Beg, steal and borrow is the main advise from this afternoon’s bride who achieved her dream wedding without breaking the bank.
Having found their perfect wedding venue in the form of The Bowdon Rooms in Cheshire, today’s real wedding couple Justine and Darren, set about planning a classy wedding with Art Deco influences, spending the budget on what they felt were the most important elements and then making, blagging and bartering what remained.
Here at Brides Up North HQ we’re more than familiar with just how fabulous this unique wedding venue is as we stage our luxury wedding exhibitions in its stylish surroundings twice a year (the next one is coming up on 17th April 2016, so put it in your dairies!) Excellent choice Justine and Darren!
With images by ER Photography.
justine says: Darren proposed to me in Barcelona. We had booked the trip for his birthday and knowing our finances inside out I knew there was no way he had an engagement ring. We arrived late to our hotel and were given a beautiful suite with a balcony but it was past midnight and we couldn’t get any alcoholic drinks as we just planned to have a little drink on our veranda. We trekked the darkened street and I used my broken Spanish to ask for crisps and a bottle of rose in a kebab shop. Having conquered the quest for booze – we went back to the balcony where I sat munching cheesy puffs, Darren disappeared into the room saying he was going to hang his clothes up (he’s never done that before). Then he appeared around the curtain holding a beautiful carved wooden ring box and said “I’ve got something you can wear if you like, but you’ll have to wear it for a long time” he then knelt in a puddle and asked me to marry him revealing my dream ring – a bright sapphire flanked by two diamonds which he had designed and made for me. I was in absolute shock that he had managed to hide it all – and of course I said yes.
On wedding was on 5th April 2015. We picked Easter Sunday as we felt the majority of our friends and family would be able to make it and enjoy the festivities over a bank holiday weekend. We were willing to gamble the weather and it paid off with glorious sunshine following a week of hail and snow!
The Bowdon Rooms, in Cheshire, was our chosen venue. The moment we walked in to The Bowdon Rooms, I knew it was for us. Our co-ordinator and every single member of staff made us feel like a priority. They worked with us on whatever budget I proposed, whatever idea I was exploring with the most genuine enthusiasm. The building is a 1930s music hall with glorious ballroom and jazz club upstairs, it has an unpretentious elegance and wow factor whilst remaining individual and suited us completely. I wouldn’t change my venue for all the tea in china and know how lucky I was to have the staff around me as wonderful as they are there.
We opted for an Art Deco influence on the stationary and table decorations as it was in keeping with the venue and we both feel it’s effortlessly stylish. It was really our only a source of inspiration and we kept things very simple as I made a lot of things myself for the day. We had a colour scheme of ivory, royal blue (to match my sapphire) with diamond and pearl.
I chose an amazing Sophia Tolli gown from The Bridal Path, in Altrincham. I searched high and low to find my dress but I knew as soon as I put it on. It matched the retro glamour of the day but that wasn’t why I chose it – it made me feel like a million dollars!
Darren wore a lounge lizard suit in blue from Ted Baker. The groomsman had the same suits.
My bridesmaids were in royal blue, heavy chiffon, floor-length gowns with one shoulder. They were a true bargain from eBay and the girls looked stunning. Our mini bridesmaids also had dresses that I sourced from eBay. They looked beautiful.
We didn’t know if we could afford a wedding car for me but in the end we met a fantastic company at the Brides Up North wedding fair at The Bowdon Rooms – Grosvenor Classic Cars – and they helped match budgets whilst providing a wonderful service. I picked a blue Beauford, which matched the Art Deco theme and the blue colours! Darren meanwhile arrived to the wedding in a 1970s Nissan Sunny, provided by his sister and partner, as a little surprise for me. It backfired though when they gave him the keys as a wedding present!
ER Photography were our chosen photographers. Jo and John were amazing! We felt so comfortable around them. From our meeting before the wedding, to them helping to fit in with our tight budget, we’ll always appreciate their time and efforts. They got on with all the guests, they didn’t miss one element of the day – they made everyone comfortable and they were so efficient in capturing the real essence of the day. I love our pictures, I’m so proud of them.
I made all of the bouquets myself the day before the wedding. I went to Marks & Spencer and bought some of their beautiful avalanche rose and thistle bouquets for me and bound them with florist’s tape and ribbon and pinned it with a Wedgewood brooch my dad gave me.
The bridesmaids had bright bouquets in pink and orange. The little ones had faux rose balls – so they could throw them around if they so wished! And I made the buttonholes and corsages myself too! They didn’t last beyond the Sunday, but it didn’t matter.
During the year prior to our wedding I was a bridesmaid for my bridesmaids at their weddings. After each wedding I saved the bouquets, dried the petals and made a confetti pick and mix for people to throw at our wedding.
To provide decorations for the venue Darren and I saved dozens of Douwe Egberts coffee jars over the course of a year. We then sprayed them royal blue and I filled them with daffodils the day before the wedding. My uncle also kindly brought down hundreds of tulips for the tables so they were covered in seasonal bright blooms. I would have loved to have the help of a florist but it was just something we couldn’t afford – in the end I enjoyed creating things for the day!
For our favours we made hundreds of CDs titled ‘The Soundtrack of Our Day’. They featured songs from the ceremony, throughout the day and our favourites as a couple. Everyone also had a Ferrero Roche as it was Easter Sunday, which doubled up as a placeholder for the name cards. The children all had an Easter egg.
We had a beautiful wedding cake made by our friends Alice and Claire Gimblett, which was hugely Art Deco inspired. We also created a tower of desserts as our third course by asking some of our friends to bake their wonderful desserts.
We could only afford the ‘cheapest’ wedding food and drinks packages as we hosted 120 people during the day and nearly 300 in the evening. However, what I did not expect was just how fantastic that food would be. Although the menu sounded simple, it was absolutely delicious and because of its simplicity, it suited everyone. We had tomato and basil soup to start, Mediterranean chicken for main course and then guests chose whatever desserts they wanted from our tower for their dessert.
In the evening we used a company called The Cheshire Cheese Co. to provide the food and they delivered us a tower of cheese which became our evening cake to cut and enjoy with evening guests. We love cheese! My wonderful mother-in-law helped to source evening nibbles to go with the cheese and the remaining desserts.
When it came to the entertainment we are fortunate to know some fantastic artists. Darren organised friends of ours to surprise me in the ceremony with an acoustic performance of Bruce Springsteen’s Sunny Day. We had jazz trio The Gelatos to perform during our drinks reception, then fantastic pianist, vocalist and entertainer Nick Steed during dinner. And to top it all off we had rock and roll trio called The Jailbirds in the evening, who guaranteed a permanently full dancefloor.
We built and designed our own photo booth complete with props and my dad made me giant light-up ‘J&D’ letters as that was also something I couldn’t afford to hire. These were the show stealer and everyone keeps asking if he’d make them some!
I’d recommend our wedding venue to other couples in a heartbeat. The iconic, individuality of the building embraces any vision from brides and grooms. Not only that –the team there makes everything possible and honestly made me feel like I was their only bride. I am so grateful to them. Even the day following the wedding, I arrived at the venue to help pack everything up and the staff sat me down, gave me a cup of tea and packed it all away and loaded the cars for me.
Looking back I don’t know if I could pick a favourite part of the day. I loved getting ready, loved my dad seeing me, walking down the aisle and feeling so happy. We had fabulous drinks and food and the entrance into the wedding breakfast, the speeches, dancing with my dad and staying up in the hotel reception with my husband until the early hours were all amazing moments.
As our honeymoon, we were gifted a five-night stay in a fantastic apartment in Guia in the Algarve by dear friends of ours. We then followed this up with a week in St Lucia. We thought about leaving the honeymoon because of costs but I am so pleased that we spent the money and went straight away. We were a true honeymoon couple just enjoying the rest and relaxation with each other.
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to prioritise what you want on the day. Pay for the top ones and beg, borrow or steal everything else. I loved how personal our day was.