Where to start with today’s beautiful real wedding? There’s a magnificent, grand venue, two dress changes for the bride, some fabulous floral and amazing entertainment!
All bride Kimberley’s childhood dreams can true when she and beau Simon stumbled upon Allerton Castle in North Yorkshire, which provided the perfect fairy tale backdrop to their fine celebrations.
It was also important to Kimberley that her Chinese roots and traditions were incorporated into the wedding, and so the day featured ‘door games’, a tea ceremony and a lion dance! Here to explain exactly what this consisted of is the beautiful bride herself. Take it away Kimberley…
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor York Place Studios.
kimberley says: We got engaged on 9th May 2015. My girlfriends took me out for the afternoon to celebrate my birthday which was a few days earlier. One of them feigned sick and we were close to my place so they asked if we could go there to lie down for a bit. As soon as I opened the door I could tell something was up because it was super tidy and there were tea lights everywhere. I walked into the living room and Simon took my hand and sat me down then asked me to watch a video. It turned out to be a video that he had put together of me, telling our story from the beginning up to our engagement. The first night we met, instead of talking to me he took loads of pictures of me. Since then it’s been a running joke that he’s my personal photographer which is why he put the video of me together, basically me doing all kinds of silly things and it was his way of showing how I looked in his eyes. Towards the end of the video, he added in clips from rom-coms with cheesy lines and ending with Forrest Gump where Forrest proposes to Jenny. Then Simon proposed to me and I noticed that the girls had been filming in the background the whole time!
Simon then said he had another surprise and led us out of the flat. We went to a pub and as we walked in I saw our friends and family there, some who travelled down to London from Harrogate and Manchester! Simon told me he’d also organised a surprise engagement party for that evening. We went to the Candlenight Club all dressed up, Great Gatsby style. It was a fantastic day and I had the best time!
Our wedding took place on 25th June 2016, at Allerton Castle, near Harrogate. Since I was a little girl, I’d always gone on about getting married in a castle. When we started looking for venues, we looked at places close to Harrogate so that Simon’s family could attend and found Allerton Castle. I loved the beautiful main hall and ballroom – it was the perfect setting for our wedding. I also loved the grand staircase and chandeliers; it meant that I hardly needed to decorate the venue because it was already so decadent and suited us perfectly, especially as I’m known for being over the top.
There wasn’t really a theme to the day as such, we just wanted to be able to incorporate both our cultures into the wedding.
The day started with the door games, which is a Chinese tradition where the groom and groomsmen come to the bride’s house (in our case a rented holiday property for the weekend) to pick up the bride. The boys are met by the bridesmaids who put them through a series of challenges to see if the groom is worthy of the bride. This tradition is a symbol of the love of the bride’s family and their unwillingness for their daughter to leave. The door games end with the bridesmaids bartering for an “entrance fee” of red envelopes. The amount of money inside the envelopes is also symbolic and will often be a combination of three, eight, nine because in Chinese, three sounds like life, eight sounds like wealth and nine denotes the idea of longevity and being together forever.
Once I’d been ‘picked up’, we travelled to Allerton Castle to get ready. I then got changed in the bridal suite, which is a beautiful room that I wish was my bedroom all the time!
We had the civil ceremony and then the blessing, which incorporated the spiritual element that we wanted as part of our day without having a church wedding. I then got changed again into my Chinese traditional dress, and my husband put on his Chinese gilet and got wrapped up in a nice big red bow!
We got to walk down the staircase again where the front of the hall had been set up with a bench for the tea ceremony. This is where we kneel in front of our elders in order of seniority, one (or a couple) at a time and offer them tea. Traditionally, after each elder takes a sip, they hand the couple lucky red envelopes, which usually contain money or jewellery. For Cantonese weddings, a common gift is a pair of gold bangles called ‘dragon and phoenix bangles’. For the bride; the dragon and the phoenix being regarded as the perfect couple of “Yang” and “Yin” in Feng Shui that represent love, harmony and marital bliss.
After the tea ceremony, we all stepped out into the gardens and watched a lion dance performance by Leeds Chinese Community Association, which was a fantastic way to wrap things up. Just before it started raining!
We then had a lovely reception in the ballroom where the floral arrangements I discussed with my florist were showcased and really enhanced the room. We had some touching and hilarious speeches as well after a delicious meal before cutting the cake and heading out onto the dance floor!
For my wedding gown, I chose a mermaid style dress with a low back, lots of lace and cathedral length veil. I tried on quite a few dresses when I first got engaged but didn’t find anything that I really loved. The designers that I really wanted were outside of my budget and I’m only 4’11’’ so I was also concerned about dresses not fitting me proportionally. I found a designer in Hong Kong who listened to my specifications and designed a dress for me.
My Chinese traditional dress was also quite unique. The dress is always red; made up of a straight floor length skirt and three-quarter length jacket with a high neckline. They are both decorated all over, with details throughout. What was different is my dress was beaded whereas in most cases it is hand embroidered in silver and gold thread.
My hair and makeup was taken care of by Bling Bridal and Beauty.
For the door games in the morning, both parties wore some form of Chinese dress. The groomsmen’s outfits actually came from Thailand, where we were on holiday with our family and stumbled across them in a shopping mall. They were in two colours; luminous green and pink. The bridesmaids’ dresses were from Hong Kong and were all red, but in two different styles.
The bridesmaids’ dresses were also from Hong Kong. They were all in a chiffon material and the dress maker could change the top half of the dress to a number of different styles. I preferred my bridesmaids to have different styles so I asked them to choose and it turned out my maid of honours wanted the same style so the two of them wore the same one. The dress maker got them made in a couple months and they arrived back in the UK for the girls to try on.
The groomsmen’s suits came from Jack Bunneys. Simon chose a modern navy morning suit which looked really smart on them and fit really well compared to other more nationwide suppliers we were looking at. It made Simon, the dads and the groomsmen look very dashing on the big day. The style suited all ages and they were measured and tailored really well.
I did as much DIY as I could for the wedding. Mostly to save money but also because I’m really picky and nothing done by other people was really what I wanted.
I designed all the invites which made use of my self-taught photoshop skills from when I was at school. I bought a font and a couple of watercolour art stock online and used them throughout all the wedding stationery so it was good value for money! Once I designed the invites to my liking, my mum used one of her contacts from work to print them for me. My family and I then spent an evening in a factory line; guillotining the prints, compiling them based on the different events people were invited to, wrapping them up with a bow, putting them in envelopes etc.
I also created the menus on the table, the name cards, the tokens for drinks after the reception, recipe cards for the favours, some Yorkshire phrases cards to keep people entertained during dinner and the template for our photobooth printout. The booth came from Booth Revolution.
Our table plan was a floral world map, printed on acetate and then stuck onto a gold gilded mirror.
Simon and I love cooking and trying out new restaurants so we wanted our favours to be unique to us. We decided to create our own spice mix for slow roasting meat (one of our favourite things). The mix is our secret but the whole family sat down in the dining room to fill up the jars with it! The jars were blue and white Chinese looking ‘vases’ small enough to hold enough of the spice mix.
As a thank you to our guests who had travelled long distances to be at our wedding, we put together some hampers containing Hong Kong and Yorkshire snacks and goodies and delivered them to their rooms/apartments so that when they checked in, they’d see the gift from us.
The biggest DIY task Simon and I did was to create two six-foot-tall flower pillars. The frame was built by a local craftsman and the rest was up to us. We stapled chicken wire to each side and painstakingly intertwined fake flower vines throughout. It took a long time and was difficult to do as we had to make sure there was sufficient coverage. To make it worse, I had decided to use different shades of pink so that flowers had to look randomly spread out. The pillars looked beautiful on the day and was totally worth it because we made them ourselves and it cost far less than what it would be to rent. At the time, I couldn’t find any flower wall suppliers.
Red Floral did an amazing job with the wedding flowers, which consisted of light pink peonies, coral charm peonies, dahlias and avalanche roses. Mat listened to everything I asked for, took the time to review my Pinterest board and worked with me on my budget to get the result I wanted. He was also honest in his opinions on what arrangements there should be.
Our wedding cake was made by Joanna Rose. We decided in the end that we just wanted as simple a cake as we could have. It was a two-tiered cake with pearl necklace piping and a spray of sugar flowers on the side, which were a rose and peony and matched the stationery that we had provided her as inspiration.
Entertainment-wise, we had a quartet from The Event Music Company playing before and during the civil ceremony and blessing which consisted of three strings and a piano. The quartet was incredible, with a great selection of music to choose from and playing at just the right volume and speed to create the right atmosphere. They also learnt a song to accompany my friend who was sang during the blessing which I was so grateful for as it meant a lot to me to hear that song. The best thing was that I had a very specific request for Elbow’s One Day Like This to be played as soon as we kissed (think ‘cue music’ like in the movies) and they did that perfectly!
In the evening, we had a band called Gravity, provided by Tailored Entertainment, which we knew were going to be amazing but they exceeded expectations. First of all, they learnt our first dance song but what was really good was that they played about a verse and a chorus of it so it was great timing and didn’t mean we were dancing for ages. And then at the request of my husband, they seamlessly switched from the first dance song to My Girl so that I could have my daddy-daughter dance. This was a last-minute change and it was just amazing how they could go with the flow like that. We all then got onto the dance floor and everyone had a blast with the band!
Looking back, I don’t think I could pick a favourite part of the day! We had so many different things incorporated into our wedding that were so different from each other. It was just great to have so many of my friends and family around. We had friends from the US and India and a lot of my family from Hong Kong were there as well.
We also had a wedding celebration that some of our UK friends and family attended in Hong Kong. Afterwards we went on a minimoon to Thailand for a few days to relax. Our actual honeymoon was only recently (coinciding with our first anniversary) and we went on a big adventure to Peru. It was definitely a once in a lifetime trip where we spent time in the Amazon, saw Machu Picchu, took a luxury sleeper train across the country, and so much more!
My top tip to other Brides Up North would be – do all the stressing you want before your big day but forget about it all on the day because you should focus on enjoying yourself! Make sure there are at least two other people that know exactly what you have planned so they can sort it all out for you on the day. Take moments along the day to take in what has just happened and cherish the memories!