Rachael and Aiden are the very definition of relaxed and natural with their bright, sunny wedding that we’re sharing with you here today.
With bags of personality and bright splashes of colour, you can’t help but feel cheered up by the happy aesthetic of this gorgeous March day.
Taking inspiration from the beautiful florals and foliage growing naturally in the gardens of Crook Hall, this easy-going couple celebrated their big day in the stunning Northumbrian countryside. Rachael and Aiden got swept up in the informal romance of their dream venue, and we bet you will too!
If you’re planning your own big, bright and colourful wedding your Pinterest board is about to get a whole lot busier, from the bold faux flowers to the rustic venue and its grounds, you’ll find inspo at every turn. And, despite struggles to find the dress, Rachael triumphed after some outside-the-box thinking and found the perfect gown to pair with the most unique veil; one that will have boho brides everywhere swooning!
With images by Carn Patrick Photography
Rachael says: Aidan proposed on the 30th June 2016, at my university graduation ball. It marked the end of a stressful few years for us, both working hard. We were both about to start our new careers so it was fitting that we started the next chapter engaged. We had been together four years and becoming engaged is something we had spoken about quite a bit! Aidan’s never been that good at hiding surprises and I’d known for a while what he was planning. He took me outside in the courtyard to ask me, which was beautiful, and we spent the rest of the night celebrating!
Our wedding date was the 30th March 2019. There was nothing particularly special about this date, I just liked the idea of a spring wedding and we knew we wanted it to be a Saturday. Our venue at that time of the year was particularly beautiful with the flowers beginning to grow in the gardens.
We chose Crook Hall and Gardens in Durham for our venue. I visited the venue to have a look around with my mum and I fell in love. I wanted a venue that was beautiful on its own, without the addition of decorations. I wanted the planning process to be as stress-free as possible and anything that was going to save a job was welcomed!
I took Aidan for a tour of the venue shortly after the first visit. He won’t be too happy with me sharing that he became tearful when we visited! We knew it was the one straight away and booked it there and then.
I love the different areas that the venue has to offer, with the option of using the gardens, weather permitting! The old building gives the venue a relaxed feeling which is what I wanted from the day. It used to be a home, so there are lots of different rooms that you can use. Guests can look around the building throughout the day and explore. It’s nice to not feel contained to one room.
We didn’t really have a theme as such. I wanted the wedding to be fairly laid-back and not overly fussy. We are fairly relaxed and the idea of sticking to a strict theme just did not seem very ‘us’. The venue determined that it was going to be a bright, floral wedding! The bare stone walls in the hall gave the wedding a country feel.
I loved the idea of a spring wedding and that the flowers in the gardens will have started to grow and went with the bright colours throughout the gardens! We opted not to be restricted to a colour theme and added as many colours as possible to the bouquets!
Sadly, I didn’t initially enjoy the process of wedding dress shopping as much as I had hoped when I started looking for my dress.
I wanted something simple, anything too ‘bridal’ scared me, and I really struggled to find anything I really wanted to try on. I settled on a sweetheart neckline, corset back dress and knew that I’d made a mistake as soon as I got home. It was far from anything I’d wanted but I lost hope that I’d find something I’d love.
I finally admitted that I did not love the dress I’d bought and went shopping for dress number two! Aidan was surprisingly understanding and laughed when I told him, knowing how indecisive I am.
I visited I Do Wedding Specialists in Gateshead with my mum and had a look around. I explained to them what I thought I wanted; simple, plain and not ‘bridal’. The lady suggested having a look at their bridesmaids dresses instead of bridal gowns. For the first time since starting to look for a dress I was excited to try some on! It took some visualising as they were all different colours and needed ordering in Ivory but I narrowed it down to three dresses and finally chose the one! It was a Dessy bridesmaid dress.
My dad gave me a necklace to wear on the day which was simple and went perfectly. It was such a touching gesture! My bridesmaids presented me with a gift bag from Aidan. He had bought me a beautiful bracelet which started the tears for the day!
I loved my veil! Part of the reason I wanted a simple, plain dress was that I was in love with a veil by What Katy Did Next. I had seen these at a wedding fair and spoke to her about customising the design to match my bright colours in my bouquet. The veil was long length in ivory with flowers taken from vintage fabric glued to the veil. I loved the unique design and had never seen anything like this anywhere else. It was absolutely stunning when it arrived and couldn’t thank Katy enough. I received so many compliments on my veil and it definitely made my outfit for me!
Aidan’s suit was from Master Debonair in Boldon. We visited a few different high-street stores that sold suits, however Aidan is 6’5” which made finding one that fit difficult! We had struggled to find a suit that was long enough but had found that suits by Fratelli fit well. We went together and I fell in love with a green suit. Aidan loved it too but wasn’t sure he’d feel comfortable in green! I thought that it fit the venue really well. He came round and chose to add a dickie bow tie. I couldn’t have imagined him in anything else. I gave Aidan a watch to open on the wedding morning too.
The groomsmen also wore Fratelli suits. I found these at a shop called Vault. They have a store in Doncaster and my sister-in-law recommended trying them.
My two best friends, Chelhsea and Sam, wore dresses I found on ASOS. My step-daughter Eleanor wore a dress from Next. Sam’s daughter was flower girl and she also wore a dress from Next. I didn’t really have a colour in mind for dresses and any colour I chose would have matched the flowers so I wasn’t really limited in choice!
I gave Chelhsea and Sam some earrings the morning of the wedding to wear with their dresses. They returned the favour and gave me a pair of earrings which made me cry! It was such a nice touch and something I’ll have forever. I gave Ellie a necklace too, which she is yet to take off!
Katherine Alexandra Make Up Artistry did both hair and makeup on my bridesmaids and me. I wanted natural make up as I don’t wear much normally and wanted to look and feel like myself. I loved what Katherine did and it lasted all day. I wanted my hair relaxed, again for fear of being ‘too bridal’! I went for a half-up do which was very simple.
Our photographer was Carn Patrick Photography. This was the first thing I booked after booking the venue. I felt strongly that the photography was very important as it’s all you have to look at after the day is over. I looked carefully to find a photographer I liked. A lot I came across were dark and dramatic and I wanted someone that would make the most of the bright light and gardens of the venue.
I contacted Carn and arranged to meet up. Both Aidan and I loved his photography and booked him straight away. Booking Carn was the best decision we made during the wedding planning and we can’t sing his praises enough.
I imagined being the subject of photographs awkward and nerve wracking but was put completely at ease by Carn. It was as though he was a wedding guest and completely blended into the day, talking to our guests and capturing moments we would have otherwise missed. So many people mentioned how helpful he had been throughout the day – so much so our friends have since booked him for their wedding too!
We received our digital photos around three weeks after the wedding and could not have been happier with them! It was great to relive the day and see the bits we missed! We are in the process of narrowing down the selection to go in our album and I know that this will be just as high quality as everything else has been.
I had never been particularly fussed about what type of flowers I had for the wedding, but I knew I wanted bright. As there were no flowers that I desperately wanted, I decided I’d have them all! Chris Jefferson Fascinators and Flowers put together my bouquets and we went and chose a selection of artificial flowers. I liked the idea of them looking quite wild and not ‘overdone’. Chris did an amazing job and even made some hairpieces for the bridesmaids too. Aidan requested a thistle for his button-hole which was not a problem for her either.
I used the same kind of artificial flowers to decorate the venue. I bought plain glass vases from Ikea and arranged the artificial flowers myself to create the centrepieces. It meant that they could be transported to the venue already done and took the stress out of the wedding morning!
I bought loose confetti from Dollz Confetti and spent a long evening filling little bags! We ordered some ‘throw some love’ stickers for the bags and displayed them in a tray for the confetti throw.
I also provided the venue with some paper lanterns and hanging decorations. They were so helpful and had put these up in the hall and throughout the gardens before I knew anything about it! They really looked great and was thankful for the help! The venue uses fairy lights throughout the gardens which is really effective in the evening. Everywhere looks so pretty without extra effort.
I had not given a cake much thought until close to the wedding date. My mum had asked what my plans were and I asked if she wanted to decide what cake we had. It was nice for my mum to have some input and she did a great job! She had asked my cousin, Tracy Miller-Hall, to design and make the three-tier cake. I did not see the cake and had no idea what it looked like until the wedding morning! It was a lovely, simple cake with added artificial flowers to match the bouquets. The cake looked absolutely beautiful and we were so grateful to Tracy for putting the effort in.
We had toyed with so many different ideas when it came to favours. In the end we went for a selection of mini eggs that guests could eat. We filled little clear bags with different eggs and tied the bags with string. I ordered some personalised stickers and stuck one on each bag.
We began with canapés of quiche and sausages, recommended by the venue. For the wedding breakfast we used the venue’s catering option. They offered afternoon tea which we thought was very fitting. We chose a 50/50 split of traditional afternoon tea and ‘Gentleman’s Tea’ which offered scotch eggs and pork pies. This was absolutely delicious and were served on beautiful tiered plates, although nerves meant that Aidan and I ate very little!
For evening food we hired a fish and chip van from KK Catering. They pulled up in the courtyard and people queued for their own food when they wanted. They offered a selection of traditional chip shop dishes which were delicious! Everyone commented on how good the food was and what a nice touch it was as opposed to a traditional buffet. It was one of my favourite touches of the day.
We both love to dance so wanted a DJ that was able to get people on the dancefloor. I was also aware that Crook Hall is a unique venue in that the dance area is separate to the rest of the venue and wanted a DJ who was used to the venue. I spoke to Andy from AMDJ at a wedding fair the venue had held. He visited us two weeks before the wedding to discuss our music tastes and feel like he definitely took this on board when playing throughout the night. He kept everyone dancing till the last song. The song list really felt personal and made for us.
It was important that Aidan’s brother Anthony was remembered during the day. I printed a photo of him, along with a sign that said ‘This candle burns in memory of those who are not with us today but are forever in our hearts’. This was placed in the main hall alongside a pillar candle. I didn’t tell Aidan about it beforehand and I know he appreciated the thought.
The table plan was homemade. I bought a frame and backed it with a hessian fabric. I hung the seating plan from string for a rustic look!
The registrar asked Aidan’s daughter Eleanor to present us with our marriage certificate at the end of the ceremony. This was a lovely touch which meant a lot to all of us. Ellie was happy to be involved in such an important part of the day.
I’d absolutely recommend Crook Hall and Gardens to other couples looking to book their wedding. The venue is naturally beautiful and the gardens give guests somewhere to explore during the quieter parts of the day. The organisation of the day was fab, with lots of meetings with wedding organisers to make sure that everything ran smoothly. During the day this continued and the day was completely issue-free – if there were any issues these were resolved without me having to know about them! Nothing was too much of an issue for Crookhill and I loved every minute of the day, trusting that the girls could deal with anything that happened. They were very accommodating and I can’t imagine anything being a problem for them.
My lovely friend Abbie from Abbie Taylor Gifts and Occasions kindly made our invitations, which were just beautiful!
I loved the time immediately after the ceremony. Everything had built up to that point, so it was a moment to breathe. Aidan had been too nervous to look at me when I met him down the aisle. We were able to properly see each other for the first time after the ceremony. We had a few minutes together before going to do the confetti throw and see our guests! The weather was a rare warm day for March and we enjoyed drinks on the Cathedral Lawn with everyone. There’s so much you want to tell to each other about but you just don’t have time. Any minute you can grab with each other is a plus!
To everyone that has asked since the wedding, I have said the same thing; I never understood how people say that their wedding day is the best day of their lives, but now I really do. I loved every single minute and it was truly the best day ever.
We went to Barcelona on honeymoon. Aidan had spent time in Barcelona when he was younger but I had never been. Some friends had travelled over from Barcelona for the wedding so we shared a flight out together the day after the wedding. We spent our days there shopping, drinking, eating and exploring. Aidan convinced me to ride a bike for the first time in 15 years and we had so much fun! It was nice to have time together after the hectic run-up to the wedding, life had been so busy and it was nice to reconnect. It definitely helped to postpone the ‘wedding blues’!
My top tip for other Brides Up North is – Everything. Will. Be. Fine. I saw myself as a relatively laid-back bride and, while I was quite relaxed about decision making, you can’t help but be worried about how the day will run. Truthfully, you will not care about anything that goes wrong, and if the staff at the venue are as helpful as mine, you won’t know about any issues that might occur.
Meanwhile, Aidan says: Say yes to anything your wife to be wants. It makes for a happy and easy life!