist spot just down the road we had to squeeze in.
You can’t go to Lourdes and not visit the town itself and the famous grotto. So it may not be very ‘hen do-ey’ but it’s definitely worth a visit whether you’re religious or not. It’s a beautiful town and the Cathedral is stunning. After a brief whirlwind tour and a quick prayer we were headed for the airport and UK laden with holy water! Well, we certainly didn’t need any more duty free booze!
Follow our real life bride and celebrity columnist Jane, at @Janeyspoon.
July 29th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
Last time we caught up with Jane Witherspoon, our real life bride & celebrity columnist, she’d been thinking about how to impress guests with her flower, food and entertainment choices for her upcoming wedding while getting some top tips from newlywed wed actress Michelle Keegan.
Fast-forward a month and Jane’s thoughts have turned to her own appearance on the big day, and in particular what style of hair and makeup she might have for her moment in the spotlight.
Luckily Jane’s job as a celebrity reporter has once again put her in touch with an A-lister (of the beauty world) who can help. Hair and makeup artist to the rich and famous Ciona Johnson-King, whose clients include Cameron Diaz and Keira Knitghley, has styled Jane on many occasions for glittering events at which she has been reporting.
So as her wedding day approaches, Jane has called upon Ciona to give her some expert advice on her bridal beauty regime. And rather than keeping it all to herself, the generous bride-to-be is sharing all the details with you here on the blog today. What a star!
jane says: It’s hard to keep on top of a good beauty regime at the best of times let alone when you’re finalising plans for a wedding. I’m not doing too well at trying to eat healthier and drink lots of water. In fact, the busier I get the more I seem to consume! And as for this growing my hair malarkey, generally I’m feeling a bit of a mess. I’m sure it will all be worth it come October though.
For the big day itself, I’m thinking of eeping my hair and makeup quite simple and classic, inspired by Princess Grace of Monaco.
Luckily when it comes to bridal beauty I’ve got a trump card in the form of Ciona Johnson-King. Ciona is the make-up artist to the stars and I’m so lucky and proud to be able to call her my friend. Cameron Diaz, Audrey Tautou, Liv Tyler, Gwyneth Paltorw and Keira Knightley are just a few of the names she’s worked with.
With this in mind I’m handing over this month’s blog post to Cio to give you some amazing pre-wedding beauty tips, and accompanying the post are some of my favourite Ciona creations – now what style to choose?
ciona says: If you’re reading this, the chances are you or someone dear to you is about to get married. Congratulations! It’s the most magical day of your life. I thoroughly recommend it! To help you prepare, here are few of my top wedding tips…
1. Practice beforehand, using daylight when available. Your hairstyle needs to work from the sides and back as well as the front. Make sure your skin tone is the same from the face to all body parts. It’s important to be completely comfortable on the big day so don’t go too far out of your comfort zone with your hair and makeup. It’s not the time to try the latest catwalk trend. Take photos from different angles so you can see how your hair and makeup will look.
2. Take care sunbathing in the run up to the wedding as suntan marks are very tricky to disguise. If fake tanning, build up light layers over a few days or weeks rather than going for a strong spray tan just before your wedding. Find the brand and level of tan that works best on your skin well in advance. It’s all part of the research!
3. Gently exfoliating the skin really does help with radiance. This is the time to treat yourself to some good serum and moisturiser to nourish the skin too.
4. Eat healthily, drink water, exercise, sleep well and avoid stress. Basically -look after yourself!
5. On the day, allocate plenty of preparation time. Listen to your favourite playlist to help relax you. I usually ask the bride’s best friend to help keep our zone free of too many interruptions. You’d be surprised how many people pop in to say ‘hi’! The last thing you want is someone bringing in their last minute drama whilst the bride’s getting ready. Don’t forget to eat either, as fainting at the aisle isn’t a good look (as a make-up artist, I’m likely to be the one force-feeding the bride).
Here Ciona shares three of her beauty videos to help brides-to-be achieve that perfect wedding day look: Golden, Hollywood and Romantic.
Next month Jane will be bringing us all the gossip from her hen do. She and the gals are off to a friend’s 18th Century farmhouse in France. Sounds fabulous!
Follow Ciona Johnson-King at @CionaJK or for more information visit www.ciona.co.
Follow Jane, at @Janeyspoon.
June 30th, 2015 | Julia Braime
Last month on the blog Jane Witherspoon, our real life bride and celebrity columnist, shared with us details of her early wedding planning, including the reasons behind deciding on North East venue Brinkburn Priory, for her upcoming wedding in October.
As a celeb reporter for the likes of Good Morning Britain, Jane also made us green with envy as she told us about her latest red carpet antics which included interviewing a certain Mr Clooney. And she’s been at it again! This time though she’s been rubbing shoulders with a big girl crush of ours here at Brides Up North, actress and newlywed Michelle Keegan.
So we’ll let Jane give you all the goss on what Miss Keegan had to say about her lavish ceremony to Mr Wright, whilst also bringing you up to date with the plans for her and beau Alex’s impending wedding.
jane says: So we’re on a train to see Alex’s parents as I write this blog. “Why don’t you write about invitations?” he says sarcastically. Oops, we really need to get on top of this ‘wedmin’! I can see why some people would hire a wedding co-ordinator as it’s hard to find the time to get organised. That said, we have got the bones of our wedding nailed down.
Wedding season is well and truly upon us. I’ve even been chatting nuptials on Good Morning Britain this month following Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan’s big day. I thought they both looked stunning. In fact I’d go as far to say that Michelle is the most gorgeous girl I’ve ever met!
They tied the knot at the beautiful Hengrave Hall in Suffolk in front of 120 guests. The same number that will be attending ours at Brinkburn Priory. I interviewed her a few weeks ago and we were swapping bride-to-be tips. She told me once the venue is booked that the most important thing was to get your flowers sorted. Having since seen the reports that she spent £60,000 on flowers I now understand why she thought it was a big deal!
We’re still undecided what to do about the floral aspect of our day but we definitely won’t be splashing out to that extent on them. I love that our venue was a medieval monastery. It’s so magical. There was talk of us putting flowers in the priory itself but the more we chat about it I like that its old stone and atmospheric. We’re leaning more to the idea of filling it with candles. Our reception is being held in two tipis on site that have pit fires in them. The tables will have eastern style lanterns on them and lots of tea lights so flowers will be minimalist.
We’re working with a lovely florist called Christine at Lavenders Blue in Northumberland. She’s got some great ideas which will add elegance and simplicity to the day. Simple glass cubes with a single ivory hydrangea and greenery. The poles of the tipis will be decorated with green foliage and have fairy lights around them too. I’m a typical magpie (had to get the Newcastle United reference in) and love anything sparkly.
Next, glorious food. What do you serve up at a wedding that’s going to satisfy everyone with different tastes? Let me introduce Wilkins Fine Dining. Neil and his team are just amazing. We’re still to do our tasting session which Alex can’t wait for. Everyone I talk to says that the food tasting session is one of the highlights of planning a wedding. We’re thinking of serving Roulade of Ham Hock and Piccalilli for starter followed by Slow Cooked Shoulder of Wingate’s Lamb, Fondant Potato and Rosemary Sauce. For dessert it’s warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce. There will of course be a vegetarian option and no doubt once we sample all of Wilkins’ taster menu this could all change!
We’ve booked the entertainment for the night too. An old friend from school put us in touch with a band called Purple Cloud of Funk. They’re incredible. In my business I get to go to a lot of gigs and these guys really stand out. They’re fun and play tunes that will have everyone on their feet. Guests can expect a mix of the latest pop tunes mixed in with some classics and lots of Northern Soul and Motown. We’ll be asking guests to suggest a song as part of their RSVP and that will make up the play list. That reminds me, those invitations!
In my July blog post I will be talking dresses and makeup. I bumped into Hunger Games actor Sam Claflin at the Burberry show at London Men’s Collection last week. We have a mutual friend – Ciona Johnson-King. She’s the best makeup artist in the business who’s worked with him since he started his career as well as Hollywood A-listers including Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Craig. So next month I’ll be bringing you some of her top beauty tips!
Follow Jane on Twitter @janeyspoon
May 27th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
Last month on the blog we introduced you to real life bride & celebrity columnist Jane Witherspoon, who is sharing her planning journey exclusively on Brides Up North in the run up to her October wedding.
If you recall Jane has a pretty cool but extremely busy job as a showbiz TV reporter and presenter for the likes of Good Morning Britain. And while that does mean rubbing shoulders with the celebs, it also means a hectic schedule full of early starts and late finishes, making finding time to plan a wedding all the more challenging.
In this month’s post Jane brings us up to speed with her glitzy TV work (which includes chatting with a certain Mr Clooney – jealous, much!) and she also spills the beans on the gorgeous venue for her big day. Over to you Jane…
jane says: As I sit down to write this month’s blog the panic sets in. I keep telling myself we’ve got loads of time to organise our wedding but it’s now just over four months away – 17 weeks to be exact (I’ve just read the last line out to Alex and his reply was ‘Oh thanks for that, you’ve got me worried now’)! I’ve discovered as time goes by that Alex has been approaching the organising of our day very cleverly. Let’s put it this way – he’s a great project manager! Then again I can be a bit of a control freak so it works.
May has been a crazy month workwise. It started with a charity ball with the cast of Downton Abbey followed by the General Election. No matter how much I do it, waking at 3am is never easy. It was a buzz hanging outside Conservative HQ waiting to grab the first shots of the Prime Minister to arrive from his count in Whitney.
And then there was George! Clooney that is! I’ve been lucky enough to interview him a few times over the years and he’s always a dream interviewee – so charming and professional. When reporting from the red carpet of the premiere of his new film Tomorrrowland in Leicester Square I seized the opportunity to ask him a bit of advice for that first year of marriage. His reply: “I would say, your husband is always right…just a thought.” That’s apart from when he’s wrong of course George!
It’s quite full on trying to organise a big event around our work schedules but we’re getting there. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that we decided on a venue very early on. Alex is from a very small family which is just as well as mine is huge. Speak to any bride and groom and I’m sure they’ll tell you the most stressful thing about organising a wedding is deciding who to invite. It’s the most awful thing having to whittle down a list of friends and family. In fact, it’s quite brutal. Everyone tells you to just invite who you want and people will understand. That’s all well and good but they’ve never met my Mum. She had her own list from the off!
Luckily the venue pretty much dictates how many people can be accommodated so that does help in deciding numbers. When choosing where to get married there were only two choices for us, Wigan (where Alex is from) or the North East (my roots).
Just after the New Year we decided to visit two potential venues in Northumberland: Short Flat Tower in Belsay and Brinkburn Priory near Rothbury. We went to Brinkburn first. We never made it to Belsay. From the moment we pulled up to Brinkburn we were sold on it. It is the perfect place. Emma, Jan and the team there are so welcoming and totally got us and what we wanted from the day from that very first meeting.
The priory was a 12th Century Medieval monastery built on a bend on the River Coquet. It’s beautiful. The priory church is like a mini cathedral and the converted stables mean there’s lovely spacious accommodation on site for family. We’ve decided on welcome drinks on arrival and then our 120 guests will take their seats in the Priory before dinner, drinks and dancing in the tipis which will be erected on site. I love that we don’t have to move location throughout the day and that it’s all confined to this beautiful English Heritage site.
The food on the day is being organised by Wilkins Fine Dining. Their menus are incredible and we’re actually off to the North East next weekend for a tasting session. This is surely one of the fun points in organising a wedding! Wilkins source and use local produce for their meals which I’m thrilled about. It’s great to support local businesses.
There’s one question that I keep getting asked about the wedding and that is ‘What’s your theme?’ I didn’t realise how important this is to some people. I still don’t have a theme as such but I know it will be a classic, fun day and night. There’ll be lots of laughs, candles and fairy lights to enhance the already magical setting.
I’d love to know: have you picked a theme for your big day, and if so, what?
Follow Jane on Twitter @Janeyspoon
April 30th, 2015 | Julia Braime
image by Laura Power Photography
As we head full steam into the summer months ahead we’re hoping the British weather is going to be kind to us so that we can finally ditch the monochrome winter wardrobe once and for all and start wearing more colourful clobber.
Talking of which, today we welcome somewhat of a colour connoisseur to the Brides Up North pages to take part in our Style Profile feature. Introducing,
jess turley, co-founder of the fabulous Bespoke Bride.
Now here’s a girl with incredible style that’s not afraid to stand out with her vibrant outfit choices no matter what season it is. Here Jess shares her fashion fixes and crushes along with her some of her top wedding picks. She’s certainly inspired us to inject some colour into our wardrobes and we hope you’ll be doing the same.
If this doesn’t brighten up your day, nothing will! Take it away Jess…
How would you describe your nine ‘til five style and what are your key work wardrobe pieces?
jess says: I would describe my nine ‘til five style as very casual. If I’m working from home, I like to make sure I’m comfy but am still wearing something that makes me feel motivated! So often you’ll find me in bright colourful jumpers teamed with a bold statement necklace and a comfy pair of leggings or ripped jeans!
If we’re working out for the day or are meeting up with other fab industry suppliers then I love to wear feminine pleated skirts to dress up an outfit. As for shoes I’d normally throw on something with a wedge heel to give myself a bit of height without losing too much comfort!
What would you wear for a night out drinking cocktails with the girls?
For a night out drinking cocktails I’m most likely to wear a maxi skirt with a strappy crop top or alternatively a pretty playsuit. Again, I’d be teaming it with a pair of comfy shoes so either a wedge shoe or a block heel and probably a blazer.
If you were currently planning your wedding what would be your top picks in terms of styling, attire, accessories and blooms?
If you didn’t already know from our blog, I am obsessed with colour so a plain white wedding dress just wouldn’t be an option for me, I would need something a little more vibrant going on and to me, ombre dresses are perfect for that!
I would then continue that colourful theme throughout the styling with fun place settings and vibrant table runners teamed with an array colours, but mostly several different shades of pink.
For the blooms I really love bouquets that are a real selection of flowers but also have a few succulents in the mix, I think it gives the bouquet a little something different, and of course it would have to be filled with beautiful bold colours (no surprise there!).
For the accessories I know I would be asking the fabulous Crown and Glory to make a custom floral headband or crown to sit upon my head all day with colours that matched my bouquet and the dress! I think I’d keep it simple with the shoes and wear a block colour pair of wedges or heels, probably in a vibrant pink!
Clockwise from top left: Heels from Topshop| image found on target.com via ohjoy.blogs.com, photography by Laure Joliet| dress by Synderela Story, photography Amber Gress| headband from Crown and Glory.
Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
Mostly Pinterest, I have a style board that I pin anything that catches my eye to, then when I’m struggling to put together an outfit I’ll check back there for reference! I also find Lookbook really helpful with fashion inspiration, I keep the app on my phone too so I can have a browse from time to time!
Where would be your dream honeymoon destination and why?
I used to think my dream honeymoon destination would be Mexico, because it’s my favourite place to visit, however because I’ve been there a lot I think it would be nice to go somewhere extra special for my honeymoon, probably somewhere really secluded like the Maldives or Bora Bora so that we could really relax, snorkel, and soak up the sun. I really like the idea of honeymoon time being all about each other more than exploring the destination, I’d like to think we have our whole lives to explore the rest of the world but that time would really be about us as a couple.
Who is currently your favourite fashion designer and why?
I don’t really follow fashion designers but the first person that popped into my mind when I read that question was Kate Spade, I just love how bold and colourful her pieces are!
What current wedding trends are you a fan of and why?
I absolutely adore geometric themes, bold and colourful colour schemes or something Aztec or Mexican, although my favourite weddings are always the ones where you can tell a whole lot about the couple just from the wedding because their personalities are splashed all over it!
Which celebrities’ style do you admire and why?
I really like the way Cheryl Cole dresses, she always looks classy and feminine! I also love the way most of her outfits come in at the waist, that’s something I like to do often with high waisted skirts and jeans.
Another celeb who’s style I love is Katy Perry, it can be pretty wacky at times but I always love how fun and colourful her outfits are!
What is your key piece in your wardrobe that you couldn’t live without?
My teal green pleated maxi skirt from Zara, I absolutely adore how long and flowy it is and I can be totally bloated in it and you wouldn’t even know! Ha! So it ticks all the boxes for me, it’s comfortable, colourful and flattering.
What areas of a wedding would you splurge on the most and why?
100% photography and videography! I cannot express how important those two factors will be in my own wedding, they’re pretty much the only two things about your day that will last you a lifetime!
April 29th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
Today we introduce you to bride-to-be and friend to the stars, the lovely Miss Jane Witherspoon, who will be taking on the role of real bride & celebrity columnist here on Brides Up North over the next six months.
In the approach to her big day, Jane will be sharing her wedding planning journey exclusively with our readers on these pretty pages as she toys over everything from the theme, food and flowers to the all-important hair, makeup, dress and hen do.
To give you a little background on Jane she has an incredibly cool job that most ladies would quite happily lose a limb to do. As a showbiz TV reporter and presenter for the likes of Good Morning Britain this lucky lady gets all the goss directly from the stars and has interviewed top A-listers including the likes of Madonna and Tom Cruise during her various broadcast roles for the BBC, ITV and Sky.
As a celebrity hack Jane is also no stranger to the red carpet having reported on everything from the Baftas and Brits to the Oscars, giving her plenty of glam inspiration for her moment in the spotlight when she ties the knot with her beau Alex in early October.
Though her glitzy job has required her to move to London’s big smoke, Jane will be returning to her north east roots for her wedding day, which is set to take place at the stunning Brinkburn Priory in Northumberland.
So without further ado, let’s hand over to Jane to give you all the details of where her rapid romance with Alex first began…
jane says: This time last year Alex and I hadn’t even met. Now it’s just six months until our big day. Welcome to what has become my crazy, whirlwind life.
I was never the kind of girl who grew up wanting the big white wedding or dreaming of settling down. I was the single girl about town, dedicated to my career as a showbiz TV journalist and hanging out with my mates. But back in August that all changed.
I was out for after work drinks with a publicist friend who I’d known for over a decade. He casually mentioned he had a mate who was popping by for a drink and in walked Alex. They’d been best mates since university. “Who’s that and why have you never introduced us?” I asked, trying not to sound desperate. “Who? Him? That’s just Alex! Didn’t think you’d be interested” was the reply. So when everyone had peeled off I found myself alone, chatting to Alex in the aptly named Northumberland Arms – (this will become clearer in my next blog post). “I wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes if I asked you on a date?” he said. We arranged a date that Friday and spent it sat in a beer garden under an umbrella in the rain. Our second date was an Arsenal football match – being a Newcastle fan he’s lucky he got a third (joking Alex)! And the rest is history.
They say ‘when you know, you know’ – we knew instantly. Both of us. Fast forward ten weeks and we were engaged. We decided to do it while chatting late one night in his attic. No big grand proposal – just us, his guitar and a nice bottle of red wine.
The hardest thing was keeping it secret for a couple of weeks as at that time he’d still not met my family. We planned a trip to Newcastle to tell them. Alex had wanted to do the whole ‘asking my parents’ permission’ thing which went slightly pear shaped after a boozy train ride from London’s Kings Cross. I blurted it out to my mam when we met her in a Quayside pub. She thought I was joking.
Then there was telling my dad. When Alex finally got him alone to ask him he didn’t realise we were already engaged and returned home chatting twenty to the dozen and two octaves higher than normal trying not to give anything away. Everyone was over the moon though, if not a little shocked at the speed things were going.
While all this had all been going on Alex had arranged for a stone from his mum’s original engagement ring to be reset.
I was working late one night at ITV’s Good Morning Britain and got a photo by text of our Christmas tree which had a little box hanging from it. “Santa’s been early and look what he’s left”. When I got home he nervously presented me with the most gorgeous ring! Like a lot of brides-to-be the ring was far too big for my finger (not sure how or why he thought my fingers were that fat?!) but a lovely local jewellers in north London resized it in just two days. Thanks again Giorgio!
As Christmas approached it suddenly dawned on me that I had a future husband. Even writing this now makes me feel a bit grown up! We decided we wanted to crack on with the wedding and do it in 2015. So we rang in new year and set about making plans. But as wedding planning novices there was one major question on both our lips – ‘Where on earth do we start…
Follow Jane @Janeyspoon
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