Real Weddings

when in rome. a sumptuous wedding at swinton park – victoria & matthew

23rd November 2016 | Alexis Forsyth

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For today’s real wedding, we’re getting swept away by the enchantment of Victoria and Matthew’s beautiful wedding set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

Combining the tradition of a church ceremony with the decadence of a castle, hotel and stately home for their celebrations – this is a wedding with class and sophistication in spades, and we simply adore every little detail from their special day!

With images by Andy Sutcliffe Photography.


victoria says: Matthew proposed during a surprise break away to Rome, leaving me guessing right until check in at the airport as to where we were going. Little did I know that in the luggage that I’d been carting around, on and off trains and through the airport, there was an engagement ring.

The hotel in Rome had a balcony that overlooked the city and the view was incredible. Every day the hotel staff kept leaving bottles of champagne and strawberries in the room and I had no idea why. I just thought it was all part of their hospitality and even said that we should stay in this hotel more often, as I felt like a princess.

We visited many historical sights and enjoyed sightseeing around the city, including a visit to the Vatican. On the final evening, I was so exhausted from walking around that I suggested that we should stay at the hotel for a meal, but Matthew insisted that we should go out. When we arrived back at the hotel, the balcony had been lit up with candles and there was a large parcel wrapped up on the table with a bottle of champagne. I was very surprised and I thought Matthew was too. Matthew insisted I open the parcel. Initially I thought it was a gift from the hotel, because of all the surprises they kept sending to us each night. I carefully tore the paper and inside was a canvas with photographs of Matthew’s niece and nephews holding up signs reading, “Will you marry Uncle Matthew please?” At this point, Matthew got onto one knee and pulled a ring box from his pocket and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes!

A few days after we returned home, I received a postcard stamped from Vatican City. Matthew had sent me a postcard when we were in the Vatican City saying that by now he hopes that I am his fiancée and can’t wait to marry me. I didn’t even notice that he had done this and I was with him the whole time. This came as a great surprise. Just as well I said yes!


We got married on 3rd August 2015. The ceremony took place at St. Joseph and St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, Richmond, North Yorkshire. We chose this church as it was fairly local to our reception venue – Swinton Park in Masham, North Yorkshire. Our local priest, Father Butters was able to conduct the ceremony too, which made it even more special.

We had a Roman Catholic ceremony with two readings. The first was from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, read by the mother of the groom and then then a reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians read by my godmother. We also had bidding prayers that were read by our eight-year-old nephew Louis, and my cousin Michelle.


We chose Swinton Park for the reception as it’s such a beautiful backdrop for a wedding and we loved the idea of our celebrations being held in a castle. The grounds are vast with plenty of activities that kept all of our family entertained for the few days we stayed there.

We didn’t have a theme, as such; we just wanted a traditional wedding. The venue was already decorated traditionally so we just added our own touches. We went for a sky blue colour scheme to match the season and this is my favourite colour, too.


I wore an ivory Essense of Australia wedding dress featuring a vintage-inspired lace overdress with cap sleeves and Swarovski crystals. A spaghetti strap silky Dolce Satin gown was underneath. Following cancer treatment, I never really felt very girly or elegant but the moment I tried this on I felt like a princess. It was unexpected, but seeing myself in that beautiful gown, I suddenly felt like a real bride. It made me feel beautiful and elegant, something I didn’t think would ever be possible. I knew then that this was definitely the dress, even though it wasn’t anything I had ever imagined picking.

I wore Charlotte Mills Amelia shoes. They were absolutely beautiful, with the rhyme ‘something old, something new, something borrowed something blue’ printed on the sole. Inside, there was a silver sixpence for good luck. Lots of people commented on how stunning the shoes looked on the day.

Deborah Chalmers from Love Hair and Beauty Boutique styled my hair on the day, and this was beautifully complemented by make up by Alexa Van Pagh. My friend, Ruth Eleanor Lord, from Howarth Beauty in Durham, did my nails.

My silver band wedding ring and princess cut engagement ring were both from Tiffany and Co. I also wore a bracelet – a Pandora lucky horse shoe – which was a gift from my cousin Michelle on the morning of the wedding.


All the navy blue tailed suits, worn by Matthew and the groomsmen, were from Just Perfect in Shotton, Durham.

The adult bridesmaid dresses were dye to order dresses from Ghost London. We picked the sophisticated floor-length Salma gown because it was so beautifully crafted and elegant. It was made from satin and featured an elegant cowl back, flattering capped sleeves and a chic boat neck. I didn’t really like many of the traditional bridesmaid dresses I had seen in bridal shops and this suited all the bridesmaids’ shapes and sizes, and I knew they would look timeless in the photographs. We chose skylight blue as the colour, which was flattering on all the girls. The dresses were priced very reasonably at £225.

Finding shoes in a similar colour was very difficult, however, just by chance we found some in Marks and Spencer that were a perfect match! They were only £55, so a complete bargain and a shoe that all the girls could wear again. We also found some flat shoes to wear in the evening on ASOS for £35. As for accessories, the bridesmaids wore bracelets by Daisy and pearl drop necklaces.

Olive – the baby flower girl – wore a dress that was made by my aunt, who is a seamstress. As Olive was only eight-months-old, we found it quite tricky to find a dress that would fit her. Most flower girl dresses are for girls much older, so my aunt stepped in to save the day! Her dress was beautifully made and she looked adorable, as you can see in the photographs.

The older flower girl Lyla (aged six) wore a John Lewis dress with lace and tulle, and her shoes were from Monsoon. She loved her dress and looked like a princess!


On the day of the wedding we travelled in vintage Rolls Royce cars from the 1940s, hired from Vintage Cars Harrogate.


For our photography, we booked Andy Sutcliffe – we couldn’t recommend Andy and his wife enough. By having two photographers, we were able to get photographs from different angles, all for the price of one. The photographs are stunning and they managed to capture all of the great moments from the day.


Our bouquets, buttonholes and floral decorations for the pedestal in church, fireplace and aisle, were all supplied by Twisted Willow Floristry. I would highly recommend them, as they were unbelievably friendly and their professionalism was second to none. For the table centre pieces, we chose calla lilies from the Swinton Estate, presented in tall glasses and provided by Swinton Park.


For our favours, we wanted to give something back to the Lymphoma Association who had supported me when I was first diagnosed with Lymphoma, so we donated money to this charity and bought charity pin badges for each of our guests. We also made goody bags for the children. We bought canvas bags with the children’s names on and filled them with wedding activities, such as a disposable camera, a wedding puzzle book and crayons, sweets and giant bubble wands. This kept the children entertained for the whole afternoon and was well worth the time and effort that went into making them.

We decided on a five-tier cake from Poppy Pickering in Ilkley, North Yorkshire. The ivory cake had a vintage lace effect with rose detailing to the top.

With regards to the food, we had pea and mint soup with garlic roasted croutons, followed by poached free range chicken in parma ham with French style peas, creamed potato and fine beans. For dessert, we had banana parfait, banana dumpling and toffee sauce; and we rounded off the meal with coffee and petit fours. Meanwhile, the children enjoyed melon, homemade pizza, chocolate brownie and homemade ice-cream.

As an extra treat, we had an ice cream cart supplied by The Ice Cream Dream, and a sweet cart from Bah Humbugs in Masham.

All of the food and wine was picked to match the traditional theme of the wedding.


As part of the reception, we also had a photo booth from Taxi Photobooth and Casual Captures provided our evening photography.


Overall Swinton Park was amazing. Everything was carefully managed to ensure the day went swimmingly, and for us it was the perfect place to get married, like a fairy-tale dream come true!

Our favourite part of the day? Matthew says it was catching my eye when I was walking down the aisle, as I looked perfect. The emotional and touching speeches; and the journey back to the reception venue from the church (which was our first moment alone as a married couple) were other highlights from the day.


For our honeymoon, we went to Singapore, Koh Samui and Bangkok. We were in Singapore for the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from Malaysia. It was a fantastic celebration, with parades, air displays and fireworks. It was the perfect start to our honeymoon. We stayed in the Marina Bay Sands hotel that looked out over Singapore and had the most spectacular views from the rooftop pool and bar. In Koh Samui, we spent our days relaxing on the magnificent beaches and took in a spot of snorkeling. Finally, in Bangkok, we visited the many spectacular temples. It was a brilliant honeymoon, filled with memories that will last a lifetime.


My top tip for other Brides Up North is – do what you and your husband-to-be want, don’t be lured into doing what everyone else wants. And don’t be surprised if the wedding dress shopping isn’t like the Hollywood movies. As for the groom – take an interest in the wedding, as it is your day too. Don’t lose focus on the meaning of the day – it is about the marriage not about fashionable accessories. Get a good photographer; it really is worth the money.

We would also suggest considering a mid-week wedding. Suppliers and venues are often cheaper, as they are looking for an extra booking. The people who love you and want to be there will still make it on the day, despite it being mid-week.

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