Charlotte Balbier

dream venue: hilltop country house

August 25th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

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This afternoon on the blog we’re thrilled to introduce you to another of our dream venues, hilltop country house, situated in the heart of the Cheshire countryside.

As a family run business, Hilltop Country House aims to make each wedding as individual as the bride and groom themselves, while providing a stunning setting, first class service, exclusivity and to-die-for menus. What more could you want?

Here at Brides Up North we’re more than familiar with how fabulous this charming country house is as we stage our luxury wedding exhibitions in its romantic gardens twice a year (the next one is coming up on 13th September 2015, so put it in your dairies!)

But rather than us harp on, we thought we’d hand over to those who know Hilltop best to give more details on its wonderful wedding offering…

With images by Lee Brown Photography.

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Tell Brides Up North about Hilltop Country House, what is its history?

hilltop country house say: Hilltop, located in Prestbury, Cheshire, is a 17th century house set within 15 acres of its own land and surrounded by fields. It has been home to the Gardner family since 1985 and has been a wedding venue since 2008.

What facilities does it have? 

Hilltop is purely a wedding venue and offers private and exclusive use to our clients. The ground floor of the house is used for both ceremonies and drinks receptions and we have a large marquee and dance room for larger ceremonies, the wedding breakfast and the evening party. Our guests are free to wander throughout our spectacular gardens. The many different parts of the garden offer countless enchanting locations for wedding photography. In addition to the main formal garden, there is a parterre with a lovely gazebo, the herb garden and nooks and crannies galore!

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What types of weddings can Hilltop Country House cater for?

Civil ceremonies for up to 66 guests are offered in the house. We can accommodate up to 160 guests for a civil ceremony and wedding breakfast in the marquee, and up to 100 guests for an outside ceremony on the terrace overlooking our beautiful gardens.

What makes Hilltop Country House a special wedding venue and sets you apart from others?

Hilltop is unique. There is no other venue in Cheshire that offers quite the same variety and choice. Our business is family run and the same team has been together since the very first wedding was held at Hilltop. Our attention to detail is exceptional and we offer an unlimited number of appointments to our brides and grooms as they make their way through the planning process.

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What sort of bride would be a Hilltop Country House bride?

A Hilltop bride is someone who wants to feel at home and very special on her wedding day. She is a girl who has the confidence in her own ideas and wants to work with our team to make her day completely personal to her and her groom. A standard package is certainly not for this type of bride!

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How can your staff help to make the planning process easier and the big day amazing?

We offer an outstanding service during the planning process. Our couples can visit as often as they wish and there is no limit to the number of appointments they may have during this period. We offer a food and wine tasting and we keep an eye on each couple’s progress and are always ready to remind them to attend to any outstanding matters – not only ones connected with the venue, but also in the wider sense, such as dresses, holidays etc.

We do all our own catering at Hilltop using locally sourced produce. We grow our own herbs and tons of mint for the mojitos! Our bar is run by Thirst Aid Limited. They are professional, knowledgeable and always ready to help and advise our couples. We have a list of recommended suppliers but we never take fees for any bookings they get through us. When we recommend someone, it is because we feel their excellent product or service will reach the same high standards as we expect of ourselves, and we feel that the lack of financial recompense emphasises our integrity.

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Can guests stay over at your venue? 

We have four ensuite bedrooms at Hilltop and there is a huge variety of accommodation within five to ten minutes of the venue. We supply our couples with a comprehensive information document that includes a list of accommodation.

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Tell us about your catering services? What makes them special? 

As previously mentioned, we do all our own catering at Hilltop using locally sourced produce. Our lamb is grazed on our own fields and all our meat is free-range and comes from within five miles of the venue. We grow our own herbs and source Cheshire vegetables and salads. We have no fixed menus at Hilltop and we are more than happy to prepare a meal or a style of cuisine that is not on our lists of starters, main courses and desserts. We can do hog roasts and barbecues, buffets and tapas. You name it and we can do it. We offer a food tasting free of charge.

Any really memorable weddings at the venue? 

That is the whole ethos at Hilltop – each of our weddings is memorable, particularly to each bride and groom, as their day will have been exactly as they wished and will have been created especially for them.

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Where can readers get more information/ contact the venue?

You can visit www.hilltopcountryhouse.co.uk, email hilltopcountryhouse@hotmail.co.uk, or ring 01625 829940, to speak to us direct.

Do you have any bridal events or open days coming up shortly that my readers should know about?

Brides Up North are the only company allowed to organise wedding fairs at Hilltop and our next fair is on Sunday 13th September 2016. As we feel that we are the best, so we like to work with the best.

Is there anything else that Brides Up North should know?

Yes, that we think you are brilliant!

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our love story. amanei & erik

August 18th, 2015 | Julia Braime

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (1)

This afternoon we meet husband and wife-to-be Amanei and Erik, as they share with us their love story and the results of their stunning engagement shoot. The Alnwick Garden provides a beautiful backdrop for the shoot and will also be the setting for Amanei and Erik’s impending big day.

So let’s join them on a stroll around the grounds as we find out the all-important how, when and where’s.

With images by Julie Barron Photography.

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (6)

amanei says: Erik proposed just before midnight on 25th October 2014. We were at the Oblix Restaurant at The Shard, during an amazing weekend away in London. As a surprise he’d also arranged for some of my family to be there the following day for a meal together to celebrate before travelling home. It was all a surprise, however as he’d had the ring since August, I knew it was on the cards!

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (4)

We chose to set the date for 22nd November 2015 as we really wanted a winter wedding, but didn’t want it to be too close to Christmas (no Santa at our reception please).

Our ceremony is to be held at our local and gorgeous parish church and after a lot of searching we found the perfect winter reception venue, The Alnwick Garden.

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (7)

We first met in the office at work. Erik was my (not so secret) Santa shortly after he moved to the same department I was working in (he bought me knitted slipper socks that were three sizes too big!) He is insistent however that for the first months after meeting him, I completely ignored him! After a number of ‘espresso coffee’ dates at work, our first official date was at the intimate Dacantus restaurant in Newcastle in spring last year. We still sometimes go in for a sneaky glass of wine when we’re passing Grey Street and reminisce about how perfect it was!

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (20)

I suppose it’s true what they say, that when you meet ‘the one’ you know instantly, because that’s definitely what happened in our case – the choice is I suppose, made for you! Erik is my absolute rock and that’s why I love him so much. I know that he will support me, and our relationship, through thick and thin and whatever married life may throw at us. He’ll be an amazing husband.

Erik says that he knew from the beginning, when we first used to go for coffee together that I was that ‘one’ special person. He proposed very quickly but says that’s because he doesn’t have any doubts about us.

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (15)

We both have our little downfalls though. No matter how often I tell Erik not to, he always feeds our Chihuahua Miles, some of his dinner, and Erik says I can be a bit of a control freak – he wishes I would just relax a little bit more.

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (19)

Our biggest wish for married life is to have a solid, stable, supportive home and to make each other happy, that’s all we can ever wish for – anything else is a bonus!

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (11)

Our wedding photographer Julie was recommended to us by a friend and as we had never worked with her before we took her up on the offer of an engagement shoot. We want very natural, unobtrusive and relaxed photography to capture our day and were confident that Julie was the right choice, but the engagement shoot concreted that for us. Phew!

We were definitely nervous beforehand, however Julie really put us at ease and we really enjoyed the session, but most importantly we now know that on the day we’ll feel comfortable while Julie is photographing us – which is so important.

The timing of the engagement shoot was also perfect as we’ve just moved into our beautiful new house, so we’re planning on framing some of the stunning pictures to make it feel like more of a home – it’s just a little difficult to decide on those select few, as we love so many!

An engagement shoot at The Alnwick Garden (c) Julie Barron Photography  (17)

I love Brides Up North because I find the amount of local contacts, suppliers and events featured are really useful in preparing all of those little details for the day! For us being able to contact suppliers who are local enough to meet up with and discuss ideas face to face is really important. We hope to return to share our big day on the blog.

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rustic luxe: a styled country wedding shoot at the black swan, helmsley

July 27th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (26)

If there’s one thing that makes me go weak at the knees, other than gorgeous weddings, it’s a cute dog.

Having grown up with canine companions a firm part of the family, there aren’t many mutts that don’t evoke a genuine ‘ahh’ from me. So when our fabulous Sponsor, The Black Swan hotel, sent over the results of a recent styled shoot at the venue, which featured a fine Irish Red Setter, it was a ‘yes’ from me.

The ‘groom’ isn’t bad either, is he?!

Located in the idyllic North Yorkshire village of Helmsley, the black swan is the perfect venue for a romantic country-inspired wedding (did you catch the beautiful celebration we shared on the wedding blog this morning?). With this in mind the hotel welcomed photographer Annemarie King and a talented bunch northern wedding suppliers, to use the venue as a stunning backdrop for a rustic luxe styled shoot, complete with dapper tweed, natural blooms and detailed dresses.

The setting of the hotel brings all elements to life for an incredibly well-executed shoot that will make you go ‘ooh’ and well as ‘ahh’ (and not just over that dog). So let’s handover to The Black Swan for those all important details…

With images by Annemarie King.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (14)

the black swan says: The well-loved country charm, welcoming atmosphere and quaint English gardens, overlooking the pretty churchyard next door, made The Black Swan the perfect venue for Annemarie King and her team to co-create a rustic-luxe themed photographic campaign.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (10)

Model James with his red-haired beauties, ‘bride’ Zara and Connor, the Irish Red Setter, are on location at the hotel and also at Helmsley Walled Gardens, which brings the theme to life with a touch of nostalgia. The evocative images are intimate, dream-like, and sometimes fun and light-hearted.

The timeless, informal elegance of the photography mirrors the essence of this historic hotel venue – the smartly-tailored handsome groom James, in his Yorkshire tweeds and smartly polished brogues, along with his bride’s sweet, ethereal beauty and swan-like elegance make for a beautiful pairing, and Connor certainly adds a special appeal to the ‘family shots’.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (11)

The various settings demonstrate the hotel’s oak beamed Tudor Lounge, the oldest part of the venue with its original inglenook, and the cosy stone-walled Crosland Lounge, as well as the pretty English walled gardens, in which The Black Swan’s new Oak Gazebo is located, which is now available for outdoor summer wedding ceremonies and celebrations. Helmsley Walled Gardens also plays a part, giving a super botanical backdrop to the shots.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (19)

A creative team led by York photographer Annemarie King, is responsible for the shoot with all those who offered their talents and goods on the day doing a fantastic job. Two of Annemarie’s passions are showcased within the shoot as she’s an award-winning photographer specialising in both country weddings and canine photography.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (8)

The shoot’s retro-inspired gowns, which include the Alan Hannah’s Tara long lace gown, White Rose’s 50s style R920 gown, Angel B’s peppermint bridesmaid dress Am 242, and the flamboyant Cymbeline Adele design, were kindly loaned by The Bridal Lounge in Northallerton, along with selected accessories.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (7)

Carters Country Wear provided the tweed tailored outfit sported by groom, James. Carters specialise in suits and country wear tailored with cloth from Saville Row and Yorkshire tweed mills, with a particular emphasis on country sportswear. They enjoy an international clientele who value their quality and highly personalised service.

Much of the jewellery was generously loaned by Libby Butler Jewellery, located in Helmsley.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (3)

The striking makeup and hairstyling of our bride Zara, is by award-winning hair and make-up artist Kate Pymm, who based in the North East and works throughout the UK on a wide portfolio of projects, including bridal hair and makeup.

The sweet bouquets and simple floral arrangements with home-grown ‘grandma’s cottage garden blooms’ inspired by the rural-luxe theme, were all created by Liz Wood at Busy Liz’s Floral Design, of Kirbymoorside.

A Rustic Luxe Styled Shoot at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Annemarie King (5)

To complete the stellar line-up, Celebrate Country Cake Design, located in Helmsley’s Walled Gardens, supplied the cake, Fabulously Finished, of Ampleforth, supplied the props and the chair covers were loaned by Chair Covers of Yorkshire, located in Easingwold.

For more information about weddings at The Black Swan, contact 01439 770466 and ask to speak to their Wedding Co-ordinator. Alternatively, visit their website

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kiss from a rose. an intimate wedding at the black swan, helmsley – andrea & steve

July 27th, 2015 | Julia Braime

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (30)

Today’s real wedding takes place at the gorgeous The Black Swan hotel, one of our beautiful Brides Up North Sponsor venues, and so when Andrea talks about it being an amazing venue, we know exactly what she means.

To fit in with their roots and the idyllic setting for their big day, Andrea and Steve chose to have a pretty garden themed wedding, complete with a simple white and green colour scheme.

We love the relaxed drinks reception in the hotel’s pretty gardens and the gorgeous shots of the newlyweds in the surrounding countryside, which ties the whole day together beautifully.

Oh, and if you want to see more of The Black Swan, watch out for a stunning styled shoot at the hotel, coming up on the wedding blog this afternoon.

With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, Georgina Brewster Photography.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (1)

andrea says: Steve popped the question on the evening of 29th November 2014. We had tickets to see Passenger at the O2 Academy that night and had gone for a pre-gig drink in a champagne bar in Leeds called Epernay on Great George Street. An unforgettable evening!

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (2)

We got married on 23rd May 2015. After narrowing down our venues it was a case of what availability they had, we couldn’t believe our luck when the bank holiday weekend was still available so we plumped for that.  As we were having the ceremony and reception under the one roof and it wasn’t our hometown, the bank holiday gave our guests a chance to make a weekend of it with us.

Our wedding venue was The Black Swan in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. It is just amazing! The staff, the area, the food, the accommodation and just the general feeling and atmosphere of the place. We can’t thank the staff enough, they were exceptional and looked after us all so well.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (3)

The theme just evolved. As Steve is from Lancashire and I’m from Yorkshire the roses seemed an obvious choice, although my white rose seemed to prevail over the red of Lancashire! Steve designed our logo that was printed on all the stationary and favours. The Black Swan has a great garden area to the rear and the wedding room is called the Garden Room so I suppose all in all it was a garden theme if any.

In keeping with the theme we had a simple colour scheme of white and green.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (6)

My dress was from Alison Jane Bridal in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.  It was a Grecian style gown by Alexia Designs, with crystal detailing. Steve loves my back, so a backless dress was a design I chose.

Steve wore a Hugo Boss suit and white shirt with a green skinny textured tie from T.M.Lewin and tan leather Jeffrey West shoes.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (13)

We chose Georgina Brewster Photography, based in Skipton, North Yorkshire, to capture our day and we love our photos! We’ve had so many comments from our friends about them too. Georgina really captured every element so well, she is so personable and really went that extra mile by whisking us away at sunset to a location she had spotted on her drive over. We would highly recommend Georgina to any couple tying the knot. Amazing!

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (15)

In terms of flowers on the day we had avalanche roses, freshias and vintage roses, which were all from Busy Liz’s Floral Design in Kirbymoorside.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (20)

Our favours were napkins with our guests’ names embroidered on the corner. We also gave raspberry and Chambord jam by Woody’s Preserves in Yorkshire.

Jo’s Cakes in Honley created our gorgeous three tiered iced cake of vanilla and chocolate sponge.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (31)

For entertainment we hired a pianist called Joseph Barton, to perform. The venue’s recommended musician wasn’t available that day and Joe was mentioned to us. We are so glad we chose him.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (38)

To add to the evening reception, we also hired some giant illuminated ‘love’ letters, which we placed in the garden. They were supplied by Fabulously Finished, near York.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (26)

We would most definitely recommend The Black Swan to other brides and grooms-to-be. They provide such great service and hospitality with a relaxed atmosphere. The food is exceptional too!

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (36)

I can’t pin point one particular aspect of the day as my favourite as I loved all of it! It was so magical from start to finish.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (42)

For our honeymoon we travelled to Iceland, a place we were both keen to explore. We share a great love for the outdoors and when time allows we participate in triathlons to test ourselves. We had a wonderful time.

An Intimate Wedding at The Black Swan, Helmsley (c) Georgina Brewster Photography (45)

My top tip to other Brides Up North would be simply to relax and enjoy every minute. The day really does go by so fast.

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dream venue: chatsworth house, derbyshire

July 15th, 2015 | Julia Braime

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (3)

This morning on the blog we’re thrilled to introduce you to dream venue Chatsworth House, which is located in the heart of the Peak District.

The perfect setting for a wedding (as well as a period drama) the stately house has been home to the Cavendish family since 1549. Keen not to keep its beauty all to themselves, the family opened the venue up to the public and has since become known as one of the UK’s favourite country houses.

Brides and grooms have been able to say their ‘I dos’ at Chatsworth for the past six years in the stable courtyard area, though only recently has the Painted Hall in the main house been licensed for civil ceremonies, which we are most excited about!

Outside the house is surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens and parkland while on the inside it’s brimming with character, history and unique treasures, making for truly stunning backdrop to couples’ big days. Oh and if the house looks familiar that might be because a number of scenes for the Pride and Prejudice movie starring Kiera Knightly were filmed here. Impressive!

So let’s hear more about weddings at this stunning house and have a nosey at that fabulous Painted Hall.

With images by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography.

Model wears Charlotte Balbier, available at Emily Bridalwear.

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (12)

Tell Brides Up North about the venue, what is its history?

Chatsworth House is steeped in history, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire it has been handed down 16 generations of the Cavendish family. It is a family home, a working farm and a living landscape that is stunning inside and out.

How does Chatsworth House cater for weddings?

We host small intimate weddings and large lavish ones too! Numbers vary from just four to 150! With three licensed spaces to hold civil ceremonies and civil partnerships, a beautiful church very close by, small private dining rooms and the majestic carriage house restaurant there really is something for everyone. Chatsworth weddings are planned and created by our warm and welcoming team, our catering is created by our award-winning chefs fresh on the day of the wedding and the event is delivered by expert operators. We have an amazing team!

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (26)

The Painted Hall at Chatsworth has recently become licensed for civil ceremonies, why did you want to open up the venue to brides and grooms?

Although we have been licensed to hold weddings in the stables courtyard area for six years, we were not able to offer couples anything in the house. Every time I visited the Painted Hall I could imagine a bride and groom on the Great Stairs delivering their vows, it really is something very special.

What makes Chatsworth House a special wedding venue and sets it apart from others?

The house is known as the Palace of the Peaks and it certainly lives up to this title! The gardens, and surrounding parkland, make the most amazing backdrops for photographs but if I’m honest, I think it’s the team that sets the venue apart from others. The dedication and commitment to every single wedding, large or small, from every member of the team is simply astonishing.

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (25)

What sort of bride would be a Chatsworth House bride?

Anyone that has a passion for history and heritage. Lots of our brides have loved Chatsworth since they were small children and have dreamed of getting married here. We’re thrilled that we can make such wishes come true.

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (31)

How can your staff help to make the planning process easier and the big day amazing?

We work closely with the brides on all aspects of the wedding day and can offer our help and advice from the experience we have gathered over the years. We do work with trusted suppliers but we do not enforce them on to our couples and we are always on the lookout for new and exciting wedding partners.

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (28)

Can guests stay over at your venue?

We have lots of good quality hotels within five to ten minutes of Chatsworth and we also have wonderful holiday cottages spread across the estate which can accommodate guests.

Tell us about your catering services and what makes them special? 

Our catering is delivered by our award winning in house team of expert chefs and bakers who are always happy to discuss menu requirements with our couples. We can offer help and advice when picking wines to complement the chosen wedding breakfast. Laurent Perrier is our pouring champagne adding a touch of class to our welcoming receptions and toasts.

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (32)

Can you give Bride Up North an idea on price?

Weddings start from £800 up to around £15,000 in the stables courtyard areas. Weddings in Chatsworth House start at around £50,000 depending on numbers and requirements, as do our marquee weddings.

We often add special packages to our website incorporating some of our other events. The concert-wedding package is always very popular. If we have any late availability dates we can sometimes offer all-inclusive packages enabling couples to pick up an amazing value for money wedding.

Chatsworth House by Shoot Lifestyle Wedding Photography (58)

Do you have any open days coming up that our readers might be interested in?

We will be hosting an open day on Saturday 8th August in the stables courtyard area. Chatsworth House is such a special venue that makes wonderful memories, we would love couples to come and experience it for themselves.

To find out more about Chatsworth House and its facilities contact 01246 565366 and speak to Kay or Laine. Alternatively visit the Chatsworth House website. 

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