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winter wishes. justin alexander for a personal wedding at abbeywood estate – kate & chris

Julia Braime

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (26)

There’s nothing that makes our day more than hearing how newlyweds used Brides Up North to help shape and style their wedding day.

As such, to celebrate Bank Holiday Monday (hope you’re enjoying the long weekend!) we’re sharing the big day of loyal reader Kate and her beau Chris, who tied the knot in a pretty and personal ceremony before partying hard with their 150 guests!

Along Kate’s planning journey we were thrilled to find out that Brides Up North had helped her to find local suppliers whilst also providing décor inspiration for her special day. Because ladies, that’s exactly what we are here for!

With images by our lovely Sponsor, James Tracey Photography.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (18)

kate says:

We got engaged on Christmas Eve. I’m an only child but Chris is from a fairly big family and so for Christmas 2014 he suggested that our families spend it together.

Christmas Eve came around and we were preparing food and waiting for my family to arrive. Chris and I had to go out and collect the turkey and on the way back he suggested we go for a drink before everyone descended. We headed off for a drink and I had a sense that Chris was acting a little strangely. After a quick detour to de-turkey we went to the Queen and Castle in Kenilworth, a lovely pub overlooking Kenilworth Castle. Getting out of the car I checked his pockets for a ring box but there was none to be seen. He went to the bar to order, quickly ran to the car and then came back with my ‘Christmas Eve present’ in a big box. When I opened it, a ring was inside and he asked me to marry him, then the whole family was waiting back at his parents to celebrate!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (47)

We decided to get married on 19th December. We didn’t want to worry about rain in the summer and that time of year when the air is crisp is my favourite; plus everyone would be high on Christmas cheer and finishing work for the year. It also happened to be Chris’ grandparent’s anniversary, so that made it all the more special.

We got married at my parent’s village church, All Saints Daresbury or the Lewis Carroll church as it’s known (where he was born and his father was pastor). Though we live in London now, I’ll always be a northerner and Cheshire holds many special memories so it was important that we get married there. David Felix, the vicar there was brilliant and really made the ceremony, he put everyone at ease.

We personalised our order of service with a little story about each of the wedding party so that everyone knew who was who. We also had our family friend organise a string quartet for us of him and his university friends; I walked down the aisle to Hoppipolla and then they learnt some others songs like Jesse Glynn, Rather Be for while we were signing the register. We had three of our friends read; one religious reading and the Edward Monkton’s ‘The Lovely Love Story’ as it is a little silly (like Chris!) and we wanted it to be light-hearted.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (3)

We then went to Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, for the reception. We really wanted a blank canvas and somewhere that would be flexible on food and drink. It was important to us not to have a package and also food and wine that reflected us. My parents have a house in Spain and so we wanted the food and alcohol to have a bit of a nod to that. Also, Chris is from an Indian-Malay heritage and it is Sikh tradition to provide the alcohol at weddings; while we couldn’t stretch to everything, Abbeywood were great in helping us be flexible. The venue is a family run business and the amount that they care really shines through.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (7)

We didn’t have a theme for the wedding as such, but we had decided that we wanted to make it very personal – it was really important that it reflected us and our story.

Even though it was Christmas I wanted to avoid red and greens or typical Christmas decorations as I wanted the wedding to be separate from the time of year. We therefore decided to go with whites and greens in terms of decorations with lots of lovely lights.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (8)

When searching for my dress I went to so many bridal boutiques and found it hard to decide on ‘the one’. I started out in Cheshire and then went to London. On the first day of looking I had seen a Justin Alexander dress at Puure Bridal in Lymm, where I’d managed to book a last minute appointment the day before I went as I hadn’t intended to go there. I wasn’t sure it was the right dress but knew that I liked the designer. I then came across another Justin dress. It was huge (as I had original wanted tight fitting and not strapless) and I put it on as a joke with the girls but then I tried it on again before I left the shop and knew that was the one! To be certain I wanted to try it on again and Angie at Puure Bridal got it shipped from Holland for me. She was truly amazing and went above and beyond to help me. I put a little Justin Alexander belt with it and some pearl and crystal jewellery too.

As it was winter I got my cover up from V for Vintage in Spitalfields market. They do lovely vintage fur pieces; this was my ‘something old’ and as something a bit different I got my bridesmaids to write messages on my soles of my shoes as my ‘something blue’ in blue sharpie!

I used Ann Mckavney at Eleventh Heaven for my head piece; I wanted something quite simple and I had seen some of her jewel pieces on one of James Tracey’s wedding photos, which was featured on Brides up North. I went to Ann’s house and she was really helpful – she’ll design whatever you like!

Ellen Rose did my makeup. Kate, the makeup artist, was also a guest so it was fantastic to have her there to do touch ups all day! She was super professional and I was so glad I had her.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (9)

On the wedding day Chris wore a navy suit with a waistcoat from Suit Supply in central London. His tie and pocket square were both a champagne colour and were by Lanvin.

I had five of my closest friends as bridesmaids and they were all very different. In the end we went for a chiffon, one-strap Dessy dress in the shade Bordeaux. I got the dresses from Bridesmaids.com who were super helpful! I then added an Etsy belt to give them some sparkle and a dark brown faux fur stole from Coast, which I snapped up in the sale. For the bridesmaids’ presents I went to Bip and Bop and had necklaces made for each of them with coordinates of a place which was important to our friendship.

My nieces were our two flower girls and they had lovely white and gold dresses on. They looked super cute!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (13)

As we both live in London we wanted to have a nod to our home city incorporated into wedding day and so hired two routemasters from Classic Buses in Preston (who were fab!) to transport our guests. The ushers made sure that everyone was topped up with prosecco and I’m told it was lots of fun! We then had a white taxi as our wedding car, which was great as I could easily fit inside in my dress in and also meant something to us. This was provided by I Do Taxis and the driver was amazing. They decorated the car and gave us a lovely bottle of fizz for the drive.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (21)

Our wedding photographer was James Tracey. James was truly amazing; when we were deciding we had narrowed it down to James and another photographer but James’ style and also his personality and genuineness shone though.

James set us at ease from before we even met him. We had a trial shoot on a beautiful day at Park Bridge and James was great, explaining what we needed to do and how. On the day James and (second shooter) Dan just blended in; it was great to have one of them with me getting ready and one with Chris and the ushers. They were fab with the guests and generally just great guys. We wanted a photographer that focussed on reportage rather than lots of posed shots and they nailed it; the un-posed shots are definitely my favourites! And James is now doing my friend’s wedding later this year!

We also had Jo Gendle as a videographer and she was amazing. We were worried that people might feel uncomfortable but you couldn’t even tell she was filming and it’s been priceless to be able to watch the speeches and ceremony back; there are so many parts of the wedding you can’t see on the day.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (27)

We got our wedding flowers from 2lips in Stockton Heath, Warrington. I didn’t want to spend lots on flowers and they were really helpful, telling me what would and wouldn’t be in season and how to keep costs down and the flowers were beautiful. I carried a handtied bouquet with white roses, lisianthus, freesia, hypericum berries, wax flower, eucalyptus and ivy foliage. The bridesmaids had gypsophila with hypericum berries threaded through to tie in with the decorations.

We decided to do our own decorations at the venue, because I was keen on getting as involved as possible and making the day ours. We used the glasshouse at Abbeywood for our wedding breakfast and evening reception, which has bars across the ceiling. We decided to have festoon lights that we got from eBay and my dad put them up running between the bars as it would go dark early and we wanted to create a night sky effect.

Hanging from the bars we also had pomanders, lanterns and gypsophila balls made from gyp and foam spheres. We made them all using things from Country Baskets in Leigh, and we got the gyp from the flower market in Wavertree.

For the centrepieces we wanted something different so we had glasses from IKEA which we put on a mirror. The brandy glasses were filled with moss and tiny lights (from B&M Bargains), the cocktail glasses were filled with glass crystals and holly, and the longer glasses held ivy and gyp (as a tiny nod to Christmas!)

My dad and his friend also made us a big ‘C’ and ‘K’ as they make lights for weddings through their company. My mum meanwhile made name places from clay and they doubled up as little flat hanging baubles.

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (33)

We wanted to do something a bit different for our seating plan and I saw an idea on Brides up North which I liked and so copied. We used squaresnaps.com to print off Polaroid pictures of guests and then hung the pictures on a washing line to show guests which table they were at.

We decided to name the tables as somewhere important to our relationship. Lots were bars and they all had funny stories so we also put the meaning behind each table on the back of the name sign so they all told our story. For each table, my mum also made a clay ornament which represented the table name which went down really well!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (35)

We wanted to give something that wouldn’t go to waste as our favours, so in a nod to our church and Lewis Carroll, we had bottles of toffee vodka saying “drink me”. We got the bottles from Wares of Knutsford and made the toffee vodka with Werther’s Originals!

We decided not to have a traditional wedding cake. Instead we had a donut cake which I ordered from Krispy Kreme; it had a topper saying ‘Lobsters’ and then we had a cheesecake too, which supplemented our evening food. This was supplied by Godfrey Williams & Son in Sandbach. They are a local company and they were really helpful. The tasting was super and they gave us great advice about what would be crowd pleasers.

For the wedding menu we decided on some delicious canapes of duck spring roll, mini shepherd’s pie, halloumi chips and fish cakes. We then went for chilli prawns and focaccia for our starter, with chicken, chorizo and fondant potatoes on a bed of greens for mains, followed by Chris’ favourite, sticky toffee pudding to finish. We then had some snacky bits for the evening so that people could graze and soak up the alcohol!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (36)

For the reception entertainment we had a friend play his saxophone. We spent a while looking at bands for the evening as we didn’t want them to be too ‘weddingy’ but we didn’t want to spend a fortune either! In the end we went with Tom Rocks & The Replicants who James, our photographer, recommended and I am so glad that he did! Our first dance (Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Heroes) has a lady in too so the band got one of their girlfriends to come along and play. The dance floor was packed and they let us all get up and sing with them. They are a group of guys who do it because they love it and it really shone through. One of my best memories of the reception is Chris and I and about 50 other people on, or crowding around, the stage and jumping up and down to Bohemian Rhapsody.

I love bonfire night and so we decided as it was going to be wintry and cold that we would have fireworks and a bit of a bonfire before the first dance as part of our entertainment too. These went down really well. Wedding Display Fireworks who we hired were great and really helpful – we got some great pics!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (44)

If I could do our wedding all over again I would definitely use Abbeywood. The venue is lovely, Harry, the owner lives on the grounds and his granddaughter and grandson-in-law run the weddings. His son and daughter-in-law do the catering and the food was fantastic; even though we had 150 people all of the food was great quality. Furthermore, the staff are all genuine, kind and helpful. Each and every one of them went out of their way to help us, they were so relaxed. They clearly love their job and their business.

It’s so hard to choose a favourite part of the day as there were so many highlights. Standing outside the church waiting for the vicar to stop speaking I got really overwhelmed; walking down the aisle was very surreal and my dad had to stop me from going too fast, but once I turned the corner and saw Chris I felt fine; he looked pretty pleased too! Our speeches were amazing and I did one myself, which I enjoyed!  The band and dancing was incredible. We were literally bouncing up and down and singing at the top of our voices; everyone we love having such a fab time was a feeling I won’t forget!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (34)

As our wedding was so near to Christmas and because we had family coming from Canada and Malaysia we didn’t want to be away for ages on honeymoon, plus we had a second ceremony in Malaysia in January for all of Chris’ family who couldn’t be there. This meant that we decided to stay in the UK as we wanted to spend time with each other, relaxing, eating good food and drinking good wine rather than going somewhere and sightseeing. We spent the day after the wedding with friends and family in our local pub. We then went down to The Pig in Brockenhurst, for a night which was truly amazing; the food was fab and I would definitely go back. We then went on to Babington House for a couple of nights and stayed in the walled garden. It was a bit of an indulgence but we needed the rest!

A Winter Wedding at Abbeywood Estate (c) James Tracey Photography (50)

My top tip to other Brides Up North would be try to keep in mind that the wedding is only one day. We set a budget at the beginning and each wrote down separately what our non-negotiables were and also what we didn’t really care about and then we tried to pull a bit of a budget together. We managed to come in below budget and did most things we wanted to; we also asked for discount on everything; some people said no but you may as well ask! Get a good spreadsheet to track tasks and budget (I am a project manager so I loved this.)

The other thing is that everyone will have an opinion; it’s important to be flexible and compromise but if it’s really important to you then remember it is your day! We don’t have children and we really didn’t want to have any (except our flower girls and those who came from Malaysia) at the wedding. It ruffled a few feathers but we stuck to our guns and it was all fine!

Also, on the day if something goes wrong, don’t stress – no one will notice! Give all of the admin to someone else like the best man or ushers and get them to sort any pictures etc. out; you don’t need the admin.

Finally, enjoy it. Take some time out of the madness with your partner, make sure you look around at what’s going on, try and take some time (maybe during the dinner) to get round the tables and speak to people and spend the rest of the time with the people that you want to – it’s your day!

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