When it came to planning their dream wedding, actors Alicia and Dean decided on a week-long party involving their friends, family and the stunning backdrop of Walcott Hall in Shropshire.
A retro-esque theme – complete with an exquisite Charlie Brear bridal attire, neon lights and the perfect ‘40s hairdo – ran loosely through the day, with playful, creative details (we’re looking at you, gold dinosaurs) adding extra pops of personality to the day.
In fact, a whole cast of talented loved ones helped the couple pull-off their perfect celebration, with contributions including live-drawing, entertainment and even the services of a confetti-distributing dog. Oh, and the Oscar-nominated video-maker…
And we’re delighted to her that Brides Up North was a valuable source of inspiration and information for bride-to-be Alicia as she planned her dream day, having only recently moved to the Manchester area.
Now, on with the party…
With images by Louise Cuppello
Alicia says: I was at work and the August Bank Holiday weekend was coming up. Both of us were a bit knackered and needed a break, so on the spur of the moment, I decided to book us into an off-grid shepherd’s hut in The Lake District called The Herdwick Huts.
We pitched up on the Friday afternoon and after getting back from the local pub, were sitting outside surrounded by candles and sheep, drinking red wine and chatting. Dean mentioned he was going into the hut to get us some snacks. Knowing the weekend was coming up, he’d bought a special olive wood chopping board and was going to do a big Antipasti board (one of our favourite things) but got too nervous and just put loads of crisps on it, with the ring box nestled amongst them!
When I turned around, he was on one knee with the chopping board in one hand and a torch in the other pointing at the ring. We were both in our pyjamas and cagoules and glasses looking like total nerds but it was perfect for us!
We got married the following June, less than a year after getting engaged. We knew we wanted a summer wedding and that we wanted to have our minimoon at Glastonbury Festival (one of our favourite places), so we arranged to have it the week before that. We were legally married at the Registry Office in Manchester, which we invited just our parents and siblings. We had Champagne on the 19th floor at 20 Stories followed by dinner on the roof at El Gato Negro.
The actual ‘big’ day was the following week at Walcot Hall in the heart of the Shropshire Hills. We had been tearing our hair out trying to find the perfect spot, as we wanted to have a wedding that comprised a series of events over a few days in order to maximise the time we spent with our people. Walcot was perfect for that: the grounds can accommodate up to 100 guests in a series of salvaged and newly built cottages and incredible structures like old tin chapels, gypsy caravans, yurts and fire trucks.
We had all our guests on-site from Monday to Friday, with the wedding on the Wednesday. We held a huge barbecue hog roast on the Monday; the night before the wedding, everyone met in the pub; the morning after the wedding, we all had brunch and Bloody Marys followed by a picnic, and a North Vs South football match (Dean is from Leeds and I am from London). Then we all piled back to the pub again!
We essentially had the whole place to ourselves for a week. The accommodation is unreal and has been featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces and is on loads of boutique glamping sites. We spent the week in a bright turquoise chapel which had been fully converted inside. Everything looks like something from the set of a Harry Potter film: if you can find a more magical venue, I will eat my wedding dress.
We didn’t really have a theme – rather, we wanted the day to be reflective of us and our outlooks on life. We didn’t want it to be like every other wedding and we wanted the guests to feel welcomed and included in our journey as a couple.
I made special wedding programmes on InDesign to look like old Victorian letterpress Music Hall posters (we are both actors by trade) and it was a fun and loving nod to everyone who made our day possible; we credited all our friends who were singing/DJing/playing in the band and so on.
We even had our friends’ dog Diddy as the confetti dog! We also both love dinosaurs, and gave them to each other as good luck tokens when we were touring some years ago. They made an appearance as our cake toppers and I made them a top hat and a veil for the occasion! Everyone had a hand stamped name place, with a gold dinosaur as a favour.
I bought a bundle of vintage hardback books in blue and turquoise tones to match the walls of the ballroom where we had lunch, and we raised up the flowers on top of them. I designed all the menus too, and tucked them into the napkins with sprigs of eucalyptus
We were almost totally guided by the colours of Walcot and that magical Tiffany turquoise ballroom – but I did choose the bridesmaid dresses to be the same shade of blue as in the Leeds United strip, in a nod to Dean’s lifelong passion for the Liverpool football team! We paired the turquoise with blue tones, cream and accents of gold.
I only knew a few aspects of what I wanted in a dress, such as statement sleeves and a plunging neckline. Something modern and fresh, with a vintage throwback in it. Being blonde and fair, I don’t tend to wear much white and I didn’t want to go for a dress that looked like a typical wedding dress. Mostly, I just wanted to feel like me: I didn’t want a veil or a train or anything like that.
I found The White Closet in West Didsbury as they stocked a designer I liked (but I ended up going for a different!) When I turned up and met Millie the owner, I knew it was the right place. She has a really high fashion, modern outlook on bridal wear, and totally understood my desire to go for something a bit edgier. She was amazing!
I actually got two outfits in a Charlie Brear trunk sale. I wore her Carson jumpsuit to the registry office with a silk and pearl knot headband, baroque pearl earrings and bag, and shoes by Moda in Pelle with incredible giant pearls in the heel. I also kept it to change into on the wedding day for dancing. I wore the Nykia dress for my wedding day, teamed with a custom belt from Sash & Co, and shoes and hair slide by Jenny Packham. My ‘something borrowed’ were my earrings from Carat, which my bridesmaid Tammy lent me from when she got married and I was her bridesmaid. This was all rounded off with lashings of dress tape and control pants from Marks & Spencer, of course!
All the groomsmen were told to wear something that represented them and their personality. We told them to stay roughly within the blue/grey tones so they all looked connected to the bridal party, but beyond that it was up to them. They mostly went for three piece suits. There were bow ties, waistcoats, a couple of cravats and polo neck in there too.
They looked ace! My father-in-law bought them all unique vintage pocket watches to wear on the day, and Dean got them all silk pocket squares which had personal meaning.
My bridesmaids wore a beautiful rich blue silk kimono wrap dress from Finery. The style suited everyone, the colour was sumptuous, and the length was perfect for dancing. The style and sleeves also connected to the kimono style of my own dress. All of them love it and say they can totally wear it again as it’s not obviously a bridesmaid dress.
They teamed it with silver shoes of their choice, and I bought them all a pearl hair slide to wear with it. In the morning, they all wore silky robes printed with vintage maps of Paris (the city of love!) to get ready in. I got my mum the special robe version to wear as well. They were from One Hundred Stars and are absolutely the most beautiful robes I’ve ever seen!
Kassi Ellis did our hair and was outstanding. I would highly recommend her, especially if you want to do something with a retro nod. She said she really enjoyed not doing typical wedding hair for a change. My bridesmaid Tammy has trained as a makeup artist, so she helped with my eye makeup but we all largely took care of our own.
Our photographs were taken by Louise Cuppello and her husband Alex, who are based in Cheshire and are an incredible team. I scoured the internet trying to find someone who framed and graded photos the way I liked – and at a reasonable amount – and Lousie appeared out of the mists of a frantic late-night Google search. I messaged her, and she got back to me within ten minutes.
She and Alex came to my house for a drink and a chat and I showed them pictures of the venue. I explained I wanted to do something different and in celebration of the surroundings, and how nuts we all are as friends!
I suggested smoke bombs in the woods, shots in a boat on the lake, the swing, and perhaps some Polaroids and sparklers. She was so up for it! We created a joint Pinterest for inspiration and collected some fun editorial style images and composition ideas. On the day, they were there from about 10am to 10pm and we let them take full creative control and boss us about to get the perfect shots. We trusted them implicitly and the results are incredible. I would say they were the find of the whole wedding and we will definitely use them again for future events. They deserve every success.
We didn’t have an official one, although one of our mates, Adam Lyons, is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker and he brought his drone along for fun, so you know…no big deal!
For the registry office ceremony, I had a beautiful bouquet from Frog Flowers in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. My sister-in-law Hannah made me a beautiful paper bouquet out of the pages of a vintage edition of the play which Dean and I were acting in when we first met.
For the wedding, the package came with table centrepieces by Tammy Hall at Wild Bunch and they were outstanding. They were unfettered meadow-like summer seasonals, with loads of blousy romance and a few big dramatic blooms, all grown in her own wildflower meadows. I wanted lots of pale peach tones and dusky greens, and she arranged them all in antique brass urns. We also commissioned her to make a floral altarpiece and fill two vintage Cadbury’s milk churns for the top of the wedding aisle, which we moved inside after the ceremony so we could enjoy them for longer!
My aunt Joanna Herald is a landscape gardener and is exceptionally talented and wildly creative. I wanted her to do my bouquets, so I felt surrounded by family all day. She did mine and the bridesmaids’ bouquets and the groomsmen’s buttonholes. She also created wild meadow style dressings for the mantelpieces in the ballroom which were absolutely the most breath-taking floral arrangements I’ve ever seen. She worked so hard and I was so proud of her.
We moved the flowers from the aisle to the entrance of the ballroom and I bought mismatched vases in TK Maxx and filled them with water so we could have all the bridal bouquets around for extra decoration. I kept all the empty Jo Malone candle jars from the office I work in and recycled and refilled them myself for the tables in the bar areas. I bought all the tealight holders for 65p each from a florist supply shop and got the blue bundle of 40 books from a bookseller on eBay for £30. I bought tubs of toy dinosaurs on Amazon and we spray-painted them gold. The cake stand was an old terracotta plant dish, which I also sprayed gold!
I bought bundles of pillar candles for the mantelpieces and nestled them in amongst the wild meadow flower displays. We also hired a neon sign from Neon Creations in Bolton which said “just married” – it was the perfect amount of kitsch for such a classically beautiful room! We had it on the grand piano in the bar, next to the guest book and Polaroid station. I also bought some D&A wire letters for the mantelpiece in the bar.
We hung festoon lights in the courtyard, which I hired from a local village hall, and we tied mismatched paper lanterns around the bulbs, so it would look extra magical in the dark – and it did! We had a fire pit and toasted marshmallows out there all night.
We had the little gold dinosaurs. Everyone loved them and people have been sending us pictures of them on their mantelpieces or in display cabinets at their houses! A couple of friends made sure to collect the whole set before they left.
Our friend Eva Sayer is an amazing baker and offered to do our cake, and some tray bakes for the day. She made us a three-tiered semi-naked cake with streaks of turquoise running through it, and gold drips of chocolate running down the tiers. It had a vanilla sponge bottom, chocolate middle and banana top tier. She hand-wired all the flowers to match and decorated it with our dinosaurs. Our ‘Dean and Alicia’ cake toppers were made by my friend Georgia at Roscoe’s Toppers – she can design you anything you like.
We wanted a light summery menu, but also something that would include the many vegans on our guestlist and give everyone a good feed! Roslin Catering did us the most spectacular menu and everyone commented on it being the best wedding food they’d ever had.
We had a honey and soy marinated duck salad for starters, followed by panko-crumbed chicken with pesto and mascarpone centre, vine-roasted tomatoes, lemon and fregola salad, Greek salad with feta and buttered new potatoes. Vegans had their own version of these accompaniments (even vegan feta!), with a beetroot and garlic tart tatin. We followed it with a trio of desserts: Eton mess, banana and walnut crumble, and salted caramel brownie with raspberry dust.
We drank an Arcs Des Anges Merlot, a Sauvignon Blanc from Southern France and a beautiful pale Domaine La Chautarde Provence Rose.
We are so lucky that almost every single one of our friends is talented in some way, and we really wanted to showcase them all. We had our friend Jog as our celebrant as he was instrumental in getting us together as a couple, and our friend Sophie wrote and performed a poem about us during the ceremony.
Our mates Tony and Cherry sang loads of acoustic covers as the guests filed in to take their seats and the crowd loved them; they created a great party atmosphere before the ceremony. It was during this time that our friend Emma walked her dog Diddy down the aisle (in a custom floral collar by Evie Rose Bridal), handing out monogrammed confetti pouches to the guests which we got made by DesignMeMy on Etsy. It was as bonkers as it sounds!
Our family friend Georgia Buchanan is a great singer known as Call Me Loop (she’s gonna be big!) and performed some of her tracks during canapes, while our friend Molly O’Donoghue (who also designed our invitations and table plan) drew portraits of everyone. We had The Shane Nolan Band, followed by our friend Gary Damer who did all the sound and tech for the day as DJ, and shared the slot with our mate Tom Mundell (well known DJ known as Metrik) who created an amazing wedding mix for us!
Dean was really close to his grandad, Ron, who would have been 100 this year. They both shared a passion for sport and in his youth, Ron was an amazing athlete having played for Leeds Rhinos and running for Harehills Harriers. Dean’s most prized possession is Ron’s running shirt from the 1930s, which I secretly had mounted and framed without him knowing. I got my friend to drop it off to him as he was getting ready with his groomsmen on the morning of the wedding and he was in bits. He said it was the best thing anyone has ever given him.
I was really nervous up until the ceremony and then it just raced past! I loved being introduced into the Ballroom with Dean by our mate Paul who was the MC. Everyone went wild – I’ve never heard applause like it. My mum walked me down the aisle to I’m Thinking of You by Sister Sledge and looked like a total rock star. She also did an amazing speech, as did Dean and his sister Hannah, who is an amazing comedian and did the best (wo)man’s speech.
Our first dance was to Nothing But Love by James as we wanted a Manchester band to represent our hometown, and Shane and his band played Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On for us as a bonus first dance number. Having photos done in the woods with the groomsmen and bridesmaids was great: Dean’s dad followed us around with wine and champagne, keeping the drinks flowing and we took loads of bonkers shots. Louise even made us get in a boat!
I think everyone’s favourite part though, was the ceremony. It was so personal and fun, and our friend Jog did a fantastic job as celebrant. Everyone was in floods of tears and hysterical laughter! There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
We had our minimoon at Glastonbury (all our tables were named after the stages and Molly O’Donoghue illustrated amazing pictures of them all). For our actual honeymoon, we are looking to go to Southeast Asia, and do a lot of relaxing…perhaps Lombok and Bali. I would also love to go to New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga. We are definitely planning to go over winter to seek some bonus sun!
My top tips for other Brides Up North would be – firstly, to stay true to yourself and do what you want. Don’t feel obliged to invite anyone you don’t want there, wear what you want, don’t worry about conventions…don’t try and diet or put pressure on yourself to look perfect – it won’t happen – and just have fun. Remember, the day is a reflection of you and your partner and the unique way you love each other.
Also, try not to drink (too) much until all the big moments are out of the way. The day flies past so quickly it’s hard to remember everything as it is! Get a decent photographer to capture everything and rope in anyone with skills to help make/play/write/design things. It makes the day so much more personal and can save you thousands! My ultimate tip though, would be to think of the experience your guests will have from start to finish. Think about their journey through the day, and all the ways they will be entertained and stimulated.
Everyone notices the little details, and the personal touches are what people remember most about the day, whether it is the ceremony, the speeches or little gold dinosaurs…!
During the planning, I found Brides Up North really useful – I’d only moved to Manchester a year-and-a-half-ago, so I was lost when it came to looking for things locally, as I had no prior knowledge of dress shops and venues in the local area. I always found the real weddings and inspo sections really helpful too. It really helps to see how other couples unify themes and ideas in their own day and what their day says in celebration of them. It’s a fascinating insight.