For today’s real wedding, we’re escaping to the serene and picture-perfect backdrop of the National Wildflower Centre for Hannah and Leon’s special day.
After seven years together, the couple said ‘I do’ at Runcorn Town Hall before celebrating with family and friends in the unconventional Wildflower Centre, set in the 35 acre Victorian Court Hey Park, for a wedding with a boho twist.
There are so many wonderful and heartfelt touches to this wedding – from the couple’s ‘posh’ picnic and specially crafted cocktails, to their handmade decorations and blessings in the pretty surroundings of a meadow.
With images by Hayley Blackledge Photography
hannah says: We got engaged on our first real Christmas living together. We had opened all our gifts and Leon said he had forgotten one, so he went to get it while I opened my last gift. I turned around and there he was on one knee. He did the traditional full name and full question – it was perfect. My last gift was a Westlife album of all “our songs” from when we first started going out as kids. On the back, he had written me a full proposal that I could keep forever.
We were married on 30th July 2016, exactly one week after our seven-year anniversary. Leon is a teacher so we wanted the wedding to take place while he was off school, which meant this date was perfect.
We had two separate venues for our wedding day. The first was Runcorn Town Hall for the ceremony, and the reception was hosted at the National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool. The first time we visited, we walked through the wildflowers, explored the park and sat by the pond with my parents and sister, and we fell in love with the place. I noticed a tiny poster offering venue hire for events and we never looked back once we were given the price. Our parents were married in Runcorn Town Hall so it held a lot of sentimental value for us. Plus, it’s very beautiful.
We didn’t aim to have a theme, but ended up with a laid-back posh picnic – quite a mix! We wanted to create a beautiful space and that meant the right decorations rather than one set theme or colour.
The colour theme grew over time and became much more relaxed the closer we got to the big day. We started with navy (Leon’s suit), white (my dress) and peach (bridesmaid dresses). Over time we added gold, greens, wood tones, pinks and other pastel colours in the same shade. It looked great!
When it came to my outfit, I didn’t want to look like the “classic bride” and wanted something a touch more vintage and boho. There was one store on Bold Street in Liverpool, Cherry Blossom Boutique, which I tried to call into at least three times. Every time I called over, I’d mistimed it. I managed to make it along one afternoon though and found my dress. I tried two dresses on and then there it was: my Gino Cerruti. The full-length gown had an illusion neckline, a waist synching band and low back, and was covered in hoops of clear beads. I paired my dress with chunky heeled T-bar New Look shoes and a handmade veil from my nan. I then swapped my heels for white flats for most of the day.
Leon wore a navy three-piece suit, with a waistcoat of a different texture from Next. He teamed this with a white shirt with handmade Marvel Spiderman cufflinks and socks, and a pink tie from Burton, with a pink pocket square. To complete his ensemble, he wore brown brogues from Tesco and a squirrel silver tiepin.
My bridesmaids Jessica (bestie) and Emily (little sister) wore dresses in the shades of peach-terracotta. They were low cut, and had mid-length sleeves, waist belts and a long overlay with a huge thigh high slit. They were from Glamorous in Manchester and even came with student discount. These were paired with silk flower crowns from Claire’s and each bridesmaid chose their own shoes and bags. Emily decided to wear pink T-bar shoes with a chunky heel and no bag, whilst Jess settled on black wedges with a black embroidered bag. They both looked incredible!
For the bridal party’s hair and makeup, we used Kelly Green from K Louise Studio, who is based in Warrington. She is amazing and everybody loved her on the day. Nothing was too much trouble and we would highly recommend her.
Leon’s best man David wore a navy three-piece suit from Debenhams, a matching pink tie and pocket square with brown brogues and his Marvel Hulk cufflinks and socks.
A family friend provided our transport. He drives a black Mercedes, which we decorated with ribbons. It was perfect and Graham our “driver” is such a sweetheart and gentleman.
Our photographer was the amazing Hayley Blackledge. She was so wonderful and dedicated. She was there any time we needed her and was beyond incredible to us both. She is so creative and made everything we wanted to happen.
Amore Flowers in Widnes, supplied our flowers for the day including the button holes. I was desperate for peonies but the suppliers explained that because of seasonality, I might have to settle for silk rather than fresh. They were so wonderful and reassuring and made my long stemmed wild and wonderful bouquet (with roses) look oh so beautiful. You couldn’t even tell the peonies were silk. And I get to keep them, which is wonderful!
We made pretty much all our own decorations and tried to save money where possible. We bought all decorations or supplies from eBay or discount stores like B&M. We made paper chains, used garlands and pompoms where possible, had homemade metallic fabric table runners, decorated glass jars, solar lights, huge balloons and two beautifully adapted pallets – one with our initials and old photos on, and the other was used as a stand for the guest board (also homemade). It was wonderful to make it all ourselves, and it saved us a huge amount of money.
We used the jars as vases on each table and around the venue. We split bunches of M&S flowers across all the jars. Our families were amazing the day before and helped us set the venue up, along with my best friend Jess and the staff at the National Wildflower Centre. Everyone worked so hard for us.
Our family provided parts of the day as our wedding gifts, which was a massive help. Leon’s nana Chris made our cake as her and grandad Ted’s gift to us. It was two tiers of fruit cake, with beautifully colour matched peach and white roses. She had even printed every inch of both tiers with little love hearts. It was so beautiful and tasted incredible! We decided in advance that we only wanted two layers but other than that, Chris made all of the creative decisions.
We wanted the food to be relaxed and enjoyable. We had a “posh” picnic where everyone could help themselves, instead of a traditional wedding breakfast.
We then had Scouse and vegetarian chilli with all the trimmings for the reception. It was all provided by Chef Kirsten at the Wildflower Centre and tasted fantastic; everyone raved about it. When we booked the venue, they didn’t have a license to sell alcohol, so we could supply our own. Everyone brought with them exactly what they wanted to drink; we provided some mixers and then had our very own cocktail jar each, designed by a bartender friend. Mine “The Burkey” was a tequila sour and Leon’s “The Doyle” was gin and rhubarb. They went down a treat!
We kept the entertainment simple and just had a DJ from Music Mix Entertainment. He was a star, he played exactly the sort of music we wanted and provided all his own lights and equipment at no extra cost.
The most special of touches, I think, was our blessings in the meadow. We asked some of our closest friends to choose and read a blessing to us and our future. I wanted an extra touch from day one, I am very spiritual but Leon is not, and neither of us are religious, so those sorts of blessings weren’t going to work for both of us. This form of blessing, however, was perfect. Our four friends, James, Grace, Jess and Jane all said completely different things that meant so much!
I would recommend each and every one of our suppliers, but I would also suggest trusting your gut and only ever go with the suppliers you feel good about!
I know for a fact that without a moment’s thought, Leon and myself would both recommend our venue to anyone and everyone. What is so wonderful though, is that I am almost certain that all of our friends and family members would recommend the National Wildflower Centre too. The staff are all incredible and can’t do enough for you, the grounds are beautiful and the atmosphere is just wonderful. You would be a fool to overlook this venue, plus value for money doesn’t even come close!
Our favourite parts of the day were all the moments in which we were whisked away to have photos taken. It was a chance to just be us and have a chat and a laugh along the way. We could enjoy spending time with one another and it’s wonderful that these are also the majority of the moments that were photographed.
We went to Malta on our honeymoon. We stayed at Ramla Bay Resort, which was the most amazing hotel with a private beach. We have been to Malta and Gozo before and loved it. It’s such a beautiful island full of history and culture, which we explored during our stay. The heat and scenery was everything we remembered. It was the dream honeymoon full of amazing food, good drink, wonderful people and all sorts of little adventures. Malta and Gozo is very much our heart home and it’s wonderful that it’s now our honeymoon location now too. It’s the best place ever!
My top tips for other Brides Up North would be to relax and enjoy the experience. It’s your day, let it play out, don’t worry about other people – the people who care will be there and will never once make your life difficult. It’s all about the two of you, so don’t get lost in all the other stuff!