September 27th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
We almost feel like someone has hit the fast-forward button on 2018 as our feet have barely touched the ground these past nine months, and now in the midst of our autumn Luxury Wedding Show season, things are showing no signs of slowing down!
And not that we’re complaining. So far it’s been a year of hard work but fabulous rewards in producing another two stunning issues of UNVEILED magazine and giving this gorgeous brand a slick new website too. We’ve also added some amazing new venues to our portfolio of shows and have more exciting announcements to come in 2019. We had an epic run of events in the spring and are loving being back out on the road for the current collection of events and all the time we’ve kept the pretty pages of Brides Up North filled with inspiration, up to the minute news and trends as well as priceless expert info and tips.
So, you could say we’ve got a lot going on! This might explain why we snapped up an invite from the wonderful team at Ragdale Hall for an overnight spa break quicker than Megan could make her way through the guys on Love Island this summer.
Having visited this beautiful venue of tranquillity before, we knew we were in for 24 hours of pure relaxation and excited by the glorious sounding additions and enhancements at Ragdale Hall that had taken place since our previous stay – most notably the Rooftop Infinity Pool.
The welcome to Ragdale sets the tone for your time at the spa as you arrive at its idyllic Leicestershire countryside location to be greeted by friendly staff who take care of your luggage and even park your car for you – fingers firmly un-lifted from the off.
Once checked in we enjoyed a hot drink while we were run through our schedule and given a map of the site – that’s right a map! Larger than your average spa, Ragdale boasts an impressive list of facilities beyond the usual pool, sauna and steam room, with impressive outdoor areas, relaxation rooms, exercise pool, gymnasium, fitness studios, hair and beauty studio, treatment rooms and three shops, plus its famous Thermal Spa. With all this on one site it comes as no surprise that some guests at Ragdale check in for an entire week, I mean, can-you-imagine?
But alas, we needed to soak up the heavenly goodness in the in the short but sweet time we had and so after a light Caesar salad (and prosecco!) lunch it was straight into the robes and out into the new Rooftop Infinity Pool, which forms part of a recent multi-millionaire-pound development at Ragdale – and worth every penny, if not for the view alone! The open-air, stainless steel pool is heated to a cosy 35 degrees and features reclining underwater massage jets – by day we liked to idle at the infinity edge breathing in the open countryside beyond, while by nightfall it was another level of peace to lay back on the bubbling beds and gaze at the stars.
In the same area there is also a modern elevated lounge area with floor-to-ceiling glass enjoying the same delightful views and therapeutic atmosphere, plus on the ground floor a shiny new exercise pool, complete with aqua gym and cool LED light show.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Thermal Spa – a playground of relaxation consisting of a range of experience rooms, some of which have been exclusively designed for Ragdale and so can’t be found elsewhere.
Enhancing for the mind, body and soul the rooms vary in temperature, lighting and aromas to deliver different benefits. We particularly loved the Thought Zone, designed to inspire positive thinking, and the Colourflow Cave, which combines a heady mix of jasmine, lavender and camomile for a hedonistic detox. The crème de la crème for us though has to be the Candle Pool – an underground candle-lit cavern with star-lit ceiling and inviting 34-degree waters. Pure heaven, and if it wasn’t for our pruning fingers, you might still find us in there now!
After a bob in the outdoor Waterfall Pool we headed to our room to shower and dress for the evening meal. Served in the wood panelled dining room, Ragdale’s expert chefs always offer a beautiful choice of healthy yet thoroughly appetising dishes, with a tempting choice of starters, main and desserts.
Both Julia and I chose the tomato and mozzarella salad to start, followed by a vegetarian pasta main and I then opted for the indulgent ‘comfort pudding’ of a roulade while Julia selected the cheese board to finish, all washed down with a delightful Sauvignon.
Feeling highly satisfied we retied to our rooms for a blissful night’s sleep before another bout of relaxation, and treatments – always the highlight of any spa trip.
We began our day with breakfast in the bright and airy Verandah Bar, which offered a feast of cereals, toast, pastries and fruit, which we devoured – me alongside a helping of smoked salmon and avocado and Julia along with a small stack of fluffy pancakes.
August 2nd, 2018 | Alexis Forsyth
If the sunnier climes up North this summer have given you a taste for the sun drenched, carefree life, then we have the perfect styled shoot for you today, as we transport you to California to provide inspo for that other big day in your life – your hen do!
Led by Natasha, stylist and creator at planning and styling company Want That Invite, the shoot is a dreamy, colourful affair bursting with fun factor – everything we could want from our celebrations with our girl squad in tow!
There are gorgeous prints, palm trees (of course), rainbow bright cocktails, balloons and cake pops to get the party vibes in full swing. And it all takes place in a back garden in the North West of the UK, no less – so no airfare required! We’re just wondering if we even need the excuse of hosting a hen do to recreate this beauty ourselves?!
natasha says: We decided to create this shoot to show our clients what can be achieved in their own back gardens. With the help of us at Want That Invite, and our dream team of suppliers we can transform any space to suit their needs.
California is a popular hen party destination, but this is not always easy to get to (think money, flights and getting everybody to commit). So, instead, we decided to bring California to the UK!
Our colour scheme was inspired by Palm Springs’ architecture; think pastel pinks paired with geometric shapes. The shoot’s overarching theme is California dreaming with a ‘party in Palm Springs’ concept.
We wanted the party to be relatable and to show what’s possible with the help of a planner and stylist. We selected a colleague’s garden as the venue for the shoot, which was fairly neutral with pastel grey fences and no bold flowers or decor. We knew it was the ideal spot for our shoot as we loved the different areas available. There was a grassed area for the picnic, decking for a seating area and also a great long fence for the Photo Booth (supplied by Vivalabooth) to go in front of. It wasn’t overpowered by bushes or trees, which meant our styling was the focal point.
A variety of styling elements were taken into consideration when designing this shoot – from the patterns on the picnic rugs, to the colours of the placemats and cushions. Modern elements were introduced with the use of gold cutlery and Perspex name-tags and signage, with stationery supplied by Ever After Paperie and favours from Team Hen.
Beautiful fresh florals were introduced to add pops of colour to the picnic table, the drinks cart and even in the bride-to-be’s hair, supplied by the talented Milly Davey Flowers. Even the desserts, crafted by Honeywell Bakes and Polka Pops, were styled to match with the theme – think palm trees and pineapples.
We wanted the attire for the shoot to be relaxed, fun and realistic to what would be worn to a garden party. But we wanted to add a statement piece, which is why we decided to get Bee Davies Illustration involved. She created a bespoke denim ‘Miss to Mrs’ jacket to add to the relaxed atmosphere.
May 3rd, 2018 | Rachel Parry
What are the necessary requirements for chilled out girly trip? For us it has to be comforting and stylish surroundings, delicious food, one or two glasses (ok, bottles) of wine and, of course, access to some pampering facilities. We were therefore delighted to be invited for an overnight stay at our fabulous Sponsor venue, the stunning Titanic Hotel Liverpool, last month, which offers all this – and a whole lot more!
Given it’s uber cool location at Stanley Docks, the gorgeous boutique style hotel offers a tranquil haven away from the immediate buzz of Liverpool’s city centre but is just a few minutes’ cab ride away should you want to mix some city, culture and bar hopping into your escape.
Perfect for a pre-wedding getaway, perhaps to shop for the last minute big day bits with your other half, or an indulgent girls-only get away with your mum, sister or bezzie – or get all in tow for a sophisticated hen do – the Titanic houses a contemporary bar, restaurant and accommodation all under one roof, plus its Maya Blue Wellbeing, complete with fitness, pool and treatment areas. Oh, and did we mention they do weddings? But more on that later.
For now, let’s fill you in on our experience of this dreamy hotel. Arriving mid-morning we checked in and took a seat in the impressive Rum Bar lounge, with original exposed brick and large steel pillars mixed in with modern décor and soft furnishings giving a New York loft apartment vibe, which is echoed through all areas of the hotel. As a nod to its rum warehouse heritage and location on the docks, the spirit is the tipple of choice at the Titanic, though at 11am we felt it a little too early to start on the alcohol, and so settled in with a large latte as we took in the surroundings before being given a full tour and rundown of the hotel’s facilities.
In the midst of a hectic but truly epic wedding fair season (don’t forget it’s our annual WEDSTOCK’18 Wedding Show in Harrogate this Sunday, 6th May) we decided to make our trip one of relaxation, enjoying some much-needed magazine time and a visit to the Maya Blue Wellbeing. As mentioned, those visiting could easily venture into the city centre during their stay, where there are shops, museums, tourist attractions, bars, cafes and restaurants galore.
We broke up our day with lunch in the bar area before checking out our spectacular accommodation. Boasting 153 rooms in total, the options range from classic double rooms to superior and presidential suites. All are light, airy and spacious, with rich furnishings and luxurious bathrooms.
May 1st, 2018 | Rachel Parry
When it comes to planning a hen do it can be tricky to think of an ‘activity’ that’s original and will appeal to all ages and personalities within the group. But thanks to our fabulous North-East based Sponsor, freelance makeup artist Alexandra Jane Edgar, we have a winning suggestion for you that’s guaranteed to go down a treat with all your beloved hens – a professional makeover and photo shoot! We said it was fabulous!
Based in the studio of Joe Laws Photography, in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Alexandra has added this hen party experience to her list of services, so girls can get glammed up before hitting the town and take away some stunning professional shots with their leading ladies as a gorgeous souvenir of their pre-wedding celebrations.
Not only that but Alexandra is also offering group and private makeup classes to help ladies get out of a beauty rut and enhance their features while learning top products, tips and tricks along the way. And those further afield than the North East need not miss out of Alexandra’s golden advice as she’s started a series of online makeup tutorials too. Is there no end to this lady’s talents?
Here to tell us more is the expert herself. Over to you Alexandra…
With images by Joe Laws Photography.
You’ve recently introduced a Hen Party Experience to the portfolio of fabulous services that you offer. Can you tell us a little about this?
alexandra says: Our Hen Party Experience is a new, feel good service providing you and your main girls an amazing treat. All hens get a pamper session with eyes, cheeks and lips at £35 each, with the bride-to-be getting a consultation on skincare, full professional makeup application and hair styled for £55. Next, it’s time to hit the studio and enjoy a photoshoot by award-winning wedding and portrait photographer Joe Laws. Each hen will choose a digital photograph and the bride-to-be chooses an additional one of the entire party to take away with them. Any additional images, prints, framing are also available at an additional cost.
How have the hen party sessions been received so far?
The feedback has been amazing with our parties coming from as far as Northern Ireland and Scotland so far. They say it is a great way to spend an afternoon before going into town to party. It’s a professional, fun experience where everyone gets to look and feel their best. Not only will the session encourage brides-to-be to book their wedding makeup trial, it’s also a great opportunity for some practice in front of a professional photographer – and most of all, they all have fun with beautiful images to take away and treasure. It certainly beats a selfie!
You also run a number of makeup classes at the studio. Why did you want to introduce this service and who do the classes appeal to?
I have been asked for a very long time from clients if I offer classes and tutorials. I decided to offer this service and the feedback and enquiries have been fantastic. I had not realised how intimidating us ladies can find makeup, and how difficult some find it to find a makeup artist they can trust. I run monthly events at the studio (details can be found on my Facebook page) which are a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, get some advice on products and learn, as I show you “how to” on my model. I am also available for private classes, which are great for mums and daughters, or a few friends, looking for some new ideas, tips and tricks. This service appeals to all ladies looking for an informative, fun experience learning new skills and gaining confidence with their look. Events are £15 per person, and private/group consultations are £35 each.
What are the main beauty mistakes that ladies tend to make?
I honestly don’t think it’s the ladies who make the mistakes. I genuinely believe they have been served with the wrong products for their needs initially. I have seen this time and time again. The consultants are not asking the right questions, nor are they listening to the answers. The client walks away having spent money, gets home and doesn’t have a clue how to use her new products. I am passionate about skincare and makeup. It is magical and empowering. I am able to guide you on the best, effective, cruelty free, luxury products to use to suit your lifestyle whilst keeping it easy and transparent.
Your latest venture is video makeup tutorials, which sound exciting – can you tell us more please?
My desire to help others enjoy, experiment and feel good with incredible products has catapulted me right out of my comfort zone. I wished to present my brand in a luxurious, fun, easy going, informative way. I want my clients to see real women, the process, the application, the finish. My videos are currently on my Facebook page, however I am in the process of setting up a Youtube Channel – AJ Edgar Make up Artist – where they will all be together. I will keep you posted!
So what type of videos have you done so far and what else do you have planned?
My first two tutorials have been modelled by two incredible dancers, Jessica and Elena. My first look is based on enhancing Jessica’s own beauty, the second is empowering Elena with a catwalk inspired look from Sophia Webster’s dreamy current collection. Next, I will be showcasing a real prom makeup application on Royal Teen Miss UK, Juliette. Through my videos, I will be filming ladies of all ages and ethnicities focussing on different areas, such as eyes, cheeks, lips, skincare, foundation – the whole schbang!
What current makeup trends are you a fan of and can you forecast any looks that will be big in bridal?
I’m delighted that the magical, ethereal, glistening, mystical looks on the spring/summer catwalks at London, Paris and New York Fashion Weeks are here to stay. The skin is luminous and looks so healthy – perfect for a bride. See examples at Antonio Marras, Ralph & Russo, Sophia Webster and Valentino. I feel the sherbet hues will transcend into bridal with lilac, pink, pistachio and lemon taking centre stage. I adore translating the catwalk looks for bridal and every day. All examples can be seen on my Facebook page, shot by Joe Laws Photography.
Beauty-wise, who is your celebrity crush?
Currently it would have to be bride-to-be of the moment, Meghan Markle. She always looks radiant, polished and so happy. She is a strong, confident woman. I adore that she said no to any editing of her portrait for Vogue. Right now, Meghan will be preparing her skin in order to be wedding-ready, focusing on her nutrition and skincare. This is something I am able to assist my brides-to-be with and I only use vegan skincare, makeup, nutrition, bath and body products.
It would be absolutely incredible at some point in my career to do Meghan’s makeup. It would be such a privilege to advise and create looks for such an empowering, beautiful girl.
March 20th, 2018 | Rachel Parry
If ever there’s a much-needed time for a spa visit it’s during these spells of cold, bitter weather when our complexions are exposed to harsh conditions and our energy levels take a hit. We were therefore delighted to receive an invitation for an indulgent overnight stay at the wonderful Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa resort in rural Cheshire, back in February.
As we were heading over to the North West to host one of our Luxury Wedding Fairs at the prestigious Chester Grosvenor, we thought tagging this stay onto the weekend of the event would be an ideal way to recharge the batteries. And so, after our successful wedding show came to an end we packed up the car and travelled 20 minutes from city of Chester out into the countryside to unwind in Portal Hotel’s idyllic surroundings.
Upon arrival we received an incredibly warm welcome and were informed that our room had been upgraded – a super nice touch, which saw us staying in a spacious twin room with large veranda looking out onto rolling lawns and woodland. It was perfectly serene and ensured a we had a peaceful night’s rest.
Having checked out the accommodation, we headed to the bar for an early evening drink before taking our seats for a three-course meal in the hotel restaurant. The service from the waiting staff was faultless and we were well looked after throughout. My mum joined me on this visit and we both have identical taste and so we ordered the same starter and main course; a winning combination of salmon, cream cheese and capers to start, followed by beautifully cooked lamb, accompanied by perfectly cooked vegetables and a tasty jus. For dessert I whole-heartedly gave into my sweet tooth opting for the chocolate tart served with a berry sorbet while my mum went for the slightly lighter cheesecake option. Having polished off a bottle of Rioja we headed to our room and, as expected, had a blissful night’s sleep in our comfortable suite.
Keen to make full use of the hotel’s facilities, I was up early the following day for a workout in the gym ahead of breakfast. As with many hotel gyms, it was on the smaller side but had all the necessary equipment for a full work out. I also enjoyed that its large windows gave gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, making the exercise feel all the more refreshing.
Ready to refuel I joined my mum for breakfast in the restaurant where we had eaten the night before. There was a full continental offering laid out buffet style, including cereals, fresh fruit, juices, and pastries, plus the option to order something hot. As we had time in the spa area to come, we didn’t want to overfill and so enjoyed fresh fruit followed by a comforting bowl of porridge accompanied by nuts and honey. Delicious.
Treatment time was next. As mentioned I felt my skin was particularly suffering from the cold winter weather and so I selected the Elemis Superfood Pro-Radiance Facial, while my mum opted for the Elemis Deeper Than Deep Hot Stones Massage.
My therapist Karen showed me to the cosy treatment room and explained details of the treatment before asking me about any skin concerns (of which I have many!) and then informed me how she would tailor the facial to address my combination skin. All I had to do was lay back, relax and be transported to the height of relaxation. The varying lotions and potions were massaged, tapped and smoothed into my skin before a face mask was applied and the pampering continued with a scalp massage – literally one of the best things in life as far as I’m concerned. When my treatment came to an end, my skin was left radiant and glowing as promised. Certainly, an ideal pre-wedding pick-me-up for brides-to-be whose big days are just a matter of weeks away.
Meeting my mum in the warm and dimly-lit relaxation room, she reported equally good things from her treatment saying that all knots had been removed from her back and that she felt much less tension in her shoulders, so perhaps a good one of any of you ladies out there suffering a little planning stress.
November 30th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
After a hugely busy but absolutely EPIC season of our autumn wedding fairs, we we’re in need of some serious downtime come mid-November. Not only to recover from organising and running more than 20 luxury shows across the north of the country in the latter part of the year, but also to come down from high of them being so well-received and attended by fabulous suppliers and lots of lovely brides-and-grooms-to-be. Big love to all!
And so, an invitation to Cheshire-based spa hotel Mottram Hall, couldn’t have come at a better time; this was one Blissed Out Bride visit we were well and truly going to benefit from.
Nestled amongst peaceful parkland, the stunning hotel is the perfect retreat for those craving a large dose of R&R. And it has something to tempt all – couples, guys and girls – with an 18-hole championship standard golf course, luxurious spa, champagne bar and AA Rosette restaurant all on site. So, you can eat, drink, be merry and sleep (which is exactly what we planned to do).
Arriving at lunchtime, our spa package began with a light lunch accompanied with a glass of fizz, setting the tone for the rest of our stay. Once fed and watered (or prosseco-ed!) we headed straight for the spa – like I say, this was one trip we were more than ready for!
A step, leap and stride in front of many ‘spa hotels’ Mottram Hall’s facilities are award-winning, having been bestowed a 5* Bubble Rating by the Good Spa Guide and named ‘Best Country Retreat Spa’ at the Good Spa Guide’s 2017 Regional Awards.
This comes as no surprise really, when in addition to the usual facilities one would expect to find at such a resort, Mottram also boasts the UK’s first Alfresco ThermoSpace. We were super keen to try out all the facilities for ourselves, even if it did mean venturing outside in our swimwear on a chilly November day!
After a quick dip and laze around the indoor swimming pool and hydropool, we wrapped up in our robes and headed outdoors to the ThermoSpace, which is said to incorporate traditional spa therapies with the great outdoors. And we must say, it’s a winning combination!
Experiencing both the Brechelbath and Stonebath, both designed to relax and raise the body’s temperature, we felt wonderfully calm, cocooned in the warmth while enjoying views of the idyllic gardens through floor-to-ceiling glazing.
Next, the outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Just as it was getting dark this was the perfect place for a good catch-up in the open air surrounded by bubbling water as we reflected on the amazing season of wedding fairs and discussed how to raise the bar even higher for our spring 2018 shows (the line-up for which, you can view here).
To complete our spa time, we indulged in a treatment. With the cooler weather playing havoc with my skin I opted for a personalised facial, while Julia was intrigued by the sound of the ESPA Signature Floatation Treatment.
I was led to a softly-lit treatment room where my lovely therapist explained the procedure, which including running a SkinVision lamp across my face to identify needs not visible to the naked eye so that she could tailor the facial to perfectly suit my requirements. Responding to areas of both oiliness and dehydration, she used balancing products that would address both, leaving me with soft, glowing skin.
Julia’s treatment meanwhile was carried out on a ‘floatation bed’ in one of the Alfresco ThermoSpace rooms. The personalised treatment began with a full body polish, followed by a body wrap and relaxing scalp massage. The water-type bed upped the relaxation and Julia admitted slipping into a light sleep during certain parts of the treatment, and emerged with radiant skin, from top to toe!
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