Charlotte Balbier

dream venue. a trip to sharrow bay.

July 2nd, 2015 | Julia Braime

Sharrow Bay (27)

Last month, I was delighted to be invited to visit the internationally acclaimed Sharrow Bay Hotel. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

My parents are from a foodie background, and I remember them talking with great enthusiasm about the times that they had visited this small but perfectly formed place.  My hubby’s birthday happened to fall around the time of the invitation, so we decided to take the chance to celebrate, just the two of us (our toddler safely deposited with the grandparents).

And what a spectacular treat was in store!

Sharrow Bay (14)

As it says on the hotel’s website, Sharrow Bay is unique; “the epitome of English country living in an unrivalled location surrounded by snow-topped mountains and fells, right on the shores of Ullswater, widely regarded as the most beautiful lake in the country.” They weren’t kidding! The views at this place are absolutely incredible.

Upon arrival, you are immediately aware that you are somewhere special.  A gorgeous blue and white set of buildings (which I was later to learn house the Hotel, it’s Garden bedrooms, it’s Lakeside Restaurant and soon to open beauty rooms) sit quite literally right on the edge of a huge expanse of glistening water, surrounded by lush green hills (or are they mountains?).

Sharrow Bay (23)

We were privileged to be staying over for dinner, bed and breakfast, so after a quick tour of the facilities with the lovely Events Manager Ellie, we were shown to our beautiful bedroom for the night, “Silver” (that’s it in the pictures, nice eh?).

Sharrow Bay (21)

Sharrow Bay (22)

During the tour, Ellie explained just how special Sharrow Bay can be for a wedding (and we think it would also be great for a honeymoon, anniversary or even a pre-wedding de-stress getaway).  Suited to weddings of 50 or less, the hotel can quite literally become yours for the duration of your celebration.

If you are looking for complete privacy, the hotel can be hired in its entirety on an exclusive use basis where the only people in the hotel are you and your guests.  It’s a home from home for your wedding day – only way, way, more impressive.

The pretty village church is just a short drive from the hotel and three beautiful rooms are licenced to hold civil ceremonies. With all your guests on site, you can choose to hold your civil ceremony overlooking Ullswater or in the hotel’s beautiful Garden Lounge, before drinks on the terrace and a delicious (trust me, I’ve tried the food) wedding breakfast in the hotel’s private dining areas.

What I took away from the tour is just how personal the staff at Sharrow Bay can make your big day, how they will work with you to arrnage and use the available rooms in a way that will suit your vision for your wedding and how much they care about your experience.  Weddings at Sharrow Bay are quite literally bespoke.

If you are a foodie couple looking for an intimate dream day in a unique, quirky and beautiful location, you might want to call off the search now.

Sharrow Bay blends decadence, old fashioned luxury  with more modern styling perfectly.  It’s also utterly tranquil, and the views aren’t bad either! Just think of the wedding photographs!

Sharrow Bay (8)

Sharrow Bay (13)

But back to our stay.  Having checked in to the beautiful Silver bedroom, had a bounce on the four poster bed and made a mental note to leave time for a soak in the deep tub in the bathroom, we set off in search of nourishment.  Knowing we were eating in the hotel’s Lakeside Restaurant later that evening, we asked Ellie for recommendations of local lunch spots and she was more than happy to oblige with some great recommendations.

Sharrow Bay (16)

Full of food – and a few sneaky glasses of cold Sauvignon Blanc – we headed back to our room where another treat was in store, a couples in-room treatment from Sharrow Bay’s on site beauty team, ICON Beauty. I adored the in-room service, which felt super luxurious.

The room was spacious enough to take two huge massage beds and with relaxing music playing and True Grace candles giving off the most fantastic scent, we settled in for an hour of blissful pummeling. After an intense season of back to back wedding exhibitions, this was pure magic.

Sharrow Bay (6)

Sharrow Bay (3)

All we were fit for afterwards was the aforementioned soak in the tub, then a cheeky forty winks. Emerging two hours later, we dressed up for dinner (well, why not? We were celebrating after all) and tottered downstairs for a fantastic four course dinner in a secluded bay window overlooking the lake. Prosecco to hand, we marvelled at just how many special spots one place can have.

Apparently, Sharrow Bay’s award winning Head Chefs “are passionate about developing menus that use the finest, freshest, locally-sourced ingredients; the dishes served in the restaurant are the epitome of years of cultivated talent, passion and the best local produce.”

All I know is that the food was to die for.

Sharrow Bay (1)

Sharrow Bay (5)

After a blissful night’s sleep, another quick bath, and more delicious grub (the breakfast here doesn’t disappoint either), it was time to say our see you later’s.  We’ll definitely come back to Sharrow Bay in the future as paying customers – whether for a weekend getaway or perhaps to bring friends and family to celebrate a big birthday. I’m just kicking myself that I’m already married…

Brides Up North joined Sharrow Bay for dinner, bed and breakfast in May 2015.  More more information on short breaks, celebrations or weddings at Sharrow Bay, visit the hotel’s website

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in the navy. ian stuart for a glamorous wedding at allerton castle – kathryn & kelechi

June 23rd, 2015 | Julia Braime

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (45)

Here at Brides Up North we just love a glam wedding and today’s has it all – a striking gown, opulent colour scheme and men in uniform!

Kathryn and Kelechi chose the grand Allerton Castle as the setting for their dream wedding, which was then styled in keeping with the historic venue’s décor and to suit the couple’s personal taste.

Posh transport, sparkling stationery and lavish centrepieces all help to create a wedding day as alluring as the bride and groom’s attire. Glam to a tee.

With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, Laura Calderwood Photography.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (1)

kathryn says: We got engaged in Sydney, Australia, my hometown at the time. After meeting three years prior, Kelechi came over on a two-week holiday from the US Navy. Palm Beach is a favourite spot of mine so on day one of the trip we decided to go there and climb to the lighthouse, little did we know it wasn’t a pleasant stroll up but a hike! At the top and covered in sweat, I looked around and said “just think, this may be the last time we come here” – then turned back to Kelechi who said “we better make sure we remember it then” – he was down on one knee!

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (4)

Our wedding date was 18th April 2015. We chose this date mainly due to Kelechi’s work schedule. Spring in the UK is a beautiful time, so that helped too!

We got married at Allerton Castle, which we chose due to the grandness of the building, its Great Hall and the beautiful countryside location. As a lot of our guests were coming from overseas, we needed the wow factor!

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (2)

We didn’t really have a theme but kept everything very glamorous. We used a lot of candles, fairy lights and crystals. I picked this style due to the castle’s decor and so that it would be in keeping with what Kelechi and I like.

Black and Gold was the colour scheme. We choose this combination to match with Kelechi’s military uniform – dinner dress blues. Although the tux is actually black!

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (16)

I chose a dress that was the complete opposite of what I thought I’d choose! The dress was called Amalfi by Ian Stuart, which I bought from Limelight Occasions in Huddersfield. I was drawn to the dress due to its uniqueness. It was two colours and had beautiful detailing. It was like nothing I’d seen anyone wear before. As soon as I put the dress on, I knew I had to have it!

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (20)

Kelechi wore his military US Dinner Dress Blues uniform and the groomsmen who weren’t in uniform also wore black tuxedos.

My bridesmaids wore black maxi dresses with gold detailing around the top half of the dress, from Quiz. They were very flattering on all shapes and the girls looked fabulous whilst feeling comfortable at the same time. My ‘Mate of Honour’ wore a black tuxedo, hired from Greenwoods. He also invested in some gold shoes which looked amazing!

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (26)

As I was getting ready at the castle, I decided to drive my little white Fiat 500 there in the morning with some of my bridesmaids. I decorated the car and we had a great laugh on the way! I organised an Aston Martin as a surprise wedding present for Kelechi. The car picked him up in York and took him and his best man to the castle. We then organised a vintage double decker bus to bring our guests to the venue from York.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (28)

Laura Calderwood was our photographer. She’s an absolute gem and was very patient with some of our more demanding guests. Nothing was too much trouble and the pictures taken speak for themselves and how great Laura’s work really is.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (32)

Joanna at Twisted Willow provided all our flowers, centrepieces and dressed the Great Hall for our ceremony – it looked magical.

My flowers were a mixed white bouquet with crystal detailing. For the wedding reception we had tall candelabras on each table surrounded by candles and draped in crystals. I had a vase on our sweetheart table for my flowers to be shown off in.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (35)

Another great supplier was Katie from Tigerlily Creations. Katie made all our stationery for our day from the invitations to the wishing well. Everyone commented on the quality and luxury feel she gave to our day.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (42)

Our wedding cake was wheels of cheese and therefore our favours were jars of chutneys with the words ‘Spread the Love’ on. We also gave little red double decker bus key rings to all our guests as a lot of them were visiting from abroad.

We had a dessert included in our menu, which is why we chose a cake made of cheese. It was something different for a lot of people and we loved it! Matt at The Cheese & Chutney Co couldn’t have been nicer either.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (49)

I wanted a fun cake topper so searched online and found Feats of Clay. Sarah is amazing and made both myself and Kelechi out of clay. A great talking point for guests and a great souvenir for us to keep.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (56)

We used the Dine for the food, who are provided through the Castle. They were fabulous!

We had champagne and canapés of mini Yorkshire puddings, chicken skewers and goats cheese tarts, during the drinks reception. For the wedding breakfast we had fishcakes to start, followed by a sirloin of beef, rounded off with a glorious sticky toffee pudding. Everyone commented on the quality of the food. We organised cheeseburger and chips for the evening reception – it made our guests’ night!

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (54)

Entertainment wise, we had a string quartet playing for the guests’ arrival and during the drinks reception. It made for an elegant start to our day. For the evening entertainment we used Alive Network and booked the band Munch. Kelechi and I love live music so a band was a must. They played a whole host of music and catered for all ages.

During the band’s break we surprised our guests with a five-minute firework display. At first I was reluctant to do this but Kelechi pushed for it – I’m now so glad we did, it was magical and the guests loved it.

A Glam Wedding at Allerton Castle (c) Laura Calderwood Photography (59)

My favourite part of the day was the build-up and then finally seeing Kelechi as I stood at the top of the stairs before walking down the aisle. They are two moments that will stay with me forever. The dancing during the evening was pretty great too!  Kelechi literally burnt the stitching off the bottom of his shoes!

For our honeymoon we went to a Sandals resort in St Lucia. It was fantastic, they couldn’t do enough for us and helped make the week very romantic and assisted Kelechi is organising lots of little surprises along the way. One thing to note though – everyone there is on their honeymoon so bear that in mind.

My top tip for other Brides Up North is a tip that everyone gave me – make sure you take a step back, look around and enjoy the day so you can remember it. I made a conscious effort to do this and I’m glad I did. Kelechi and I also chose to have a sweetheart top table to make sure we got some time to just sit down with each other and take it all in – a great decision.

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dream venue: the black swan, helmsley

June 15th, 2015 | Rachel Parry

The Black Swan Helmsley (23)

Today on the wedding blog we’re incredibly excited to introduce you to our dream venue, The Black Swan, located in the picturesque town of Helmsley, North Yorkshire.

If you’re looking for a wedding venue that’s brimming with character, charm and luxury, this boutique hotel has it all. Couples will not only fall in love with The Black Swan’s unique and historic building, but also its incredibly helpful team of staff who ensure every couple’s wedding is perfect, from beginning to end. In fact, the venue won the prestigious accolade of ‘Hotel of the Year’ at Visit York’s Annual Tourism Awards 2015.

Oh and did we mention the food? The Black Swan is renowned for taking the very best Yorkshire ingredients and using them to create exciting and undoubtedly delicious dishes that are guaranteed to wow your guests. It’s also famous for its afternoon tea experiences and so we highly recommend those interested in viewing the hotel for themselves take a trip to Yorkshire, if not for the dainty sandwiches, cute cakes and fabulous scones alone.

In the meantime we’ve quizzed those who know the venue best on what it has to offer to brides and grooms…

The Black Swan Helmsley (4)

Tell us about the location of the Black Swan?

the black swan say: Located in the picturesque market town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire, we are surrounded by the breath-taking landscapes of the county’s famous moors that add to the charming English aura, which forms part of the special experience we provide here. Offering a warming invitation of snug armchairs and big open log fires during colder climes, alongside the romantic charm of the quintessentially English walled gardens that glisten in the sunshine come summer, at The Black Swan we offer beauty and tranquillity all year round.

The Black Swan Helmsley (1)

Can you describe the Black Swan as a venue?

The Black Swan offers the perfect retreat from the rest of the world. Providing boundless hospitality, home from home country comfort, roaring fires, exceptional cuisine and the lure of a traditional Yorkshire tea room.

In terms of weddings, bespoke, elegant and romantic are all words that sum up the perfect big day here at The Black Swan – a truly unique venue. Our name alone unmasks a picture of rare beauty that is characterised in the classic style and historical architecture of our distinctive four star boutique hotel.

How does the Black Swan cater for weddings?

Our beautifully designed rooms and restaurant mirror both style and comfort, creating the perfect environment for a variety of different wedding styles.

The bespoke wedding packages we offer have been specially designed to cater for couples’ specific requirements, whereby the smallest attention to detail never goes unnoticed. With carefully crafted wedding menus showcasing sumptuous plates of food from breakfast through to the evening, and with drinks that have been specially paired to match the flavours of each dish, we invite brides and grooms and their guests to indulge in a truly memorable experience.

We offer two different rooms which can be used for both civil ceremonies/partnerships and for wedding breakfasts. These are the main restaurant and the Garden Room. The main restaurant can accommodate up to 90 guests for a wedding breakfast and up to 90 guests for a civil ceremony, and the Garden Room can accommodate up to 50 guests for a wedding breakfast and 70 guests for a civil ceremony.

Whichever wedding package couples opt for, the Tudor Lounge will also be included for the drinks reception and also for wedding photography throughout the day, plus during the drinks reception wedding parties will also have use of our gardens.

The Black Swan Helmsley (14)

The Black Swan Helmsley (20)

What type of bride would be a Black Swan bride?

Those looking for a county wedding, in relaxed, homely, historic surroundings.

What sets the Black Swan apart from other wedding venues?

Each wedding at The Black Swan is exclusive on that day ensuring that each wedding party has the highest degree of attention and service and are made to feel very special.

Size doesn’t matter to us – from an intimate tea party celebration for 12, to a house party for 90 guests taking over the whole hotel for an ‘exclusive use’, all are equally welcome.

Our friendly, small team of wedding co-ordinators pride themselves on their positivity, listening skills, knowledge and can-do attitude as they carefully tailor each wedding day to individual couples’ delight.

When it comes to wedding photography, there are a fabulous array of backdrops to capture the individual spirit of a wedding day, both in and around the hotel. These include the eclectic and iconic exterior of the hotel located on the picturesque market place, the English country house style walled gardens at the rear of the hotel and the romantic ruins of the Helmsley Castle.

The Black Swan Helmsley (2)

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

With our weddings, we ensure that each couple’s needs are considered individually – we spend time talking and listening and advising to ascertain what they are seeking from their special day, so that we can guide them through the planning process and work together to deliver their dream wedding day. We also look for clues as to any individual touches we can add to make their day extra special.

Can guests stay over at your venue? 

Yes, we can offer wedding guests a preferential bed and breakfast rate if they would like to stay at the hotel. Alternatively we can offer recommendations of other accommodation providers in Helmsley for wedding guests.

The Black Swan Helmsley (5)

The Black Swan Helmsley (18)

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

Our wedding menus have been carefully designed to complement varying peoples’ tastes and needs. We understand that choosing the menu can be a difficult decision to make, however from our many years of experience we offer a selection of popular dishes to tickle even the most discerning taste buds!

Our wedding packages offer a selection of menus for the wedding breakfast, canapés, drinks reception, and for the wine to accompany the meal. We also offer a selection of buffet menus if couples choose to have an evening buffet. We do ask that couples choose a set menu for their wedding breakfast, however alternative menus are available for guests with special dietary requirements and for children requiring alternative menus.

The Black Swan Helmsley (16)

Can you give Brides Up North an idea on price?

Our wedding packages are priced from £95 per person. It’s also worthwhile visiting our website as we often have late availability deals for couples looking to get married in the next 12 months.

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

Our next wedding open days will take place on Sunday 28th June 2015 and Sunday 1st November 2015. We hope to see you there!

To find out more about the Black Swan and its facilities contact 01439 770466 and ask to speak to the Wedding Co-ordinator. Alternatively, visit

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search clever.

June 2nd, 2015 | Julia Braime


Image: East Riddlesden Hall, Weddings by Smith

One of the earliest tasks in the wedding planning process is the venue search – a daunting thought when you consider just how many wedding venues there are in the UK, let alone around the world!

And while some couples will have had their heart set on a venue from the moment of the proposal, others will be in need of a helping hand to present all of the options available and to narrow down the shortlist to that one ‘I do’ venue.

Thankfully we’ve found that there are a number of efficient online tools to assist baffled brides in this area, one of which being Somewhat of a genie in a bottle when it comes to helping couples find their dream venue, the easy-to-use website boasts a database of more than 15,000 UK and international venues, which it filters down at the click of a button using brides and grooms’ preferences. And better still, the service is totally free to use. Hurrah!

Venue Finder

So if you’re a bride-to-be on the hunt for your dream venue it’s time to grab your groom and fire up the laptop. Once registering on the site (which literally takes 60 seconds), thousands of wedding venues will lie at your fingertips with numerous search criteria options available to help you pinpoint the perfect setting for your perfect day.

You can search by location, selecting country, city or town, which is particularly handy for couples who know the area in which that they’d like to marry in but are unfamiliar with nearby venues. Alternatively if you already have a few known venues in mind but want to find out details such as guest capacity and bedroom numbers, you can search by venue name and then compare the results side by side. Handy!


Image: Adlington Hall

Meanwhile for those that are planning a wedding with unusually large or small guest numbers, and that aren’t as fixed on a location, it might be best to initially narrow down venues using the catering capacity option.

In the advanced search setting couples can even identify venues located close to certain airports to help make journeys that bit easier for guests travelling from overseas.

The results not only provide essential details of potential venues, such as contact details, location, facilities and even a list of reasons to book, but they also open couples’ eyes to the numerous options available beyond a traditional hotel reception. Creative art spaces, historic mansions, stately homes, museums, clubs and even theatres can be found amongst’s listings, giving brides and grooms the opportunity to make their wedding all the more memorable and personable by choosing a venue that’s a little out of the ordinary.

Allerton Castle

Image: Allerton Castle, Chris Chambers Photography

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dream venue. cookridge hall & golf club

May 21st, 2015 | Julia Braime

Cookridge Hall 2

Here at Brides Up North, we love a hidden gem!  Today, we can’t wait to introduce you to our Sponsor venue, Cookridge Hall, who offer a little oasis of calm, handily located just outside of Leeds.

Set in peaceful, idyllic grounds, Cookridge Hall are an independent venue who take great pride and care in helping their brides and grooms to organise their special day.  We love the team and setting at Cookridge, and we know that you will too.

cookridge hall say: Cookridge Hall is a beautiful historic hall that boasts plenty of character, set in the picturesque grounds of Cookridge Hall Golf Club.

Cookridge Hall 3

We are an independent, friendly club in a beautiful setting. Our wedding planner will ensure that every detail of your day runs to plan with their personal service.

Our grounds provide a lovely setting for our guests without the price tag that so often comes with a stately home – we provide great quality food and great value.

Cookridge Hall 1

Our function room, The Conservatory, accommodates 80 people for a traditional wedding breakfast and 120 for an evening reception. The Conservatory offers direct access out on to the patio and grounds making the perfect setting for your photos and for your guests to relax in the tranquil gardens.

Guests will drive up the long winding tree lined drive before arriving in front of the Hall to enjoy a drinks reception in the private walled garden – weather permitting of course.

There is a bar located within The Conservatory and the room can be turned around for your evening function to accommodate a dance floor, with room for a DJ and a band if required. We also have a separate seating area just off the main room so that your guests can enjoy some quiet time if they want to. You and your guests can dance the night away until 1am!

There is an on site spa, crèche and gym – you will receive a complimentary month’s pass for two people to the gym when booking your wedding at Cookridge Hall.

Cookridge 7

Our two dedicated Wedding Planners liaise with you from your initial visit to Cookridge Hall and will be on hand on the day to ensure everything runs smoothly.

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