Alternative Weddings

fancy fantasy. a natural woodland wedding inspired by lord of the rings – christina & john

13th August 2015 | Rachel Parry

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A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (33)

When planning a wedding, couples are free to draw inspiration from anything they like, from the setting to the season, as well as their loves and passions.

With that in mind, today’s brides and groom, Christina and John, decided on a magical outdoor woodland wedding followed by an evening reception that was a nod to Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday party from Lord of the Rings, a novel they’re both big fans of. And why not?

The result is a very personal, fun and captivating big day that’s brimming with beautiful handmade décor, natural blooms and individual touches.

So get those reading glasses on and feast your eyes on this enchanting celebration.

With images by Jonathan Stockton Photography.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (2)

christina says: We got engaged in spring 2014 while we were travelling around Scotland in our campervan which John converted himself. We have a strong emotional connection to Scotland, it being the place we met and where many of our friends still live, so we had been on a two week campervan trip the year previously already. At that time John had recently discovered his passion for photography and so I had been left feeling a bit like a ‘photography widow’, with John spending more time with his camera than with me.

So when we went this time, John made a particular effort to put the camera down and really be with me. But he couldn’t resist incorporating photography in the proposal. The first time the sun came out, he set up the tripod for a selfie of us in front of a waterfall, but then at the last moment dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. So our proposal is captured on camera too, though we both look a little bedraggled.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (6)

We married on the 13th June 2015. The 13th may be unlucky for some, but we decided that it would be our lucky date, marrying on the 13th day and in our 13th year of being together.

The Garden Station in Langley, Northumberland, as our chosen venue. By that point we had our hearts set on a ceremony in a natural setting, so when we visited the Garden Station we fell in love with the quirky, pretty English country garden of the station itself, and the potential for a woodland ceremony and night-time do just put a stamp on it.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (7)

For the ceremony we envisioned a magical, natural woodland theme that would reflect our love of the woods and of nature, with birds singing all around us. To complement the venue our reception was a vintage afternoon tea party.

For the evening we were inspired by Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday party from Lord of the Rings. We both love the books and films and we wanted our wedding to reflect that element of us, without going down the route of an actual ‘themed’ wedding with fancy dress etc. And who could throw a better party than hobbits, with their love of good food and drink and music and all things merry.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (41)

There were nods to our love of geeky fantasy running all through our wedding. I gave John a leaf of lothlorien brooch to wear as a kilt pin as a wedding gift and his best man wore the Hand of the King pin from Game of Thrones on his lapel. One of the readers in our ceremony even wished that the Force be with us.

There was no real colour scheme, as there was always going to be multi-coloured flowers all around and the station itself is full of beautiful pastel colours.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (8)

I wore a custom designed dress in ivory silk and lace from the amazing Leigh Hetherington of Old Eldon Square, Newcastle. She was fantastic and couldn’t do enough to create the perfect dress for me. I loved that it was custom made for me, so no other bride in the world will have the same dress, and to know that it was handmade here, locally, rather than in some factory on the other side of the world is great. When it got cold in the evening I wore a beautiful handmade silk and cashmere capelet by Lizzy Lemon.

On the wedding day my hair was done by our friend Douglas, of Rainbow Room International in Stirling, assisted by Jill. It was lovely to have my friends come do my hair as it was a great way to stay relaxed in the morning. Jill also made the lucky horseshoe for us, which actually came from her own horse, Trooper, making it all the more special.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (10)

John wore full highland dress with a kilt in Modern Robertson Hunting tartan, as his grandfather was a Reid. We were going to hire his outfit but he ended up loving his kilt so much we had it made for him by Hector Russell in Edinburgh. John’s sgian dubh was a stunning piece of craftsmanship from Comrie Crafts, Pitlochrie, in bog oak and silver which I had engraved with our surname in Farsi script, bringing together his celtic and his Persian heritage. Slaters supplied the best man’s highland wear and our dads’ tailcoats.

My sister, who was our bridesmaid, wore a Dessy gown in Amethyst, which we customised with lace sleeves and a lace belt.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (14)

On the wedding day I travelled to the venue in Max, our campervan all decked out in flowers and ribbons. My sister’s partner acted as chauffeur and the whole family piled in. It was lovely, like a throwback to going on family holidays when we were children.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (15)

As John is a wedding photographer himself, but was forbidden to touch a camera on the day, finding the right photographer was really important and quite a challenge. We were so happy when we found the awesome Jonathan Stockton to do our photography on the day. His style was perfect for us, with his mixture of relaxed reportage and more polished images.

We already loved his photography, but after we met him it was his personality and his enthusiasm for our wedding that really meant there was no question. It’s so important that you get on with your photographer, so you can relax and be yourself in front of the camera and with Jonathan we knew we’d found someone we could consider a friend and a wedding guest, not just our photographer. We couldn’t have made a better choice as can be seen by the beautiful dreamy pictures he produced. He managed to even make the rain look beautiful.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (17)

I’ve always loved flowers and secretly wish I was a florist so I decided to do my own flowers. It was a bit of a gamble as I’d never done wedding flowers before. I think I did alright with my beautiful handtied bouquet of ivory roses, lisianthis, hyacinths and hydrangeas with delphiniums and marguerite daisies from our own garden. I also made my sister’s bouquets and the buttonnieres and corsages for the wedding party.

Our wedding was very much DIY, virtually nothing except the guys’ clothes escaped some kind of customisation.

We had yards of gorgeous bunting sewn by me and all the ladies in our two families and jam jars, which I decorated with hessian, jute and lace with flowers and tea lights in and around the ‘hobbit’ tent. Our stationary, including our invites, our ‘time-capsule’ guestbook and the design on the chalkboards was designed and provided by Lizzy Lemon, who also happens to be my very talented sister!

As favours we potted up little baby succulent plants and also gave mini bottles of mead, as apparently the word ‘honeymoon’ comes from the ancient Nordic tradition of making newlyweds drink mead for a month after the wedding. John also made some little bags of tasty beef jerky.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (20)

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (21)

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (19)

My lovely friend Roseann is a superstar baker and cake decorator and made our stunning four tiered wedding cake. It was two tiers carrot cake and two tiers fruitcake which we served with cheese. The cake was decorated with beautiful sugar roses and pink toadstools, in keeping with the garden and woodland theme, and topped with a frog couple made from Fimo by me.

For our wedding breakfast had afternoon tea with scones cakes and sandwiches and big jars of Pimms, served in vintage china teacups. In the evening we kept it rustic with a hog roast, veggie chilli and lamb tagine.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (29)

To provide the entertainment we booked a fantastic local ceilidh band from Northumberland called, Real to Reel. Recommended by friends of my parents we contacted them and outlined our wedding plans, including our inspiration being Bilbo’s Birthday party. It turns out the band leader actually played at the after party of the Hobbit premiere in London, which was just an amazing coincidence. They even learned to play the tune from the film for us, which was so great.

They were absolutely amazing, with a really good sound and celidh caller and they took everything in their stride, even carrying on playing when the lights went out due to a generator failure which led to a lovely moment where everyone was dancing just by the light of mobile phone torches.

As John is half Iranian, his brother organised a belly dancer to dance as well, which created a really great fusion of cultures.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (32)

A really special part of the day was our humanist ceremony in the woods, conducted by Anna Foster who is a registered celebrant with the British Humanist Association. She was fantastic! She worked with the two of us to create a really unique and personal ceremony, that included some beautiful elements like a celtic handfasting and jumping the broom, as well as a tasting of honey, which is an ancient Persian wedding tradition representing the sweetness we bring to each other’s lives. We’ve had so many great comments about the ceremony and how personal it was.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (35)

Other special touches on the day included hanging pictures of our grandparents, who have sadly passed away, in the branches of the trees in the ceremony space as a way of remembering them. We also incorporated a table with a variety of symbolic items in the ceremony space as a nod to the ‘sofreh aghd’, an Iranian wedding tradition.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (49)

In the evening we put up a separate tent a little into the woods, which was decked out with Persian rugs, cushions and lanterns, where people could go, chill out, and enjoy a shisha pipe.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (40)

The Garden Station is a beautiful setting for a wedding and is really something special and unusual. We really had a fantastic wedding day there. It’s easy to fall in love with it and for its beauty it is second to none. That said, we would perhaps, only recommend it to couples who are sure that they want to put in a lot of work themselves.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (47)

The ceremony itself was without a doubt the highlight of the day. It’s the most important part, when we actually became husband and wife and our ceremony was so personal, it was perfect. The evening party tent was everything we could have dreamed of and I remember standing together in the dark, looking into the brightly lit tent, ceilidh music drifting through the night air and watching people dancing and laughing and thinking that this had been the best day ever!

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (51)

For our honeymoon, of course, we went to Scotland in Max our campervan. We had three weeks and used it to circumnavigate Scotland, travelling up the east coast to John o’Groats, along the north and down the west coast, hopping across to Lewis and Harris, Uist and Skye and ending our honeymoon where we met, in Stirling. Given John’s photography ban at our wedding we took my dress and his kilt with us, so our honeymoon turned into a bit of a Rock the Dress tour of Scotland.

A Magical Outdoor Wedding in Northumberland (c) Jonathan Stockton Photography (50)

My top tip to other Brides Up North is to try and enjoy the planning as much as possible. Yes, it’s stressful and it can take over your life, but it’s also amazing and part of the excitement and the only time you’re going to get to do it. More importantly, on the day, really try to stop regularly to look around you, catch each other’s eye if you can and take everything in. This is what you’ve been planning all this time, it’s one of the best days of your life – you’re celebrating how much you love each other and everyone is there because they love you, it’s just so humbling and amazing!

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