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Sweet dreams are made of this. Halfpenny London for a stylish wedding at Hazel Gap Barn - Nic & Olly | Brides Up North

Sweet dreams are made of this. Halfpenny London for a stylish wedding at Hazel Gap Barn – Nic & Olly

14th December 2018 | Rachel Hirst

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It’s hard to know where to begin with the real wedding that we’re sharing with you on the blog today as it’s that of my best friend’s, Nic – and so one I was closely involved in, from the proposal to the big day itself!

It all began with her now husband Olly getting down on one knee while Andy and I were on holiday with them in Portugal – and so the planning started instantly from our pool-side sun loungers.

As a girl with impeccable personal style there was no doubt at all that Nic’s big day was going to be anything short of gorgeous! Just take a look at these images and I’m sure you will agree. From Nic’s looks-like-it-was-designed-just -for-her Halfpenny separates to the most beautiful of blooms, stunning setting and A-class styling, each element is a Pinterest dream, thought-up, created and delivered to absolute perfection.

But this wedding didn’t only look good, it felt good. Not only because I was witnessing two of my very favoutire people in the world getting married, but because they’d put such time and effort into involving, surprising and delighting their guest. We’re talking a surprise brass band performance, double-decker bus transport, personal Polaroid place settings and a-maz-ing food and drink. All of this, and more, resulted in a day that we will all treasure forever, and I must thank the now Mr & Mrs Sowden for giving Andy and I such key roles in their special day. We loved every second.

With images by Ruth Atkinson Photography and video by Shoot Me Now Films.


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We got engaged on 3rd September 2017, while we were on holiday with our best friends in Portugal, staying at Olly’s parents’ house. After a long day at the beach, we decided to stay in that night and have a barbecue. Whilst getting everything ready, Olly called me down the garden to under the fairy light lit olive tree and got down on one knee. Lots of tears, calls to family and friends and homemade cocktails later we had well and truly celebrated the news.


We got married exactly 363 days after we got engaged! Sunday 2nd September 2018.

We were really keen to try to get married the following year from the engagement, so the task was on once we returned from holiday and we began our investigations. We felt beyond lucky that our dream venue, church and suppliers were all available on the same date when we started to plan the day.

Our ceremony took place at St Mary’s Church, Norton Cuckney, followed by a reception at nearby Cripps Barns’ Hazel Gap Barn in Budby.

Without doubt we found the venue hunt the hardest part of planning a wedding. We used the internet to window shop a lot of venues, and visited a hand full, but with such criteria against our search, it wasn’t easy. We wanted a venue that was a reflection of us, our style and personalities, that was in a location that had some meaning to one of us and the list goes on of other important factors.

We had a gut feeling that Hazel Gap Barn would be the answer to our search but didn’t let ourselves believe it until we had been and had confirmation there was a free date. For us that venue was perfect, we loved it. It wasn’t far from where I grew up, and the nearby church had lots of family connections for my family too, so everything fell in to place.

Nic + Olly // Hazel Gap Barn, Nottinghamshire from Shoot Me Now Films on Vimeo.


Because our main aim for the wedding was to be a reflection of us both the theme/style of the wedding was also that.

In some respects, the styling of the wedding was a bit of a mix match, but this reflects my own personal style in fashion and interior style too. Our home is mix match of colour, textures, patterns and style so I didn’t have strict rules about everything matching for the wedding, I have good eye for putting different things together and knowing they will work together in the end.

From the beginning I knew I didn’t really want to have a colour scheme explicitly. I don’t really have a favourite colour per se, so I just couldn’t think how I would ever get to making a decision. I had a really strong feeling I wanted my bridal party in ivory, just like me.

Obviously, Olly’s suit would give us a colour too, which was grey, and then we decided his groomsmen would be in black, to contrast with his suit. So, from a clothing point of view it was a pretty simple colour scheme of ivory/white, grey and black.

This pared back colour scheme allowed my florist brief to be pretty open. For the bouquets and arrangements, I said any colour goes as long as they are muted versions of the colours and lots of eucalyptus with grey tones to match Olly’s suit.


I was both excited and super nervous about finding the dress. I love fashion, I’m really particular about my own style, and with doing a lot of styling for my job, I knew the pressure was on to find something amazing and maybe unexpected!

I did a lot of research for the designers I liked – it helps when your best friend is a super star wedding blogger – and narrowed down my list of dream designers to only two or three. I actually saw a photo of my dress on Instagram and I had a really strong feeling that would be the one.

I had two dress appointments on the first day and got a front runner from a designer I didn’t envisage I’d suit. But then for the second visit to the first boutique, the wonderful Karen at The White Room, in Sheffield had ordered in the Kate Halfpenny dress I’d had my eye on. It was love at first sight. I adored it on the hanger and even more so when I tried it on. I took my mum, sister and best friend Rach, and they all knew when they saw my face, we’d found the one. The dress of my dreams was actually separates – Kate Halfpenny’s Daffodil Top, and Ivy Skirt.


Olly chose a beautiful grey suit from Reiss, one of his favourite retailers. Again, for him this was a pretty easy decision, he loves their style of suits and he had a clear vision for his style on the day. He wore a black tie and black waistcoat, to contrast with the grey suit, and an amazing pair of Loake shoes to finish the look.

Our groomsmen wore black three-piece suits with grey ties. They all picked their own, to ensure they had suits that they felt good in.


I knew from the start I wanted both my maids of honour in different dresses that they would each choose. I just asked them both to be in ivory. It was important to me for me that they both felt great on the day, and looked like themselves, in their own style dress. It was a gamble, but I just knew it would work. Lou, my sister, wore a stunning lace and pleated dress from Chi Chi London, and Rach wore a beautiful Ted Baker dress.

And for my three little flowergirls I chose grey tutus and ivory leotards all from Etsy. They looked like fairies, and lived every little girls’ dream in those outfits for the day. I was quite jealous myself!


Working in the creative industry I have worked with lots of makeup artists, so it was a really easy choice. Leanne Shaw has worked with me on many shoots and has been a friend for years, so she did the bridal party’s makeup. And for our hair, it was a great to have Grace, a family friend to take care of this. Both Leanne and Grace were fabulous to have around us on them morning, so calming and relaxed.


I knew from being a little girl that I wanted a white Rolls Royce for my wedding car. My dad did his apprenticeship at Rolls Royce as a drafts man when he was young, so it felt right that on my wedding day my dad and I would arrive at the church in one of their cars. It was one of the most special things I remember from the day. And after the church service, the drive in the Rolls Royce gave Olly and I some time to spend with just each other after being apart for 24 hours.

To get the guests from the church to the reception venue we hired a Red Routemaster double decker bus. Although we didn’t travel in that it was so much fun, and another surprise for the guests on the day. I love the stories from people on the bus, and the thought of them arriving at the venue all together.


Ruth Atkinson captured our day. In my profession as an art director I work with lots of photographers to direct and style photo and film shoots. Directing my own wedding photos would be a dream job, but of course not possible so I placed a lot of importance on the wedding photographer we chose.

Ruth was at the top of my list. From the first time we spoke I knew we would get on. She came and visit us at our home, so understood us as a couple and got a feel for our style and personalities. And bless her, was so patient with my long list of likes and dislikes.

Her style of photography is so stylish. I love her eye for detail, the tone she brings to each shot and the moments she captures. On the day Ruth was amazing so calm and discreet, we loved spending time with her.


Daniel Armitage of Shoot Me Now Films was our videographer. Choosing Daniel was the easiest decision. We loved the way he tells the story of each of his weddings in such a unique, cinematic and totally personal way.

When we received his film, we cried like babies, and it hasn’t failed to make family and friends tear up too. His work is perfect, the most special way to have your big day captured, and then keep it fresh forever.

Daniel is such a lovely guy too, it was a pleasure to have him around on the day, and from our first Skype we knew we’d get on.


We were really lucky to have a family friend to do most of the wedding flowers for us. Most people find it funny that I produced a presentation to show Andrea, our florist, my vision for the flowers on the day. But because I do this sort of thing for work, I couldn’t help myself, and it seemed the best way to get down my dreams for the flowers. Andrea was amazing, we took over her home for about three days, she worked so hard, gave them so much care and brought my mood boards to life better than I could have wished for.

I have a big passion for flowers so this part of the wedding planning was one of the most enjoyable bits to work on. I knew I wanted a lot, and because of that we ended up drafting in a couple of other florists to do different parts of the flower styling.

We used Mrs Umbels for the greenery rings in the dance barn of our venue. Hanging rings are such a visual statement we knew we would love them for the room.

We used Save The Date Event Stylist to help dress and style the room. They were great, their showroom is a great place to get some ideas, and the ladies were so helpful. I gave them such a long brief for the day to say where and how I wanted things to be laid out and it was all done perfectly. It was all such a relief to have that side of things in such trust worthy hands.

Myself and my mum made a lot of the decorative detail items before the wedding. We both love projects like that, so they were a joy to do. We made large flags with personalised messages on, and my mum made menu place settings with a selection of Liberty fabrics.


Crips Barns are renowned for their excellent food and that was one of the main reasons why we picked the venue.

We took both sets of parents to a tasting evening at the venue months before the wedding and got a really good sense of what we’d like from that evening for both the food and the wine.

Also, being able to involve your guests in the serving of the meat at the guest tables was another dream factor for the wedding, so Hazel Gap barn ticked all the boxes. So many of our guests were in food heaven on that day, visiting their tables during the meal was such a joy, when everyone was blown away with the food and wine!

As Olly and so many of our friends and family are real ale drinkers, our choice for favours was really easy. We asked my uncle to brew us a special brew especially for the wedding day. So, everyone got their own bottle of wedding brew to take home and enjoy after the wedding.


Very early on in the wedding planning we both wanted to think about the day as a whole and plan lots of things, big and small to surprise the guests with and mark moments of the day with special things.

We booked The New York Brass Band, as one of the first bookings after we secured a date. We had seen this band online and loved the concept of having them surprise our guests. We planned for them to be outside of the church after the service but then after sharing the idea with our fabulous vicar, he suggested they come in to the church and surprise the guests. We loved the idea so went with it. How we kept it a secret from 90 per cent of the guests I do not know. Their faces when they burst in, and the song they entered too – Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This – will stay with me forever.

Special touch

One of the best things we did that made the day extra special for guests was that we used Polaroid style photos as people place names on the tables. Each photo was either Olly or myself with the guest, or a photo that has a special memory or moment with that person. The photos were a mix of recent and really old so of course lots of smiles and laughs were had as these were shared around the room. It was such a small detail but meant so much to so many people and was a lovely job for us to spend some time doing in the planning.

Thanks to

Our venues were incredible – both the church and Hazel Gap Barn.

The church, vicar and all the community there made us so welcome and from the moment we entered, we knew early on we had found a special place there.

And we would recommend Hazel Gap Barn in a heartbeat to anyone considering it. With that venue there is nothing to worry about, that is such an invaluable thing in the planning of your wedding. Their contact system is so easy and smooth, all your questions are answered so quickly, nothing is a problem and the team are friendly, kind and make you feel very special. On the day, everyone in the team there was so lovely and made us and all our guests feel very welcome and at home.

Best bit

There are a few special moments from the day that really make me smile.

After arriving at the church, and walking down the path to the church doors, I remember looking in front and seeing my bridal party all walking together to the church; the church looking amazing, blue sky above us, the flowers outside the church looking gorgeous, my dad looking great beside me, and I thought ‘wow’ that’s exactly how I wanted everything to be.

Turning to see all our guests in the church when the service had finished and then the band bursting in to surprise everyone was fabulous. Their happiness and excitement looking back at us was so special to experience.

Being in our wedding car, which was incredible, both with my dad on the way to the church and then with Ol on the way to the reception. I looked down for a second at my dress, the new ring on my finger, my gorgeous flowers, and the cars amazing interior and it all took my breath away how pretty everything was, and I know it sounds strange but how ‘weddingy’ it all was. I had goosebumps.

Every part of the day was my favourite, I could never pick one specific bit. But in terms of socialising and making sure you saw everyone the meal part was great for this. Probably because all your guests are seated at this bit it makes it easy for you to get around but that bit felt like you were really hosting a special occasion, it was so special visiting each table and getting a feeling for the kind of day they were having.


In the week after the wedding we went to Ibiza for four nights on our minimoon. Ibiza was on both our lists of places to visit so it was a perfect location for a short break after the wedding.

It was unforgettable! We really spoilt ourselves staying in an incredible hotel and ate and drank in great places every day. It was a total chill out luxury break, exactly what we needed after the wedding. We relaxed, talked about the wedding all the time and relived every moment as photos from the day were sent to us form all the guests. We loved it.

We are having our main honeymoon in the new year. We’re enjoying having the time to think about where we want to go and how we want to do it. But so far all we know is we want to wake up to a view of paradise!


There’s a handful of top tips I would give to fellow Brides Up North:

One. To keep nerves at bay, on the week/days before the wedding keep as much as you can as normal at home as it can be, don’t get too swept up in the magnitude of the wedding. Do things that keep you calm, and keep you sane, some self-care on the run up to the wedding is so important.

Two. Get as many little jobs done as soon as possible. Write thank you cards, wrap gifts weeks before the wedding. There will always be last minute jobs I know, but get as much done as soon as you can.

Three. No one tells you how weird it is that you don’t see everything all come together until on the day of the wedding. Every choice, every decision made only comes to life at the point. Make sure you take all that in. You worked too hard on all those decisions to not revel in them.

Four. Not everyone gets wedding blues. I expected to. I thought I would be really down after but it was the opposite feeling. I was so happy with the day we had, I felt on cloud nine after the best day of our lives, and so content that I wouldn’t have changed a thing that the post wedding blues didn’t stand a chance with this bride and groom.

Finally. I enjoyed reading Brides Up North in the run up to the wedding. The real wedding features are fabulous to learn from and be inspired by. The inspiration features, on all sorts of topics are really enjoyable reads too. Whether its fashion, places to go, or trends and, whether they are your taste or not, they inspire you and show you what’s out there in terms of weddings and the whole planning process.

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