A little later than planned (we’ve been in recovery from another very busy weekend of wonderful wedding inspiration!), but worth waiting for, we bring you the super gorgeous wedding of Brides Up North reader Julia and her brand new husband Alex. Inspired by the colours and tones of their one time Italian home, this beautiful, colourful wedding is an absolute feast for the senses.
Prepare for a Pinterest frenzy.
With beautiful images by Brides Up North Sponsor, James Tracey Photography.
julia says: We were living in Italy at the time we got engaged. Disguising a trip home as ‘lads university reunion’ Alex assembled the ‘Ring Squad’ – made up of his parents, brother and very lovely cousin to help choose a ring for me. The jewellers were Michael Levin of Nottingham who specialise in antique pieces, which I’d long before fallen for on a shopping trip to the city.
Living in Milan at the time, Alex had planned a trip down to Rome for my birthday – unbeknownst to me he was ducking into the toilet on the train trying to call my dad at every opportunity to ask him for permission to marry me! On our second night in Rome, Alex asked me to come out onto our balcony that was picked intentionally with its towering view of the Eternal City, as we were getting ready to go out. He got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife and pulled out the most beautifully sparkly ring I have ever seen. We both burst into tears. I said ‘yes’ of course and celebrated by heading out for a really romantic dinner. We were in such a bubble, it was incredible. We delayed telling our friends and family until the next day (we let our parents know), so that we could truly live in the moment that we’d created.
We knew we wanted to get married in the summer, and I was under strict instructions from Alex to avoid the football season due to our football mad families. We set our hearts on 6th June 2015 – which is actually D-Day! One week after the conclusion of the Premiership season!
We’ve had many romantic weeks and even a few New Year’s Eves in Windermere up in the Lake District over our 6 year relationship. It’s also somewhere we used to go as kids with our families before we met – weirdly enough! We both decided on the Lakes pretty early in the planning – we’re both from the North (me from Liverpool and Alex from Bradford) so we wanted somewhere meaningful but a middle ground. We saw a few venues in the area before we came across the Merewood Country House Hotel. It had the stunning views of Windermere we wanted, plus it was such a historic mansion (once the home of the Earl of Lonsdale) with beautiful interiors. Once we met Lorna (the fierce Scottish manager!) we knew it was meant to be. She went out of her way to make things happen for us and it was like coming home every time we came to visit the venue. Once we tasted the food that was it, we signed on the dotted line.
I am Catholic and it was really important to me to get married in a church. We tied the knot at Sacred Heart Catholic church in Coniston perched above the lake. It was a very Cumbrian looking slate church with gorgeous stained glass windows. Father Bob was really good at making the service enjoyable for people who weren’t religious; we had so many moving comments from guests about the ceremony and it was really inclusive.
Our wedding day was inspired by a weekend we had in Cinque Terre when we were still living in Italy. It was a year to the day until we got married and we walked between the stunning Italian towns on the coast. They’re five fishing towns in Liguria made up of warm copper colours, with yellow and pinks, with lots of luscious plants and the sea close by. It was a very romantic weekend and I was really inspired by the tones. My flowers by Jane Thompson at Flower Design, reflected these colours and included many Italian foliage. Our wines and some of the menu also had a subtle Italian theme. I even propped my mood board for Jane in the hallway of the Merewood on the day.
Our colour scheme was coral and greens – I wanted to remind us of the stunning Mediterranean colours and vibrancy of Cinque Terre – even though we were celebrating with guests in the English Lakes, it really worked with the beauty of another special place for Alex and I.
For my wedding gown, I knew I wanted something fitted, but elegant. I tried on a few ballgowns and they really didn’t suit my curvy figure, so I narrowed my search down to sweetheart neckline with a trumpet style fit and flare gown. I went to about 5 shops with my mum and bridesmaids and left empty handed, sadly. A few weeks later, on a whim my mum and I went to Society Brides in Liverpool city centre and they had just received Sophia Tolli’s dreamy lace Brienne and they persuaded me to try it on. It was meant to be, it was the one for me.
My veil was a two-tiered veil from Richard Designs. I wanted the drama of a chapel length veil for our church wedding but also the blusher over my face, which I could flick back and wear all day. My headpiece was from Glitzy Secrets and the flowers worked really well with the lace of my dress. My shoes and earrings were from Jenny Packham at Debenhams. The shoes were so comfortable; I danced in them all night long.
My signature scent was the spicy and oriental Calincantus by the ancient apothecary Santa Maria Novella in Florence. I wear it on special occasions now, Alex loves it too. I also wore a vintage pearl bracelet from the gorgeous antique jewellers in Nottingham which is where all our rings are from.
Alex is into his style so he knew early on that he wanted a tailored three-piece suit in navy blue. I found Michelsberg Tailors in Leeds’ Victoria Arcade on a wedding blog, and the process began. He even had a shirt tailored with his initials ‘AB’ on the cuffs. Why should the brides have all the fun?!
I bought him some solid silver cufflinks in the shape of white roses (the symbol of Yorkshire for my Yorkshire groom) from an amazing lady on Etsy called Sarah-Jane Egan based in Caerphilly. He wore black Loake’s dress shoes and a pistachio green tie from Reiss.
My three bridesmaids wore coral convertible dresses which were actually from New Look. They all wore them differently to suit their figures and they were all floor length versions. I loved how they looked with their bouquets and they swished around the dance floor in them all night. Their shoes were strappy light gold sandals from Dune and I bought them rose gold tear-drop earrings to wear on the day.
The groomsmen wore navy blue two-piece suits from Charles Trywhitt in Leeds with silk green ties with leaves on them.
Our two flower girls – one was my niece, Catherine and the other was Alex’s cousin’s little girl, Sophie – wore pretty ivory dresses and shoes from John Lewis. I made their headbands with flowers from H&M and a very interesting few hours with a glue gun in my parents’ kitchen.
The day was wonderful because the start was so chilled. In the morning myself, my mum and my three bridesmaids donned our floral robes and sipped prosecco. Lorna set up a table in the bridal suite for me and the bridesmaids to have breakfast which was lovely. It was great to start the day so relaxed and looked after. We had so much fun with utterly adorable Katie Tweedale our hairdresser for the day, and the fabulous Bridget Foster on make-up who were loving our 1990s playlist and our Liverpudlian humour!
But our (joint!) real favourite part of the day was turning around to our guests in the church as we were about to walk down the aisle to see their faces when our brother in law Richard began to play us out to ‘Match of the Day’ on his piano! No one expected it and both families are huge football fans so we got a great reaction – even some high 5s as we made our way out of the church! That was such a proud and fun moment for both of us – we literally floated out of the church.
Our guests had come from far and wide – even as far as the USA and Italy so we wanted everyone to relax. We hired a Routemaster bus from Classic Buses to collect everyone at the Merewood and take the guests to and from the church. I sourced a vintage ticket clipper for my bus geek of an Uncle Brian who was able to clip pretend tickets for everyone getting on the bus with the help of his granddaughter. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more!
I travelled to the church with my parents and my 4-year-old niece in a 1937 Rolls Royce which was fabulous and owned by the lovely Tony Henderson at Lakeland Wedding Cars. I felt no nerves travelling to the church and the scenery was really gorgeous. Alex and I then travelled back in the car to the Merewood and sipped a few glasses of bubbles in the back. We got a lot of waves and cheers from the mountain climbers and walkers en route.
Our photographer was James Tracey. He’d shot a wedding of a friend a few years back in Manchester’s Victoria Baths and I loved his style. He captured all the emotions of a wedding day and we booked him very early on in the process. Our pre-shoot in April was really fun with James, even though it was blowing a gale in Manchester, he still made us laugh and we loved the photos. On our wedding day, James brought along the lovely Daniel Lloyd Photography who assisted on the day. The two of them were really good at getting in there and getting on with things and letting us get back to our guests. We really appreciated that. I’d recommend both of them, we love the vibrancy and realness of our photographs.
My flowers were my favourite things about the day (after marrying the love of my life, of course!) We chose Jane Thompson at Flower Design early on – she’s based in Blackpool and made time for us on our flying visits back from Italy. Jane totally got what we wanted from our wedding day. In our pre-meet a few weeks before the meeting she made prototypes of my bouquet and the table settings. It was a wrench to give my prototype bouquet back!
My bouquet included coral & bowl of cream peonies, viburnum opulus, fresh lily of the valley, apricot hyacinths, olive foliage, juliet & patience roses from David Austin, white hydrangeas, sperengerii, eucalyptus, umbrella fern, sweet peas and lovely fragrant rosemary. The peonies changed throughout the day and opened up, I really loved how they looked and the scent was to die for.
All the groomsmen’s’ boutonnieres were totally different. Alex commented that his white peony looked like a scoop of gelato (ice-cream)!
In the church we had posies to match the flowers in the bouquets, tied in little jars at the pew-ends. These were then transported to the Merewood and dotted around the reception.
The Merewood’s dining tables were decorated with the gorgeous crystal cake plinths topped with relaxed designs featuring a stunning combination of roses, peonies, hydrangeas, gloriosa rothschild and sweet peas and foliage with Italian Olive foliage, with real peaches and apricots scattered about. Jane used the same flowers on the top table in a range of different glass vases and vessels, they were so pretty in the afternoon sunlght. We chose low flower displays so our guests could enjoy the Lakeland countryside from the Merewood’s huge windows.
We took lots of our flowers to our minimoon hotel which was close by and scattered them around our suite. They lasted until the end of the minimoon!
We used the very patient Kerry from Project Pretty in Chester for our Save the Dates and invitations, the green backgrounds and coral flowers hinted at our colour scheme. Kerry also made the menus for each table which we stood up on old Prosecco corks we collected in Italy. Kerry was really easy to work with, even after our many amends on countless proofs!
I also designed the order of services for the church and my mum got these printed out in Liverpool. I collected family wedding photographs from both sets of parents of their own weddings and the weddings of their parents and they took pride of place in the hall way of the Merewood next to Alex’s Roman head which he has had since he was about 15! I also covered the J & A with special paper and glue to sit alongside these bits in the hallway of the Merewood to make it more personal.
The gold calligraphy table numbers were handmade in Texas by Tina at Better Off Wed. I loved how they looked against the flowers. We also hired gold Cheltenham chairs from Lancashire Event Hire, they tied in with the gold tones throughout the day.
I made the table plan from scratch and printed the table cards myself. I found the frame in a charity shop and painted it and bought the lace to string the tables onto it from a craft shop. The table plan sat on a really ornate gold easel from Megan at Typical Type. I loved how it turned out! We also hired a huge light up heart from Megan at Typical Type, this was really fun later on on the dancefloor and we got some great group shots after hours with it!
I also made the confetti out of coloured tissue paper and the confetti cones out of doilies which everyone used outside the church. We went bright on colour because you never know how the weather will be in the Lakes. I was really happy with the colours!
My bridesmaid Kate made the card sign which we hung on a vintage wicker picnic basket and bunting out of gorgeously pretty floral material, it looked so lovely on the day. I also bought tasseling for the sweet table and pom poms from Decopoms on Etsy which were dotted around the bar area.
Instead of favours we had a sweet table which my bridesmaid Claire organised the sweets for. She has a massive sweet tooth! We hired the jars and containers from local wedding stylist Amy Brunton at Sure to Surprise You and Amy styled the dresser with lace and pearls. I bought some peachy tasseling from Etsy to go along the sweet table.
Alex is a Yorkshire boy and one of our first dates was in Betty’s York on August 1st 2009. We decided early on that the cake would be from Betty’s, choosing between them was the hard part. In the end we went for three-tiered cake with two layers of their famous fondant fancies and the top layer was iced Swiss Sacher chocolate and apricot cake. It came with the most stunning solid silver cake stand and knife which were nearly 100 years old.
Lorna saved us two cakes and we ate these the next day in our suite with some champagne at the Gilpin and wallowed in the love.
We chose The Twentysomethings after researching and finding them online. They’re a covers band with great vocals and a trumpeter and saxophonist so they played all sorts from Prince to Daft Punk and Shaka Khan. It was really easy to work with Daniel and the band to get the set list right. Everyone danced all night, it was wonderful to see everyone letting their hair down and partying with us.
Music played a big part in our day. We had a close family friend, Richard, who is a super talented pianist play the music in the church. I entered to a really special song for both of us, the Cinematic Orchestra’s ‘To Build A Home’, and we left the church on a high with ‘Match of the Day’. It was amazing to have him play for us during these special moments.
Our first dance was to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ – they’re one of our favourite bands and we learned a fun 2 minute routine with Emma-Joy at All Steps who visited our house to teach us. Our guests loved it and it really set the tone for the night – the second song was ‘You Can Call Me Al’ for Alex! Everyone went crazy for that!
I would whole-heartedly recommend the Merewood, it’s intimate enough to feel like home but grand enough to really make the day special. Lorna and her team quite frankly know their weddings so if something really won’t work they’ll tell you and suggest an alternative. That’s really helpful during wedding planning. They looked after every single guest and worked so hard to make everything run smoothly. Planning a wedding from aboard can be tough, but Lorna and the team at the Merewood were great over email and kept us updated on things.
We spent 3 romantic days at the Gilpin Lodge near Windermere in a garden suite with our private hot-tube, next to a very interested family of llamas. It was lovely to be surrounded by Jane’s flowers and to read our cards and open our gifts. We enjoyed lots of great food and some lovely spa treatments, as well as a cruise on Windermere.
Our proper honeymoon or maximoon is in October this year and we are going to India for three weeks. We’ll visit India’s spiritual centre in Rishikesh (the home of yoga), the have a few days in Delhi, then head to Agra and the Taj Mahal, then we’ll go on safari in Ranthambore and hopefully see some tigers, followed by a few nights in Jaipur (the Pink City) and Udaipur to the stunning lake. We both love India food and adventure.
Make time for each other throughout the day were you take in everything that is going on around you. It goes in the blink of an eye, so it’s important to have a few parts of the day alone to appreciate what you have achieved and what it means now for both of you. The amazingness has just begun, really.