Real Weddings

autumn amour. maggie sottero for a chic urban wedding in leeds – rachel & robin

02nd December 2016 | Laura McDonagh

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Today’s chic city real wedding simply exudes elegance. There’s a stunning Maggie Sottero dress, a gorgeous autumnal colour palette and an organic, woodland theme.

There was also plenty of personality to this stylish wedding too, with nods to the groom’s love of owls, Cockney rhyming slang table names and a real ale special brew called ‘Old Legover’!

With images by Olivia Brabbs Photography


rachel says: Robin’s proposal centred around an owl theme. He has a particular passion for owls – since he was a child he collected all things owl. It has turned into a running joke that owls are literally taking over our house, so it was no surprise that they featured quite heavily in Robin’s proposal. Robin went to great lengths to set out an owl-themed treasure hunt, which went on for a few weeks (!) and, led by a number of clues, I found Robin under the ‘Owl of Justice’ – a carved owl that can be found at the back of the Civic Hall in Leeds, where Robin proposed and we later got married.

Our wedding date was the 9th September 2016. We both love autumn and wanted a natural earthy wedding. The weather also always seems to be lovely in Leeds in September, so we were lucky to secure the date when we did.


We got married in the Banqueting Hall in the Civic Hall in Leeds city centre. We chose the venue for obvious reasons (hello gold owls!) but we were both so stunned at how beautiful the hall is once you get inside. We even decided to have a drinks reception after the ceremony to make the most of our time there. We really wanted to have our reception somewhere close to where we got married and settled on the Devonshire Hall in Headingley, to have our party; an amazingly grand hall of residence, which forms part of the University of Leeds. We loved the blank canvas of the dining hall and the design of the building is so lovely with the cloisters and outside space. We both got a great feel from the place when we visited so it was an easy decision.

In terms of theme, we’re big lovers of the great outdoors and our vision was for a woodland/autumnal/natural style of wedding. If we’d been brave enough (and my mum had allowed us!) we’d have had our reception in the woods, so this was a good compromise.


Our colour scheme was navy and gold and, fitting with the autumnal theme, the groomsmen wore navy suits with a variety of dark gold and burnt orange accessories. My sister is a personal stylist so she helped choose the bridesmaid dresses, and navy is a gorgeous universal colour that looks great on everyone. I’m also a big fan of a bit of sparkle so gold shoes were a must!

If I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely looking forward to the wedding dress shopping – I had no idea what I wanted and felt a bit nervous about it all. When I walked into the first bridal shop (the wonderful Bridal Boutique in Baildon) I knew that the first dress that I saw would be the one I’d wear. I tried on all sorts of different styles anyway – and was surprised by how much I loved the huge princess dresses! But I settled for the first dress: Vidonia by Maggie Sottero. Such gorgeous detailing and I felt so comfortable in it, I knew it had to be the one. I cancelled my next booking!


Robin and the groomsmen wore three-piece navy Ted Baker suits, which we hired from Moss Bros. We got the bowties and ties, made from knitted English silk, from the website Swagger & Swoon.

The bridesmaids wore A-line navy dresses from Coast and they each chose their own gold shoes. As a thank you for being my best women, I got them all engraved bangles made by the fab Libby Jubb Jewellery. They had a little birdy charm on them which matched the turtle doves I wore in my hair. Hannah De Ath and Annabel Bailey also did a fantastic job with hair and make-up and made my mum, bridesmaids and me feel like a million dollars.


On the day of the wedding, my dad and I travelled to the ceremony in ‘Anne’ – an amazing VW camper who was decked out in gold ribbon! We hired Anne from Bronte Camper Hire. Our guests travelled to the reception in a big old vintage bus we hired from The Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company ltd.


Olivia Brabbs was our photographer for the day and she was fab. I found her during one of my many ‘wedding Google sessions’ and just loved her documentary style of photography. She had also shot at the Civic Hall before and we just loved how she captured all the little moments. She has such talent, not only in her work but also how she puts people so at ease. Our photos are just stunning!


Our videographer was Jeff Wood Visuals, and I would recommend him far and wide. The way he captured our day is just breath-taking, I watched it every day the first week he sent it and pretty much cried every time! He’s so talented and I feel so lucky to have had him capture our day. He travels all over the world filming weddings and it meant a lot to have him there, especially as he captured my sister’s wedding seven years previously.


The amazing Lynne at Stems Design provided the flowers. She added some lighter colours as a nod to the end of summer, and designed them to have a relaxed, botanical look. My bouquet consisted of Juliet Austin and Cappuccino Roses with open Majolica Spray Roses, cream Astilbe, Mini Succulents and Olive with Nicholii Eucalyptus and brown Scabious.

Working in collaboration with Stems Design, we were lucky enough to have the super talented Rachel Chippendale from Simply Vintage Event Styling to decorate both venues. Rachel really took our vision on board and it was just amazing how she transformed the Devonshire Hall especially. We had two trees at the top of the aisle at the Civic Hall, which Rachel then moved to Devonshire for the reception. We also had posies of flowers tied with hessian at the end of the aisles. Our tables were decorated with a runner of hessian with a tree slice at the centre and around them were vintage bottles, succulents, wild flowers and moss. We also had a sprig of lavender or rosemary on the napkin for each place setting. The dining room had leaf bunting intertwined with fairy lights. In the main reception room Rachel draped hop garlands (we are great ale lovers so hops were a must!) on the guest table with lots more foliage and fairy lights.


We had festoon lighting that literally lit up the courtyard at the reception supplied by Typical Type. Darren and Rachel had the daunting task of threading leaf bunting through the fairy lights and it was so worth it – thanks, guys!


As a special touch, our table plan was based around Cockney rhyming slang as Robin and I met and spent the first five years of our relationship in London. I would say about 70% of our guests got it, the other 30% were pretty bewildered!


We struggled a lot with favours for the tables. We wanted something that reflected us both but also didn’t want to break the bank! In the end we settled on bookmarks (a nod to Robin’s love of books) with a quote from one of my favourite films with our wedding date. They had navy ribbon to fit with the colour scheme.

Our wedding cake was made by the very talented Zoe’s Fancy Cakes. It was three-tiered, with each tier a different flavour (the chocolate orange was a great choice!) We kept the cake simple – it was decorated with ruffles and was dusted with gold. Our cake topper was pretty special, though: Zoe made an owl couple just like the one on our save the dates, and we absolutely loved them!


When it came to the wedding breakfast, Rick, the head chef at Made In Leeds, really took our wild theme on board and created the most amazing sharing boards for our starters. He used lots of locally sourced ingredients and did such an amazing job. We have a few vegans in our family and we have to mention the veggie stew he made in a butternut squash case!

We chose some great New Zealand wines (helped by my uncle) to accompany the meal. We also had to have some real ale as both Robin and my dad are huge ale fans, and the Daleside Wedding Ale (Old Legover) went down a treat!


For the evening entertainment, we went for DJ Mark at Hi-Life entertainment. We really liked the fact that we could choose certain songs before the event (they have a great online music planner) and Mark was brilliant. He pretty much played all our guests’ requests – we sent out a song choice with our RSVPs. We left at quarter to midnight and we hear the party continued well past our departure!


Instead of having a regular guest book at the reception, we used a print of a tree and asked guests to leave a fingerprint and sign their names. It’s such a lovely keepsake to have in our home. One of my best friends is a very talented artist and she designed our invitations. We incorporated her drawings into our order of service and our wedding ale; in fact, it’s become a running joke that she’s designed a new family crest for us!

We also wanted to incorporate sparklers into the night somehow if the weather was good and our guests managed to create a sparkler tunnel that we ran through to our first dance, which was so great!


After our wedding, we would absolutely recommend our choice of venue to other couples. If you are looking to be able to put your stamp on your day, the Devonshire Hall is for you. They’re so flexible as to how you decorate the place – I think one year they had a fake beach! Jamie and Diane were an absolute joy to work with, they were so attentive and genuinely just wanted us to have the best day.

Looking back, it is so hard to pinpoint a favourite part of the day. I was so nervous before the ceremony so once the vows were said and we were sitting holding hands listening to the readings I felt so happy (and relieved!). My mum read a poem at the end of the speeches called ‘Love Listen’ by Anne Gray and this was a really special and surprisingly emotional moment. Rocking out with my dad to Sweet Child of Mine was a special moment too! It’s just so overwhelming to have all the people you love altogether in one room, and that’s probably what we both loved most about the day – and running through the sparkler tunnel!


For our honeymoon, we went to Iceland and New York. You probably couldn’t choose two more different places to go; going from the vast landscapes of Iceland to crazy, bustling NYC! Iceland was breath-taking – neither of us had been before and we loved exploring the city of Reykjavik and visiting the lagoons and natural springs that Iceland is so famous for. We’ve both been to New York a few times and we just enjoyed the gorgeous weather and strolling around Central Park, taking in all the sights. We broke the New York part up by going upstate for a few nights to the Catskill Mountains, which was a welcome relaxing part of a very busy honeymoon!


My top tip to other Brides Up North would be – have a draft table plan! This was the one thing we left to the last minute and it arrived the day before we got married. My mum had back-up cardboard and felt-tip pens at the ready! Otherwise, just stay true to yourselves. Have faith it’ll all come together and on the day, just relax and enjoy every moment. Take a few minutes together every so often just to have a quick chat about how crazy it is to be married. The day really does fly by so make sure you hug as many people as you can before you’re waving goodbye.

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