North West Wedding

real wedding recap: ronald joyce for a romantic wedding at ashton memorial – melissa & craig

Rachel Hirst

It’s holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a short break, we’ll be leaving you with a reduced blogging schedule so that you still get your daily dose of wedding lovely. Usual service will recommence on Monday 9th January 2017 but in the meantime watch out for recaps of some of our favourite Real Weddings from 2016. 

Drop in every day for the very prettiest, most unique wedding inspiration and – if you are a Brides Up North bride – to see if your real wedding was one of our top picks.


We love that today’s real wedding has been influenced by two different styles – wild nature and glamour – that when brought together, complement each other perfectly!

Everything about Melissa and Craig’s big day is utterly gorgeous; from the choice of ceremony venue, styling and elegant colour scheme, to the bridal party’s stunning attire.

Though there is a lot of beauty to be admired, standout details for us include Melissa’s handmade headpiece, the blousy bouquets and both the bride and groom’s fancy footwear!

With images by Pixies in the Cellar.


melissa says:

We got engaged during the trip of a lifetime. I’d quit my job, Craig had taken a sabbatical and we travelled around the world together for five months, it was our dream and we decided it was now or never! We trekked the Inca Trail, travelled Australia by bus, walked the Great Wall of China and learnt to scuba dive in Thailand. At every great landmark we visited Craig made me pose with a sign with a single letter on and took a photo. He’s always full of kooky ideas and told me it was for a surprise collage when we got back. So I held aloft a ‘V’ at Machu Picchu, an ‘E’ at the Sydney Opera House, an ‘M’ in Halong Bay and so on!

On the final night of our trip we went all out and booked the Lebua hotel in Bangkok (The Hangover 2 film hotel!) As we got ready for a special meal Craig went out to ask what time the rooftop bar opened, then the bellboy rang the door with a big envelope. Inside were all the photos of me with the letters and a note – they were numbered and I had to re-arrange them, if I understood then I was to go and find him. I re-ordered them and it spelled out “Veux tu m’epouser?” – will you marry me in French! I had lived in Paris for several years and this was also so I wouldn’t have guessed throughout the trip if it were spelt in English! As a typical woman I rushed to finish half my hair and get on my shoes… then there was a knock at the door, Craig on one knee! Too nervous and impatient waiting for me, he proposed right there & I very happily said “Oui!” We had a wonderful night celebrating in the rooftop bar.

We set the wedding date for Saturday 23rd July 2016. We chose this date, as it would mark seven years since our first date.



Being some of the last people in our friendship group to marry, we were determined to find a different venue, where none of our friends had been married before us. Although we had loved the idea of a destination wedding it just wasn’t practical family wise so we had to find somewhere that wowed us closer to home. As Craig is rather tall we wanted somewhere with grandeur but not really a church – when we visited Ashton Memorial it all fell into place. It immediately appealed to me – it was a beautiful domed building, all light and windows, surrounded by nature and spectacular views. We also loved the fact Lord Ashton had built it as a tribute to his wife.

We then had to find somewhere for our reception. After a lot of searching we found Forrest Hills, a relatively new multi-purpose venue, which had hosted some lovely weddings. Upon visiting we loved the wild natural beauty and secluded location. Also, the option of an open-side marquee next to the lake combined our dream of an open air wedding and the practicality for British weather, just in case.


Our theme was ‘wild natural glamour’ – a bit of a running joke with our florist. We had two sides to our wedding – one side the cottage like reception venue, the cascading flowers intertwined with driftwood and our marquee with open sides to allow the real ‘outdoor’ feeling we wanted. On the other side we loved the glamorous elements – an ice sculpture, popping a giant gold bottle of champagne instead of cutting the cake, Craig in a tuxedo and a beautiful cream Rolls Royce as transport. We loved the mix of the two to fit our personalities.

We decided early on to have a duck egg blue colour scheme with accents of gold. It felt like it matched the theme of the day – wild natural surroundings and dramatic venues, with some glamour!


As I own my own occasion wear brand, people kept asking if I was going to design my own wedding dress – but I couldn’t face the visualisation required and the extra stress! Luckily when I came across the Ronald Joyce Erin gown on Pinterest, it was beautifully styled on a bride and I had to try it. I always wanted a fitted fishtail gown with a beautiful back and this dress was just that, the crystal beads draped at the back and the low sheer lace detail ticked all my boxes. The experience at Emma Louise Bridal was friendly and personal, I didn’t feel pressured into anything and they gave honest opinions. My mum and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole dress shopping experience (all 20 or so shops!), it will always be a time I’ll treasure, just the two of us.

Accessories wise I knew I wanted a long dramatic veil – but with the detail on the dress it had to be quite simple. I chose a two-layer chapel length veil in soft ivory tulle, from The Wedding Veil Shop. I loved the way it fell over my shoulders and was sheer enough to see the back detail on the dress.

One of the main accessories for my look was the headpiece – I had lusted over some beautiful freshwater pearl styles but my budget didn’t quite stretch. Not one to be deterred I took two lengths of pearl and crystal flowers I sourced online and intertwined them to make the full dramatic headpiece I desired, able to wrap around the front and back. With my masses of hair I knew it wouldn’t overpower my look.


craig says:

I love fashion almost as much as Melissa! I knew she had always fancied the idea of me in a tuxedo and wanted to wear something she would really love. It suited the theme of our day and I knew would make me feel extra special even more so than a standard suit or tails. My shoes were definitely my ‘wow’ piece – studded sole patent Givenchy brogues, they made my tuxedo look that extra bit more special and would show up in photographs! I knew I wanted to design my own suit from the beginning, we’ve been through Bangkok a few times on our travels and Gulati is a brilliant tailor I knew I could rely on. Using my previous measurements and choosing fabric over email, it was definitely a risk, but the faith paid off. I asked Melissa’s business partner designer, Yasmin, to draw up my suit and sent over the details – a specific angular collar, shawl neck detail on the jacket and slim fitted trousers. It all came together and I loved their detail of embroidering our names and wedding date into the inside pocket. Lanvin mother-of-pearl cufflinks, pocket square and black pocket watch gift from Melissa finished it off perfectly.


melissa says:

For the beautiful adult bridesmaids we knew we wanted full length and it was by chance we saw the pleated drape-back dresses on ASOS. We ordered them to try and just knew they were perfect for everyone. Teamed with plaited up-do’s to show off the back detail they were simple and elegant.

For the little flower girls and middle bridesmaid, Paris, we loved the look of white full tulle and easy-to-move-in dresses. Paris was most difficult just as she’s not a little girl, she’s 12! She loved her dress though from Chichi London, it was the right combination of pretty and youthful. The little flower girls Eva and Maisie wore butterfly embellished tulle dresses from Monsoon. All finished off with tulle embroidered headbands that tied into their hair, everyone commented on how beautiful and happy they looked.

The groomsmen wore a simplified version of Craig’s suit, a slick tuxedo from Marks & Spencer, with bib-front shirt and duck egg linen bowtie from Etsy. They complemented the bridal party and scrubbed up extremely well.


To provide transport on the wedding day, we hired a vintage Rolls Royce as the bridal car and Daimler for the bridesmaids, both from Broughton Wedding Cars. We also hired a vintage double decker bus from Classic Buses to transport the guests between venues and home late at night.


Always ones for something different, we searched for a photographer that captured weddings a little differently. When we found Pixies in the Cellar, we were of course firstly struck by their awesome name, and secondly by their beautiful dramatic photos which captured the natural surroundings. Speaking to Sara and Pete, we were thrilled to have two wonderful photographers capturing different angles and felt they would be a great choice for our venue and our style. On the day we loved their experimental style and use of the surroundings, not going for the obvious location and really capturing the emotion of the day. Our favourite photos are the piggyback shots, taken because I couldn’t get back down the hill that we had walked up. We also loved their use of Ashton Memorial – with Pete running off into the woods to capture a long range shot, leaving us with the instruction to stay together! We would thoroughly recommend Sara and Pete; they were professional, friendly and genuine – and fantastic photographers!

We also had our day filmed by Marcus J Richardson, of Mini Mammoth Films.


For my bouquet I wanted a trailing natural finish, with fullness and a modern feel. Jane, from Flower Design, used white sweet peas as my dad always grows these each summer and brings them to my house. The finished result, with pillow-soft peonies and soft grey roses, was delicate and dramatic in equal parts – I loved it!


Flower Design took care of the venue flowers too. Experienced specialists with weddings, their style suited ours and we loved that they cleverly re-used the ceremony flowers – the registrar table becoming the top table, the bridesmaid bouquets becoming table posies, the wreaths being re-draped across the window ledges and stairs. They made the simple venues magical.


The draping on the stairs at reception the reception was provided by Razzle Dazzle. Some other main focal pieces of our décor included a vintage flower cart, which originally came from Holland. My mum and I lovingly painted it and trimmed with flower garlands, and finally filling with sweet treats. My mum really does deserve a special mention for dedicating hours of her time, sourcing, tying ribbons and often covered in glue and dust from the sander!

We were also gifted a beautiful barrel from a previous wedding – with a hole and trap door to make it functional for putting cards in.


Our wedding stationery was provided by Cartalia. We used an artist’s watercolour of the reception venue for evening invitations and menus.

We made our own table plan, using a tree template bought from Etsy. My mum and I spent a few hours sourcing paper flowers and a frame, making sure it was just right. It was finished off with a beautiful hand carved easel added by Craig. He later used the easel to present my wedding gift – a commissioned drawing from a friend and renowned artist, Lizzie Mary Cullen. The intricate drawing combined all the places on our world trip. In the centre of the picture is our wedding venue, Ashton memorial. It was the most thoughtful and unexpected gift, just wonderful!


In a nod to our summer wedding our favours were straw trilby hats for the men, with customised duck egg ribbons with the wedding date. For the ladies we chose beautiful duck egg fans with gold writing, sourced from the amazing Etsy. These came in very useful on the day as the sun decided to show up for the occasion. We also had Jaegermeister ‘shots of love’ for Craig’s speech and some amazing personalised M&M’s as extra favours.

Our wedding cake by Sweet Design Studios, consisted of three tiers: lemon, red velvet and vanilla. We themed it to match the duck egg and gold colours with plenty of detail and texture. We decided not to do the traditional cutting of the cake and instead took a huge jeroboam of champagne down to the lakeside and popped the cork together. It got everyone in the party spirit and we made sure that everyone had a share.


For the reception drinks we had our favourite Chambord and prosecco, as well as beers and Guinness for the boys. Canapés were a mixture of our favourites from all the other lovely weddings we’ve attended – Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, Thai oriental fishcakes and buffalo mozzarella with tomato. We also served chocolate covered strawberries, which went down a treat! For the wedding breakfast we had a combination of our favourite dishes and something those we thought most guests would like – it’s hard to please everyone but we tried! As a starter we had Mediterranean bruschetta, followed by mains of chicken in a wild mushroom and tarragon sauce, with our favourite dauphinoise potatoes and plenty of greens. Dessert was a choice of banoffee pie or Eaton mess, I had both! Newfields Catering Services provided the food.


Ashton Memorial was the sort of venue which deserved to have some live music, the setting and the acoustics were perfect, so it was a given for us to have a live string quartet. The Highgate String Quartet had a great repertoire, including some of our favourites – All You Need Is Love and The Greatest Day by Take That.  I can picture now the moments in the ceremony where I heard them playing these songs.

For the evening entertainment we had toyed with a salsa ‘gipsy kings’ type band, which I know we would have loved, but we questioned the suitability for everyone and also to last the whole night. When we heard the band Daddy-o’s demo we knew they had the right feel for us – a mix of Mumford & Sons with some classic rock, and also we knew they’d sound great playing our first dance, Better Together by Jack Johnson. They did not disappoint, the dance floor was full all night and created wonderful memories of dancing to their music.


Ashton Memorial is a spectacular venue for a wedding; from the location on the hill overlooking the city of Lancaster and the Morecambe Bay, to the beautiful domed building itself. We loved that our guests were seated in a semi-circle around us, it gave a really intimate feeling and everyone could really watch and listen to the ceremony. We’d thoroughly recommend it to any couple looking for a non-religious venue that still has a feeling of grandeur, with great photo opportunities.

Looking back it’s so hard to pick a favourite part of our day, it’s a cliché but I really did love it all – from the getting ready with all the girls to the arriving home together at the end of the night thinking “wow, what a day”. If I had to choose though, I’d say my favourite part was saying our own vows. We were extremely nervous and had put a lot of thought into preparing them. It felt so special to say something so personal to each other and in front of all our closest friends and family, yet it also felt like it was just us two there alone.


We based our honeymoon destination choice on the time of year and also somewhere we hadn’t been before – settling on Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We spent ten days travelling Sri Lanka with a driver; it was such a luxury for us having been mostly backpackers together. We visited the tea plantations up in the hills and saw elephants on safari in the south, it was a great adventure and the people were exceptional, they made such a fuss of us being on honeymoon. We then took a short half-hour flight to the Maldives, staying on Kuramathi Island. It was everything we expected the Maldives would be – even the flight in was spectacular! We ate, drank and swam in the beautiful crystal clear sea for five days – even snorkelling with sharks! It was the perfect relaxation after a busy ten days travelling and an even busier few months planning our wedding.


My top tip to other Brides Up North would be to ask your previously married friends if they have any leftover wedding props they don’t need any longer. It’s amazing what you can get and a great way to save on budget, whilst re-using something another couple loved. I’d also say really consider what you want from your wedding – if you want photos in the countryside make sure there’s plenty of places nearby you can go, if you dream of candlelight at your venue – make sure they allow it, as we found out last minute they didn’t!

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