Today’s real wedding is one big party filled with all the things that the bride and groom love (as it should be, right?)
Taking place at The Bowdon Rooms in Altrincham, Chris and Emma have drawn on the vintage ballroom setting and complemented it with their striking choice of attire, décor and entertainment.
If you’d like to follow in their footsteps with a personal wedding in a truly unique venue that you can really make your own, then you must come along to our Luxury Wedding Exhibition this Sunday to view this fabulous venue for yourself. Better still, we’ll be joined by some of the area’s top suppliers to help take care of the all-important details too!
With images by Matt Bowen Photography.
emma says: After 14 years together, Chris proposed to me while we were on a weekend away in the Lake District. He’d been to see my parents earlier in the week to ask my dad’s permission to marry me and also my dad was the keeper of the engagement ring. Both engagement and wedding rings were handed down to me from my grandparents.
Chris had originally planned to save the proposal until the evening, but as the day went on he became more anxious and knew he couldn’t last until then. So as we were unpacking our bags, I put the kettle on then Chris came out of the bathroom, got down on one knee and said “I’ve got something to ask you”. I said yes and we went on to have a fantastic weekend.
We set the date for August 30th 2014. We’d had in mind a wedding sometime between June and September to hopefully get some good weather and the date itself was picked due to our chosen venue’s availability.
The Bowdon Rooms in Altrincham, was the setting for our wedding reception. It’s a fantastic quaint Edwardian building with a ballroom inside and a fully sprung maple dance floor. One of the main criteria for our venue was that we wanted our guests, and obviously ourselves to have an unforgettable party, with great music and plenty of dancing. The ballroom gave us the space to make that possible. We had about 130 people there in total once the evening guests arrived and it was just an ideal space to fit everyone in. From booking the venue through to picking up all our belongings after the big day, the staff and organisers couldn’t have been any more helpful and catered for out every need. They helped make the day run so smoothly and were so accommodating. In particular our wedding co-ordinator Suzanne was just incredible and was on hand whenever we had any queries and gave so much support and advice.
We very much wanted the wedding theme to be a reflection of us, which as it turned out was an eclectic, vintage, music filled party! Having met at university while both studying graphic design, we’ve developed an understanding and appreciation for design, use of colour, imagery and typography. With this knowledge we had a strong visual style in mind for the day. One of our main inspirations for the day came from our love of the art installation in Blackpool called the ‘Comedy Carpet’. The installation is a homage to British comedy and the various acts, routines, sayings and phrases that have appeared on our TV screens and have graced the Blackpool Pier over the years. The Comedy Carpet, its typography and colours gave us a starting point for designing our wedding invites, table plan, and order of service for the church. Everything else then stemmed from that.
Red and navy blue was our colour scheme, which initially came from the colour of lettering from Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet. Chris’s love of Manchester United meant he wanted to involve red in the day and I think we’d always been drawn to the red and blue combination as it had a very vintage, British summer party feel.
When it came to my wedding dress I knew what I wanted from the start and had been researching vintage inspired dresses on the internet as soon as Chris proposed. Scared to order a dress straight off the internet I searched for shops which stocked vintage 1950’s style dresses and found one shop on the Wirral. I loved the shorter tea length style dresses and just spent the afternoon twirling in them. While I hadn’t bought one that day I came home convinced I had found the one.
A little later down the line, I booked an appointment at a local dress shop which just so happened to stock the vintage inspired dresses that I had seen on the Wirral. After some discussions I found myself debating over a couple of dresses when the owner Georgia announced that if I wanted something more bespoke her sister was a dress maker and specialised in vintage dresses. I said yes straight away. Georgia and Lisa were amazing and helped me through the process, which was somewhat daunting. I would suggest that if you are getting a dress made always ask lots of questions and really articulate what you like and don’t like.
As soon as I had decided on the dress I knew I needed a show stopping pair of shoes to go with it and I wanted colour! I wore a pair of Irregular Choice shoes, which were royal blue suede with a navy lace overlay. They we an exact match for the blue coloured material I had picked out for the bridesmaid dresses. Then Lisa suggested that I have a matching blue petticoat under my skirt that would be glimpsed as I twirled on the dancefloor! For my hair, Lisa also came up trumps and made me a head piece with sliver, royal blue and red beading and a net front piece, which my hairdresser fixed in my hair.
Chris wore a navy blue suit from Slaters, in Manchester, along with crisp white shirt, red socks, red pocket square and some burgundy red shoes. The blue and red checked tie was an inspired find from Primark at only £2! To finish off the look we’d ordered some old school inspired enamel prefect badges. Chris had one titled ‘Groom’, whilst the ushers, dad, father-in-law and step dad had ‘Ushers’ and ‘Head Captains’ respectively. When it came to their attire, we simply asked the groomsmen to wear their own navy or grey suit with a white shirt. We then provided them with red ties, red pocket squares and red socks.
I chose my sister Collette and best friend Becky as my bridesmaids. Becky would be 8-and-a-half months pregnant on the day of the wedding so I knew this meant that shopping for one normal and one matching maternity dress would prove difficult. A local dressmaker had been recommended and I went to see her. She advised me as to what might suit both Collette and Becky and after some internet research I had found another wedding online which had featured five bridesmaids with identical fabric but various styles of dress and fit. This would be ideal so I set about fining some fabric myself. A local shop had the most perfect navy fabric with a large flower print which caught the light and became electric blue when it moved, I matched it with a light georgette fabric which would go over Becky’s bump. They looked so beautiful and were both such a support and invaluable help throughout the whole planning process.
Our wedding car was a fabulous find – a bright red 1960 Vauxhall Cresta, which looked incredible and was such a cool car to be sat in the back of. The red paint with the polished chrome couldn’t have looked any smarter, and to complement it perfectly we booked a navy blue Leyland 1946 vintage double decker bus to transport the wedding guests from hotel to the church and then to the reception venue. We hired the car from Ian Fenn at Cresta Records and the bus came from Classic Bus.
Our photographer was a thoroughly professional, kind, friendly and extremely helpful gent by the name of Matt Bowen. It was an easy choice in the end to pick Matt. We’d looked at so many photographers online and just felt so many weren’t right for us. We didn’t want a photographer that may make everything look a bit staged or unnatural. We wanted someone who could record the best day of our lives in a way that captured the love, warmth and happiness of the whole occasion. It was the vibrancy, attention to detail and the emotion that came from Matt’s photos and the nature of his photography that really made us think he could make our day even more special.
As part of the package we had with Matt, we were entitled to an engagement shoot with him to help us prepare for the big day. It allowed us to become relaxed and comfortable with him as he took the photos and so he could get to know us too. We felt it was such a great decision as we’re both not fans of having our photo taken. When it came to the day itself with Matt and his assistant Hannah, they acted with great professionalism and respect throughout the entire day, in particular during the church ceremony, where they both acted with the upmost consideration. We could not recommend Matt highly enough.
Instead of flowers, I had a brooch bouquet which I made with the help of my mum. The main base was two silk hydrangeas into which I wove stems of wire with broaches attached. The brooches were a collection of new and inherited from both my grandma and nana. It was so very special to make something with my mum which has so much meaning and significance. I have something I will treasure forever. Never one for having much confidence in how I look, I truly never felt as beautiful as I did that day.
Two very special ladies, who are old church friends of my parents, kindly agreed to help us with the floral decorations. We already had some big ideas for the centrepieces and while flowers were important we didn’t really want to spend too much on them. Betty and Margaret were the ladies who did the flowers for church and did flower arranging as a hobby. They were so good and gave us their time and expertise for a very small cost. The flowers used at the reception were red roses with green foliage, red berries and some gypsophila.
Along with the flowers, we again turned to our Blackpool connection to help create our centrepieces. We have a habit of collecting various random tins, posters, programmes, milk bottles, books and knick-knacks, which we’re drawn to because of their unique appeal, style, how they are illustrated or presented. Our centre pieces therefore were little set ups of these collections. We named the tables after various vinyl LPs of artists, soundtracks, performers and bands that hold different meanings to us and our table plan became a kind of variety show performance poster heralding different acts. Amongst the collection of items for the centre pieces we also included various second-hand paperback books. The majority were penguin books that we thought had interesting titles and others that had interesting illustrations.
As favours we gave pick and mix sweets that we placed in candy striped bags that doubled up as place settings, adding to that childhood nostalgia, funfair, seaside feel. We used parcel tags and put the guest names on them. We’d also made some stickers that were a mix of different catchphrases that helped keep the bags sealed.
Our wedding cake was made by the sister of one of our good friends. We wanted a nice sponge cake with a couple of tiers and to incorporate our vintage theme. We were so happy with the final outcome which had miniature bunting draped around the cake and our unusual lemur wedding cake toppers (bought from Bonjour Poupette on Etsy) sat proudly underneath a sort of bunting washing line. A bonus for us was that our cake maker Helen, also ended up making an ice cream cone cake for our wedding reception dessert, which was inspired by our Blackpool theme.
For the wedding meal we’d toyed with the idea of a traditional wedding breakfast with table service throughout, but in the end opted for a more informal buffet style, where each table went up in turn and we’re given the option of a choice of dishes. It ran incredibly smoothly and guests commented on how they enjoyed having hot food straight away rather than waiting for all tables to be served in turn with food that may have been waiting before it could be brought to them.
Our love of music is another massive influence on us both. During the reception drinks we had a music playlist based on vintage TV and film themes and during the meal we treated guests to some classical film scores from movies such as Star Wars, ET, Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. For the evening entertainment we wanted to find an act that was ‘us’ and that would get everyone up on the dance floor. We were very lucky to come across a group called The Fraudsters, an indie covers band from Manchester. They were quite simply incredible and our guests loved them. We chose tracks from their set list that we were sure that people would dance to and they also learned a couple of songs that we’d asked if they could play.
Instead of having a traditional book at the reception we bought packs of Penguin and Puffin book cover postcards and left one on each person’s place setting for them to fill in. We also bought a couple of red and blue vintage suitcases, one for gifts and cards and another for placing the cards in once they’d written on them.
We would recommend The Bowdon Rooms to other brides and grooms without a shadow of a doubt. The warm, friendly, relaxed atmosphere inside the wonderful venue that was decorated so well with such simple touches ticked every box for us. The ballroom dance floor is stunning and creates such a buzz when it’s full of all your friends and family. Also, the staff cater for your every need and are just a phenomenal group of people.
From start to finish our whole day was even better than we had imagined. Different moments stand out for each of us. A family friend said that he had never seen a couple look quite so happy and the whole day was such party atmosphere. That was all we could have hoped and wished for.
For our honeymoon we went on a coach tour of the east side of America and into Canada. We began with a nine-day coach tour from New York and from there visited, Boston, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Amish Country, Washington Philadelphia and then went back to New York. We then spent an extra three days staying in New York before returning home. It was an incredible experience visiting so many places and seeing all the different cities. We only wished we could have stayed longer as we barely scratched the surface exploring each place.
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be – don’t let the planning of your day overwhelm you. As difficult as it can be, try to find time to enjoy that side of it. We found that it’s not just about one day, yes of course that day is extremely special and memorable but so many good things came from the time we spent building up to it, making choices about different things.
Also, remember that it’s your day. As difficult as it is, don’t lose sight of that, especially with the pressures of pleasing everyone. Make sure you do want you want to do.
the big picture