Real Weddings

Stella York For A Classic Wedding Day At Howsham Hall

27th January 2020 | Katie Byrne

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Take a deep breath and prepare to dive into the gorgeous nuptials of Sarah and Alastair, who tied the knot in June 2019.

For their summertime wedding, this couple decided to embrace their love of Yorkshire, falling head-over-heels for their breathtaking venue in the process. They booked the elegant and enchanting Howsham Hall for their celebration; operated by events and catering service Dine, the property offered everything they wanted for their big day and more.

From armfuls of plush white blooms adorning the tops of golden candelabra to thoughtful nods to loved ones who couldn’t be there, no detail was overlooked on this divine day. Read on for all of Sarah’s insight and advice, and to browse the newlyweds’ picture-perfect photo album.

With pictures by M and G Photographic

Proposal

We got engaged in Yarm in North Yorkshire. Alastair had planned for us to take a walk together through a walking route nicknamed ‘Love Lane’ and had packed a surprise picnic and a bottle of Champagne. We set off for the walk and no sooner had we parked when the sky clouded over and the rain began to pour. We took cover nearby and had a warm drink until it passed. The typical British weather persisted and with much reluctance from Alastair, we called off the walk and headed back to the car.

As I took off my soggy hat and coat, I could feel the rain drops running down my face – as I wiped them away I noticed Alastair patiently sat, holding a Berry’s Jewellers box. He asked me to marry him and I, of course, said ‘yes’ – after the shock had passed, we laughed about how the day had turned out.

We were on holiday with Alastair’s family at the time, so we when we got back to the cottage we were staying in, we told Alastair’s six-year-old niece the news first. She then excitedly ran around the house, telling everyone how she was going to get a new auntie!

Setting

Our wedding day was 29th June 2019. We chose this date as we were keen to have a summer wedding over a weekend, meaning all our friends and family could join us without having to take any time off work.

We hoped the weather would be lovely and thankfully, the sun was shining that day to make up for the rain on the day when we got engaged!

We got married at Howsham Hall in Malton near York. It’s a Grade I listed stately home, which is run by Dine, an award-winning event organiser in the North of England. The venue is a hidden gem within the North Yorkshire countryside.

We love Yorkshire and wanted to find a venue that showed off exactly how amazing the area is. From the first time we visited the venue, we fell in love. The beautiful building and the large grounds were breathtaking and as soon as we walked in, we were captivated by how grand the venue was and the way it was both classic yet unique.

The exclusive use of the venue really appealed to us as it meant our day was all about celebrating our wedding with the people most important to us, which made it a really intimate celebration. Having the Hall to ourselves for the weekend gave us the feeling we were holding our wedding on our very own countryside estate as Lord and Lady Howsham – we wish…!

The venue just oozes luxury, from the huge bridal suite (one of the largest in Europe, in fact) and the classic chandeliers through to the quirky 11 guest bedrooms and the retro games room. Everything about the property is absolutely beautiful, with a high attention to detail meaning it truly stood out compared to the other venues we visited.

Our ceremony took place in the Great Hall, whilst the wedding breakfast took place in the Drawing Room. Both these rooms had original fireplaces, wooden floorboards and plenty of light through the large windows. The evening reception was held at the back of the Hall, which has a seating terrace overlooking the River Derwent.

The Hall is only half of why the venue exceeded our expectations. Dine made the planning process a dream and although there are certain things you can’t do in a Grade I listed building, they were flexible and provided alternatives and were on-hand at any time of the day to help us with our queries.

Dine treated us and our guests like royalty and that is not an understatement. Every single member of Craig’s Dine team provided a professional yet friendly service and Craig made sure that we did not have to worry about any part of the day, whether it was reserving seats for certain guests to presenting the most divine food to all of our 60 guests. Howsham Hall and Dine are a match made in heaven.

Theme

We didn’t choose a theme but did consciously gravitate towards classic styling as we felt this reflected our taste and complimented the venue nicely.

We kept the venue styling simple as we didn’t want to detract from the beautiful building and its original quirky interiors. After all, why cover up a masterpiece?

In terms of a palette: we chose ivory flowers with lots of lush greenery as we loved how simplistic yet striking the flowers looked in the gold candelabras as the table centrepieces and in the ceremony room.

These colours also matched the rural surroundings of the large lawns and grounds.

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Dress

I chose a Stella York dress in Moscato lace, which I purchased from Celebrations in Ossett, West Yorkshire. It is a cliché but when I tried it on I knew it was the one and allow me to be Lady Howsham for the day…!

I also got my veil from Celebrations and completed my bridal look with a pair of nude ‘Ivette’ heels from Jimmy Choo.

Groomswear

Alastair took a while to find something that really suited him and I am sure he visited most of the suit shops in Yorkshire! Eventually, he found a light navy suit made by Limehaus at House of Fraser, which fitted really well with the colour suiting the classic summer colours of our day.

Alastair knew he wanted a checked waistcoat from the moment he started looking. His checked waistcoat was from Next and his classic white slim fit shirt and silver tie were both by Charles Tyrwhitt. He also wore a pair of dark brown shoes from Dune. As a wedding gift, I bought him some silver Mulberry cufflinks and Tom Ford aftershave.

Alastair’s best man, two ushers and his father in law all wore the same Limehaus suit as Alastair.

To ensure he stood out, they wore matching Limehaus waistcoats with a slightly patterned silver tie from Charles Tyrwhitt.

The overall look worked really well, and lots of guests commented on how the classic colours of the suits and ties matched so well with the venue.

Bridesmaids

The bridesmaids wore ASOS Design cross-front soft drape maxi dresses in soft blush.

The flower girls wore Monsoon’s Pearl Duchess dress – they looked so cute! I wanted to make sure the two girls were comfortable for the whole day and I think it worked as they were twirling in their dresses on the dancefloor in the evening.

Beauty

For my bridal style, I booked Glam by Elizabeth Daisy and Wedding Hair by Hannah Taylor. Both of them were fantastic and put me at complete ease on the morning of the day, as well as giving me total confidence that they would create the look I wanted. The bridal party were also really impressed – everyone looked stunning!

Transport

Given the exclusive nature of the venue, I arrived very early on the morning of the wedding with my bridesmaids and my mum. This allowed me to make use of the amazing bridal suite and enjoy my last morning as a Mills.

Alastair stayed at Burthorpe House with his groomsmen, which is a hotel not too far from Howsham Hall, owned by Eric Clapton.

We felt grand arrivals weren’t necessary given the unique nature of the venue and we both wanted to enjoy the morning of the wedding inside the Hall.

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Photography

We can see why M and G Photographic are award-winning: the quality of our wedding photographs is outstanding. They were professional yet friendly on the day, and you didn’t even realise they were there. For us, this is a sign of a quality photographer: they weren’t intrusive and they understood we didn’t want to be constantly pulled away from our guests and miss key parts of the day in the process. It was lovely to receive the photos and see all the ‘in the moment’ shots that we had no idea were even being taken.

Alastair and I aren’t ones for posing at the camera for hours on end, so M &G’s natural shots were exactly what we were looking for. In fact, we knew we had made the right choice when we saw our pre-wedding shoot photographs: they made us feel instantly at ease and we knew we had nothing to worry about it when it came to the photos on our big day.

They were amazing on the morning of the wedding too, helping me to stay relaxed as I got ready. I can honestly say that they were one of the main reasons why the morning felt so calm and enjoyable.

As you can probably tell, we are major fans of M and G and will recommend them for anyone we know getting married in the future.

Videography

We chose James Froment after seeing his work at two of our friend’s weddings. He has a true eye for detail and got to know us before the day to understand our personalities and who was important to us.

James and his team were really laidback and we got on with them so well – and the children loved chasing after the cameras on the front lawn! James uses drones which creates film-like footage and was great for showing off the venue and its grounds.

The quality of the finished ten-minute video from James was excellent and brought all of the emotions of the day back.

Styling

Mrs Bouquet  provided our flowers and created my bouquet, which included hydrangea, lisianthus, veronica, freesia, astilbe, roses and eucalyptus.

She also created the floral decor for the venue and knew straight away that less would be more. She incorporated key details into her designs, including gold candelabras on the wedding breakfast tables, a cream carpet runner for the ceremony and strategic floating candles in glass vases, which went so well with the traditional features of the Hall.

The quality of the flowers was such that they looked perfect all day long – even in 30-degree heat and after lots of energetic dancing!

We both wanted to pay tribute to loved ones who couldn’t be there on the day. We were always very close to our grandparents and still wanted our grandparents who had passed to be part of the celebration. My granddad was never without his signature pack of mints wherever he went, so the ‘mint to be’ favours were our way of adding a sentimental touch to the day.

We also set up a table at the wedding breakfast that was decorated with pictures of loved ones who couldn’t be with us. We chose photographs of them from their wedding days as a way of celebrating and remembering them, as well as symbolising the love and life-long commitment they showed for one another throughout their lives. Our guests found the memory table touching and agreed it reflected how important family is to us both.

Bliss Booth supplied some vintage ‘Love’ lights for the evening, which fitted in so well that many of our guests thought they were a part of the venue.

Favours

As already mentioned, we gave out little pouches of after-dinner mints that were packaged in a sleeve that read ‘mint to be’. I loved the simplicity of this idea!

We also gave out blankets for during the day so guests could sit down on the front lawn. This worked really well and added to the summer party feeling. We also had flip-flops available in the evening as an extra little favour for anyone who wanted to kick off their heels.

Cake

We chose a five-tiered wedding cake with a raspberry ripple and white chocolate filling, decorated with our initials and beautifully delicate sugar flowers on the top. The cake was designed and made by Cakes by Leisa who offered a lot of useful tips about taste and styling when we had our consultation.

Catering

Dine has a reputation for being one of the best catering companies in the North of England and so our expectations were high. Nobody was disappointed!

We had a wide range of options to choose from and knew we had made the right choices when we met with Craig from Dine to taste our entire wedding breakfast. The presentation and the taste was fantastic. Dine were great at providing vegetarian and gluten alternatives for our guests.

Following our ceremony, our guests were offered a selection of canapes on the front lawn of the Hall which included Mini Yorkshire pudding with rare roast beef, mini terrine of smoked chicken and goat’s cheese truffle tartlet. These were washed down with Pimms, beer or fruit juice.

For the wedding breakfast, guests were served oak roast salmon layered with cucumber served in a martini glass followed by lemon salt roast chicken supreme, with pancetta and herb stuffing, pork chipolatas, heritage carrots and slow cooked road chicken sauce. Finally, we were all treated to a rich chocolate and cherry pot, layered with griottine cherries and finished with edible gold and chocolate twist. Handmade chocolates were served at the end with teas and coffees.

To feed those hungry dancers, we served sausage and bacon sandwiches towards the end of the night.

On the day and since our wedding, our guests have mentioned how the food is some of the best food they have ever tasted which is testament to Dine.

Entertainment

I came across Jonny Ross Entertainment very early on in our wedding planning process and the reviews made us think they would be perfect for our celebration.

Our evening space was at the back of Howsham Hall overlooking the River Derwent, and we wanted to surprise our guests with evening entertainment that was different to the traditional nature of the ceremony and wedding breakfast.

We chose a live saxophonist and a DJ in order to create a summer party atmosphere and everyone – even the oldies! – was on the dancefloor as the sax played some classics. We even asked the sax player to get involved with our first dance; we had Just You and I by Tom Walker, and it went perfectly with the music.

I will always remember chatting to family and friends on the river terrace as the sun set, listening to the sax and DJ playing our favourite songs. We were so lucky with the weather (it was one of the hottest days of the year) and it was a perfect end to our celebration.

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Best bit

Our favourite part of the day was the first time we got to see each other in the ceremony room. You could feel the emotion in the Great Hall. The sun was streaming through the windows and all our friends and family were there. The atmosphere was lovely and as soon as we made eye contact with one another, it felt like there was nobody else in the room.

Honeymoon

We were back at work for a couple of days before we went on our honeymoon – but it didn’t matter as we were on such a high!

We booked our honeymoon with Debbie Griffiths of the Travel Counsellors. Debbie made the booking process stress-free and provided us with the most romantic and incredible options for our budget – so much so that we struggled to choose. She sorted all our visas and was always on the end of the phone or email, which really helped when Alastair was asking if a certain hotel had table tennis facilities!

Although we booked our honeymoon over a year before the wedding, our plans were thrown up in the air only two weeks before we were meant to go following the awful events in Sri Lanka. With our wedding only a week away and with the added stress of rearranging our honeymoon, Debbie stepped in and provided alternatives within our budget which would fit in with the other parts of our trip.

Thankfully, we were able to stick with or original honeymoon choices. We flew to Sri Lanka and used some of our wedding money to upgrade to Emirates Business Class, which was a holiday in itself. Feeling refreshed when we arrived in Colombo, we were met by our guide and driver Roshan from Colombus Tours, who drove us for a week around Northern and Central Sri Lanka.

Key highlights of the trip included a private safari tour, watching an elephant walking down the road and helping pick tea in the plantations at the Earl’s Regency hotel, which is over 6,000ft above sea level. Roshan’s knowledge of Sri Lanka amazed us as well as how proud he was of his country and its history. Sri Lanka was so friendly and varied and we would recommend it to anyone, and we really hope that the country recovers from the terrible events in April.

We were ready to put our feet up after a week of trekking in Sri Lanka and couldn’t wait to spend six days at the Komoandoo Island Resort in the Maldives. As we saw the island from the seaplane, which is adults only and just 500m long, we knew we had made the right decision for our secluded escape. We had a romantic villa on the beach and it felt that we were on a desert island as we could walk around the whole island and not bump into anyone. We loved snorkelling seeing sharks and sea turtles. The island is the definition of luxury and the food and the staff were exceptional.

We stopped off in Dubai on our way home. Highlights were the Dubai Mall aquarium and viewing Dubai from the top of the Burj Khalifa.

Our honeymoon was a trip of the lifetime and every single hotel, country and person we met exceeded our expectations. We’ve got 5,000 pictures to prove it!

Advice

Wedding planning can be stressful to say the least so it’s key that the bride and groom both work together during the planning. This will help make sure it doesn’t seem like a chore and help you make the bigger decisions.

We divided everything up and discussed our the day sur visions for the day so we were both on the same page. We made sure we had covered everything that was important to both of us, in order to create a day that would reflect both of us equally.

Also: don’t worry about what other people think when making your choices. It is your day and it should reflect you!

For the wedding day itself, our tip would be don’t sweat over the small stuff and enjoy every single moment as it all goes by so quickly.

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