If a woodland wedding setting is the stuff of your dreams, then you’re in for a real treat, as today’s newlyweds, Zara and Mike, tied the knot in June of this year in the beautiful Lake District.
Their photographer, J.P.R Shah Photography, knew how to capture this breathtaking backdrop just perfectly, with gorgeous shots amidst the leafy trees and – one of our personal favourites – onboard a rowing boat. Could this be any more romantic?
What also sets this wedding apart is its intimate size, with only 25 close family and friends – and this includes the bride and groom. Doing things differently – there were no bridesmaids either. Other special touches that we just love include shots of homemade raspberry liquor for all the guests and Swedish massages for all the ladies on the day. Wedded bliss all-round!
With images by J.P.R Shah Photography.
zara says: We got engaged at home. I had recently given birth to our son and after a very difficult pregnancy and labour, Mike said to me that as he couldn’t take me out for a meal (due to our new baby) that he was going to cook me a three-course meal instead, but I had to get dressed up as though we were going out. He even provided alcohol-free champagne. He made a playlist of all my favourite songs and really did wine and dine me. He waited until my favourite song at the time Kodaline The One came on and at that point he got down on one knee and presented me with the ring box and asked me to marry him.
We got married on 1st June 2017. The start of June tends to have lovely weather, which was ideal as we wanted an outdoor wedding. It was also exactly two years from the day we had first visited our wedding venue of choice.
We tied the knot and held the reception at The Gilpin Lake House, just outside Windermere. Mike and I only ever looked at one wedding venue and we instantly fell in love. Not only was the venue one of the most amazing hotels, but the grounds were beautiful, the scenery was amazing and the lake was simply stunning too. This is even before mentioning the swimming pool, two hot tubs and the sauna that we had exclusive use of for our time there! As a special surprise we treated all the female guests to a full body Swedish massage.
Mike and I both have large families, so we decided that we wanted a very small wedding with immediate friends and family; a grand total of 25 people.
We had exclusive use of the lake house, so we arrived on the Wednesday and tied the knot on the Thursday. All our friends and family left on the Friday, but Mike and I stayed the extra night for a minimoon.
We didn’t have a theme, but we wanted everyone to be as relaxed as possible. Our guests were told to bring swimwear as once the wedding was complete, meals eaten and speeches done, we wanted our guests to enjoy themselves, as though they were on an actual holiday themselves.
I chose a lilac and pink colour scheme. These are my favourite colours and I chose the flowers for my bouquet before I did anything else. I wanted roses as they are my birth flower, along with lavender as it has such a stand out smell. Now every time I smell lavender I am reminded of my wedding day.
I had a very fitted lace Ronald Joyce wedding dress with a mesh back covered in crystals, detailed embroidery and lots of buttons. I got my wedding dress from a shop in Carlisle called Simply Koko Bridal. The owner Jacinta Cooper is amazing – she has so much knowledge and this was the only shop we visited as I knew that this dress was the one.
I went to the shop with a completely different dress in mind. I knew what I wanted; but when I tried the dress on, it just wasn’t me. After trying on several other dresses I finally got to the last dress. I tried it on, turned to look at myself and before I had time to say anything, my eldest son (who was four at the time) said, “Mummy you look like a princess”. I had already fallen in love with the dress but after he said that, I then knew it was the one.
I used Amy Balfry from Dashing Dolls to do my wedding day makeup. She really is an outstanding makeup artist and made me feel truly beautiful.
I didn’t have any bridesmaids and we didn’t do the standard best man or father-of-the-bride and groom in the same attire. We only had Mike and our two sons in the matching suits, tails and all. These two suits were also Peter Posh from The Wedding Warehouse in Carlisle.
Our photographer was John Shahabeddin from J.P.R Shah Photography. I don’t even need to say how good he is, when people see our wedding photos they can instantly see how brilliant he is! Not only does he produce the most outstandingly beautiful photographs, but he is also a complete gentleman. When I started looking at photographers who excelled at lake and woodland photography there was only one who stood out, and that was John and I knew I had to have him capture our wedding as only he could show the true beauty of our venue. John doesn’t do the stereotypical wedding photography. Instead, he photographed us in the deepest parts of the forest or in a rowing boat on the lake; he sees things that others miss and captures not only how perfect your day is, but the beauty around it too.
In terms of the flowers, I had a hand-tied bouquet of vandela and amnesia roses with ivory and soft pink spray roses with a scattered accent of lavender. My cousin, who helped walk me down the forest, had the same flowers but on a wrist corsage. The groom, best man, father-of-the-bride and father-of-the-groom and our two children all had buttonholes to match. They were provided by Alex Brooker who runs The Flower Shop on The Slacks in Ambleside.
The flowers were also used to decorate the venue and its sister hotel The Gilpin Hotel. We had flowers on all of the tables and also around the cake.
As for decorations, in the napkins on the table we had little notes saying, “Thank you for sharing our first meal as Mr and Mrs Wilson”. I also got big ‘M&Z’ light-up letters, which we displayed in the lounge room, and I made some of the smaller decorations myself.
As favours, we gave all our guests a little envelope that contained a lottery ticket (sadly none of them were winning tickets). We also gave our guests a shot of homemade raspberry liquor which came in a little shot jar with a label attached saying “we’ve tied the knot, now have a shot”.
I am gluten and dairy-free due to intolerances, so when we looked at getting a cake made we needed to make sure that it was something I could eat. Shirley from J’aime Cakes Kendal made our cake and it was stunning! It was gold with a large iced flower on the top with the word ‘love’ and smaller iced roses around the bottom, all matching the colour and style of my wedding bouquet. None of my guests could believe that the cake was both dairy and gluten-free; it was beautiful.
Food-wise, we started with canapés and Pimms out in the gardens once the ceremony had finished. The wedding breakfast started with an amuse bouche, followed by roast tomato, lemon grass and lime soup, then salmon with piccalilli flavours, cucumber jelly and puffed black rice. For mains, we had two options of braised feather blade of longhorn beef or fillet of salted cod. For desserts, guests could choose from iced lemon parfait with raspberry sorbet or orange cake. Mike and I chose the menu, with a little help from my father Craig. We had been to a taster day and we obviously wanted to create a stunning taste sensation and also select dishes that I could either eat or that could be adapted. As for the wine, we matched the wines for each course, we started with a very refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, going onto a Malbec for the main. In the evening, we had a barbecue and a selection of cheeses from around the world.
In terms of music, the venue had its own sound system, which had speakers all around the hotel and its grounds. I walked into a string instrumental of Thinking Out Loud by Daniel Jang. We then designed a playlist for the wedding ceremony, wedding breakfast and the remainder of the day. This was a mixture of current songs and some of our favourites from different decades – from Prince to The Jackson 5.
Following our wedding, I would recommend The Gilpin Lake House to anyone. Tomas, who runs The Lake House with his team, was outstanding. Nothing is too much, the team are so professional at all times. With the help of Tomas, planning my wedding – and the running of the day itself – were just perfection.
Looking back, I can’t really pick my favourite part of the day, as the whole day was amazing. I was surrounded by my closest friends and family, I had my two children by my side and I got to marry my best friend.
One highlight though, was later in the evening when everyone was in the large hot tub, from my gran who is in her 80s to my youngest who is two. Everyone was just having the most fun. This is what Mike and I had envisioned the first time we saw the venue.
As yet we haven’t had our honeymoon, it was sadly back to work and normal life once the minimoon had ended. As a treat, we took our sons for a little break to Center Parcs in Whinfell Forest. We are planning on going away closer to Christmas time, to get a bit of winter sun with our boys.
My top tip for other Brides Up North is: it’s never too early to start planning. I had picked my wedding dress within weeks of setting the date. It’s best to get bits early rather than leaving everything to the last minute and rushing things.
I would also say, enjoy every single part of it. Enjoy being engaged, enjoy all the preparation and the build up – and mostly the day itself – as before you know it, it will all be over. It can be years of planning but really savour the day, relax and enjoy.