Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Luxury Wedding Shows Spring 2017

creating couture: blossom & belle’s unique wedding gowns

February 8th, 2017 | Rachel Parry

Blossom & Belle Couture (c) All You Need is Love Photography (3)

While there are numerous stunning wedding dress designs hanging on the rails of boutiques, for some brides nothing completes the dream wedding picture like having a couture gown specially made for their big day.

Brides Up North Sponsor and dress-maker extraordinaire Antonia Aitken of Blossom and Belle, is fully versed in the art of creating beautiful bespoke wedding gowns, from the structure and cut to the fabric and finish. As such, we’re putting the blog in her skilful hands this afternoon so she can tell us exactly what couture is, and how she goes about creating it through her one-off, timeless wedding gown designs.

She also has news of a fabulous Blossom and Belle charity tea party event taking place in York on Sunday 26th February, which will feature workshops, high-end suppliers and delicious treats, so be sure to read to the end of the post for full details.

With images by All You Need Is Love Photography

Blossom & Belle Couture (c) All You Need is Love Photography (22)

How would you define a couture wedding gown?

antonia says: Couture is not ‘dressmaking or copying a design’ – rather it is the creation of a luxury item which starts from design through to pattern cutting, toiles and fittings and the final amazing result.

Couture is not off the peg. It is a unique creation that no one else will have. It is a process that takes time, not something that can be made in an instant. Specialised elements, from hand stitched hems and embellishments, to steel boned bodices and button and loop detailing, are the epitome of a couture gown. It is timeless piece that will look just as wonderful in years to come as it does on the day of the wedding.

What skills must you have as a dress maker to craft such creations?

As the design director at Blossom and Belle I pride myself in my skill to create a one-off bespoke gown or outfit.

It’s having the ability to see a client for the first time and knowing exactly what she will suit. It is the art of how fabric will work and fall on the form. Knowing about colours, textures and the cut and line of a design. How to emphasise the best features of a client and disguise those that they are less keen on.

I do not work from someone else’s pattern, I make my own, which is a meticulous process requiring great skill and an art form in itself.

Blossom & Belle Couture (c) All You Need is Love Photography (9)

Blossom & Belle Couture (c) All You Need is Love Photography (30)

What do brides enjoy about having a couture gown for their big day?

For my clients, it’s the knowledge that they are wearing something truly unique and luxurious and in their own size – not mass produced and not off the peg – something made especially for them.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the process a bride can expect to follow if she decides to have a couture Blossom and Belle gown made?

The whole process of having your own gown created is really quite lovely. After your first free consultation, where we go over ideas and look through fabrics and any trimmings or embellishment ideas, I will design a range of gowns for you to choose from and take your measurements. I also say at this point that the bride should get their underwear as this is vital to the fit of the gown.  A toile is then made in calico, which is a mock-up of the wedding dress and where tweaks and design decisions are made. Having a couture gown made just for you is a very private affair and no one else, unless you want to, will see your gown being created.

There should be no more than five fittings, although some brides like to have more as they love to see everything taking shape and enjoy the process so much.

Finally, for the full experience, I’m available to dress the bride on the day of the wedding to make sure everything is perfect.

Blossom & Belle Couture (c) All You Need is Love Photography (12)

What would you say to brides who are worried that having a couture dress made will be expensive and time consuming?

A couture gown is unique and made just for you, which is why it can cost more than an off the peg gown. Only the finest of fabrics are used, meticulous hand beading and hand stitching are all involved in the process of having a couture gown made. It can take several months just to make one gown, which is why fittings are spread over time to suit the bride and to allow for any tweaks to be made.

We never ask for the full price of the gown to be paid upfront, rather it is paid by instalments, which takes the pressure off.  I do say that you never lose money on a couture gown as it becomes an heirloom passed down through the family.

Blossom & Belle Couture (c) All You Need is Love Photography (13)

What is the feedback like from brides who have had a Blossom and Belle Couture dress made?

I always receive wonderful feedback from brides, and have even been invited to the wedding. Over the time of the dress being made we get to know each other very well.

I have had one bride recently send me a photograph of her 17-year-old daughter wearing her gown that was made by me 20 years ago and it still looks wonderful and timeless. I also had one bride love the style of her vintage inspired gown so much, she had another two made in different colours!

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laid back love. maggie sottero for a relaxed wedding at high house farm brewery – chloe & tom

February 8th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh

A Relaxed Wedding at High House Farm Brewery (c) Erin Photography (26)

I have a confession to make, readers: today’s real wedding has brought on a girl crush. Bride Chloe mixed Maggie Sottero with Topshop and threw in a leather jacket for good measure. She’s like Kate Moss, but Northern (i.e. an even better version of Kate Moss).

Also, we need more thumbs-up photographs in wedding albums. And brides swigging from beer bottles. And haystacks. Just putting it out there.

Actually, forget the girl crush – I have a full-on wedding crush. Do you think Chloe and Tom would notice if I conned them into being friends with me and invented a time machine so I could actually be at this wedding?

I challenge you to look at these stunning photographs and not feel the same way.

With images by Erin Photography.

A Relaxed Wedding at High House Farm Brewery (c) Erin Photography (64)

chloe says: We got engaged on 4th September 2014, at Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland. It was the day after my birthday and Tom suggested that we take a day trip to Craster and Dunstanburgh. He completely surprised me by proposing while we were standing on the cliffs behind the castle; the only people around were a couple of fishermen! He’d managed to sneak a picnic into the car and after he’d proposed we enjoyed some food and drinks while sitting on the harbour in Craster.

A Relaxed Wedding at High House Farm Brewery (c) Erin Photography (35)

We were married on 28th July 2016. We wanted a summer wedding to make the most of our venue (though the weather didn’t quite turn out as planned on the day!) Originally, we’d planned an August wedding to fit in with school holidays as I’m a teacher. We needed to move it forward slightly in the end to also fit in with Tom’s work schedule. This meant we had a week or so afterwards to enjoy a short honeymoon, too.

Our venue was High House Farm Brewery, Matfen, Northumberland. We wanted a laid-back venue where people could completely relax and enjoy the day – the open barn and the surrounding countryside was the perfect fit. We also wanted somewhere that we could add a personal touch with decorations etc. – our venue was great for this. They were very flexible with food and did their best to cater for every request. There was no hire charge for the venue providing that we used their caterers, so it saved us a bit of money that we were able to spend elsewhere.

A Relaxed Wedding at High House Farm Brewery (c) Erin Photography (18)

We didn’t have a wedding theme and were very laid-back with decoration, table dressing and what we/our guests wore on the day. We wanted a laid-back atmosphere, and our guests commented that they really liked this about the day.

A Relaxed Wedding at High House Farm Brewery (c) Erin Photography (32)

I chose a Maggie Sottero gown called Patience from Y.A.P. Bridal Boutique in Newcastle. The dress wasn’t too over-the-top, but was still really special. I also wore a full-length plain tulle veil from Y.A.P, which blended in with the train of my dress. I wore gold peep-toe sandals from Topshop during the ceremony, and changed into some cream lacy Toms for dancing later on. My leather jacket kept me warm when the temperature dropped!

My earrings were worn by my mam when she was married, and were my something ‘old’, ‘borrowed’ and ‘blue’. My something ‘new’ was a wedding present from Tom; a beautiful gold locket

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rustic charm meets 1920s chic: a summer wedding at skipton castle – rachel & harry

February 6th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth

A Rustic Wedding at Skipton Castle (c) Bethany Clarke (44)

Today on the blog, we’re stepping back in time with Rachel and Harry as they tie the knot at the medieval Skipton Castle in Yorkshire.

After 10 years together – Rachel awoke from her slumber one day to find an engagement ring on her finger; the definition of a dream come true if ever we saw one!

Their wedding was just as dreamy, with wildflowers, pretty pastels, a classic Bentley and a gorgeous three-tiered cake, not to mention a subtle nod to all things art deco. Read on for all the exquisite details…

With images by Bethany Clarke

A Rustic Wedding at Skipton Castle (c) Bethany Clarke (9)

rachel says: We had been together for 10 years before we got engaged and always joked that there was no point in Harry proposing as he knew I would say yes, so we may as well skip the engagement and just get married. In the early hours of 31st August 2015 Harry popped the most beautiful sapphire and diamond ring on my finger while I was asleep! Obviously, it was a wonderful surprise to wake up to, and Harry had spent hours nervously waiting for me to be in a deep enough sleep to put the ring on.

We got married on 23rd July 2016. We knew that we wanted a summer wedding and the venue we wanted only had a few weekends left and this date worked the best for us.

A Rustic Wedding at Skipton Castle (c) Bethany Clarke (20)

We tied the knot at Skipton Castle. We are both really interested in history and love visiting heritage sites and museums. We had visited Skipton Castle together a few times and always had a lot of fun there so it was really exciting to find out that they actually hold weddings there too! Of course, I wanted the whole fairytale princess in a castle vibe too! We had visited a few other venues but Skipton Castle just felt so special to us, everyone that works there is so lovely and genuinely wanted us to have the best day; they really put us at ease and made our wedding super special.

A Rustic Wedding at Skipton Castle (c) Bethany Clarke (39)

We wanted to have a really casual and fun wedding. It was quite small and intimate, we didn’t have a seating plan or anything like that, we just wanted everyone to mingle and have a great time.

I wouldn’t say we had a particular theme but due to our own personal styles there was a bit of a vintage feel to the day – my dress was 1920s inspired, we had a classic Bentley and wild flowers everywhere. It’s hard not to get swept up when you’re getting married in a medieval castle!

We didn’t have a colour scheme; everything was quite neutral. We had a range of different colours in our flowers and these were the only real colours on the day, at the castle and later at our reception venue too. We matched the car and the cake to the bridesmaid’s pale grey dress as it was important to us that everything looked quite minimal.

A Rustic Wedding at Skipton Castle (c) Bethany Clarke (32)

I wore a Maggie Sottero dress from Abigail’s Bridal Boutique. Looking through bridal magazines and blogs I fell in love with Maggie Sottero’s designs and I discovered that Abigail’s Bridal Boutique is one of the few shops in Leeds that stock this brand. I tried on a handful of dresses but as soon as I put on ‘Ettia’ I knew that was the dress for me. It was everything I had ever dreamed of in a wedding dress and the lovely ladies at Abigail’s had to coax me out of it in the end as I didn’t want to take it off. I paired it with a cathedral length, Swarovski trimmed veil and an art deco headpiece – I felt like a princess.

Harry wore a gorgeous suit from The Kooples and my bridesmaid wore a pale grey dress from ASOS.

A Rustic Wedding at Skipton Castle (c) Bethany Clarke (28)

We hired a classic S-type Bentley from Classic and Vintage Travel in Harrogate. The car was incredible and the driver was so wonderfully friendly and surprised us with a bottle of Champagne after the ceremony. He drove us out to a lovely area of greenery in Skipton and we drank some Champagne and enjoyed a few minutes to ourselves before driving to the reception. It was such a special moment and we were so grateful to the driver for suggesting it.

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pronovias perfection. blush & gold for an elegant wedding at oulton hall – abbie & darren

February 3rd, 2017 | Laura McDonagh

An Elegant Wedding at Oulton Hall (c) Belle & Beau Photography (30)

Today we are welcoming Abbie and Darren back to the blog to share their big day with us, having previously shared their sweet engagement shoot on our pretty pages.

This wedding is a lesson in luxe styling – there’s a pair of Valentino Rockstuds softened by some perfect floral detailing, romantic calligraphy and plenty of gold and blush accents.

Quite frankly, Abbie and Darren’s big day at Leeds’ stunning venue Oulton Hall, gives us goosebumps.

Today’s mantra? Go gorgeous, or go home.

With images by Belle and Beau Fine Art Photography.

An Elegant Wedding at Oulton Hall (c) Belle & Beau Photography (35)

abbie says: We got engaged in Santorini in June 2014; it was just perfect. Darren presented me with a gorgeous princess cut diamond ring, which was exactly what I wanted. Our engagement shoot was featured on Brides Up North last year.

Our wedding date was Saturday 30th July 2016. We chose this date because we wanted a summer weekend wedding, plus it means we get to celebrate our anniversary in summer – who wouldn’t want that? I’d always wanted a string quartet at our wedding and had pictured them playing outside while our guests enjoyed the summer weather and drinks. Amazingly, it was a beautiful summer day and the dream became the reality!

An Elegant Wedding at Oulton Hall (c) Belle & Beau Photography (27)

We got married at Oulton Hall in Leeds. I’ve always loved this venue as it has the modern décor I adore while still having the charm of an older building. We also loved the courtyard which turned out to be perfect for the drinks reception.

The style of our wedding was elegant and romantic, with lots of floral patterning, blush and gold tones and lots of white. I love these colours and Darren let me run away with my ideas for the colour scheme!

An Elegant Wedding at Oulton Hall (c) Belle & Beau Photography (20)

I choose a Pronovias gown called Duende from Bridal Rogue Gallery in Harrogate. After trying on probably around 20 dresses, I just knew this was the one. I hadn’t wanted tulle to start off with – in fact, I had my heart set on a lace fishtail gown. However, after lots and lots of trying on, I still couldn’t find one to fit the bill. My dress was the perfect mix of tulle and lace and I customised it to make it perfectly ‘me’ – it originally had feathers! I also wore a pair of Valentino nude rockstud heels – man, I love those shoes! I also wore a pair of diamond earrings that were gifted to me by Darren the morning of the wedding.

Darren wore a dark navy suit from French Connection with a navy bow tie. He wore a pair of brown Ted Baker shoes to complement the suit. I know I’m biased, but he looked so handsome!

Our bridesmaids wore fitted fishtail blush dresses from Coast. I wanted my bridal party to feel gorgeous and they got lots and lots of compliments on the day.

An Elegant Wedding at Oulton Hall (c) Belle & Beau Photography (49)

The makeup artists for the bridal party was Frankie of Makeup by Frankie. I would recommend her wholeheartedly to any bride. My sister was so nervous about having her makeup done but Frankie put her completely at ease and my sister was delighted with the result. We also used a brilliant hairdresser, Bridget of Hair One located in Ossett. Again, I’d recommend Bridget to any bride-to-be.

Our groomsmen and both fathers wore navy suits from Slaters with navy ties – we wanted them to match but make sure that Darren stood out. It all ended up looking perfect.

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bon appetite! rosa clara for a pretty blush pink wedding at didsbury house hotel – aimee & oli

February 3rd, 2017 | Rachel Parry

A Pretty Wedding in Manchester (c) Mike Plunkett Photography (46)

Today’s couple are one after my own heart making the main focus of the day all about food!

Treating their guests to a six-course tasting menu at their favourite French restaurant, plus maroons as favours and an incredible multi-flavoured wedding cake, there’s no way that anyone went home hungry from this big day.

In addition to the banqueting, there are plenty of other fine elements to feast the eyes on, including Aimee’s elegant Rosa Clara gown, the maids pretty blush multi-ways and is that a sweet table that we spy? Time to indulge…

With images by Mike Plunkett Photography

A Pretty Wedding in Manchester (c) Mike Plunkett Photography (49)

oli says: I proposed to Aimee at The Savoy Hotel in London. I had gone down the day before to drop the ring off with the hotel and asked them to place it in our suite under a silver cloche with flowers and champagne in the room. Aimee thought they had given us someone else’s room by mistake and was reluctant to lift the cloche and find the ring – after some encouragement she did so and was very surprised!

We chose 29th June as the date for the wedding due to a couple of reasons. The first being that the restaurant we wanted for the wedding meant we could only have exclusive use on selected days. The second reason was that one of the groomsmen was playing for Wales in the European Football Championships so the date was supposed to be well planned for when we thought they may get eliminated – unfortunately they got to the semi-finals and he missed the wedding!

A Pretty Wedding in Manchester (c) Mike Plunkett Photography (23)

We held or ceremony at Manchester Town Hall as we met at the Christmas Markets in front of the Town Hall, and in fact, in front of the Lords Mayors Parlour where we got married. Once we had a closer look at the venue we fell in love with it even more. We then went onto The French restaurant at The Midland Hotel, for the wedding breakfast as we love fine dining and this is our favourite restaurant in the city. We chose Didsbury House Hotel for the reception.

We also used Eleven Didsbury Hotel for the night before the wedding and Aimee stayed at King Street Townhouse in the city centre the night before. We love the hotels, the interiors and touches in the rooms are fantastic. The fact we could also take some of them over exclusively for us was great.

A Pretty Wedding in Manchester (c) Mike Plunkett Photography (39)

We didn’t have a theme for the wedding – we just wanted great food and fantastic venues.

The colour scheme was blush pink. We based this decision on what flowers would be in season that we liked at the time of the wedding.

A Pretty Wedding in Manchester (c) Mike Plunkett Photography (43)

Aimee wore a Rosa Clara wedding gown, which she purchased from Knutsford Wedding Gallery.

The bridesmaids’ dresses were multiway designs from In One Clothing.

A Pretty Wedding in Manchester (c) Mike Plunkett Photography (50)

Myself and the groomsmen wore Sandringham morning suits from Debenhams hire department with white shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt. I had a patterned pink Hermes tie, while the groomsmen wore plain pink ties. On the day of the wedding we also had our hair styled by MR.SE who is the owner of a leading men’s hair styling range in the UK.

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a posh picnic. a boho wedding at the national wildflower centre in liverpool – hannah & leon

February 2nd, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth

A Boho Wedding in Liverpool (c) Hannah Blackledge Photography (27)

For today’s real wedding, we’re escaping to the serene and picture-perfect backdrop of the National Wildflower Centre for Hannah and Leon’s special day.

After seven years together, the couple said ‘I do’ at Runcorn Town Hall before celebrating with family and friends in the unconventional Wildflower Centre, set in the 35 acre Victorian Court Hey Park, for a wedding with a boho twist.

There are so many wonderful and heartfelt touches to this wedding – from the couple’s ‘posh’ picnic and specially crafted cocktails, to their handmade decorations and blessings in the pretty surroundings of a meadow.

With images by Hayley Blackledge Photography

A Boho Wedding in Liverpool (c) Hannah Blackledge Photography (2)

hannah says: We got engaged on our first real Christmas living together. We had opened all our gifts and Leon said he had forgotten one, so he went to get it while I opened my last gift. I turned around and there he was on one knee. He did the traditional full name and full question – it was perfect. My last gift was a Westlife album of all “our songs” from when we first started going out as kids. On the back, he had written me a full proposal that I could keep forever.

We were married on 30th July 2016, exactly one week after our seven-year anniversary. Leon is a teacher so we wanted the wedding to take place while he was off school, which meant this date was perfect.

A Boho Wedding in Liverpool (c) Hannah Blackledge Photography (8)

We had two separate venues for our wedding day. The first was Runcorn Town Hall for the ceremony, and the reception was hosted at the National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool. The first time we visited, we walked through the wildflowers, explored the park and sat by the pond with my parents and sister, and we fell in love with the place. I noticed a tiny poster offering venue hire for events and we never looked back once we were given the price. Our parents were married in Runcorn Town Hall so it held a lot of sentimental value for us. Plus, it’s very beautiful.

A Boho Wedding in Liverpool (c) Hannah Blackledge Photography (36)

We didn’t aim to have a theme, but ended up with a laid-back posh picnic – quite a mix! We wanted to create a beautiful space and that meant the right decorations rather than one set theme or colour.

The colour theme grew over time and became much more relaxed the closer we got to the big day. We started with navy (Leon’s suit), white (my dress) and peach (bridesmaid dresses). Over time we added gold, greens, wood tones, pinks and other pastel colours in the same shade. It looked great!

A Boho Wedding in Liverpool (c) Hannah Blackledge Photography (52)

When it came to my outfit, I didn’t want to look like the “classic bride” and wanted something a touch more vintage and boho. There was one store on Bold Street in Liverpool, Cherry Blossom Boutique, which I tried to call into at least three times. Every time I called over, I’d mistimed it. I managed to make it along one afternoon though and found my dress. I tried two dresses on and then there it was: my Gino Cerruti. The full-length gown had an illusion neckline, a waist synching band and low back, and was covered in hoops of clear beads. I paired my dress with chunky heeled T-bar New Look shoes and a handmade veil from my nan. I then swapped my heels for white flats for most of the day.

Leon wore a navy three-piece suit, with a waistcoat of a different texture from Next. He teamed this with a white shirt with handmade Marvel Spiderman cufflinks and socks, and a pink tie from Burton, with a pink pocket square. To complete his ensemble, he wore brown brogues from Tesco and a squirrel silver tiepin.

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