February 8th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
October 31st, 2016 | Alexis Forsyth
Today on the blog we bring you Hannah and Michael’s special day, at the beautiful five-star Grand Hotel and Spa, in York. The historic city was already close to the couple’s hearts and they were totally won over by the Edwardian venue’s truly romantic backdrop.
Opting for a gorgeous gold, bronze and blush pink colour scheme complemented by an abundance of candles, petals and even pom poms – this is a wedding exuding understated glamour and charm.
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor Richard Perry Photography.
hannah says: We got engaged at home, in our living room, on 13th April. Everything was pretty hectic as we were planning a move to the Middle East with Michael’s job. It was just perfect, I was sat playing with our little boy, Archie, and Michael literally gave me the shock of my life as he appeared with a box and got down on one knee to propose. I couldn’t believe it!
We got married on 4th August 2016 – we didn’t want to wait, plus I had always really wanted a summer wedding. With it being last minute, we were limited by dates but after settling on August, this date just seemed right.
Our wedding venue was The Grand Hotel and Spa, in York. We knew the venue had to be in York as it has a lot of special memories for us – from our first date to the birth of our son, as well as it being my hometown. I fell in love with The Grand Hotel from the moment I saw the grand boardroom; the venue’s elegance and history was just perfect.
Our wedding theme was vintage glamour with a touch of romance. I wanted something with class and sophistication, and once we found the venue, I knew that the grand features of the hotel would work perfectly. As for the colour scheme, this focused on gold, bronze and blush pink.
I found my wedding dress at The Little Pearl Bridal Boutique in North Yorkshire. I always knew this would be my starting place, as I know the owner Diana through a close friend. As soon as I stepped into the boutique I knew my dream dress would be in there, somewhere. After trying every different style and fit, I finally found the one – that butterfly feeling was most certainly there! I chose an Enzoani gown in ivory; a vintage style silk and lace embellished dress. It matched the venue and style of the wedding perfectly. I could not recommend Diana and The Little Pearl more. I had the most magical experience from start to finish and felt like a true princess. Diana didn’t miss a detail and would go out of her way to accommodate any request.
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February 26th, 2016 | Rachel Parry
We are totally in love with today’s bride’s stunning attire for her big day. Switching a traditional dress for a stylish top and skirt combo, we think Emma totally rocked the separates, which were made by her mum’s fair hands, no less!
And there are plenty more beautiful elements to this gorgeous winter wedding; from the bridesmaids’ mismatched lace dresses, to rustic homemade cake and the abundance of fairy lights. We love!
With images by Andrew Keher Photography.
emma says: We got engaged in August 2014 in Monmouth, South Wales. We had been away on holiday to Berlin for a week, which was a non-stop, activity packed week. We had talked about having a few days wind down when we came back before going back to work. This was something Matt was very keen for us to do, and now I know why!
We booked a beautiful little cabin in the heart of the woods in the Monmouth valley, complete with a wood burner, view of the woods and a microbrewery nearby. On the first evening there we were playing Guess Who in front of the fire (as you do), when Matt proposed. It was a huge, lovely surprise. We spent the rest of the weekend talking about what we should do for the wedding.
We got married on 14th November 2015. Both of us wanted to get married in autumn/winter, and this was the date that fell together for the venue, caterers and the return of close family moving back from America.
Our ceremony venue was Grays Court, York. This is a lovely nine-bedroom hotel which is close to the Minster. We chose Grays Court because it was beautiful, full of character, and by far our favourite ceremony venue in York. It even has gorgeous gardens for photos, and, if the weather was right, you can get married outside! The staff were lovely, and really helpful. It also provided the luxury hotel we wanted to stay at for our wedding night.
For our wedding reception we chose The National Centre for Early Music, which is a church that has been converted into a venue. It had the gorgeous features of a church, but the freedom to create the wedding we wanted. The team there was great with flexibility and assisting us.
andrew keher photography, blue sky event solutions, fryton catering company, grays court, john lewis, platinum bridal fabrics, real wedding, romantic wedding, rustic wedding, suzie valentine, the national centre for early music, the rockits, the yorkshire chauffeur company, uk wedding blog, unique djs, winter wedding, york wedding
July 14th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
How stunning is today’s real wedding? From the bride’s cute 1950s style dress to the spring colour theme and delicate decor.
We love how nothing about Kimberley and Adam’s pretty wedding day was over styled or over thought and yet all elements come together perfectly and reflect them beautifully as a couple.
As well as the wedding looking good it sounds like it tasted good too, with a Yorkshire inspired wedding breakfast followed up by Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of a traditional cake – now there’s one we’ve not heard before!
With images by Carly Bevan Photography.
kimberley says: We got engaged on our ten-year anniversary, 22nd January 2014. Adam recreated our first date in York. At the time we were living Oxford and I woke up in the morning to find a letter from Adam with hotel details and train tickets to York. Once I arrived at the hotel there was another letter asking me to meet him where we met on our first date. After a few panicky moments I did finally remember.
We set the date for 28th February 2015 as we wanted to get married near to our anniversary, but also needed time to plan and save!
Grays Court York was our chosen venue and it was perfect! From the moment we walked in we knew it was the place we wanted to get married. In fact we didn’t bother to look at any other venues. Grays has a relaxed feel and everything is so beautiful! Each room has its own style, all the guest bedrooms are stunning, plus there is a fantastic garden that backs onto the city walls. We are both from York and wanted some wedding pictures near the Minster and Grays is just around the corner. Grays were also very flexible about the kind of day we wanted. Really, anything goes with them, they are more than happy to accommodate all requests.
We didn’t have a theme as such but I love 50s/60s style so I guess my dress and hair was always going to reflect that.
Our colour scheme wasn’t a conscious decision, I ended up picking a light blue wedding dress so I just wanted everything to complement that. It ended up being blues, yellows and white – very spring like!
My dress was Ella by House of Mooshki. I went shopping for a Mooshki dress with my maid of honour having seen a few online. I didn’t intend to go for a coloured dress originally, but when I tried it on (it was the first dress I tried) I loved it!
On the wedding day Melanie from Le Keux Vintage Salon in Leeds my hair. She is a superstar! I have the flattest, thinnest hair going but I have always wanted a beehive so this was my opportunity! Everyone was blown away by my hair including me! I absolutely loved it. Melanie is so talented, I couldn’t believe she managed to do that with my hair. She also did my bridesmaids’ hair. They had a half up half down type beehive to complement by huge bouffant!
Adam wore a blue suit from Reiss and the best man and usher wore their own suits. We didn’t want it all to be too matchy matchy, and the boys were happy to wear their own suits. We had a lovely range of colours in the end – Adam in Blue, best man in grey and usher in purple.
The bridesmaid dresses were from Oasis. They were cream with gemstone details around the neck – they both looked amazing!
Our photographer was Carly Bevan – she is wonderful! Carly was an absolute star all day and before the wedding. She even helped me get a timetable sorted! On the day it was like having a friend around taking pictures, she was so kind and helpful, she went above and beyond what we would have ever expected from photographer. And of course the most important thing, her photos are stunning! We were totally blown away by how lovely all our wedding pictures are. Cannot recommend her highly enough!
My bouquet was a mixture of gypsophila and daisies. The bridesmaids had the same but with larger daises. The flowers were created by Ello Flower, based in York just around the corner from Grays.
I wanted a very relaxed feel to the floral decorations, so we went for a mixture of gypsophila, daises and daffodils. We didn’t really need many decorations as the venue is beautiful as it is. I did make lots of bunting and pomp oms though!
As Adam and I are both big rock music fans so we decided to give favours of rock sweets with wedding themed wording on and we made little card match books printed with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ to put them in.
We decided we didn’t want a traditional cake. I’m not the biggest cake fan (I know, I’m odd) and we wanted something a bit more personal to us. However, we are both partial to a Krispy Kreme doughnut so we went with that. I made cakes stands from old vinyl records and we filled them with doughnuts. The idea confused a few people but once they saw it they loved it!
The wedding breakfast meanwhile was Yorkshire based! We chose a mini Yorkshire ploughman’s to start, roast beef and Yorkshire puddings for the main and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Being big rock music fans, we decided to do our own music for the wedding entertainment. Adam spent hours compiling a wedding playlist on his iPod which we plugged it into a large speaker. We had a mixture of swing, 50s/60s jukebox type music and of course rock!
As a special touch our invitations were made from old vinyl records. We love music and regularly go to festivals and we met when we were working at HMV (and studying) so it seemed quite fitting. My maid of honour spent a weekend helping me cut and stick everything together. We also made the name place settings look like gig tickets.
We would definitely recommend our venue to other couples. Not only is the venue stunning, but Rhiannon, the events manager at Grays Court, was fantastic. She helped us organise everything and on the day waited hand and foot on me and my bridesmaids! They also don’t prescribe things like numbers, food and drink. They are great at making the day just how you want it.
The whole day was fantastic, but my favourite part was probably just after the ceremony when I was with Adam again and we got to see all our guests! It is such an emotional time!
For our honeymoon we went on a 17-day road trip around California. We hired a big bright red Dodge Challenger and drove to various cities including LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Palm Springs and San Diego. We also visited Yosemite National Park, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon, which were absolutely stunning!
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to make the day yours. It’s about you and your partner and I feel the day should reflect you as a couple. Some of our decisions were not exactly traditional (I walked down the aisle to an acoustic piano version of a Guns and Roses song) but everyone had a great time and the day was perfect. Also, don’t worry about how the day will go, you end up with so many people around you that take care of everything so you can just enjoy yourselves.
December 30th, 2014 | Julia Braime
Merry Christmas! Its holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a break for the festive season, we’ll be leaving you with a reduced blogging schedule so that you still get your daily dose of wedding lovely.
Usual service will recommence on Monday 5th January 2015 (with some big news!) but in the meantime watch out for recaps of our favourite Real Weddings so far this year. Drop in every day for the very prettiest, most unique wedding inspiration and – if you are a Brides Up North bride – to see if your Real Wedding was one of our top picks for 2014.
Today’s real wedding at the amazing Castle Howard near York is all kinds of beautiful. Elegant and classic, with unexpected touches and an overarching feeling of full on luxury, this is my kind of a wedding day.
Twinkling candles, layers of scent, stunning blooms and a black tie theme. Sensational.
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor Ally Byrom Photography.
laura says: We got engaged in Barbados two years ago. We were on holiday and Daniel suggested we went to the Sandy Lane beach for the day, a beautiful pristine beach attached to the well known hotel. We were walking along the shore when Daniel got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
We got married on 21st June 2014. We knew we wanted an early summer wedding.
We got married at Castle Howard. If you have ever been there you will know how stunning it is. We had also been there the previous year to race in a triathlon. The views during the drinks reception and on arrival at Castle Howard are lovely.
We had black tie dress code but we didn’t have any special theme. I don’t think you really need to add anything else to Castle Howard, otherwise it might detract from the beautiful venue. We had matte silver colour scheme. We went through endless bridesmaid dress colour swatches before we settled on matte silver! We think it looked chic and elegant on my gorgeous bridesmaids.
I had an Enzoani dress. It had an elegant racer back with some delicate thin lace detail on the neck line and back, fitted to just below my hips and then straight down with a train; and in white of course!
My hairdresser was incredible. Carrie at Urban Hair in Boroughbridge managed to create the exact style I wanted and was so nice and relaxed on the day. I highly recommend her.
My hair accessories were from Flo and Percy, they had a great selection and made each accessory to order. I also got miniature versions of my headpiece for my bridesmaids to wear.
My shoes were from Harriet Wilde, she had a sophisticated, elegant selection of styles. I am quite fussy on shoes but Harriet came to meet me at her London shop to help me choose the right ones.
Daniel wore a Moss Bros dinner suit with a white waistcoat and white cravat.
The bridesmaids wore JLM Couture dresses in matte silver with each of the five bridesmaids in different style dresses. They each chose their own style from a shortlist I gave to them. All the dresses were floor length and fitted with a black beaded waist belt and beige court shoes.
Ally Byrom was my photographer. She did an amazing job! We were very relaxed having our couples shots and she captured the moment perfectly without other guests even realising they were being snapped! I would highly recommend Ally!
Kymm Queen was our florist, I carried some beautifully scented, white peonies and white roses with freesia and lavender hidden around the base (because I love the smell of lavender but didn’t want the colour on display!).
We had white peonies, white roses, lilac freesias and lavender in the centre of the candelabras. We had dried rose petals scattered on the wedding breakfast tables too.
Kirsty Guest at Piece of Cake Harrogate made our impressive four tier (Baileys, Limoncello, Fruit and Chocolate and Guinness) cake with intricate lace design (to match my dress) and little bikes around the base (to keep the husband happy). We also had real flowers between two of the layers.
We had Sloe Gin miniature bottles with personalised ‘Laura and Dan’ stamped labels that we made ourselves. We also filled the miniature bottles ourselves, which was a messy job, but we had plenty of volunteers to help us!
We supplied our own individual types of beers from the countries we had visited together over the last 8 years and had fun little additions with a pick and mix table and giant chocolate letters that spelt out our names.
Our singer Tommy Ludgate (contact through www.michaelhallmusic.co.uk) was sensational and made our ceremony the highlight of the day with acoustic renditions of modern songs which we chose. We really can’t recommend her enough.
My favourite part of the day was the ceremony, but we hadn’t expected it to be. We were looking forward to drinks reception so we could relax but it was just so incredibly special, it was easily the most memorable part of the day. The atmosphere in the great hall at Castle Howard was perfect.
For our honeymoon we visited Lake Como, Tuscany and Sicily. We took our bikes and explored the lakes and Tuscany on them. We enjoyed some wine tasting and amazing meals.
We took a private helicopter trip over Mount Etna for a close up look into the crater.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be don’t get hung up on minor details, they aren’t that important, as long as you have the main things in place you will have the best day.
June 13th, 2014 | Julia Braime
When Brides Up North reader Stef first contacted me asking if I’d like to share her Real Wedding memories, she made it clear that she was extremely proud to have planned her big day whilst sticking to quite a narrow budget (in comparison to the “average” spend), and very much wanted to show other Brides Up North that you can have the day of your dreams without getting yourself into debt.
It might mean that there aren’t any “getting ready” shots or images of Stef and Rich’s wedding breakfast to share today (they had mates ready with a camera for those bits instead) but it did mean that they start their lives together money-worry free. An excellent trade off, in my opinion. They don’t seem particularly put out by the lack of all those “details” that we are conditioned to think should make up a good wedding either.
C’mon, I’m a wedding blogger – it goes without saying that I love a huge blowout bash – but I like a refreshing (and savvy) approach too. Don’t be afraid to work out a budget for your big day and then – here’s the clever part – stick to it. If there’s money in the pot and you want to, go large (and send me the photos!), but if you’d rather save a few pennies for rainier days, that’s fine too.
Kudos to you Stef, your wedding looks like it was awesome.
With images by Emilia Smith.
Stef says: We got engaged on holiday in Bulgaria. We went on holiday with a group of friends, their children and my step daughter. Rich said he wanted to take me out for a meal on our own.
Next thing I know a horse and carriage pulls up. I knew instantly what he was up to. I was so nervous… but very happy. He asked me on the carriage. We didn’t go for dinner as we decided to go back to the hotel, buy champagne and celebrate with our friends and later we all went for a wonderful meal on the beach.
The ring was perfect! So different and so perfectly me.
Our wedding date was 29th March 2014. I ran York marathon in October 2013 and after the marathon we walked round York and saw York Registry Office. We went in and had a look. We both instantly knew that was where we wanted our small ceremony to be. We paid the deposit without a second thought.
We picked vintage blues and pinks and went for a tea party style. I love pink and we like to coordinate outfits a lot (yawn!) so we naturally went for pink and blue.
I wanted a tea length 50’s style dress. I found it at Deborah Moore Bridal and it was by Pronovias. I was originally going to get a high street dress or a bridesmaid dress as our budget was so small but I went with my best friend to try on dresses and saw “my dress”. It was in the sale at more than half price but it was a full length gown. We played around with some pins and I decided to buy it and alter it. I was so delighted with it and it is still hanging over my bed! It fits with my style perfectly… it’s different but still elegant and very “weddingy”.
My husband got his suit from the internet. It was extremely cheap but we ordered it and had it altered. He wore all blue with a blue dickie bow and his favourite blue suede brogues.
As we were on a strict budget we asked all our guests to wear what they wanted and informed them of the colour scheme and theme of the wedding. Our friends and family know us well and all followed our wishes.
I had my beautiful step daughter as my flower girl. We got her (unworn) dress from a second hand bridal shop called Bridal Reloved in Beverley. She wanted a dress similar to mine and we wore matching shoes that we won on an auction site and I bought pink near shoe clips to jazz them up.
My photographer was a friend of a friend. Her name is Emilia smith (freelance). She was brilliant and we had such a wonderful experience with her
I wanted silk flowers mainly to keep them forever but also as they cost much much less. I found a lady who makes bouquets on Etsy and I emailed asking for a custom order. I sent her pictures of our shoes and general theme and ordered two bouquets, a hair clip, and a button hole for my husband.
I made button holes for the guests from wool and pipe cleaners. I was super pleased with how it all turned out. The registry office had flowers of their own and we didn’t feel the need to have any more.
My mum made wooden spoons with bells and ribbons on… this was for the guests to shake and wave when we came out of the ceremony room. They were a fun and quirky idea and the kids loved them.
We opted for a champagne afternoon tea at the Grange Hotel, York.
I was very informal, with no seating plan. We arranged sofas and comfy chairs so people could sit with who they wished and it was very relaxed.
For our evening shindig we served curry and cake. We had such a wonderful peaceful day – we wanted our night party to be a good knees up and it was!
The best part of the day for me was having the photographs in the city with just me and my husband.
We got a lot of attention and it was so much fun. We wanted the photos to be fun and capture our personalities and we wanted them to be natural. The weather was fantastic and it was such a wonderful buzz. We were on cloud nine!
We went to Tunisia for our honeymoon. Again we were on a budget and we shopped around. We did lots of activities like wine tasting, camel riding and had a spa day. It was a lovely hotel and as it was “out of season” the value for money was unbelievable… ultimately all that mattered to us was a bit of sun and seven days to be together. Everything else was a bonus.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be to do what you want and don’t do things because they are expected. We feel that people spend a lot of money on things that are forgotten. We had a budget of £3000 and that had to include the honeymoon. We had a wonderful experience and we are now married and we don’t have any debts to pay. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for favours… we did and it was the best move we made, and also included them in our day.
Congratulations Stef & Rich!
Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog – Images © 2014 Emilia Smith
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