For Jonathan and Julia, today’s real wedding couple, the most important element of their wedding day was being together at the ceremony and exchanging those poignant vows – despite all the hours spent agonising over the smallest details! For them, the celebration was a huge – and wonderful – bonus.
However, that doesn’t mean we won’t pour over all those gorgeous details and find inspiration in the rose-gold tinted centrepieces and the festive Christmas styling! A berry red wreath on the front door of the reception venue welcomes guests to a jolly celebration with a New Year vibe and personalised champagne glasses, each one hand-decorated by the couple, add a special touch to the toasts and a unique memento of the occasion.
With a rich and opulent colour scheme of burgundy with peach highlights and soft greenery, the styling complemented the Christmas theme beautifully. In the spirit of true New Year celebrations, guests were treated to a very generous free bar and an energetic band, while they helped themselves to the array of sweets on offer at the sweetie bar and delicious cupcakes baked by the groom’s mother.
Julia – who looked gorgeous in a sparkly, A-line Morilee gown with a faux fur shrug to keep the winter chill off her shoulders – has plenty of sage advice for you soon-to-be-brides. So, sit back and enjoy, as she takes us through her and Jonathan’s big day.
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, Lloyd Clarke Photography.
julia says: We got engaged on New Years’ Eve 2015. Jonathan and I always go away for New Year and Jonathan had booked for us to go to Mottram Hall in Chester for two nights. We had a meal with cocktails and watched some fireworks, bringing the New Year in together as we had done for the previous three years of being together. However, this year was to be different: when we got to the room, Jonathan unexpectedly got down on one knee and proposed! Little did I know, he’d been planning the proposal and even had the ring made with me in mind, which he had been carrying around every day since October to ensure I did not find it! It was a complete surprise but perfect in every way.
We got married on 30th December 2017. I love winter and the feel of Christmas; it’s such a wonderful family time, which is important to us. I always knew I wanted something different to a summer wedding, so we aimed to wed between Christmas and New Year.
We decided we wanted a church wedding and have always loved All Hallows Church, which is local to my family home in Bardsey. The church is steeped in history, the original part of the building having been built in 800AD, and it stands proud in the village. Once we booked the church, everything fell into place. We visited Wood Hall Hotel and Spa in Wetherby on the off-chance as we were passing by. The hotel is so beautiful, set high on a hill that overlooks the surrounding villages, and we knew instantly this was our venue.
We would definitely recommend Wood Hall Hotel to those on the venue hunt. The staff were approachable, supportive, attentive and efficient. They made the experience very personal and added special touches, such as a free dining experience to try the menu choices and a teddy that had our names and wedding date stitched on as a lovely keepsake. We found the venue intimate enough for our wedding to feel personal but large enough to cater for guests and food on a large scale. No problem was ever too big and no detail was too small – even those last-minute changes.
We didn’t pick a particular theme or style for our wedding, although Jonathan and I are quite traditional and knew we would like a church wedding. We liked the idea of having a winter wedding and, when we visited Wood Hall in December and saw it decorated for Christmas, we knew instantly we would like that for our wedding! Our colour theme stemmed from there, along with flowers and smaller details such as centrepieces.
Knowing we wanted to get married in winter, especially around Christmas, lent itself to rich, deep, beautiful colours. We decided to have burgundy as the colour theme throughout our wedding, with a few enhancing colours for different aspects. Our bridesmaid dresses were burgundy with navy shawls and it was the main colour of the flowers in the bouquet and posies, which were broken up with peach and lots of greenery. The men’s suits were navy and the ties were burgundy, as well as the flowers used for the centrepieces and favours.
When it came to looking for my dress, I had no idea where to start. I’m not the kind of person who has dreamt of their wedding day all their life, so I found it quite overwhelming! Like everyone, I did my research and searched for many dresses on Pinterest and in bridal magazines, which gave me some idea of where to start. However, when it came to visiting bridal shops, I was in complete awe of the beauty of so many dresses that I felt back at square one!
In the end, I visited Confetti and Lace in Leeds, where they were really supportive of my dilemma. I was able to try on as many dresses as I wanted, and I purchased a beautiful Morilee A-line dress – I wanted a dress with a twist on the classic sweetheart neckline and this dress provided that with sheer straps and lots of sparkle! To go with this, I purchased a faux fur shrug to add to the winter feel and treated myself to some amazingly beautiful shoes, which I knew I would wear time and time again to remind me of my special day.
Jonathan and his groomsmen wore mid-blue fitted suits from Brook Taverner. These were teamed with light grey waistcoats and burgundy ties, which were of a similar colour to the bridesmaid dresses. Brook Taverner were unbelievably helpful – they sent sample sizes for the men to try on and a few different styles to help them decide. These were teamed with tan shoes. The men wore burgundy ranunculus in their buttonholes.
I had three bridesmaids, all of different heights and sizes (my maid of honour was heavily pregnant by my wedding date!), so I knew they needed different dresses to suit their individual styles. I had seen Dessy dresses in magazines and, after viewing their extensive collection online, we found a small shop in Bradford that stocked them for the girls to try and order. I purchased their navy shawls while on holiday in Sorrento, which worked perfectly with the dresses.
On the day, my father and I travelled to church in his classic Bentley, trimmed with the wedding colours. The bridesmaids and my mother travelled in a Range Rover Sport, trimmed in wedding colours and driven by my brother. Following the ceremony, Jonathan and I travelled to Wood Hall together in my father’s Bentley.
Our photographer was Bethany Clarke of Lloyd Clarke Photography, based in Harrogate. I knew Beth from many years ago and have followed her on social media, so was fully aware of not only how wonderful her images are but how much her photography style suited us. Beth worked alone on the day. She was unassuming, flexible and suited our style. I would highly recommend Beth to anyone who isn’t keen on the idea of having pictures taken(!) and those couples who want to spend more time with their guests on the day as opposed to posing for photographs; she got on with the job and blended well with wedding guests.
My bouquet comprised burgundy ranunculus, which were broken up with peach roses and lots of eucalyptus leaves. The bridesmaids had smaller versions of the bouquet with a higher ratio of peach to burgundy, and the mothers of the bride and groom wore posies of burgundy ranunculus and green eucalyptus leaves. These were provided by Kate Mell in Boston Spa.
Kate also provided a beautiful, large decoration to hang on the lych gate at the church, made up of flowers similar to those in my bouquet. As the church was decorated for Christmas with arrays of candles, fairy lights, lanterns and a nativity from the local primary school, there was no need for us to provide anything else.
We created a lot of the decorations for the reception ourselves. Jonathan’s mother made the table plan, which consisted of a large wooden crate filled with a variety of plants. From this, table plans were listed on wire stems. We provided the table numbers, sweet table, photo book and favours and we hired Ambience Venue Styling from Harrogate, who provided the centrepieces. The centrepieces consisted of large rose gold lanterns sitting on log slices, filled with pillar candles, which were surrounded by tea lights and small vases with burgundy flowers. The top table had a similar large rose gold lantern sitting on a log slice; however, this was bursting with a variety of flowers that reflected our colour scheme.
As wedding favours, we bought all our guests a champagne glass for the toast that they could take home as a momentum, which we hand painted the base of in burgundy and personalised by writing our guests’ names on. In addition, we bought macarons for each guest, which we put into small boxes and wrapped in a simple strip of lace.
Our cake was made by Jonathan’s mother. She is a gifted baker and knew we wanted her to make our cake after years of sampling her food! We had a traditional two-tiered cake: a Victoria sponge for Jonathan and a chocolate cake for me. These were iced in white with a burgundy ribbon and decorated with small flowers made of sugar paste and a small array of fresh flowers on the top. In addition to this, she made enough cupcakes, decorated in a similar style, for each of our guests, which we laid out in the evening with the food for people to help themselves.
When it came to the wedding breakfast, as Jonathan and I share a common love of food we embraced the opportunity to taste test the menu at Wood Hall. We opted for a ham hock starter, rump of lamb with piped minted mash and roast vegetables for the main, and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream to finish. Many of our guests commented on how amazing the food was and still talk about our lamb months later! We matched this with suggested wines from the venue, serving half a bottle per guest.
We kept our entertainment simple but effective – we found a band from Leeds called Vibetown, mentioned online by Brides Up North, and when speaking to friends realised we had heard them play at friend’s wedding! The band absolutely blew us away on the night – we couldn’t recommend them enough! Between sets they provided a DJ, who was equally lively. Since our wedding, friends have booked our band for birthday celebrations, which is a credit to how fantastic they were!
For us, our wedding day was a celebration of our love with our family and friends. We wanted our guests to enjoy our day as much as we did. To this end, we ensured there were drinks flowing on arrival, which consisted of winter-inspired mulled wine and Pimm’s. In addition to this, in the evening we put on a free bar for our evening guests to enjoy as well as our day guests. As a special touch, we provided a sweetie bar, as both Jonathan and I have a sweet tooth, and a Polaroid camera for our guest book, which was a massive hit with guests!
Our favourite part of the day was getting married! As every bride (and groom!) knows, so much time and effort goes into agonising over the small details to make the day perfect – for us, it was spending night after night hand-painting glasses, making favour boxes, stressing over the wrong delivery of macarons the day before the wedding(!), painting table numbers, making table plans, etc. but, ultimately, all that mattered on the day was getting wed! For us, the church was absolutely perfect. Seeing one another across the aisle was and will always be our most treasured memory and made our day so special – the wonderful celebration after was simply a bonus.
For our honeymoon, as a mini-break we went to Whitby to bring in the New Year and have some down-time following the wedding. Eventually, we would like to travel to more of America; however, in the meantime, we were back at work two days after getting wed and have since bought a house!
My top tip for other Brides Up North is – don’t lose sight of why you’re having a wedding! The small details seem important beforehand but, ultimately, all that matters is you two enjoying your day. The rest is a bonus. Be selfish: plan your day the way you want it and don’t worry so much about your guests’ enjoyment – they will simply love your wedding because it’s a celebration for you both and not because you spent three weeks eating endless jam to empty glass jars and making bunting! Pinterest is wonderful for ideas and inspiration but, in many cases, images are unrealistic.
Also, when buying a wedding dress, don’t feel pressured to purchase if you’re not 100% happy. Not every girl knows what style of dress she wants – don’t feel bad for feeling this way! Every good shop should let you try on your dress, go away and then return to try it on again to ensure you’re happy. For me, this was the most stressful part of the whole experience and I worried about my dress for months before the wedding.
My final top tip is, if you plan to get married around the time of year where a public or bank holiday will fall beforehand, have a back-up plan in place if things go wrong! For us, our delivery of macarons wasn’t correct and we had to rush-order another lot, which M&S kindly replaced free of charge. In addition to this, when I opened my veil a few days before the wedding and found a large hole in it, I wrongly assumed the shop I bought it from would be open to exchange it between Christmas and New Year! Needless to say, after a few panicked emails and phone calls, all ended well.