This afternoon we’re sharing with you a magical 1920s inspired wedding set against the stunning art nouveau backdrop of The Belle Epoque, in Knutsford, Cheshire, where will be hosting one of our fabulous Luxury Wedding Fairs THIS Sunday. So ladies, if you like what you see, be sure to register for the free-entry event now and join us for what is set to be a really inspiring day with some of the area’s finest wedding suppliers.
The Belle Epoque certainly captured the hearts of today’s couple, Hayley and Tim, who chose to tie the knot at the gorgeous boutique hotel on their nine-year anniversary.
Dressed in an elegant Mark Lesley long-sleeved gown, Hayley’s vintage look perfectly complemented the venue’s plush art deco setting, and set the tone for their special day.
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, James Tracey Photography.
hayley says: We got engaged last year whilst celebrating my birthday at a beautiful hotel in the Lakes. Unbeknown to me, Tim had asked my mum and dad for their blessing and bought me a gorgeous ring. We walked for hours, taking in the scenery and then chilled in our hot tub on a private terrace overlooking Lake Windermere and drank champagne. When it was time to get ready for dinner, I went inside the room to get ready. I noticed Tim had gone back out onto the terrace. The curtains were drawn so I couldn’t see outside. When I pulled them back I saw he’d lit candles everywhere and scattered roses around the little box with the ring inside. He got down on one knee and I burst out laughing with shock (poor Tim!). I made him sweat for a few minutes before saying yes.
We got married on 18th June 2016. Given my well-known tendency for bargain hunting, I called the venue and asked for the best summer date they could offer at the best price and this was the date they offered. Very unromantic… until Tim pointed out it would be our nine-year anniversary! He initially thought I’d picked the date for that reason, until I confessed it was just a sweet coincidence!
We knew we wanted an informal venue, all under one roof – we were certain of that. The location was the tricky part. Initially we looked abroad, as we both love the sunshine and a more relaxed setting. But with two small children and a large family, we eventually decided to stay in the UK. Top of our UK list was a vineyard in Cornwall. Cornwall has a special place in our hearts, as does wine. But the place itself was a bit of a ‘work in progress’ as far as venues go. It had lots of potential but wasn’t quite there yet. We were really glad we made the effort to go down and see it though, rather than just judge it from the online photos (top tip to any future brides!).
We then looked closer to home and found a vineyard in Holmfirth. We went to see it and I loved it. There was only one catch…they didn’t do weddings! So we set about convincing them that they should and persuaded them to host our wedding. The problem, we soon realised, was how much pressure the whole process was going to place on us. Any teething issues would be entirely ours to deal with. I saw last month that they have now made their wedding venue status official and the photos from their first wedding look amazing. But I still didn’t regret our ultimate choice.
We were married at the Belle Epoque in Knutsford. They offered tailored wedding packages and we had begun to see the value in this. We also loved the unique appearance of the building, as well as its history and setting in the quaint little town of Knutsford. We particularly liked the intimacy and charm of the place and two main aspects sold us entirely; firstly, there was the roof terrace, which made me think of The Secret Garden or a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Second was the bar, which was so well stocked with interesting bottles and cut glass decanters full of expensive brandy and old whiskies. It reminded us of a 1920s speakeasy and we could just picture all our friends having a blast at that bar at the end of the evening!
The style developed once we picked our wedding venue and I had bought my dress. The venue was relaxed, intimate and romantic with a hint of French art deco and 1920s understated glamour. My dress was soft, pretty, feminine lace but with a hint of art deco bling. I wanted Gatsby glamour combined with a relaxed outdoorsy Midsummer Night’s Dream and fairies in the garden type of feel!
Our colour scheme was pale dove grey and dark grey with lilacs, purples and deep dusky pink. I wanted a relaxed and colourful affair and, to me, this meant not being too rigid with colours or themes.
For my wedding dress, I wanted vintage lace with a soft feminine shape and I found exactly that at Dream Dress Bridal, in Bredbury. They were so lovely and helpful. I nipped in when passing on my own and ended up finding the dress. I shocked myself by bursting into tears and the shop assistant started to fill up herself. She clearly cared very much about getting it right for her customers. The gown, by Mark Lesley, was a silk slip with a long-sleeved lace overlay. It had unusual crystal detail across the front and beautiful detailing to the back.
Tim’s main concern was finding a suit with a really smart cut that fitted him perfectly. As he’s not a standard suit size, he’s always felt uncomfortable in hired suits. So Tim and his groomsmen all bought grey suits. The idea was for them to be similar, but slightly mismatched. Some would have waistcoats and others not. Some would wear ties and the others, dickie bows. Purple accessories with matching buttonholes would link them all together. I searched high and low for the right colour and eventually found a purple tie in Next. However, they didn’t have any matching bow ties or pocket squares. So, I ended up buying extra ties just for the fabric so I could make the bow ties and pocket squares! I was so nervous cutting into those brand new ties but it was worth the end result (even though it did end up being the most time consuming job of the whole wedding!).
My bridesmaids wore dove grey dresses by Little Mistress for ASOS. ASOS have a surprisingly good selection of bridesmaid dresses and I thought they were great value for money. They were excellent quality and looked beautiful. My little girl wore a flower girl dress from BHS and stole the show completely!
Our little boy, Finn, was our ring bearer. I made a little cushion with twine in the centre so that I could tie our rings to it for him to carry. We had our wedding rings made to match at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and were so pleased with them.
Picking a photographer was a really important aspect of the wedding for us. We decided from the outset that we didn’t want to scrimp where our photos were concerned, as they would be the one thing we would keep for years to come. In the end we chose James Tracey to capture our day, and we weren’t disappointed. We liked James the minute we met him. He has a warm Northern charm, a good-humored nature and a clear passion for what he does. In the run up to the wedding, James was fantastic, as expected. We had a pre-wedding shoot and discussed with him exactly what we wanted. He was so lovely and accommodating. During the wedding James was the consummate professional. Most of the time we weren’t even aware he was there but when we were, he was a joy to work with. The end product blew us away and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him to others.
I travelled to the wedding venue with my father-in-law in his Chrysler. My mother-in-law had cut all the hydrangea heads from her front garden and laid them across the back window and tied ribbon to the front bumper.
My bouquet, the bridesmaids’ bouquets, fairy wand, flower garlands and buttonholes were all made by my extremely talented mum. It was her first ever attempt at something like that and she absolutely aced it – they were a star attraction. She’s now thinking of setting up in business!
When it came to decorating the venue, it helped that The Belle Epoque offered such lovely floral displays as part of their wedding package. I simply added to what was already there by investing in lots of gypsophila and extra tea lights. We borrowed a few dozen lanterns for the outside space and I bought 48 glass bauble tea light holders and the staff kindly hung them all around the garden, which looked so pretty in the evening. I made my own table plan and guest card box and a few other bits and bobs, as I’ve always been quite creative and into arts and crafts.
Our favours were little glass bottles of homemade damson gin that I made in one large batch last year.
My mum made our wedding cake. It was traditional fruit cake with white icing, and a simple ribbon decoration with flowers to match our colour scheme. It sat on a vintage three-tier wooden cake stand that she found in an antiques mill. The cake is all gone now but I’m sure the cake stand will become a family heirloom as it’s now graced both mine and my sister’s weddings!
The wedding breakfast was amazing. We had chicken liver parfait with jasmine tea, sultana puree and ginger bread to start. This was followed by roast Goosnargh chicken, dauphinoise potato, spinach, fine beans and pancetta jus. For dessert, we had dark chocolate mousse with white chocolate dust and honeycomb. Our choices were based on the type of food we enjoy eating and we asked for alternative options for other dietary requirements – the venue was really accommodating.
In the evening we opted for late night minis, including mini fish and chip cones, flatbreads, mini burgers and crispy bacon baps. They were served on platters that were brought round by staff and we felt this worked well as it didn’t disturb the evening antics in the way that opening a buffet queue would have done.
For our entertainment, we had the amazingly talented Tom Seals who played keyboard piano and sang, accompanied by a saxophone player. His laid-back jazz tunes created exactly the atmosphere we wanted during the day. This worked especially well during the drinks reception on the roof terrace. We were lucky to be married on the one sunny day in June as it meant that Tom could switch between playing indoors and out.
For the evening entertainment, we decided not to go with a large band. The venue is small and intimate and we felt that a smaller sound would be enough. For my hen do I had a garden party and acoustic duo Maybe Frank had kept us entertained and dancing all evening. I had been so impressed I asked them to do the wedding as well, and I was so glad I did.
In between the day and evening entertainment, we had compiled a playlist of all our favourite songs. We handed it over to the venue and they played the music on their own sound system to fill any gaps between live music. To their credit, it all ran like clockwork.
As an extra special touch, our nephew, Dan – who is a really talented musician – composed a gorgeous piece of music for us to walk down the aisle to. On the day, he played it on his guitar and gave everybody goose bumps!
For a little extra evening entertainment we set out an iPhone on a selfie stick along with some 1920s photo booth props. I’d left space in our guest book next to our guests’ messages for accompanying photos. We were in stitches looking through the photos a few days later! I’ve yet to match up the photos to the messages but I can’t wait to get round to it.
Following our wedding, we would absolutely recommend The Belle Epoque to other couples. It was perfect. The staff were so attentive and friendly and nothing was too much trouble. The food and drink was outstanding too. The venue itself worked so well, especially the beautiful roof garden.
Instead of having a couple’s honeymoon, we took our children aged three and four years, to Majorca on a ‘familymoon’ to celebrate all together. Whilst it wasn’t the most relaxing or romantic holiday, it was lots of fun and a welcome relief from all the last minute wedding prep! I’m hoping Tim and I will get away for a weekend somewhere a little more romantic for our first year anniversary!
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be – always make sure you go and see a venue in person and ask all the questions you can think of in advance! Other than that I would say, don’t get too caught up obsessing over tiny details. On the day – what will be, will be – and you should just relax and enjoy every moment.