Today’s real wedding is something of a showstopper; we hardly know where to begin as there are so many Insta-worthy moments and details to pore over.
Our featured couple Laura and Ash tied the knot at the astoundingly beautiful Peckforton Castle in Cheshire in May. And we love what they done with the venue – think blossom trees, floating candles, a whimsical floral arch and a candlelit aisle lined with ivory petals. The stuff of fairy-tale dreams. And that’s before we even mention their moreish food and drink line-up of a chocolate truffle brownie cake, elderflower cocktails and a hog roast!
Music played an instrumental (ahem) role in the couple’s big day. Not only did the bride and groom surprise their guests with a performance of two of their own songs, but Laura’s uncle performed a violin solo during their ceremony too, and they also had a string quartet later in the day. And, we have to confess, Laura’s wedding gift to her hubby-to-be – a guitar – is one of the most memorable and thoughtful we’ve ever seen!
With images by Sansom Photography.
laura says: We got engaged on our third anniversary of dating – Valentine’s Day 2017. We had a spontaneous date in the Peak District village of Castleton in the Hope Valley, not far from Sheffield. We had just finished dinner in a charming little restaurant called 1530. Over coffee, our first and favourite pastime, Ash inconspicuously reached into his pocket, to offer me a ‘sweet’ he’d picked up earlier that day – but instead he presented the ring, brightly sparkling in the humble glow of the empty room! It was a complete shock to me, I was instantly brought to tears. The sweetest, softest words were spoken as he moved to one knee beside me, where he received my resounding “yes”. The kind waitstaff re-entered the room in delight and took our photo.
Our wedding date was Saturday 19th May 2018. Although we liked the idea of an autumn wedding, spring 2018 was far enough to plan and ensure a large amount of family and friends from abroad would able to attend and sooner than waiting until autumn 2018. Within three weeks of our engagement, we confirmed our date with the registrar and venue. Ten months later, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their wedding date as the 19th of May, also! We were delighted to share the day (and the beautiful weather).
We initially thought of getting married in London where I spent my childhood in Chiswick, but due to my elderly grandparents living in Cheshire now, we wanted to find an option closer and easier for them to enjoy. Through a casual Google search, Ash came across the incredible Peckforton Castle in Tarporley, Cheshire. From our first glimpse in pictures, we were blown away by the beauty of the castle and grounds. It included stunning countryside surroundings, historic Grade I listed buildings and the perfect backdrop for our dream come true. We went to an open house conveniently that next week and wanted to look no further.
The venue is licensed for civil ceremonies only, which we chose to follow with a Christian blessing and arranged for my uncle to be our celebrant, rather than a local reverend, as this was more personal and meaningful for us. My uncle is also a first violinist for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and performed a violin solo to a song we chose called Vapor by husband and wife duo, Gungor, during a candle memorial to honour those no longer with us. We included readings by family members: excerpts from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and 1 Corinthians 13 before an inspiring closing and prayer.
While we didn’t have a set theme, our style was a gilded floral romance. We chose a palette of ivory, blush and nude against lush foliage of eucalyptus and olive leaves.
Blush and gold were our feature colours as they complemented our florals delicately without distracting from the castle décor. These worked well for spring and kept the mood light and romantic.
I chose a dress by MillaNova, which I purchased from Elements of Serenity Boutique, Swindon. I had originally seen the dress on Pinterest but had no details on who the designer was. After two visits to other boutiques and countless evenings scrolling through my dress inspo board, I hunted down the details and found that only one boutique in the country carried this line! I visited EOS as soon as possible with my aunty who lives in Cheshire and my iPad as we facetimed my mum who lives in the States. We knew that this was the one! I had tried on so many chic, fitted dresses that looked and felt lovely but hadn’t spoken to me the way this MillaNova dress did – I wasn’t initially looking for a ball gown, but this made me feel so beautiful and most like myself. It was a wonderful experience without the hype or pressure you see on TV. The boutique didn’t rush me or over-influence, they were excellent from start to finish.
Ash wore a black Yorkshire wool morning suit with a bespoke grey waistcoat, gold silk tie and pocket square with black patent leather dress shoes; all from Whitfield & Ward, Wilmslow. The groomsmen wore the same but with a blush silk tie and pocket square.
My bridesmaids wore blush and rose floor-length infinity dresses made by The Dainty Yard (Etsy) with nude heels or rose gold slippers and my junior bridesmaids wore tea-length versions of the same with rose gold slippers.
Our hair was done by Laurent Berquet, celebrity/senior stylist and dear friend based in Sheffield. My makeup was done by Brittany Spyksma Howard, celebrity/freelance MUA based in Los Angeles, CA; best friend and bridesmaid. My bridal party’s makeup was done by Katie Daley, celebrity/freelance MUA based in Sheffield. We were so pleased with our awesome glam squad, they did such beautiful work!
Our photographers were Chris and Verity Sansom, from Sansom Photography. We highly recommend these guys as they paid the utmost attention to detail, even more so than we could have hoped for – helping us all the way through the day. They stayed until our belated first dance and caught every sweet moment! They are fantastic artists with a genuine care for capturing the pure emotion of the day. They had exactly the documentary-style we were after and we knew from meeting them for our engagement shoot that we could absolutely trust them to do the best job possible for us. They are fantastic communicators and all-round great people who we enjoyed being around on the most important day of our lives!
We had Bruce Marshall of Love Two Film as our videographer – we would definitely recommend him because his artistic style and flawless editing wrapped up all of the raw emotion and romance of the day into such a beautiful, cinematic package! We are thrilled with his work and he was a pleasure to have around, though magically inconspicuous in his filming approach anyway.
A particularly memorable part of our day was when we took a few moments during the cocktail hour and before our evening reception for a brief couple’s shoot outside. We were so thankful for this time, to soak in the day together and pay attention to each other while Chris, Verity and Bruce captured us on camera. Time together alone as well as with our guests was really special.
When it came to the wedding flowers, Red Floral designed a handtied bouquet to reflect the colour theme of the wedding in a loose, natural style consisting of eucalyptus populous, ivory and quicksand roses, peonies and blush spray roses; the stem of the bouquet was finished in fabric.
I am having my bouquet preserved by Precious Petals. I’m so glad my mother thought to pre-arrange this as my bouquet was collected and is currently being preserved, rearranged and framed as a keepsake I will always have.
Red Floral also decorated the whole ceremony space and reception. They executed my vision to perfection, starting with my absolute favourite piece of all, our whimsical fairy-tale floral arch over the entrance of the Great Hall where the ceremony was held! It was full of eucalyptus, olive and willow foliage, peonies, hydrangea and roses in an asymmetrical crescent design. The candlelit aisle was lined with ivory petals and beautiful blossom trees on clear acrylic pedestals; with petals, hurricane cylinders and votives decorating the registry table. There were candles along every window and ledge, and for our reception meal, the tables reflected the floral arch with ivory and nude-blush rose heads, willow stems and floating candles amidst alternating blossom tree centres.
The bridesmaid bouquets of white hydrangea and my bouquet lined the head table in vases intermingled with woodland fairy-tale-like foliage with more candles in gold and ivory.
As favours, we gave our guests customised bottles of Henderson’s Relish made with our names, wedding date and location on them by the Henderson’s factory in Sheffield (Ash’s home city) – as this was one of the first gifts Ash gave me on a visit to London, where I was living, when we met. We are both enthusiastic foodies and wanted to gift something sentimental and useful!
We chose a chocolate truffle brownie wedding cake with caramel-chocolate ganache by the exceptional baker Rachel Hanna of Marie Antoinette Cake Design. The design was grand and artistic, covered in ivory sugar paste colour-washed with nude from the upper layers meeting a dark, dreamy brush effect from the base to represent the bride and groom as one, with flecks of gold leaf throughout and a gilded ruffle crowning the top of four tiers. We absolutely loved it and managed to save the top layer safely in our freezer to reminisce over on our first wedding anniversary!
Following the ceremony, the courtyard was filled with guests choosing a selection of sparkling wine or elderflower and Pimm’s cocktails, served alongside canapés, including steak sliders, satay chicken skewers, smoked Scottish salmon and cream cheese cornets with caviar and warm duck egg and pea tartlets.
Our three-course dinner menu, served in the Drawing Room, consisted of a slow roast duck leg with black berry jam, roasted chicken breast or shoulder of lamb with currant jus and dauphinoise potatoes; and we chose “his and hers” desserts: for the gents, a warm rustic apple tart with creme anglaise and vanilla pod ice cream and for the ladies, a vanilla crème brûlée with lemon short bread and raspberry – swapping and sharing encouraged as desired.
Later on in the Hexagonal Room, there was an evening buffet of hog roast and trimmings. The cake was served here as well. After midnight, those staying in the castle continued into the early hours in the secret Wine Cellar where sandwiches, cheese boards and snacks were served.
Music was an important part of the wedding to us and so we had the Strelitzia String Quartet play a variety of classical to contemporary pieces and covers from pre-ceremony and through the cocktail hour and this was perfect in setting the atmosphere of the daytime. We then had an instrumental playlist through dinner.
Ash and I are both musicians and songwriters, so as a surprise to our guests, we performed two original songs after the speeches: our most recent, as well as the first ever song we had written together. We hadn’t yet had the opportunity to perform for most of our guests before, as our musical journeys began on different continents but brought us together – so this was really special for us to share with them.
After we cut the cake, we transitioned back into the Great Hall, which was transformed with a twinkling LED dance floor with fun, dramatic up lighting to highlight the castle walls, provided by Hipswing Entertainment, as was our DJ who played for the rest of the evening.
Following our wedding we would certainly recommend our choice of venue to other couples. The folks at Peckforton were attentive and professional all the way. It was lovely to have both our ceremony and reception there, while most of our guests stayed in the castle rooms. This was exciting for everyone and made logistics much easier than they could have been otherwise.
As an extra special touch to our day, Ash and I handwrote letters to each other for the morning of the wedding which my brother Bradley, one of Ash’s groomsmen, delivered respectively. Ash’s letter to me came with a gift for me to open while getting ready with my girls. It was a stunning gold and diamond knot pendant that I’ll cherish forever!
Not only were my bridesmaids a huge help every step of the way, so were their husbands! My best friend and matron of honour, Lauren is married to my prior guitarist and co-writer from my days in Nashville, TN. James is also a best friend and connoisseur of fine guitars, so with his advisory, I procured an American Pro Fender Stratocaster as my gift to Ash as he is such a talented, dedicated guitarist and I’ve always wanted to contribute to his collection – starting on our wedding day!
James re-stringed and set it up properly on the wedding morning and later with fellow bridesmaid-husband Travis, (a seasoned Los Angeles/Nashville songwriting hero and dear friend) the two secretly sound-checked and positioned the guitar in its hiding place near the dancefloor for the reveal. The DJ was in on the surprise and called us to our first dance playing Hysteria by Def Leppard, another nod to Sheffield that we had considered for our first dance but decided on a country ballad instead. Ash suggested we dance to it anyway and shortly after we began, Travis cut in on the microphone to suggest that something was missing, calling Ash up to the front. The guitar was unveiled, and Ash proceeded to play the Def Leppard solo to everyone’s delight!
For the honeymoon we went to Bali – and it changed our lives! We were overwhelmed not only by the beauty of nature, the perfect beaches and especially the jungle and city of Ubud, but the culture of the people there. Their peaceful temperament, kindness and genuine joy were infectious. The food and drinks were phenomenal and incredibly priced. We cannot wait to go back someday.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be, take time apart from the crowd at least once throughout the day to catch your breath and connect outside of the spotlight.
I also loved browsing through the real weddings and features on Brides Up North for ideas, inspiration and advice in the run up to the big day!
We must also say special thanks to my parents for their support in hosting this incredible day; thanks to my parents-in-law for their support and contribution; to all of our family, friends and wedding party who travelled from as far as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to celebrate our marriage. We feel so very loved and will cherish these memories forever!