Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

rachel’s diary: the wedding venue hunt

March 16th, 2018 | Rachel Parry

Andy & Rach

After riding that cloud-nine-feel of getting engaged over Christmas and New Year the realisation of planning a wedding hit me head on in mid-January. Even though I work in the industry my vision was clouded by the ring-finally-on-finger euphoria and I thought (possibly like many other couples) that we had loads of time to find a venue and start making plans.

However, when Andy and I started to seriously discuss timings we narrowed when would like to say our “I dos” down to a three-month-window next spring; being April, May, June 2019. Now, if you’re quite happy to have a long engagement, or perhaps, aren’t too fussed about what time of the year you get wed, you don’t need to panic just yet. For us it was a case of timing the wedding to fit in with a season that we like, months that would work well with our jobs, and also avoiding the peak summer season price hike – we, like the vast majority of brides and grooms, don’t have a bottomless budget and therefore are taking care to spend wisely.

With this in mind, we have also done the unthinkable and booked a, wait for it…Thursday wedding! We figured those that love/like/just about tolerate us will be willing to sacrifice a day’s annual leave to celebrate our special day with us – and, as a thank you, we will be investing the saving we made by opting for a week day into elements our guests will most definitely benefit from – being the food, booze and entertainment!

Middleton Lodge Fig House - Image by Gary Walsh Photography

Middleton Lodge Fig House – Gary Walsh Photography

So, where oh where will the big day take place? Well prompted into panic mode we went to view three venues which I know of and love; and so really it was a case of gauging Andy’s feelings on these. New addition to the stunning Middleton Lodge Estate in North Yorkshire, The Fig House was a front-runner from the off. Fresh and fabulous, this stunning Georgian inspired building is set to start holding weddings in the coming months, and we both loved the fact that none of our family or friends would have got hitched there before. Better still, The Fig House is concealed within a breath-takingly beautiful walled Kitchen Garden, and visions of beers and Bellinis on the lawns had us hooked. However, back home when we mulled things over, logistically it was going to be a struggle for us with pretty much all guests being from our home-city of Sheffield and even further south. Those of you on the venue search around the North Yorkshire area though must absolutely check out The Fig House and wider Middleton Lodge Estate.

Saltmarshe Hall - Image by Aden Priest

Saltmarshe Hall – Aden Priest Photography

Next up was gorgeous Grade II country house, Saltmarshe Hall, located in rural East Yorkshire. What I adore about this venue is its grand façade and gorgeous interiors, which offer an air of luxury and opulence, and yet it feels a real home from home, instantly welcoming and exclusive. Having recently added more stunning bedrooms to its offering it was another strong contender, with its light and airy reception rooms and speak-easy style bar adding extra ticks. Though in the end, for us, we felt we needed just a bit more space for the size of our wedding party (and also to accommodate Andy’s dance moves without people getting injured!) However, again, if your wedding venue search area covers East Yorkshire, please do look up this truly beautiful Hall.

The West Mill

The West Mill

And so that brings me onto our third and, as it turns out, winning venue – The West Mill in Derby. I’d never visited this place in person prior to our viewing but I’d often spent far too long staring at images of it, either via real weddings featured here on the blog or those I found on Instagram. What drew me to it was its cool, industrial luxe style and I thought (and hoped!) this would be right up Andy’s street too. Cue a wonderfully personal show around by owner Andrew, and we were sold.

The West Mill

The space within the Grade I listed former cotton spinning mill, situated next to the river Derwent, is nothing short of exceptional with space to wed, dine and party across four fabulous levels, plus outdoor space too – oh and eight brand new gorgeous on-site bedrooms.

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rachel’s wedding diary: the proposal

January 12th, 2018 | Rachel Parry

Pic a

Hold the blog ladies! My boyfriend has only gone and put a ring on it! That’s right, i’m engaged – I can now call my other half “my fiancé” and I own a ‘wedding planning journal’. I waited oh so (not at all!) patiently and, lo and behold, my lovely Andy popped the question on 21st December, making the recent festive season all the more memorable and exciting.

Having read hundreds, if not thousands, of engagement stories through our real wedding features on the blog, I always thought I would see a proposal from my own boyfriend coming a mile off. Previously Andy only had to suggest a walk on holiday, or sitting for a rest on a particular bench, and I’d feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. But unbelievably I was caught off guard.

You see he double bluffed me. Unfortunately for Andy, having a girlfriend that works in the wedding industry means quadruple the usual pressure to propose. Add into the mix that I’ve turned 30 and have a mum who is desperate to see her only daughter walk the aisle, and it’s no wonder he wanted to throw people off the proposal scent – so he could do it his way, in his time. And that’s exactly what he did!

Pic 7

He’d made it clear that he wouldn’t be getting down on one knee when anyone would expect it, surely that ruled out holidays, birthday and Christmas (or so I thought). And so, when he suggested a pre-Christmas day trip to Manchester no wedding-on-the-horizon alarm bells rang. We go to the city fairly often for shopping, bars, restaurants and gigs – I easily accepted this was merely an excuse for a day drinking all things mulled (until we were in a similar state) at the city’s Christmas markets.

On reflection he’d been a little snappy in the days leading up to the trip (I’d even told him to cheer himself up or he would ruin Christmas!) but he blamed his short temper on being busy with work. It turns out he hadn’t told a single soul his plans so it’s no wonder he was pent up.

Just before getting off the train in Manchester he’d said there was a coffee shop he wanted us to head to – as a coffee connoisseur this was expected – I happily followed him to the location he’d tapped into Google Maps and then when we arrived outside the Central Library by The Midland Hotel, found myself looking around for what turned out to be a fictional coffee shop. He’d mentioned it being cold and I noticed his hand tremor a little, but still nothing. Then, just as I was about to suggest the coffee place could be inside the library, he plucked a ring box from his pocket and got down on knee in St Peter’s Square.

My hands reached to clasp the side of my face and my first response was “you’re doing this now?” – I didn’t have Andy down as the public proposal type, another reason I wasn’t able to suss it out in advance. Gathering a little composure, I managed a “yes” before covering him in a shower of lipstick-imprinting kisses.

Pic 2

As it was raining most passers-by had their heads down, so we weren’t too on show and we celebrated with the obligatory just-engaged selfies and ask-strangers-to-take-our-picture-photos (which also earned us a few hugs). This was soon followed by the Facetiming, phone calls and texts to our nearest and dearest before announcing the news on social media later that day.

Keen to keep the proposal top secret, Andy had asked my dad’s permission way back in the summer and he proposed with a £20 Amazon ring (which I have to say looked like the real deal) as my mum, who may have exploded with excitement had she known about Andy’s plans prior to the day, was the keeper of my real engagement ring. This is because my pretty gold band, complete with three delicate diamonds, previously belonged to my nan, and my mum had kept it safe in her possession after we sadly lost my nan in 2016.

I take it as an amazingly good omen that I have her engagement ring on my finger entering into marriage as she and my grandad were most definitely one of the most in-love couples I’ve ever known; meeting as teenage sweethearts and enjoying more than 50 happy years of married life together. My nan and I had also spoken about my (at that point hypothetical) wedding day many times, and if she were still here now she would undoubtedly be involved in the plans and the picking of the dress, though having her ring makes me feel like she is part of the journey.

The rest of mine and Andy’s day in Manchester was spent drinking prosecco at The Midland Hotel then consuming pizza and cocktails in The Northern Quarter before returning to Sheffield to celebrate with my brothers and their partners in the pub where Andy and I had our first date.

Pic 1

So now the real fun begins, right?! I’ve already found myself reading the blog content in a different way, thoroughly absorbing what our featured brides and suppliers say. At this point I’m not sure if my experience in the industry means I’ll be extremely well equipped or incredibly overwhelmed, but I’m so excited for what’s to come and sharing my wedding planning story with you. Prepare for updates on the venue and suppliers that will help to shape mine and Andy’s day – as well as a few melt-downs and dilemmas, I’m sure!

the big picture


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