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We are beyond thrilled to share this super special real wedding with you today as it not only reflects a huge amount of love, but also courage, determination and resilience, from the bride and groom as well as their amazing venue and suppliers.
Taking place just two days before the Prime Minister enforced a strict lockdown period to reduce the spread of Covid-19, Alex and John’s big day plans had to endure a number of last-minute changes to ensure the wedding could go ahead, and most importantly, in a safe and guideline-adhering manner.
The uncertainty of the weather forecast is enough to send most couples into a spin in the run up to their celebrations and so we hugely admire this incredibly awesome couple for handling things the way they did. Over the past month we have been greatly touched and impressed by the industry’s efforts to assist and support their couples through this unprecedented time, and today’s wedding is another glowing example of the goodwill, community spirit and compassion that is rising from the crisis.
So, on with Alex and John’s celebrations which are filled with carefree smiles, laughter and energy, reminding us all that the virus may be strong… but love is stronger.
With images by Sawyer & Sawyer Photography
Alex says: We got engaged in Reykjavik, Iceland in December 2017. John had taken me to the top of a beautiful church called Hallgrímskirkja but decided that it was far too busy to propose there. After we descended, we walked around 100 yards from the church to a more peaceful spot, under the disguise of ‘getting a nice photograph’. It was here, John unexpectedly got down on one knee; halfway between one of the most beautiful churches in the world and a mobile waffle wagon (a great metaphor for our relationship!).
With work getting in the way, a year or so had passed before we began to plan the wedding. After choosing our venue – Hallgarth Manor, Pittington, Durham – they only had one Saturday available within the next 12 months, so we thought “let’s go for it!” We set the date for Saturday 21st March 2020.
Within minutes of walking around Hallgarth Manor, we fell in love with a lot of the spaces. The parquet wood flooring in the restaurant, the light-filled orangery; everything was very ‘us’. The only thing that wasn’t to our taste was the function room but we threw ideas around with the super accommodating staff at the venue and settled on two 30ft tipis within the grounds. Our tipis were hired from TipiChic, and they were fantastic… so helpful!
Being possibly one of the final weddings before the Covid-19 lockdown, coronavirus forced a lot of changes to our big day: reduced numbers of guests last minute, a change to and from an outdoor ceremony to the original planned indoor ceremony with socially distanced seating, the inability to use the tipis for our evening reception and having to cancel our DJ.
No particular theme or style came to mind when we were planning our big day, we just wanted a small, friends and family celebration without set colours and too many formalities.
Other than dark green for the bridesmaid’s dresses and groomsmen’s ties, there was no particular colour palette.
I went for an A-line, full-length gown with lace sleeves by Anna Sorrano from Wed2B. I always had a rough idea of the type of dress that I wanted; it had to have sleeves to cover my arms and had to be lacy. After visiting a couple of different bridal salons, it was by complete chance that me and my maid of honour decided to visit the Wed2B store in Middlesbrough. I tried on three or four different dresses, all of a similar style, but I kept going back to the same one. The ‘Camilla’ dress ticked all the boxes and was almost a perfect fit straight off the rack, so I knew it was the one! There were only a few, minor alterations needed for the dress and this was done at Alterations by Lucy.
The bridesmaids wore the ‘Haven’ dress from Wed2B in dark green. The flower girl’s dress was from Amazon.
John wore a navy suit with contrasting grey waistcoat from Moss Bros., a green tie to match the bridesmaids, black leather shoes and belt, and an Omega Aqua Terra as a present to himself. The groomsmen wore the same suit as John but with the matching navy waistcoat from Moss Bros.
I travelled to the venue with my dad in a vintage VW campervan hired from Exclusive Wedding Cars. The bridesmaids also travelled in another campervan by the same company.
Our photographer was Ray Sawyer of Sawyer & Sawyer Photography. We would very highly recommend Ray, not only was his work and skill fantastic but he is an amazing guy, very funny and easy to get along with. He helped a great deal to calm my nerves on the morning of the wedding and kept spirits high with all attendees throughout the day.
Our florist was The Countryside Florist. We asked for a mix of wildflowers in subtle, pastel colours with plenty of Gypsophila and Ferns.
We repurposed flowers from the ceremony for the wedding breakfast and reception. We had milk churn arrangements, step ladders with flowers and photo frames, and lots of little jars and log arrangements on tables all provided by The Countryside Florist.
All of our wedding stationery was from Papier, everything is customisable and it is a very user-friendly website.
As our honeymoon was going to be in Italy, we decided to give out small, shot sized bottles of limoncello as favours.
We had originally planned on making our own selection of cakes with help from my parents, but we never actually got around to it! Luckily my wonderful mam and dad had secretly ordered us a three-tier, Game of Thrones inspired, fruit cake alongside a single tier lemon cake from Cake Lady Creations.
All food for the wedding breakfast was provided by the venue. We opted for a three-course meal option and gave guests a choice of three options for each course. Wines were a mixture of red, white and rose.
For our evening food, we wanted something a little bit different and more casual, so we were very lucky to know a school friend who owns a loaded fries pop-up stall (Spud-Gun Loaded Fries). All of the fries were made to order and absolutely delicious! For our sweet option we hired the most adorable vintage Citroen van that served Belgian waffles (Belgian Waffle Tuk).
We chose to have the caricaturist Barrie James at our wedding, and it was amazing. I was a little bit sceptical at first, but Barrie was brilliant, and our guests really enjoyed all of his drawings, it really brought that calm, closeness that we were aiming for when everyone was showing off their portraits to each other.
We also hired a pianist – Angela Hall Wedding Pianist – for our big day. We knew from the start that we wanted some form of music but didn’t want a big band, so Angela was the perfect option. She played from guests arriving up until after the wedding breakfast. We gave her a big list of songs and she was perfect. The song that I wanted to walk down the aisle to was the theme tune from The Office U.S (a little bit obscure) and Angela made it sound so beautiful and romantic.
For both of us, our favourite part was the sheer relief of getting married in the current climate. Having such a beautiful day with our family and friends around us was a highlight in itself.
We would definitely and very highly recommend Hallgarth Manor to anyone that will listen. The staff there were so accommodating and friendly throughout. Nothing was a problem for them! The day before the wedding it was very close to being cancelled due to Covid-19, but the hotel pulled through for us and created solutions to every problem that we faced. We couldn’t be more thankful for all of their hard work!
Unfortunately, due to the virus outbreak, we were unable to use our DJ (The Disco Co.) and our magic mirror that we had hired from Photobomb, but I would still highly recommend both of these companies.
Our honeymoon has had to be put on hold too due to the current situation, but we plan to travel around Italy once the world recovers. Until then, its Disney+ and lockdown!
Our top tip would be to spend some time together, alone, after all of the formalities. We spent about half-an-hour or so by ourselves just reflecting on the day. Also, don’t sweat the small stuff!
During the planning, I used the Brides up North website for general inspiration and also visited a couple of the wedding fairs to meet and chat to suppliers.