Real Weddings

Karen Willis Holmes for a country boho wedding at Brinkburn Priory – Stephanie & Hamish

10th December 2019 | Sarah Symonds

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Today’s happy couple flew 10,000 miles back to the North East for their perfect summer wedding at the stunning and serene Brinkburn Priory.

Our bride, Stephanie, is originally from Newcastle upon Tyne. She moved to Sydney, Australia at 19 for University and never left. Her dashing groom, Hamish, is a half-Scottish Australian, born and bred in Sydney. They opted to tie the knot here …and bring a whole lot of Australia with them! 40 of their 120 guests were also flying half way around the world and being introduced to the North East for the very first time. This wedding wasn’t just a celebration of their marriage, but also a celebration of all things North East and we love it

To fit their personal style and complement the pared-back architectural stylings of Brinkburn, Stephanie and Hamish plumped for a relaxed bohemian tipi vibe meets traditional British country wedding. We’re showcasing a soft, pretty and neutral colour scheme with blush pink and white blooms and heaps of loose foliage, alongside a big ceilidh party until the wee hours, all packed into this unforgettable setting tucked away in the Northumbrian woodland.

With photography by Rachel Fraser

Proposal

Stephanie says: Hamish proposed in Pacific Grove, California. We were in the states for work and decided to make the most of our time there and drive Highway 1 to Big Sur. I had just finished yoga, it was a beautiful sunset so we went for a wander to a lookout point on the shore to watch sunset. Hamish is a drone fanatic so was filming the sunset whilst I was wandering around taking in the views. I walked back over the rocks to where Hamish was and sat down. Unbeknown to me there was a camera on me from one angle and a drone from the other. That is when Hamish got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I was in such disbelief it took me a while to form words, but of course I said yes. Afterwards we went for Champagne in Monterey and woke both sets of parents up on either side of the world (Australia and UK) to share the news.

Setting

We tied the knot on the 15th of June, 2019. The date came to us quite serendipitously. We had originally discussed getting married in Scotland. With Hamish’s mum being from Glasgow, we thought the Scottish Aussies could travel and see their homeland. However, we saw a lot of venues and nothing struck a chord. Driving back down to Newcastle we came across a sign for Brinkburn Priory. After some quick research, we saw it ticked all our boxes. As we were flying back out to Australia in two days, the Brinkburn team scrambled to squeeze us in for a venue viewing in between weddings.

Both Hamish and I got butterflies walking down the aisle together on our first site visit to the Priory. They informed us they had two dates left in June 2019 and one of them was the 15th June. Hamish and I jumped on this date as the day we would be checking in to Brinkburn (14th June) would be exactly a year to the day that we got engaged.

Our wedding ceremony was held in the heritage medieval monastery, Brinkburn Priory. The building is just stunning and the grounds so serene, with the River Coquet running right by the venue.

The reception was held in the tipi, which is gorgeous, surprisingly large, airy and when everyone was there, it was just so full of excitement, love and happiness. Later on in the evening we had a ceilidh set up in the white room, to celebrate Hamish’s half Scottish heritage.

Theme

Both Hamish and I are very laid back and creative. Our theme was traditional British country wedding meets a relaxed bohemian good time.

More than a theme, Hamish and I wanted to celebrate the North of England and support some of the amazing local businesses we have here. I can’t pat myself on the back enough for that decision because each and every person was so delightful to collaborate with and made us both so excited for our day. We cannot thank each and every one of them enough.

The colour palette was a lot of clean white, fresh timber, soft grey, green foliage with subtle pops of colour. The pops of colour were specifically through the flowers and Christine, our florist really got our vision, helped us develop it and really blew us away.

I think I read all of the Brides Up North ‘Real Wedding’ stories to get ideas and information. It got me so excited hearing stories from all the couples. I used the styled shoot sections for supplier and theme inspiration too.

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Dress

I wore the Karina gown from Australian designer Karen Willis Holmes. I bought it in Sydney from the designer. They treated us to champagne on arrival and I got to try on lots of different styles of dresses. My dress was a very classic design with long lace sleeves, an open neckline with lace overlay and a fitted skirt with lace train. The moment I put my dress on I loved it. It was comfortable and showed off my curves (which I usually avoid). I knew my future husband would be blown away!

A special mention has to go to Marrime Bridal in Jesmond who absolutely rescued the dress. After having my final fitting six weeks before the big day and travelling with it from Sydney, I tried it on ten days before and it was hanging off me. Marrime stock Karen Willis Holmes and were just so lovely and happy to help. They made so many alterations for me in barely any time at all and the dress looked fabulous. I can’t thank them enough.

Groomsmen

Hamish had his suit made after seeing a photo online of the outfit he wanted to wear and not being able to find it in a store anywhere. Just as I had chosen my dress, I wanted Hamish to choose an outfit that made him feel confident and comfortable. The bespoke suit was from Montagio in Sydney, Australia. The jacket, with tails, was a rich navy blue paired with fine houndstooth trousers, a crisp white shirt and a soft grey waistcoat and bow tie. His outfit was a nod to the traditional British theme with a bit of Sydney flair thrown in for good measure. The groom even had an outfit change. Switching to his late grandfathers’ kilt in the family’s tartan for the evening ceilidh and dancing.

The five groomsmen had each travelled over from Australia and been whipped into Slaters in Newcastle city centre to get suit fittings. They wore navy suits with soft grey waistcoats, crisp white shirts and bow ties to match the groom. We even subtly incorporated the Scottish theme in their outfits with tartan cufflinks and tartan ties for the evening.

Bridesmaids

My beautiful bridesmaids wore long powder blue tulip hem dresses from Shona Joy in two different styles. I wanted a brand that offered some choice for the girls. It was quite the effort getting a sample size to circumnavigate the globe so that everyone could try it on for size. We had alterations going right up until a few days before but they all looked stunning on the day.

Our only flower girl, our niece Isabela, had only just learned to walk at only 18 months old. She wore a simple white dress with white shoes and a cardigan.

Beauty

Hair was done by Sam from Eden Freelance Hairdressing. Each of the girls chose their own hairstyle, accented with flowers. I chose a messy up-do for the day to show off the back of my dress. Sam was so happy, positive and friendly. She really added to our morning and did a wonderful job.

Victoria Holdstock did all of our makeup. Again, the girls each chose how they wanted their makeup done. I went for a soft, natural look. I wish I could have Victoria do my makeup every day!

Travel

I was staying in the main house at Brinkburn, a mere 100m from the ceremony location. However, just for fun and photos, we hired an ivory 1963 Morris Minor Convertible with red leather interior from Northumbria Classics. My dad and I got a ride the whole 100m to the Priory in the car! The driver was so lovely and everyone commented on how fabulous he was.

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Photographer

Rachel Fraser was our photographer for the day. We loved working with Rachel and Rosie. Hamish and I chose her because her photos were just stunning. We both like the bright and airy candid style of photographs she takes and thought it would capture our day perfectly. We wanted the stunning photos without having to be away from our wedding party too long. Rachel and Rosie really understood this and captured beautiful photographs without us knowing they were there most of the time.

Videographer

Jon Lunt from Top Table Films was our videographer. You barely notice him there but he captured everything and everyone looking so happy. As the bride, I wasn’t around for a lot of the initial moments such as guests arriving, so I really appreciate being able to watch that, as well as relive the best day of our lives so vividly afterwards.

Styling

My ‘messy’ bouquet was a mixture of dusty pink vintage coloured peonies, roses, gypsophila and a whole lot of trailing olive and eucalyptus foliage. The bridesmaids carried a smaller version of my bouquet and each was tied with trailing soft blue and grey ribbon. It was all masterminded by the lovely Christine from Lavenders Blue who created some absolutely stunning floral pieces for our day. We met with her six months before our wedding and trusted her vision so much, we just let her lead us.

The entrance of the priory was adorned with a freestanding split floral arch made up of lots of loose foliage, blush tones, peonies and seasonal flowers. The aisle was dotted with hessian tied foliage, bay trees and timber lanterns and at the front of the priory were two columns with stunning arrangements. In the tipi the wooden rustic chandelier was adorned with trailing foliage, gypsophila and festoon lights. In the centre of the tables were an assortment of succulents, loose foliage, moss and log slices and glass vases of peonies, roses and foliage. The flower arch was then moved to a bench and a timber sign reading ‘The Masons’ hung from it as a rustic and beautiful photo backdrop for guests just against the River Coquet.

The Geek Asylum, based in Alnwick, supplied us with printed wine labels. On one of the barrels at the drinks reception we laid out personalised Jenga blocks for our guests to leave us a message on. Our signage was hung in raw steel frames handmade by Bramble Sky, which set the modern, minimalist, boho but traditional theme we wanted.

Favours

Our favours were personalised rolls of mints from Bella Boos Gifts. The rolls were striped soft grey and white, and read ‘Mint to be’. We wanted to gift something our guests could enjoy on the day and who doesn’t want a mint after dinner?

Cake

I still have cravings for this cake! It was a three tiered off-white buttercream cake, each tier a different texture because when it came down to it, we couldn’t choose just one. Made by Tammy Rogers from House of Boutique Cakes, we had a classic vanilla sponge dressed with peonies, roses and gypsophila to match the rest of the décor. The top tier was semi-naked, the middle tier a lightly brushed buttercream and the bottom was fully piped buttercream. Tammy also made some spectacular gluten-free cake pops. She is a wonderful person who clearly has a passion for what she does.

Dining

Our food was a little less traditional and more fun. Hamish and I are big foodies so we were lucky to have Neil from Wilkins Fine Dining helping us out. The food tasting was still our favourite wedding prep experience! Neil had quite a task as he served food for us over three days and every day was just fantastic.

During the drinks reception guests were served a mixture of hot and cold canapes including duck pancakes, salmon blinis, pepper and tortilla bites. We opted for a three course sharing menu for our wedding breakfast and hog roast rolls with wedding cake and mini grazing platters for our evening food.

Each table got two to three dishes for each course and shared them amongst themselves. We had a selection of baked camembert, smoked salmon, asparagus and scotch eggs to start. Lamb, chicken and steak options with a variety of salads and potatoes two ways for mains. Then, sticky toffee cupcakes, pavlovas and brownies to finish it all off with dessert.

The food was abundant and everyone got into the sharing spirit. On the tables we had red, white and rose wines. Champagne was served during the toasts and prosecco at the drinks reception. All wines were from Brinkburn’s cellar and anything we didn’t drink they left us for the hangover brunch the following day.

Entertainment

Our entertainment kicked off as dessert was being served with a surprise from some very talented Secret Singers masquerading as waiters. Hamish and I really wanted to draw a line between the formalities and the party and these guys really wowed all our guests. Most were taken by surprise when the guy who had just served them drinks burst into song. By the time dessert was over everyone had been up and dancing, waving napkins around and truly enjoying themselves thanks to the Secret Singers.

After that, it was over to the White Room for a traditional Scottish ceilidh with The Grouse Ceilidh Band who had come down from Edinburgh to continue the festivities. They tried, in vain, to teach our guests some moves. In the end everyone had so much fun trying to keep up with the fast paced Scottish dancing. We all danced into the night.

Newcastle String Quartet were another special touch. They played the entrance songs for my bridal party during the ceremony and then for the guests at our drinks reception directly afterwards.

One special touch we added was an audio guest book instead of a written one. The Voice Messaging Company set up a red telephone box in the White Room. After the wedding Robert sent us the actual phone with our recordings along with some beautiful photos he had taken from the day and a funny hidden camera video of our guests using the booth. It was an absolutely amazing thing to listen to and we are so glad we incorporated it into our day.

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Thanks to

I couldn’t recommend Brinkburn Priory more. The actual grounds are so stunning and in that regard the beauty, serenity and privacy really speaks for itself. However, what makes it such a great venue is the team behind all the memorable days. They really did go above and beyond to make sure that every tiny detail was catered for. We had our own dedicated Wedding Coordinator, Leanne, who stayed in touch with us from the moment of booking. I really thought I was going to be stressed and nervous on the day but I was unbelievably calm and that was all thanks to the Brinkburn team and all of our wonderful suppliers.

Best bit

It is so hard to answer this question because every time I think of our wedding day my mind rushes through an abundance of amazing and surreal moments that I just loved. I adored getting ready with all my girls. Getting pampered, sneaking around the venue in our robes meeting all the suppliers, getting really excited and popping champagne.

But I think my favourite moment has to be walking in to the Priory, looking down the aisle and seeing Hamish smiling back at me, wiping away tears. It was a surreal moment seeing everyone we love from all over the world. I think I just about sprinted down the aisle because I was so excited to marry Hamish.

I also really loved dancing with my dad. Hamish put together a video of both of us as babies and we projected it on the wall of the white room during the dance with my dad and our first dance as a married couple.

Honeymoon

Our honeymoon is yet to come, April 2020. Travelling from Sydney, Australia for our wedding was a big trip in itself. Our honeymoon will be in French Polynesia, island hopping and treating ourselves to some luxury in Bora Bora.

Advice

Involve each other in everything. Make each decision and each task ticked off a celebration. Be organised and be organised early. Let go of anything you cannot control.

But, most of all, when it is all happening around you, take some time to really absorb each of the moments. That was a piece of advice I received before our big day and I am so thankful for it. I remember every detail of the day because of that piece of advice and, even though it all feels like a dream, I can take myself back to each amazing moment over the day. Enjoy it, enjoy each other. It truly is one of the best days of your life.

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