Charlotte Balbier

blissed out bride: hoar cross hall

May 4th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Hoar Cross Hall (3)

The month of May is one of our very favourites here at Brides Up North HQ, not only as it tends to signal the start of warmer weather, but it’s also when our incredible festival wedding fairs take place across the north of the country. These super cool events are like no other as we create outdoor wedding wonderlands with huge sailcloth tents, tipis and yurts filled with wildly creative wedding suppliers, plus street food vendors, pop-up bars, live bands and so much more. The tour starts this Sunday 7th May with our glorious WEDSTOCK’17 at Stockeld Park, Yorkshire, and from there we will be heading to Ormesby Hall in Middlesbrough on Sunday 14th May, and Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire on Sunday 21st May, to give all you brides-to-be a piece of the fabulous festival action.

Another reason we favour May is for its bank holidays (who doesn’t love a bonus day off?!) and so with such a busy time on the horizon, we were sure to make the first long weekend of the month a relaxing one by heading off for an overnight spa break at the stunning Hoar Cross Hall.

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Such getaways not only enable us to signpost you in the direction of the very best retreats for pre/post wedding pampering and luxurious hen do locations, but it also gives us chance to discuss exciting ideas for the blog, and boy do we have amazing plans in the pipeline! But more about that to follow soon, for now let us fill you in on our heavenly stay at this Grade II stately home where total relaxation comes as standard!

Situated in breath-takingly beautiful Staffordshire countryside, the chilled-out vibes start on your approach to the Hall and only deepen once over its threshold. Its impressive entrance and bar lounge area combine period style and modern luxury perfectly and make for a very warm welcome. Arriving early evening and keen to start the pampering from the off, we began with a glass of bubbles in the bar before heading to our room to freshen up before dinner.

Each of Hoar Cross Hall’s 96 bedrooms are individually designed in keeping with the stately surrounds and offer comfort and class, which resulted in a very restful night’s sleep for the two of us in our adjoining rooms.

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Dinner was served in the Hall’s grand restaurant with calming views over the perfectly manicured gardens. Having selected a bottle of rose (well, it is getting on for summer!) we scanned over the varied choice of dishes and made our selection. We enjoyed starters of salmon two ways and chicken liver parfait before going onto mains of roast chicken and spinach and ricotta cannelloni. Something light to finish we thought, and so opted for the fruit platter and ice cream. The food at Hoar Cross is presented beautifully and tastes as good as it looks, while staff are attentive in making sure everything is to your liking.

With relaxation top of the agenda, we decided on an early night and early start to make the most of the Hall’s fabulous spa facilities.

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Following an ample breakfast of granola followed by poached eggs, we took the elevator down to the lower ground where the hugely spacious spa is concealed, much like a well kept secret. And what a gem it is, with numerous tranquil pools and soothing water therapies to explore and experience.

Fellow spa visitors included groups of ladies as well as couples, making a Hoar Cross Hall getaway a perfect option for an indulgent hen do with the girls, some pre-wedding pampering with family or friends, plus a relaxing minimoon retreat to recharge the batteries ahead of jetting off on the main honeymoon.

There are various day and overnight packages to choose from, with meals included, and the option of treatments for head-to-toe relaxation.

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The spa boasts two beautiful pools; a saltwater vitality pool, complete with jet massage pools, two luxury whirlpools and a starlit cave, plus a hydrotherapy pool with gentle currents and body massage jets.

There are also a number of heat, ice and massage experiences to detox and revitalise the body by stimulating different senses. These include sensory showers and aqua massage therapies as well as an aspen wood sauna, aroma room and ice temple.

And as if that’s not enough, there are lots of beautifully snug spaces to relax both poolside and within designated relaxation lounges, whether you choose to curl up with a good book or get a little extra shut-eye.

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dream venue: carden park

April 5th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Carden Park (9)

Here at Brides Up North HQ we’re always super keen to learn more about the fabulous wedding venues available in this half of the country, so that we can spread the word to you, our lovely readers.

While some we follow with interest online, others we’re fortunate to visit in person, allowing us to view and experience their wonderful facilities and hospitality first hand. Our most recent travels saw us heading west, to the impressive Carden Park Hotel, where we were invited for a glorious one-night getaway.

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Nested in 1,000 acres of Cheshire countryside, the sizable estate boasts an award-winning hotel, AA Rosette restaurant, championship golf courses, adventure activities and spa. Its spacious function suites and grounds mean it’s also a popular wedding venue, offering a varied choice of settings and packages for a couple’s special day.

Upon arriving for our stay, we were given a tour of the facilities and celebration spaces by the hotel’s friendly wedding planner, Maddie, where the full scope of Carden Park’s offering came to light. Not only can this hotel cater for the big day itself, but it’s an ideal retreat for pre-wedding pampering, a girly or action-packed hen do and a relaxing minimoon.

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In terms of accommodation, the hotel offers a wide choice of options; from twin, double and family rooms, up to its spacious luxury suites, with special upgrade extras including a fully stocked complimentary minibar, chocolates, sparkling wine and ESPA toiletries.

Wedding wise, Carden can cater for all sizes and offers the choice of its elegant and contemporary Carden Suite, rustic-style Shooting Suite and open-air Wedding Pavilion, through its ‘Eternity’ and ‘Fairytale’ packages.

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Elsewhere in the hotel there is much more to be explored. We began our break with an afternoon tea in the comfortable lounge area before taking the energy levels up a notch with some of the fun outdoor activities available on site. From laser clay shooting, archery and mountain biking to an aerial zip-wiring course, Carden is a playground for all ages.

We were treated to an off-roading 4×4 experience with JEEP enthusiast and instructor Terry, who navigated us through the surrounding woodland, giving us a tour of the expansive estate whilst sliding around the challenging course. Next up, with the help of instructor Ryan, we tried our hand (and feet) at segwaying, which is a little trickier than it looks, but heaps of fun.

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Back at the hotel it was time to wind things down again, and so after a quick shower and change, we settled in the bar with a bottle of sauvignon, ahead of our three-course meal in Redmond’s Restaurant. Changing its menu regularly to suit the season and fresh produce available, we were spoiled for choice when it came to making our starter, main and dessert selections but went with the staff recommendations (they certainly know their stuff!) A salmon-starter, chicken-main and panna-cotta-dessert later, it was evident that the standard of food was equal to the level of service – first class!

We retired for the evening feeling immensely satisfied and settled into our king-size beds for a peaceful night’s sleep.

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blissed out bride: an overnight break at titanic spa

October 24th, 2016 | Rachel Parry

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While you brides-to-be are in full wedding planning mode, us Brides Up North girls are right there with you in a whirlwind of organising and staging our Luxury Wedding Fairs throughout the north of the country.

And though we love what we do, such a high level of planning leads to late nights, early starts and bodies that ache from head to toe. So when an invitation for an overnight break at Titanic Spa in Huddersfield arrived in our inbox, we thought we had more than earned a little down time.

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We have been fortunate to visit the amazing West Yorkshire spa before, though we’ve never stayed for more than a day, so we were extra excited to see what else would be in store for us.

Popular with both men and women of all ages this is an ideal retreat for brides and grooms to recharge the batteries, either pre- or post-wedding, but also makes a heavenly location for a hen do or mother and daughter day. Whatever your excuse – we mean reason, you can be sure of first class facilities and service with Titanic being named ‘Best Luxury Eco Spa’ and ‘Best Luxury Destination Spa’ at the prestigious 2016 World Luxury Spa Awards.

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Upon arrival our overnight luggage was taken from us and delivered to our room which we would be able to access later in the afternoon. We knew our way round and so skipped the tour and headed straight into the spa’s well-known Heat & Ice Experience. Here guests can go between a number of hot and cold rooms, each with differing benefits to the body. The overall effect is cleansing and invigorating as you peak and dip in temperature.

We favoured the warmer rooms, such as the saunas, herbal infusion room and aromatherapy room, which cleared pores whilst draining away any feelings of stress too. In between the hot experiences we dipped in and out of the ice room but weren’t quite brave enough for the plunge pool or bucket shower experience. We did manage to idle away about 30 minutes in the foot spas though while we gossiped about all things Made in Chelsea and Real House Wives of Cheshire.

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Next, lunch. We recalled how good the food was on our last visit, but as it turns out the team at Titanic have stepped things up a gear again, with the dishes surpassing our previous dining experience. We both enjoyed a Prawn, Red Pepper and Chilli Linguine washed was with a Sauvignon Blanc. That’s right, though healthy, the spa still allows for treats!

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The impressive facilities at Titanic – which also include a 15 metre swimming pool, gym, relaxation room and outdoor hot tub – are so plentiful that a treatment isn’t essential for those on a short break. That said, if you’re on the run up to your wedding we highly recommend indulging in a facial or body treatment as part of your big day beauty prep.

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blissed out bride: slaley hall golf resort & spa

June 14th, 2016 | Rachel Parry

Slaley Hall Spa (3)

Ladies, we all know the affects that stress can have on our bodies; from aching muscles and skin flare ups, to dark under-eye circles and generally feeling worn out. As one of the most stressful (but enjoyable, we hope) events you can experience in life, it’s little wonder that couples planning weddings can really feel the pressure, both inside and out.

This is why we highly recommend taking a relaxing break from the wedding schedule now and again to recharge the batteries and gather your thoughts, while treating your mind, body and soul. And what better way to do so than booking into a spa resort, whether just for the day or an indulgent minibreak.

Keen to point our readers in the direction of fabulous retreats in the North where they can escape to for solace – and a flippin good massage, we’ve been out on our Blissed Out Bride travels once again.

This time our destress-destination was Slaley Hall golf resort and spa hotel, located in a secluded area of Northumberland. Following our full-on, yet fabulous, season of spring wedding fairs across the north of the country, we were literally crying out for some R&R and so sped up the A1 for a well-deserved Slaley spa day.

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As part of the Q Hotel group, the historic hall, set in 1,000 acres of stunning countryside, includes a range of accommodation and eating and drinking facilities, as well as a choice of beautiful function suites, which are available for weddings. Meanwhile outdoors Slaley boasts two championship golf courses and stunning grounds, upon which marquees can be pitched for outdoor celebrations.

The part of its facilities we were looking forward to viewing most however, was its luxury spa. Safely changed into our comforting robes and slippers we headed straight to pool side for some light refreshments and a little magazine time (one of our very favourite ways to unwind) – the pressure on our shoulders instantly lifted. As we stretched back on our loungers the humidity of the room acted as a warming cocoon and we had all on to keep our eyes open – talk about optimum conditions for relaxing!

An impressive space, Slaley’s pool area has a lovely holiday feel about it with tropical plants dotted around the pool, waterfalls and Jacuzzi, and little bridges linking the different areas together.

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It was soon lunchtime so we were shown through to one of Slaley’s three restaurants (still wrapped in our robes) to receive our spa day lunch. Presented in a neat Bento Box we enjoyed a healthy (ish) yet satisfying meal of chicken salad with cous cous, vegetable sticks and dip, followed by a lovely piece of chocolate cake, which was all washed down with a tall glass of fizz. We felt this provided he perfect combination of clean and treat eating (both we feel are essential to keep a girl heathy and happy!).

Once the food had settled it was back to the pool for a little snoozing and swimming, whilst also taking some time to detox and clear our skin in the sauna.

Though we didn’t muster the strength to visit (shame on us), Slaley also boasts a health club with state-of-the-art equipment and experienced instructors, to help you reach any pre-wedding fitness goals. Feeling the need for some ultra-pampering, we were booked in for a treatment each and so made our way to the gorgeous relaxation room, complete with soft sofas and beds, to meet our knowledgeable Espa therapists. As I’m soon to be jetting off on my jollies I wanted a treatment that would refresh my skin and really make it glow while still soothing my tired muscles while Julia, who is soon to be expecting a second bundle of joy, required a relaxing facial treatment to prevent any pregnancy break-outs.

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friday night is party night: introducing mini-epic!

May 13th, 2016 | Julia Braime


Mini-Epic from Mini-Epic on Vimeo.

Planning a hen party should be fun, but sometimes you find you’re just drowning in the admin of it all.  Where to go, what to do, whether to choose a wild night or a chilled celebration… it can be a mind boggling and spreadsheet heavy task.  Add to that making sure that everyone is invited and has RSVP’d in a way that comes across as more bubbly than bossy, whilst setting the tone for the fun ahead and even the keenest of hens might want to hang up their high heels.  It’s an L plate strewn minefield.

Here at Brides Up North we’ve found the answer, courtesy of a cool new service that launches today. The online invite has been long overdue a 21st Century makeover. And it looks like the guys at Brides Up North Sponsor Mini-Epic have done just that!

Super cute, very tongue in cheek and loads of fun… whilst being very practical too.  Hey, do Mini-Epic want to be a bridesmaid too?

mini-epic say: Our online hen party invites are fun, totally personalised and add a little bit of excitement to the planning process. It’s a perfect way to get everyone excited for all the amazing things you have planned! As well as setting the perfect tone for your hen party, our range of invitations also collect your guest’s RSVPs, in a simple back-end system that is totally easy to manage and organise. No chasing of emails, or messaging group threads necessary…. it’s all taken care of.

There are loads of templates to choose from too, with a video and animation to suit everyone and every type of party. Think of this as your own personal ‘movie trailer’ to the most amazing night of your life (so far!).

A few examples you can see below, so let us know what you think and which you would choose. The invites are packed with personality and originality, and put your guests in the mood to party with an invitation they won’t forget.

After all, when you go to all the effort of organising a party, you want it to start in the best possible way right?

The Perfect Cocktail: Hen Party from Mini-Epic on Vimeo.

Hey Girls!: Hen Party from Mini-Epic on Vimeo.

It’s Time! : Hen Party from Mini-Epic on Vimeo.

You can find Mini-Epic online at mini-epic.com, and their invitations are available now to purchase and create. 

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blissed out bride: ragdale hall

February 24th, 2016 | Rachel Parry

Ragdale Hall (1)

When you arrive at a destination and someone comes out to take your bags and park your car for you, you just know you’re in for treat!

This is the reception Julia and I received upon pulling up to our most recent blissed out bride retreat, Ragdale Hall, a health hydro and thermal spa near Melton Mowbray, Loughborough.

Situated in a tranquil, rural location the hall is vast, housing one of the biggest spas that we’ve ever experienced, along with a restaurant, gym and accommodation, plus numerous treatments rooms, quiet areas and shops! Impressive right?

Having heard from many friends and relatives that Ragdale Hall was the place to visit when it came to relaxation and pampering, we thought it only right to try out its facilities for brides-to-be looking for a chilled-out pre-wedding break, a refined hen do or a romantic minimoon.

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One of the best things about Ragdale Hall, and perhaps one of the first things to hit you, is its dress code, which we can only sum up as ‘ultra-casual’ with guests encouraged to remain in their soft robes and slippers for the duration of their stay. Already we think we’ve died and gone to heaven!

Once changed into our robes (which would remain on our bodies until departure, excluding only sleep time) we had a tour of the building which revealed a Tardis of tranquillity for us to explore and enjoy, but first – lunch.

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Joined in the dining room by fellow robe-donning guests we indulged in three courses, which made a refreshing change from our usual lunch of grabbing at anything edible between typing. It’s important to point out at this stage that the word ‘health’ in Ragdale’s description doesn’t mean solely green eating, and alcohol is (thankfully) on the menu!

We enjoyed starters of warm soup and soft bread (see, carbs too!) and then helped ourselves to mains from a buffet of adventurous salads and meats, plus hot options such as curries and paella were also available. To finish, vanilla sponge with a blueberry cream. Del-i-cious!

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Right, spa time. Not to overwhelm ourselves we decided to start at one side of thermal spa and work our way over to the other, sampling all 12 of its luxurious and unique heat and water experiences along the way! We began by braving the outdoor waterfall pool in the chilly January weather. Though cold out, the steam rising from the pool kept us warm while message jets washed away any niggling aches.

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