Real Weddings

BRIDES UP NORTH FEATURES WRITER SARAH’S ELEGANT WEDDING AT WOODHILL HALL – SARAH & STEVEN

06th September 2019 | Alexis Forsyth

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Today’s real wedding is an extra special one for team BUN – and we apologise for all the gushing that’s coming your way – as we share all the fabulously pretty wedding highlights from our feature writer Sarah’s big day.

And it’s a real beaut (we’re not biased in the slightest…)!

Sarah and her partner Steven tied the knot in July at Woodhill Hall, an exclusive venue set amongst stunning Northumbrian countryside. Blending what Sarah describes as elegance with quirky-cosy, we can see why this exquisite venue stole her heart.

There are personal touches galore (that’s our gal!) – think handmade stationery, menus and table decorations. And for something a little different, alongside her bridesmaids, Sarah had an extended bride tribe too, each adorning a corsage to set them apart – such a lovely idea.

She’s a pro when it comes to talking about other couples’ weddings, but now it’s her turn to share deets from her very own. So, with much excitement, we’re delighted to finally hand the blog over to Sarah…enjoy!

With images by Amy Lou Photography

Proposal

Sarah says: In March 2017, we found out we were expecting our son. We discussed the fact that neither of us really felt the need to be married before having children and that there were more important things to be spending money on than a ring and a big party. Little did I know that he’d been planning to propose for months! He’d already bought a diamond and was having it set at the time. So, obviously it came as a big shock to me when, on a little trip to Palma on his birthday, 28th April 2017, he got down on one knee!

Setting

We got married on Thursday, 4th July 2019. We knew we wanted a summer wedding and we both work for ourselves so, for us, the weekday wasn’t an issue. A Thursday wedding allowed our guests to take a day or two off work to celebrate with us, and still have their weekend ahead of them.

We got married at Woodhill Hall near Otterburn. For me, Woodhill is just the right mix of classic elegance and quirky-cosy. Every time we went, something had been changed or redecorated! It’s set in the most picturesque patch of Northumberland countryside with views for days. I fell for the Orangery as soon as I saw it and knew that even on a dull day it would be beautiful.

It’s completely exclusive so we could relax and make ourselves at home in the house for three days. It feels really homely for a big house. It’s self-catering for the first day, then staffed for the whole wedding with the big full English breakfast for everyone the day after. It sleeps 36 people in quirky but luxurious rooms, and there are plenty of nearby B&Bs, which worked well for us as we had guests travelling a long way.

Theme

Not so much a theme, but the style of our wedding was very simple, elegant and relaxed. Think big blousy white blooms and tumbling foliage in loose hand tied bouquets. All of the doors open, the string quartet playing, fizz flowing, people just moseying around the venue and mingling in the sun. Bliss.

The colour scheme was predominantly white, with lots of green foliage, and touches of navy as the only ‘colour’.

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Dress

When I went dress shopping, I had recently had a baby and I was breastfeeding. I knew that by the time the wedding came around I wouldn’t be and would hopefully have dropped back down a dress-size, but let’s just say I wasn’t feeling my best. I didn’t want the attention or the pressure of an appointment at a little boutique. But I did want to tick the dress of the list, so I asked my mum and sister to come with me to WED2BE in Gateshead, more out of curiosity than anything else.

The first dress I tried on was perfect. It was the Constance by Anna Sorrano. I liked the fact that it was quite classic, no glittery bits at all, just simple ivory lace and tulle. And it was easy to dance in! I had it made to fit like an absolute glove nearer the time by Dressmaking By Kaylean.

I didn’t want a veil or lots of accessories but Steven gave me some earrings to wear with my dress, and I bought a pair of bridal Christian Louboutin shoes (and a new pair of white Converse for the dancing!).

Groomsmen

Steven wore a grey houndstooth three-piece suit from Burton. We’d looked at some really lovely suits, but I wanted the look of tweed or a patterned fabric and they all contained wool. No good for a July wedding! After months of intense Googling, I stumbled across the perfect suit on the Burton’s website.

He then paired it with some new Loake 1880 shoes and a navy silk paisley tie and pocket square from Next.

I gave him some bespoke cufflinks from Badger & Brown as a gift for the morning of the wedding, with our initials on as we’d both be S.S. after the wedding!

Steven’s two best men, and our dads, wore the same suit, tie and pocket square. They also all wore jazzy Happy Socks, as Steven is very into his patterned socks (yes, I did know that before I married him).

Our son, Harrison, was 18 months old on our wedding day. He wore a tiny suit made for him by my seamstress, Kaylean, out of the same fabric as his daddy’s suit. I just bought a big pair of the suit trousers for fabric and the lovely Kaylean worked her magic. I also bought him some little tan brogues (with Velcro fastenings) from M&S, and an adorable navy bowtie with tiny foxes on it. He was absolutely the cutest!

Bridesmaids

My bridesmaids were my sister and Steven’s sister, just to keep it simple. I ordered all the long, navy dresses that ASOS stocked and we had a little girly night so they could try them all on and pick their favourite. They picked very similar styles, but I loved that they were slightly different.

I also had my three best friends as my ‘extended bride tribe’ who I said could wear whatever they wanted. The florist made them corsages to set them apart from other guests.

Beauty

Sarah Stonehouse-Robinson of F.A.C.E Makeup Artistry did our makeup and she did a wonderful job, as well as being the nicest human. We hit it off at my trial so by the time she rocked up at the bridal suite on the morning of the wedding, it felt like a girly sleepover in my room. I asked for “my face but on a really good day” because I wanted Steven to recognise who he was marrying! She aced it.

The hairdresser I’d booked unfortunately broke her ankle a couple of weeks before the big day, but she sent me some contact details for people she trusted to replace her. I recruited Cheryl from Bridal Hair North East and she did a fabulous job while being thoroughly lovely and cheerful – even though we’d never met, hadn’t had a trial and she had to start at 6:30am to fit everyone in!

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Photography

Amy of Amy Lou Photography was without a doubt the best girl for the job. Not only did she slot seamlessly into our wedding, and produce the most beautiful shots which perfectly capture our special day, but I feel like I’ve made a friend too (and I keep bumping into her, as we’re both freelance).

Styling

I carried a huge, loose and romantic bouquet of big white flowers including peonies, hydrangeas, freesias and a lot of eucalyptus, ruscus and olive foliage, all tied with hessian. I was obsessed with it!

The bridesmaids had smaller versions of my bouquet, the mums had white corsages tied with ivory ribbon, my besties had corsages tied with twine and the groomsmen and dads had buttonholes tied with twine.

Hollie at Fleur Couture Floral Design did the most unbelievable job with the flowers. She got my vision straight away and was just so lovely to spend time with in the run up to the wedding.

She did an amazing job of the venue too. I loved Woodhill already, so I just wanted to use flowers to bring some of the outside in. She used more of the same white flowers and foliage as I had in my bouquet and arranged them in my chunky glass vases. Hollie was happy to work with the vases I had, and bits and bobs that I’d made, and suggested pieces that we might like to incorporate, like the glass cylinders we put candles in, and the olive branches. We used a lot of olive as, pre-baby, we’d originally wanted to get married in Tuscany. Also, our dog’s called Olive!

I made the table numbers out of wine bottles and the name place settings out of old champagne corks. I’d also designed everyone their own personalised menu so they could remember what they were having. We rented hessian drops for the chairs, with a sprig of olive tucked in, and beaded glass charger plates to really set the table arrangements off.

We booked an enormous hanging arrangement, which was created by Fiona at Great British Bash. This was something I’d seen done at Woodhill, in the Orangery, before and loved.

Favours

Le Mini Macaron made our wedding favours, after we tried their macarons at the Jesmond Food Market near our house. I love macarons and they were some of the best I’ve had outside of Paris!

We opted for two; a white vanilla one and a green pistachio one, in a clear box tied with white ribbon and popped one on each table setting.

I’d also created little ‘hangover kits’ to put in the rooms of guests who were staying over at the venue, and Woodhill put prosecco and chocolates in everyone’s room too. It’s the little touches!

Cake

The Great British Cupcakery in Newcastle made our wedding cake. We had three tiers of the most delicious fresh strawberry cake, wrapped in classic white frosting, decorated by some olive branches. I’m not a fan of a traditional fruitcake myself and the fresh strawberry cake was so good and fitted perfectly into our English summer wedding day.

Dining

One of the major factors in choosing the venue was the food and we loved going up for the tasting evening in January.

Starters were either a duck liver pate on toast or creamy wild mushroom on brioche. For mains, our guests could choose from roast cannon of sirloin and Pan Haggerty; sea bass with a basil crumb or spinach tortellini with butter squash. Then there was a champagne sorbet, followed by dessert of either Eton mess or a raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, and tea or coffee.

We took the wine tasting very seriously (any excuse!) and tried a few different bottles from Waitrose. We eventually narrowed it down to one Cava, one red, one white and one rosé. We paid corkage, rather than opting for a drinks package.

Entertainment

Steven has a band, Boys of Brass, who play a lot of weddings and corporate events alongside their normal gigs, so there was really no other choice for our wedding! He’s not much a dancer anyway so I didn’t miss him on the dancefloor while he was playing, and they’re always so popular live that it meant I wasn’t worried about the party being a flop!

They play a lot of funky northern soul, some pop covers, some classic rock covers and swing stuff. They also got everyone on the dancefloor for our first dance song, Frank Sinatra’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Steven did dance for half of it before running up to play the big trumpet solo! My dad stepped in to dance me around the tipi at that point, which was really sweet. And Steven’s dad had a cameo in the band!

Having the Boys all play as a wedding present was really special and meant that we could afford to have Aurora Strings, a string quartet, play before and during the ceremony and at the drinks reception in the courtyard afterwards. I asked them to play The Beach Boys’ song God Only Knows as I walked down the aisle, which was absolutely perfect for us.

I loved the juxtaposition of the elegant, gentle strings for the daytime in the main house, and then the rowdy, party brass and guitars for the nighttime in the tipi!

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Special touches

In the run up to the big day I’d designed all of our stationery, seating plan and welcome boards, menus, table decorations etc and made the dried petal confetti and holders myself and it took a lot of time, lining envelopes and all that malarkey. But when it all came together, I’m really glad I did it, as it made it so much more personal.

Steven had also sent bags of Jo Malone stuff to my room first thing on the morning, with a card, which was a lovely surprise. The room I was staying in had an oversized copper bathtub in it so that meant I spent a little time in there before the hair and makeup girls arrived, wallowing in Pomegranate Noir bath oil before covering myself in the body butter. He’d had the bottle of perfume inscribed with my married name and the date of the wedding too. Extra husband points for that!

We hired a photo booth from Snaparazzi and big S&S lights from Coco Luminaire, both to go in the tipi for the evening. I’m really glad we went with them because the service was impeccable. And the photo booth is a much more fun idea than just an ordinary guestbook. Our guests loved it and we loved looking back through it and seeing everyone get steadily drunker!

Thanks to

Big thanks to Woodhill Hall for our happiest of happy days! It wouldn’t have been the same wedding without Woodhill and Team W! The house, grounds and location are second to none, and Sarah (our wedding coordinator) and the rest of the team couldn’t have done more. Big shout out to the bar staff in the tipi’s Secret Bar too!

Best bit

Steven says the setting of the Orangery for our ceremony was just perfect. Seeing our little son, Harrison, coming through those doors with his sister, ahead of his wife-to-be, was just fantastic. He says I had done an amazing job of the whole wedding planning thing and he was so proud.

I have two! The first would have to be the evening before the wedding. We arrived at Woodhill about 4pm and our immediate family followed up around 5pm. Steven’s mum and sister had brought a massive lasagne and a big pan of chili and all kinds of sides and salads, so our two families joined forces to set up dinner, and then all sat around a huge table to eat in the courtyard outside, with lots of champagne and wine. Harry loved being surrounded by all of his favourite people, and we all just chatted and laughed until it was time for bed. It felt so intimate and relaxing but also exciting, like Christmas Eve. It was the best way to start the celebrations.

My second favourite moment would have to be walking into the stunning Orangery with my dad, and realising the sun had come out on a day that had been forecast as rainy, and seeing the blue sky through all the glass. Steven was standing there, in my dream wedding vision made reality, with the string quartet playing The Beach Boys. It was perfect and I’ll remember that moment and the ceremony forever.

Honeymoon

With Harry still only being a year old, we didn’t want to go away very far or for very long. But we did want to make sure we took the chance to go away, just the two of us, as newlyweds.

We decided on Barcelona because it’s only a short flight from Newcastle and we’ve been a few times before so we could relax, rather then feel like we should be sightseeing and exploring. We ate in some fantastic restaurants, soaked up plenty of sun and wine, wandered along the beach and lazed by the rooftop pool. It might’ve only been a minimoon but it was perfect. We may still do a ‘proper’ honeymoon when Harry’s older, for an anniversary maybe.

Advice

My top tip for fellow Brides Up North would be to remember that if anything’s missing from or ‘wrong’ with your day, you’ll be the only one who notices. None of your guests will. So please do try to relax and enjoy it, because it’ll be over in a blink!

Writing for Brides Up North means I get to see a lot of weddings and will always keep seeing things I wished I’d incorporated into our big day. Too late now though! Maybe we’ll have to renew our vows in a few years’ time just to do it all again…

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