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laughter & limoncello. justin alexander for a timeless wedding at denton hall – sarah & chris.

01st December 2016 | Laura McDonagh


Sarah and Chris’s elegant Yorkshire wedding is a tale of two halves. First, there was the poignant ceremony in the village church where Sarah grew up, with precious memories woven into the smallest of details.

Then there was a good old-fashioned party, with plenty of laughter, live music, Limoncello and even an Elvis wig!

Sarah’s Justin Alexander gown is a jaw-dropper with just a touch of sparkle and lace, and the couple’s romantic moors photographs are some of the most stunning shots incorporating landscape that we’ve seen here at Brides Up North.

So what are you waiting for? The pretty beckons….

Photography by Neil Jackson Photographic


sarah says:

We got engaged at Robin Hood’s Bay almost exactly two years before we got married. We’ve been together for a long time and we’d talked about getting engaged, but I left the where and when up to Chris. I was fooled into thinking that I’d planned a weekend trip to the seaside to visit one of my favourite childhood places, but Chris had other ideas! So we went to Robin Hood’s Bay on the Saturday as planned and went for a stroll out along the scars prior for a picnic lunch. It was the first weekend of nice weather that summer so the beach was busier than expected. Instead of popping the question over lunch, he chose a spot where we were alone on the edge of the scars looking out to sea and asked me there. The seaweed prevented him from getting down on one knee!

Our wedding date was 28th May 2016. May is one of our favourite times of year and it also meant that we would be getting married almost 15 years to the day of us getting together (yes, I’m very patient!) I love late spring/early summer: everything is so fresh and colourful and you can also get some pretty decent weather.


We got married at St Mary’s Church, Burley-in-Wharfedale and had the reception at Denton Hall, Ilkley.

The church was important to me as it‘s the church I went to as a child and my parents still live in the village. I’m lucky enough to know lots of people still living in Burley-in-Wharfedale, too, and they were all so kind and supportive of our marriage.


Denton hadn’t initially been on our radar because of budget but we went along just to see and we fell in love with it immediately. They were so welcoming and have such a wonderful, personalised set up. It was the only venue to offer exclusivity without us having to pay ridiculous amounts. Plus, Box Tree is their caterer, so in the end it was a no-brainer!

We didn’t really have a wedding theme as such. We’re very proud Yorkshire folk so that helped us come up with a few ideas. Our wedding was like coming home for us, and we wanted to share our Yorkshire home with family and friends from all over.


I’m also a sentimental old fool. My grandparents, who were a big part of our lives, had sadly all passed before our wedding and we wanted to stress their importance to us. My grandad was a very talented watercolour artist, so we used one of our favourite paintings of his for our invites and table place names. We also displayed the original painting on the day. Although we created our own invites, we had the help of The Cherry Orchard printers in Belper, who reproduced the painting and helped me realise my ideas.

The colour scheme for the wedding developed from my grandad’s painting too. I didn’t want to restrict myself colour-wise and it was more about having access to a range of colours that went together. The bridesmaid dresses captured the purple and lilac from the painting and then I wanted the flowers to pop out against these with some brighter, yet still elegant, pink roses. We then chose things to go with a floral garden-type colour scheme, which was pretty flexible!


My dress was a Justin Alexander design from Ava Rose Hamilton in Silsden. Initially I thought I would want something less fitted, but once I started to try some dresses on I changed my mind. I also had to think of the venue we’d chosen: the dress really needed to be in keeping and therefore quite classic. I think the Venice lace capped sleeves added an element of fun, plus I added a belt for that little bit of sparkle – oh, and the veil! I had to have the veil!

I also loved my Rachel Simpson shoes. We actually went to the boutique in Birmingham, which was a really enjoyable experience; extremely helpful staff, highly recommended. Finally, I wore a necklace from Azendi, where I also bought gifts for the bridesmaids and groomsmen and Chris’ cufflinks.


Chris wore a navy lounge suit from Top Mark Suit Hire in Pontefract. He chose a floral tie and handkerchief with a mint green base, which looked good against the navy. He was going to buy a suit but we decided it would be hard to get a navy to match the others and not look odd, so we went with the hired option. His shoes were a brogue-style shoe from Ted Baker, and we went for bright socks for him and his groomsmen – another Ted Baker purchase.

My bridesmaids wore dresses by Alfred Angelo. I chose two different colours: lilac and Victorian lilac. Finding the bridesmaid dresses was one of the hardest and most stressful parts of the wedding preparation. I wanted to make sure they were all comfortable and liked the dresses they were wearing so I was happy for them to have different styles. However, we ended up (after many, many months of searching) finding a style which suited them all and came in the two colours I was looking for; persistence finally paid off! The dresses came from Beau Belles in Borrowash, which just so happens to be the village where we currently live.

Lauren Woodham did our makeup and Cat Oldham was responsible for our hair; both are local, and both made us look and feel wonderful.


We decided to go traditional with our transport, although again finding the right style car was tricky! The car was a 1960s Bentley S Type in silver and grey. We hired the car from Classic and Vintage Travel and we had the lovely Terry as our chauffeur – he was ace! A very professional service and he was happy to take us on a planned tootle over the moor for photos after the ceremony.


Our photographer was the very talented Neil Jackson. He was the photographer at our friend’s wedding a few years back and we loved the photos so asked if he’d do our wedding, too. We loved how he captured natural photos and also thought about the landscape in the shot. We would 100% recommend Neil; he was professional yet friendly and in no way intrusive or demanding, which was important to us both. He let us get on with our day and captured all the different aspects of it, preserving wonderful memories for us.


Our flowers were by Lizzy Reynolds of Tiger Lily. My mum knew Lizzy through church and she’d also done flowers at Denton Hall before so knew both venues. Lizzy loves flowers and so do I, so I just gave her a few ideas and let her work her magic. The main flower was a variegated pink rose with astrantia, freesias, wax flowers, rosemary and eucalyptus (pink roses were my grannie’s favourite flowers and fresias were my gran’s). We used the same flowers throughout the venue. The church flower ladies did the arrangements for the church at cost price, which was very generous! Chris’ mum is also talented in floristry so I enlisted her help to add a few more arrangements after an early morning trip to the flower market!

In addition to the flowers, we had some tea lights, candles and lanterns. We had some lilac and ivory balloons dotted around and some homemade floral garden bunting which my mum had made to decorate the bar area.


For favours, we served a shot of limoncello. We love Italy and its food and drink so it was easy to choose the alcohol. Chris is also known for instigating drinking amongst his friends so we thought a shot/digestif would be apt! We wanted them to be chilled so decided to have them served to the guests in time for Chris’ speech. We ended up getting some personalised Love Hearts for the table too.

We’re not big cake fans and we found the cost of wedding cakes pretty excessive, so we decided to get a cake from M&S and were more than happy with it; it was chocolate cake, with chocolate ganache and white chocolate ribbons. We added colour with blueberries and some gold stars.


And so onto the food! This was definitely one of the of the most important parts of the planning for us. Chris works in the food industry and is a self-confessed ‘foodie’, meticulous about taste and quality. I’m also veggie, so I was adamant that the vegetarian options wouldn’t be just an ‘afterthought’. We were confident that Box Tree Events could provide both, and they certainly did not disappoint.

We had afternoon tea style canapes for when the guests arrived. The wedding breakfast was a starter of lobster ravioli, butter spinach and tomato beurre blanc with a main of braised shoulder of Yorkshire lamb, pomme puree, baby vegetables and braising jus. For dessert, we had milk chocolate mousse, mandarin sorbet and basil oil. The veggie starter was goat’s cheese and beetroot tart, balsamic jelly and rocket salad and the main was truffle gnocchi, butternut squash, haricot vert and parmesan.

The wines were carefully selected by their sommelier and we had a Michel Servin Blanc and a Marques de Calado Tempranillo, which complemented the food beautifully.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had to have some evening food which was a hog roast (served outside because the weather stayed fine, hurrah!) and, not to forget, ratatouille pittas for the veggies!


Our entertainment was provided by the fabulous Dave Challis Band. We really wanted a laidback, party atmosphere after the ceremony, so part of the band played some gentle jazz and swing music for the guests on our arrival. They played us into the wedding breakfast too to make sure we had our grand entrance!

The full band then provided the live music entertainment for the evening and made sure everyone was up on the dancefloor. They even had Chris donning an Elvis wig – what more could he want from his wedding day? They were just brilliant and helped create a magical atmosphere for the day and night.


It was really important for us to have two contrasting aspects to our day. Without being too serious, we wanted the church wedding to reflect us and our relationship and the importance of everyone we‘d invited to our lives. We have some very talented friends: James composed a poem for us which had us all in tears and then Ross and Caroline read a beautiful and heart-warming version of the traditional Corinthians reading for us. The vicar, Alastair, conducted a perfect and personal service for us with plenty of light-hearted banter throughout. We also had an amalgamation of all the choirs at St Mary’s, led by Gill Evans, and the organist John, who were all so wonderful to give up part of their Saturday and perform a beautiful John Rutter anthem whilst we signed the register.

Afterwards, the reception was all about sharing fun, laughter, food and drink with much-loved family and friends.


I’d definitely recommend Denton Hall to any couple looking for a wedding venue. The team were incredibly professional yet friendly and they were genuinely focussed on ensuring our day was absolutely perfect! Beautiful venue, beautiful food, beautiful day!

Aside from the obvious part, i.e. actually becoming husband and wife, there were so many different bits of the wedding day we loved. There was the ceremony, of course, and then the drive to the venue with photographs on the moor. Then there was the fabulous drinks reception with the band and the sun shining. Then there was the breakfast, the speeches and the party! We loved every minute.


For our honeymoon we had a week in Italy, which was all organised as a surprise by Chris’ mum and her partner. Until the actual day of departure we had no idea where we were going. We spent three nights in Venice and then four nights in Sirmione on Lake Garda. It was wonderful!


My top tip for other Brides Up North is simple – enjoy it all! Try not to get stressed out with the planning; remember, it’s your big day, so think about what you really want from it and what’s important to you both. Try incorporate some personal touches too as they really make it your own.

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