Yes, we have a dress crush. Today’s bride Arlene wanted to look like a Bond girl on her big day and we reckon she absolutely nailed it in a gorgeous, backless Rosa Clará number with a graceful silhouette and divine vintage detailing on the shoulders and down the back. We also have garden envy, because the grounds at today’s venue, Arley Hall, would give any National Trust property a run for its money: deep borders bursting with colour and texture are juxtaposed with crisp topiary and rich red brickwork. The photographs offer up a visual feast.
In a colour scheme of navy and dusky pink, Arlene and Simon went for an elegant, regal feel with a touch of femininity to complement the glorious Elizabethan-style Victorian country house. With its opulent interiors, who could fail to feel a little bit Bond-esque?
With images by Cris Matthews Photography.
arlene says: Simon proposed to me at home on August bank holiday in 2015, after more than six years together with bubbles, Bob Marley playing and a display of photographs of us on our fabulous holidays. We then went to Gaucho in Manchester for steak dinner and he had organised a surprise party with our close friends at Epernay. The next day I was whisked off to Moddershall Oaks for an overnight spa break.
We got married on Saturday 29th July 2017. We wanted a summer day and a weekend, as we have a lot of teacher friends. My dad flew over from Panama to walk me down the aisle and the date also worked well for my 11-year-old stepsister and her school holidays in Panama.
Our chosen venue was Arley Hall & Gardens, Cheshire. We had our ceremony in the drawing room, the wedding breakfast in the gallery and the reception at Olympia Barn on site. I visited the venue one afternoon with some friends, as it’s open to visitors. I fell in love instantly – butterflies! Simon loved it as much as I did. Arlene driving up Arley Road to marry at Arley Hall – it was meant to be!
We also liked the venue as it was local and had a good mix of rooms to use and stunning gardens. Plus, I liked the idea of having a more informal area for the evening guests to party.
I wanted a fairly simple, elegant, classy style for the day. The venue is so opulent that I didn’t want to take away from/spoil its beauty. We would definitely recommend the venue: as well as it being utterly gorgeous, the staff were professional and friendly and we felt reassured the day would run smoothly.
My gown was from Knutsford Wedding Gallery. I am quite particular with my style and wanted a unique dress. After searching bridal websites and magazines, I decided I liked Rosa Clará gowns and booked an appointment as I knew they were stocked there. I was very keen on a backless, slinky dress. My spec was I wanted to look and feel like a Bond girl! When I tried it on first I knew it was the one, but that didn’t stop me from trying on 29 more dresses. Milking the moment!
My hair and makeup artist was Make-up By Sophie, based in Oldham. She followed my Bond girl spec –my bridesmaids and I felt very glam.
Simon wore a three-piece suit from Moss Bros. His groomsmen wore the same but with a dusky pink tie and pocket square.
Our photographer was Cris Matthews – we came across his blog as he had previously photographed a wedding at Arley Hall. Cris was fantastic, we would highly recommend him! He was very professional, provided an excellent service, got to know us on a pre-wedding shoot, was unobtrusive on the day and the quality of the photos was superb and a good mix.
We also got one of the groomsmen to film our ceremony and the speeches, which we’ve enjoyed watching back.
My flowers were from Blossom Flowers, Chorlton and were ivory with dusky pink. We chose white hydrangeas threaded with ivory avalanche roses and freesias, pink peonies, and amnesia and faith roses.
We had centrepieces for the ten tables – posies in low glass bowls. We used Amy Janes for the chair covers and sashes and chose the Olympia Barn package, which included uplighters for the inside brick wall, table mirrors, lanterns up the driveway, headlights, hearts and tea lights in the trees in the courtyard.
Although our venue was formal, we added a bit of our personality with the table plan, which went down well – it was all our favourite rappers with their albums.
As favours we provided guests with a shot of Limoncello, which they had during Simon’s speech. Speeches were also made by my dad, my mum, Theo (Simon’s seven-year-old nephew), James (Simon’s brother) and Dave (Simon’s best man).
For the cake we used Slattery in Manchester. We had a two-tier creation with a lace effect and three flavours of rose-designed cupcakes: chocolate orange, vanilla with jam and red velvet.
The venue was very generous with the food and wine tasting, so we took friends and made the most of it. As it was going to be a long day and late night, we chose some tasty canapés for during the drinks reception when everyone was on the lawn with prosecco and beers. For the wedding breakfast, we offered our guests the choice of smoked salmon or an Italian antipasti starter, followed by slow-cooked lamb, and strawberries, marshmallow and panna cotta was served to finish. The wine was paired with the food, so we selected a Sauvignon Blanc for the starter and a medium-bodied Pinot Noir for the main.
A hog roast in the evening made sure nobody went hungry and they were serving for most of the evening, so there wasn’t a rush like you often get with buffets.
Our friends like a party so we picked a venue that could stay open until 1am. For the music, to start the day we arranged a string quartet, which played traditional music for the ceremony to match the stately home vibe and then pop classics during the drinks reception. In the evening, our band was a six-piece with male and female vocalists playing R n’ B, soul and funk. We also had a DJ playing hip hop and dance until they kicked us out. As a final song in the evening, Simon and I did a dance to Juicy by Notorious BIG.
For extra entertainment, we had an open photobooth with props, so all our evening guests could be involved, and we also booked a caricaturist, who was in the outdoor courtyard.
My favourite part of the day was our first dance: You’re All I Need to Get By by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, performed by our band. We met on the dancefloor, so we like to think we have some moves!
For our honeymoon, we had a week in Cornwall to relax at the Emerald Luxury Eco Lodge. Our main honeymoon is in mid-November to Cape Town for shark diving and wine tasting, then Madikwe Game Reserve for a safari and then Mauritius for the beach.
My top tip for other Brides Up North is to watch a sad film a few days before the wedding to get it all out and avoid tears during the ceremony or speeches! Simon advises you to take it easy on the booze, as you’ll be very busy during the day and everyone will want to buy you a drink. This applies the night before too, especially if you are going out with friends who like a drink. We both believe that on the day everything will fall into place and your suppliers will look after everything for you. Don’t worry and just make the most of it as it goes very quickly!