Rachel's Wedding Diary


Rachel Hirst

Happy New Year! It’s holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a short break, we’ll be leaving you with a reduced blogging schedule so that you still get your daily dose of wedding lovely. Usual service will recommence on Monday 6th January 2020 but in the meantime watch out for recaps of some of our favourite Real Weddings from the latter half of 2019. 

Drop in every day for the very prettiest, most unique wedding inspiration and – if you are a Brides Up North bride – to see if your real wedding was one of our top picks.

And what other wedding could we usher in the new decade with than our “Wedding Of The Year 2019”, it’s our very own Rachel of course….

Well this is all a bit surreal! After writing about other couples’ amazing weddings on the blog over the past four years, here I am to feature my own.

It was great sharing my bride-to-be journey on the blog through my ‘wedding diary’ posts in the run up, and I’m now thrilled to be revealing the details of mine and Andy’s big day in full; from the dress, blooms and décor to the entertainment, dining and special touches.

Having been with Andy for five years, I didn’t think I could possibly love him anymore, but as is evident from our beautiful wedding images and video, I felt a whole new level of love-up euphoria on our wedding day. We didn’t stop laughing and smiling throughout, emotions ran high with happy tears shed, and it further cemented that Andy is undoubtedly my soul mate, sharing the same playful sense of humour, values and ambitions.

When they say your wedding is the best day of your life, they’re not wrong. Andy and I loved every single second of it and wouldn’t change a thing – though we would rather quite like to do it all again!

And so, I’ll not delay the details any longer, but will say once again a massive thank you to all involved for making our day fun, fabulous and truly unforgettable!

With images by S6 Photography and video by Love Two Film

The West Mill // Derbyshire Wedding // Rachel & Andy from Love Two Film on Vimeo.


Though I always thought I would see a proposal coming a mile off, Andy caught me completely unawares on a pre-Christmas day trip to Manchester, dropping to one knee in St Peter’s Square on 21st December 2017. He’d double-bluffed me by saying that he wouldn’t propose when people expected, and so I thought that ruled out holidays, my birthday and Christmas time – and keeping the plans entirely to himself, there was nobody in the know to let anything slip.

He’d asked my dad’s permission way back in the summer but then bide this time for the perfect opportunity, and I was thrilled that he’s managed to surprise me! The proposal ring was a £20 Amazon sparkler as my mum was the keeper of my real engagement ring that had previously belonged to my nan. And so, the online temp was soon replaced with my nan’s gorgeous gold diamond ring, which sat happily on her finger during her long and loved-up marriage to my grandad and will now be with me every step of my married journey with Andy.


So technically we had two wedding days – greedy, I know! One of the main priorities of the wedding from the off was to make it as personal as possible to Andy and me, with the ceremony being a key part of that. As such, we decided on a celebrant ceremony – an independent individual who is trained to write and deliver a custom ceremony with very little limitations. Great – yes! Legal – no. Not in England as yet anyway, and so we needed to get legally hitched at Sheffield Town Hall too. And so, we had a small ceremony with just immediate family on 1st May 2019, before having our full-scale ‘proper’ wedding with 80 plus guests the following day, 2nd May, at The West Mill in Derby.

I would whole-heartedly recommend a celebrant ceremony – don’t be at all put off by the technicalities, it really is quite simple to arrange and means you can have a personal wedding that’s all about you and your partner’s story; how you met and the journey of your relationship so far, plus funny anecdotes, personal readings – even religious ones if you like. It’s therefore the perfect solution for those not wanting a traditional church service but something more than a structured civil ceremony. Ours was conducted by Jo Clarke of My Perfect Ceremony, who we would highly recommend. Meeting with her prior to the wedding she instantly put us at ease and wrote a wonderful ceremony for us, delivering it beautifully on the day. She really was a lovely, calm and warm presence.

Upon visiting The West Mill for the first time, we were shown around by passionate owner Andrew Rose, and instantly fell in love with the venue. The space within the Grade I listed former cotton spinning mill, situated next to the River Derwent, is nothing short of exceptional with space to wed, dine and party across four fabulous levels, plus outdoor space too – not to mention the new onsite Mill House with eight gorgeous bedrooms, living area and kitchen.

Not only did we fall for its appearance – we’re talking barrel vaulted ceilings, exposed brick walls and cast-iron beams – but also its flexibility, cool props and décor, plus its highly-skilled caterers and the (huge!) added bonus that it’s a no corkage venue up to the evening reception, which seem increasingly hard to come by these days.


As mentioned, it was all about making things personal so a lot of our choices came down to personal preference rather than a specific theme though we did have a colour scheme of greys, ivory and buttery yellow, as well as some unusual muted/peach tones in the flowers too (more on those beauties later!)


Working in the industry I see A LOT of dresses and I did wonder how I might ever decide on the one for me. However, as it turned out fate played a part and I spotted my dress early into the engagement and didn’t falter once. I wore the beautiful Kanisha from the Rosa Clara Soft collection – a stunning mermaid style, heavily beaded gown with racer neckline and the most gorgeous split shoulder strap detail, for a semi-backless finish.

I spotted the dress at Barcelona Bridal Week 2018, when we were invited to Rosa Clara’s head office to view the new collections. Though just on a mannequin I was instantly drawn to its flattering shape, neckline and beading, which I referred to as “neutral detailing” as though there was plenty of it, the beads were the same colour as the dress and so not too in-your-face.

Once back in the UK I looked up Rosa Clara stockists so I could go about calling in the dress and was delighted that one of our Brides Up North Sponsors, and amazing Yorkshire bridal boutique, Perfect Daze, was a new stockist of the Spanish label.

From my first enquiry, owner Emma Roberts was a star and remained so throughout the process. Her passion and genuine care for her brides is limitless, supporting you on all levels and with any queries to reduce stress and help you achieve that dream dress vision. When visiting the boutique with my mum and friend Nic, I didn’t reveal to them which was the dress I’d seen in Barcelona, instead trying on varies shapes and styles, including quite a few Suzanne Neville designs (which I really loved too) though as soon as I slipped into the Kanisha gown I knew nothing would beat it. It was everything I wanted it to be, and when I emerged from the fitting room, both my mum and Nic cried and confirmed it was the one!

The dress was then altered and fitted to perfection (no easy feat with all those beads!!) by Perfect Daze’s crazily talented seamstress Adele, who also made my stunning cathedral length veil, and my mum’s gorgeous mother-of-the bride outfit – an elegant dove grey, shift dress with statement roll collar and button-back detail (told you she was talented!)

Accessory-wise I wore the amazing Meghan shoes by Northern designer extraordinaire, Charlotte Mills, travelling to her welcoming boutique in Upper Mill, Oldham, to pick my dream heels. The ivory pearl glitter detailing complemented the beading on my dress to a tee and, considering I’m never out of a pair of trainers these days, they were super comfortable.

My beautifully delicate headpiece was by my good friend and top bridal accessory designer Debbie Carlisle, whose work is just incredible! I went to her lovely Sheffield studio to try on various styles that would work with my hair colour, length and the dress. Taking inspiration for several pieces within her collection, Debbie then made me a bespoke halo style headpiece in silver with Swarovski detailing, which I absolutely adored and provided just the right amount of sparkle!

As a special gift from Brides Up North chief Julia Braime, I was gifted a super cool ‘Mrs Hirst’ feather detailed denim jacket from Beespoke, which I wore for part of the day and on my minimoon too.

Also, for my civil ceremony the day prior I wore a pale powder blue trouser suit from Zara and a lush pearl headband from the wonderful Lisa at The Bobby Pin, who has a bridal range and now also a fashion range called Adorn. Check it out.


Andy sorted his and the groomsmen’s suits pretty quickly following a trip to Manchester, opting for an Italian wool, indigo coloured, three-piece suit from Marks & Spencer, which he looked so gorgeous in! To set himself apart, Andy wore a grey waistcoat and blue, yellow and grey paisley patterned tie while the other groomsmen wore the matching indigo coloured waistcoats, and grey ties from T.M.Lewin. Andy finished his attire with a pair of Ashby tan leather Loake shoes, purchased from The Secret Shoebox in Sheffield.


From very early on I had a vision of my four bridesmaids – Amy, Gemma, Nic and Ellen – wearing separates rather than dresses and was instantly attracted to the Lyra skirt and Kyla camisole top from amazing designer Rosanna Garden of Motee Maids. Keen to make sure the girls were happy with the style and to determine colour, we had an amazing try-on session at Yorkshire stockist Joy’s Bella Bridesmaids with Rosanna and Joy’s owner Hannah Robinson. Both ladies were amazing at advising, and the space and choice at the dedicated bridesmaid boutique is amazing. Having tried on a whole host of designs and combinations – the beauty of Motee Maids being that you can pick differing bodices, skirts, colour and embellishment to create your dream silhouette and finish – all the girls equally loved the Lyra and Kyla combination. And so, we opted for the full hand-beaded Lyra skirt in silver diamond embellishment and ivory Kyla camisoles (so flattering on all skin tones), plus we had Motee’s uber pretty silver and ivory sequin sashes to tie around our bouquets for the ultimate finishing touch.


Having always had quite a few complexion hang ups, I was keen to get my skin in the best possible condition on the run up to the wedding, so I booked in for a consultation with skin specialist Kathy Scott of Ginger Tree Beauty, based in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Off the back of her expert advice, I followed a recommended skincare programme using Environ products and Accumax supplements to reduce breakouts and improve the overall texture of my skin, which I’m delighted to say it did, and I’m continuing to follow the regime.

For the on the day hair and beauty I called upon two talented individuals that we’ve worked closely with on shoots for UNVEILED magazine, to work their magic on me, my four bridesmaids and mine and Andy’s mums. North-East-based, super-knowledgeable MUA Anna Cordelia Mason was a dream on makeup, giving me the fresh dewy skin I’d dreamt of and making my blue eyes pop, all whilst keeping everything very natural so it barely even felt like I was wearing makeup. Only requiring the odd lipstick top-up, mine and the other bridal party members’ makeup stayed put all day, and night. This was also the case with our hair thanks to the wonderfully bubbly Jen of Cheshire-based The Wildflower Hair Co, not a single strand seemed to slip out of place and my veil and headpiece were perfectly secured too. Wanting to remain true to my usual style I opted for loose waves, as did two of my bridesmaids whilst the other two had gorgeous braids incorporated and the mums had sleek blow dries.


Documenting our day was of paramount importance and I know from working in the industry you want a photographer whose style you adore but also that you get on well with. Discussing the options with Andy we chose my awesome industry friend and out-and-out amazing photographer Jon Dennis of S6 Photography. Having known Jon since he very first set out, I always loved his documentary style and stunning couple portrait shots, plus he has an amazing ability to make you feel instantly relaxed almost forgetting that he has a camera in hand.

Jon came along to both our civil ceremony at Sheffield Town Hall and our main day at The West Mill and completely smashed the images for both. We can’t express how much we would recommend him to others and how grateful we are for him providing us with the most amazing memories of our day, which captured every element and are loved by not only us, but our friends and family too. Absolute legend!


Likewise, our videographer Bruce Marshall of Love Two Film has given us epic footage, seamlessly crafted together for a moving and uplifting video of our day that we literally cannot stop watching. Though we enquired with Bruce early into the planning stages we didn’t commit until around a month before the big day as we were watching the wedding budget and viewed a videographer as a luxury add-on – however, now we’d both say it is a necessity! Hearing special voices, emotive pieces of music and readings from the day is beyond special and I would endorse every couple to book a videographer like Bruce, if at all possible – I’m positive you won’t regret it.


I was keen for a contrast from the raw, industrial elements of the mill building, though keeping in line with its high-end and polished feel, so we had what I’d describe as a fine art or ‘urban luxe’ feel.

Again, my industry knowledge served me well in picking a dream florist and stylist for our day, the incredible Jane Steel and her lovely team at Wedding & Events Floral Design, based in North Yorkshire. Every single design that Jane produces I totally adore, and so I knew whatever she came up with for our day would blow me away – and I wasn’t wrong.! In the run-up, I discussed colour, styling and flower preferences with Jane (part of the reason I was so set on a spring wedding was due to the flowers available during the season) and she took this and delivered so much more than I could have ever imagined.

My gorgeous bouquet (one of my very favourite elements of the wedding!) was made up from a dream combination of white Lilac, Anemones, Ranunculus in white, yellow and orange, Jasmine, Scented Stocks, Claire de Lune Peonies and Margaret Merrill Garden Rose, plus further Roses called Toffee, Cappuccino, Butterscotch and Golden Mustard. My bridesmaids had smaller versions of my bouquet, which were equally beautiful.

For the ceremony, Jane and her team used the same flowers for natural arrangements in varying vases and vessels dotted around the room, interspersed with beautifully scented candles from Pure Natural Therapy. From a scent point of view, I was also keen on large amounts of eucalyptus and so trailing bunches of greenery were tied to chair ends with pretty ribbon, the aisle was lined by candle-lit lanterns and the crème de la crème was an incredible asymmetrical foliage and floral arch, which perfectly framed the spot where Andy and I said our vows.

The flowers and décor for the wedding breakfast also blew my mind – I kept looking around during the meal trying to absorb every bit of it and thinking I couldn’t believe how beautiful it all was. Our arch was moved to sit behind Andy and me for the meal, and our trestle tables were centrally lined with grey fabric runners and topped with varying heights of floral arrangements and tapered candles in the most stunning shades of grey and yellow. Jane also provided the faux grey slate charger plates, ribbons to secure the menus to the napkins and a collection of gold-edged photo frames, which we used for our table numbers and a couple photo display of Andy and I by the seating plan. We truly can’t thank the ladies enough for all their support, skills and service – they are such a joy to work with and undoubtedly artistic geniuses!

All our invites and on-the-day stationery was taken care of by my wonderful bridesmaid Nic, who is a fabulous creative, so we knew we were in safe (and talented hands). Keeping in line with the grey and white design of our invites and continuing the garland motif through certain aspects, Nic perfectly delivered the clean, elegant look we were after for our ‘Who’s Who’ order of service, menus, table numbers, guest name places, seating plan, order of the day and some extra little signs for around the venue.

One of the key pulls to The West Mill is its amazing interiors, beautiful styled and lit, so you need not add too much décor. As such, the only extra element we added on the floor where the evening reception took place were some cool LED light up letters from the amazing guys at North-West-based, The Added Extra, which spelled out ‘The Hirsts’ – after all, who doesn’t like to see their name up in lights!


I have to say that I do know a lot of fabulous cake makers, though we have several keen and amazing bakers within the family, so we thought this would be a lovely area of the wedding to include them in. As such, we tasked my lovely brother-in-law Ben with making us a cutting cake, and Andy’s mum Anne, with making some homemade cookies for our ‘Cookie Bar’. Both did us proud, with Ben creating a two-tier lemon and white chocolate cake in yellow, adorned with mini meringues, and Anne baking a range of delicious cookies, which went down a treat with our guests!


The West Mill work exclusively with Jenkinsons Caterers, and so we attended a ‘Tasting Experience’ several months before their wedding and knew then that the food for our wedding day would be delicious, and beautifully presented too.

Following the ceremony, we had canapes of mini blade of beef and Yorkshire puddings with horseradish cream; mini fish and chips with tartare sauce; and tomato salsa crostini with mozzarella, served during the drinks reception. Drink-wise, there were two options of gin and tonic, prosecco and bottled lagers.

For the wedding breakfast, we had lemon glazed chicken with Asian salsa and mint raita to start; slow cooked blade of beef with a red wine jus, dauphinoise potatoes and seasonal vegetables for main; and warm white chocolate and Cointreau brioche pudding served with Vanilla Crème Anglaise for dessert. The vegetarian menu was roast pumpkin ravioli to start, followed by vegetable wellington with a piquant tomato sauce.

In terms of wines, we had a white Sauvignon Blanc and red Malbec for the meals and prosecco for the toasts.

For dancefloor fuel later in the evening, Jenkinsons served up pulled pork and spicy tomato relish baps and veggie grilled halloumi and mushroom baps.


Music was one of the areas that Andy took full control of for the wedding – and he did a sterling job.

For the ceremony we are fortunate that one of Andy’s friends, Matt, is amazing at playing the piano and so he performed while the guests arrived and also played my aisle song choice of Something Just Like This by Chainsmokers and Coldplay.

To entertain guests during the drinks reception Andy found fabulous Yorkshire singer/songwriter Rupert Stroud who sang and played guitar and we added the option of a percussionist to perform with him too. We loved the sound of Rupert’s incredible voice, as did our guests, and he played a selection of songs by our favourite artists and bands, which set the tone perfectly.

For the evening reception we had one of Andy’s good friends, Yorkshire DJ Mark Hepworth, who owns Hi-Life Entertainment, to keep the dancefloor filled all night – a challenge he rose to and achieved superbly!

Finally, as a special surprise for our guests, we brought in the fabulous Birdie – a retro VW camper van that has been transformed by its awesome owners, Kitty and Dave, into the coolest of photo booths, complete with the craziest of props. It is the-most-fun! Also, in tow was their Mini classic trailer printer, named Betty. Remaining open from after the ceremony until around 9pm, Dave who manned Birdie on the day, made our guests feel at ease to have fun, and later presented us with the funniest of albums, featuring guests’ images and personal messages. Our guests got a print-out of the images too, plus GIFS sent direct to their email and it was hilarious seeing these both in the book and appearing on social media following the day. The cherry on the cake had to be having ‘Randy’ up in lights above the booth, which raised a few eyebrows but is actually the combination of mine and Andy’s names.

Special touch

As mentioned, we were keen to make the wedding as personal as possible and so, in addition to our celebrant ceremony we had a few other elements that were special to us and our guests.

Music-wise, all choices, from songs performed on the piano, the track we walked back down the aisle to, songs played by Rupert, the wedding meal playlist (carefully created by Andy) and the first dance and evening dancefloor tracks, were all either favourites of ours or of our close family or friends, even working in some couples’ first dance songs, which provoked a few tears!

More personal input came in the form of our wedding readings – Corinthians 13:4–8a, read by Andy’s dad David, A Lovely Love Story, read by my younger brother Haydn, and He Always Leaves The Seat Up, read by my older brother Dan. These gave more important people to us a role, and each was delivered to perfection (again causing a few tears!)

To ‘introduce’ our close family members and friends to our guests, we had a ‘Who’s Who’ rather than a traditional order of service which featured images of our parents, siblings and partners, niece, bridesmaids and best men.

Finally, for another twist on tradition, Andy and I did a joint speech as we both wanted to thank those close to use for all they had done in the run-up to, and on the big day itself.

Thanks to

We have nothing but praise for our venue (including our wonderful wedding coordinator Abi) and all the suppliers we used, which I think is clear from all of the above, and so all that can be said is a HUGE thank you to all involved, and that we would undoubtedly recommend each and every one to other couples.

Also, the biggest of thank yous to our A-MA-ZING family and friends who whole-heartedly supported us in doing our day our way and made it all so truly special.

Best bit

Though we adored all elements, and in particular our personal ceremony, Andy and I have both agreed that our favourite part of the day was the wedding breakfast when looked around and saw all the people we love in one room having the best of times. The speeches from my dad Rob, and the two best men, Russel and Andy, were also incredible – the perfect combination of humour and sentiment that meant the world to us.


A couple of days after the wedding we jetted off to Sorrento in Italy for a blissful five-day minimoon, staying at the stunning Grand Hotel Royal, and generally eating and drinking far too much – though we did a fair bit of exploring too, including trips to Pompei and Capri. Our main honeymoon is happening a little later in the year when we will be travelling to Singapore, then onto Australia to visit Sydney and Melbourne.


Planning a wedding is no easy feat and there were certainly ups and downs along the way though it was all worth it as Andy and I truly had the best day of our lives. Keen to pass on details of what I learned along the way, I will be doing a top ten tips blog post soon, but briefly in the meantime, my top tips for other Brides Up North would be: keep it personal to you and your partner; research suppliers to find those that suit you as individuals; get wedding insurance (thankfully we didn’t have to use ours) and try not to obsess over the weather – I did but it made no difference at all to the enjoyment of our day.

Some goods & services were very kindly gifted.

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