For the second time this week we’re travelling to Sheffield for a helping of real wedding inspiration, with the south Yorkshire city playing a particularly key role in today’s nuptials as bride and groom, Ellen and Liam, were keen to showcase what they love about the place in which they met and live.
As one of the greenest cities in the country, Ellen and Liam chose to make the most of both halves of Sheffield, choosing a lush outdoor park setting for their ceremony and a cool urban space for their evening party.
You might not have to scroll too far to discover that I too played a key part in the day as one of Ellen’s bridesmaids, a role I was touched and keen to take on as I’d somehow got to the grand age of 29 before ever being a bridesmaid (not sure what that says about me?!) Ellen and I go way back, first meeting at journalism college in Sheffield as teenagers, and she quickly became one of my closest friends and has always supported me on both a personal and career level. I was therefore more than happy to put on a pretty lilac lace dress and support her on such an important day. I’m also thrilled to report that El will be returning the favour as one of my four bridesmaids in May!
When planning their day, Ellen and Liam were admirably determined to stick to their budget and cleverly used the skills of friends and family to bring their big day vision to life. I can report from the frontline that this was an amazingly fun day, filled with love, laughter, amazing food and copious amounts of prosecco!
With images by Marisa Cashill.
ellen says: Liam proposed on Christmas Eve 2015; we agreed to open one gift each at midnight after getting back home from a few drinks together. He opened a ‘onesie’ from me, and my gift was an engagement ring hidden inside lots of different boxes! He cried and I looked at him in shock, it was a joke at the wedding speeches that he had never actually said the words “Will you marry me?”
We chose to get married in September, mainly because it was around 18 months after our engagement and a realistic target to save up for. The first date we set for the day – and the venue we chose – actually had to be changed because the hotel we had initially booked closed down, which was stressful at the time. But it worked out for the best in the end, as we had lovely weather on the day we eventually got married, and there was torrential rain on our original date.
Following the changes, we chose the bandstand in Weston Park, Sheffield, as the setting for our wedding ceremony. It’s a beautiful, historic bandstand in gorgeous grounds and one of the few of its kind left in the country. It stood head and shoulders above anywhere else we saw and felt very ‘Sheffield’, which we wanted to be key to the whole day. We love to visit it now and peek through the windows.
The reception venue was The Workstation, which is part of independent cinema The Showroom. It’s located in the city centre and was the perfect size to accommodate our guests. I also knew the chef there, Jon Tite, from my work as a journalist. I really wanted food that was different from the usual wedding fodder, and with Jon I was able to take in one of my favourite street food cookbooks and say ‘this is what we’d like to go for’ rather than sticking to set options.
There wasn’t a theme to the wedding as such, but we wanted it to showcase Sheffield, and be relaxed. We were also incredibly lucky in that a lot of people were able to assist us with their skills – my mum is a florist and transformed our evening venue from what is basically an office into a floral/woodland theme, Liam’s best man Gav was the DJ, my grandma made the pork pie wedding cake, and my friend James, who is a hairdresser, did all the bridal party’s hair. It really was not what we knew, but who, and it made our small wedding budget go a lot further than it would have done.
My favourite colour is purple, so there were flashes of that in the flowers, the bridal and groom’s party attire, and the decor too.
I bought my dress from Celebrations Bridal House in Ossett, West Yorkshire, which is where several family members have bought theirs from, too. I grew up just down the road and bought it on my second shopping trip, with mum and my sister Jodie. I wanted something simple, with a little bit of detail and which wouldn’t swamp me as I am only five-foot-tall. I chose Morilee by Madeline Gardner dress with a lace pattern and a belt with diamante detail.
I know it sounds too pragmatic for a wedding day, but I had set myself a strict budget for the dress, as I wanted to prioritise the things that would last rather than a dress I’d only wear for one day. Because of that, I was able to add on a pair of Rachel Simpson Catherine shoes – my something blue, which I have since worn on our anniversary as a reminder of the day. I also had a gorgeous hair vine from Britten. My mum made my veil using a YouTube video – she’s a multi-talented woman!
Brilliant friend James Pashley, of Volt salon in Sheffield, did my hair on the day and helped get it into better condition in the months leading up to the wedding. He also did all the bridesmaids’ hair – and walked me down the aisle. One of my bridesmaids, Ellie, did my makeup. I had a couple of professional trials but felt the amount of makeup used just wasn’t me, as I don’t wear a lot every day. Ellie and I had a few trials at home and she did a fantastic job making me look more polished, but not overdone.
We’d planned to get taxis to the bandstand on the day of the wedding, which was only a mile away from home, but were so lucky when the parents of Liam’s friend Mark said we could use their white vintage Jaguar. Mark’s dad drove me to the park and it was a star attraction there! From the park we hired a coach to take the guests to the reception venue.
Marisa Cashill, who again, I knew through work captured our day. She’s a brilliant photographer who I have worked with for years, and I knew she’d be able to capture the spirit of the day. She took a lot of images and was more than comfortable chatting with and arranging people where they needed to be. Lots of the guests said afterwards how much fun she had made the picture-taking part of the day.
My mum did my bouquet, which was a handtied vintage style purple lisianthus, veronica, fifth avenue lilac roses, lilac freesia and mixed foliage. It was gorgeous, and I was gutted I had to leave it at home when we went on honeymoon.
As a qualified florist’s daughter – we had tonnes of flowers to style the venue! Mum and I picked out country-style artificial flowers which we used to hang from the ceiling and create a woodland theme in the reception, there was trailing ivy, Nordic-style wreaths on the walls, miniature trees and arrangements too. Individual flowers in glass jars were also on the food tables. The day before was spent dressing the venue with family, with our closest friends coming to help in the evening too.
We decided not to do favours – although towards the day I was tempted to add them in! In the end we just had a tree of packages of Percy Pig sweets which were meant to be for the kids…
We decided against a traditional wedding cake too. My grandma Lesley is famous in the family for her handmade pork pies, and she so created an incredible three tier creation for the big day. She even hand-painted the hair of the man on top ginger, as Liam is a red head.
Canapes and prosecco were served at the start of the reception, and then a real South American feast of food was laid on for the main event. I love street food and wanted that relaxed approach when it came to eating. Chef Jon Tite did an incredible job. There was a taco station with lots of different slow-cooked meats and fillings, endless salsas and sauces, rice and toppings. For dessert we had four different kinds of homemade ice cream, where people could pick their own toppings too. So many people raved about the food, it was a real high point.
Our budget didn’t stretch to a band, so we had a playlist for the beginning of the reception, until Gav took over the DJ decks later on. There were ping pong tables available at the venue, so we added those, and made our own photo booth with a borrowed Polaroid and lots of props. We also made a slideshow of pictures and tried to include at least one of every single guest in it, which was projected on one of the walls.
As a special touch, we had a balloon drop after our first dance which was lovely.
Following our wedding, we would absolutely recommend our choice of venues to other brides and grooms. The bandstand is a stunning place and very memorable. The staff at the Workstation couldn’t have been more helpful and it is a great blank canvas – as long as you have plenty of friends and family to help out in achieving your vision for it!
Looking back at the day, it’s hard to choose a ‘best bit’ but just after the first pictures Liam and I got away from the crowds and sat on a bench watching everyone have a great time drinking prosecco in the park. That was our first minute alone together as a married couple, which was very special. Later on, it was fantastic to see everyone we loved come together as a group, as well as participating in some spectacular dancing. Finally, Liam made a beautiful off the cuff speech which we have on video, and never fails to make me well up.
After the wedding, we went on a minimoon to the idyllic Losehill House Hotel in the Peak District, which was a wonderful way to relax, catch up and look back at the big day. From there we went on our main honeymoon to Thailand, with three days exploring bustling Bangkok and then ten days chilling on the island of Koh Tao. We had an amazing villa overlooking an even tinier island, right in the jungle, and did everything from snorkelling trips to watching fire-dancers on the beach.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be – ask each other what your priorities are for the wedding and stick to them. Also, if somebody offers help, take it, as our wedding would have been nowhere near as amazing without all the support from friends and family. Most of all, enjoy the planning side of it, as well as the big day. We really enjoyed making our music playlist together, though it was harder not to drink the dozens of bottles of prosecco saved for the ceremony.
In the run up to the wedding I was excited to attend a Brides Up North wedding show and read the real life wedding features online for inspiration.