Real Weddings

Maggie Sottero for a Woodland Wedding at Hirst Priory – Cat & Richard

13th July 2020 | Sarah Symonds

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Cat and Richard are bringing the outside in with today’s leafy, woodland-inspired Real Wedding, making the most of the beautiful Hirst Priory in North Lincolnshire.

If you’ve got your heart set on an outdoor ceremony, perhaps in a romantic clearing in the woods like today’s lovely couple did, then you’re going to love this as much as we did. Cat and Richard are living proof that dreams of an al fresco affair needn’t be dampened by the weather and that a quick change to Plan B can still prove to be your perfect day. It’s always good to have a backup plan!

Bringing together fresh and pretty spring florals, delicate but modern touches and a very seasonal palette of green, white, blush pink and gold, Cat has done a lovely job styling her big day so we’re happy to hand over to her to give us all the crush-worthy details.

With photography by UNVEILED Network Member Laura Calderwood Photography


Cat says: We got engaged on 15th December 2017 in Bruges. I’d booked us a mini-break for Richard’s birthday, but he was the one who ended up surprising me.

It actually started out as a bit of a disaster day! It was raining heavily and I managed to injure myself ice skating, but towards the end of the day, Richard suggested that we go up the Belfry tower and look out across Bruges at all the Christmas lights. I wasn’t sure about climbing 366 steps up a spiral staircase with a bandaged knee, but somehow he convinced me that it was a good idea!

When we got to the top, as if on cue all the bells began ringing and we looked out at the magical view. At that moment Richard pulled out a ring from his pocket and asked if I would marry him!


We married on the 27th of April 2019. We wanted a spring woodland wedding as it’s such a lovely time of year, with all the spring flowers, blossom and the promise of good things ahead!

We had both our ceremony and reception at Hirst Priory in Crowle, North Lincolnshire. We absolutely loved that it had a woodland area outside, the Vaults in the basement and beautiful light reception rooms with old fireplaces and a really romantic feel. It is such a unique and beautiful building, and we fell in love as soon as we saw it.


Our wedding was a woodland theme. We were originally going to have our ceremony outside, in a clearing in the woods, but the weather put a stop to that so we brought the woodland inside! We had a wildflower arrangement sweeping up the amazing staircase, beautiful arrangements on all the tables and fireplaces – literally everywhere you looked there were beautiful spring flowers thanks to our amazing friend and florist, Vicky.

We used a palette of green, white, blush pink and gold. We wanted the feeling of bringing the outside in.

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My dress was a Maggie Sottero A-line gown with delicate lace appliqué on the bodice, a plunging sweetheart neckline, and a long flowing tulle skirt. My mum bought it for me from Deborah Moore Bridal Wear, after trying on all kinds of different styles, and it was the first dress that felt like ‘me’ and that I could picture getting married in.

I knew I wanted to wear blue shoes and found some gorgeous ones by Rainbow Club. My veil was custom-made by Handmade by Hannah Josie, who also did my wedding dress alterations. I happened to mention during one of my fittings that I still hadn’t got a veil and she said that she makes them! I got to choose the lace I wanted to match my dress and she even stitched my initials and wedding date above the hem, so hopefully that will be a family heirloom for years to come with other generations adding their initials.

My ‘something old’ was my grandmother’s ring, my ‘something borrowed’ was a vintage watch (a family heirloom belonging to my sister-in-law), my ‘something new’ was my dress and something blue was my shoes. I also had a sixpence in my shoe given to me by a friend. Our rings were from Gladstones Jewellers.


Richard wore a blue Marc Darcy suit which was one of the first suits he saw and tried on. The two best men tried on a brown tweed version which suited them both, and that was job done! We even had time to go for a pub lunch afterwards to celebrate.

Richard borrowed his dad’s gold cufflinks and got brown brogues from Burtons and a blush pink tie from Slaters Menswear to match the bridesmaid’s dresses.


The bridesmaids all wore blush midi-length dresses from ASOS with a sequined top and tulle skirt. We got strappy rose gold shoes with a block heel from New Look to match their dresses, as well as sandals to change into later.

Our flower girl and page boy outfits were from H&M and chosen by my mum to tie in with the bridesmaids/best men.

My bridesmaids had bought us all beautiful personalised dressing gowns for the morning, with slippers and a tote bag for me to keep all my special keepsakes in.


Amy from Bows Hair and Beauty did my hair and makeup, and Danielle from Bows did the bridesmaids’ hair. I’d been going to the salon for the past year and they did such a great job, it was lovely to have them there in the morning. They even got stuck in, making sure everyone had their champagne topped up!

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Our photographer was Laura Calderwood. We picked Laura as we loved her light, romantic, natural style which told the story of our day, rather than having lots of posed photos. Plus, as soon as we met her and had our engagement shoot, she was brilliant at putting us at ease and was a lovely calm influence to have on the day. In the nicest possible way, we didn’t notice she was there for much of the day but she captured all the important moments perfectly. We’d definitely recommend Laura to anyone planning their wedding!


We used JAW Media for our videographer. We weren’t sure whether it was necessary to have a wedding video as we were already having a photographer, but it was one of the best decisions we made. The day goes so fast and it’s brilliant to be able to watch parts of it again. Jacob was brilliant from the moment we first got in touch and very professional and unobtrusive on the day – we didn’t feel like we were being filmed at all!


Flowers were an important part of our day, as I’d always envisioned lots of flowers everywhere, and our florist certainly delivered on that!

I’d been friends with Vicky, from Vert and Vase, for a number of years since we first worked together in a pub and then later did our teacher training together (neither of us teach now – but that’s another story!). I knew her work was stunning so there was nobody else that I wanted to do our wedding flowers. She did such a brilliant job, we got lots of compliments on all of the arrangements and lots of happy family members ended up taking them home the next day!

I carried a beautiful, unstructured, natural bouquet in whites, blush pinks, blue. It included quicksand roses, white ranunculus, white nigella, astrantia, freesias (my gran’s favourite flower), hellebores, forget-me-nots, paper whites, and lots of wild foliage such as ivy, ferns, and eucalyptus. It was tied with a soft trailing blush pink ribbon.

I’d always wanted to do the classic throwing of the bouquet, but wanted everyone to be involved, not just the single ladies. So after we had our group shot outside with the confetti, I threw my bouquet to the whole crowd. My auntie happened to catch it, much to her surprise!

I also had a flower crown made up of smaller, more delicate flowers like spray roses, astrantia, wax flower and parvi foliage.

We also had bunches of foliage lining the aisle during the ceremony, a horseshoe wildflower arrangement at the top of the aisle, lots of natural foliage and candles on the fireplaces and a huge natural, organic and wildflower rambling arrangement growing up the staircase. In the woodland area outside we hung glass orbs with artificial candles in them and our wedding cake was also decorated with flowers provided by Vicky. We had a rose petal drop from the staircase which was lovely – who doesn’t love it when it rains rose petals?!

We decorated the tables with a natural wood slice, old books stacked with a selection of jars and bottles filled with foliage and wild flowers, candles and fairy lights. I work in a library and they kindly let me have some of their vintage unwanted books.

The venue arranged the ceremony room and put blush pink sashes on all the chairs, Vicky arranged all the flowers and Richard and I decorated the tables ourselves, with help from friends and family. I looked at the Real Weddings section on the Brides Up North site, and the inspiration features to get ideas.

All of the stationery and signage was done by Richard as he is an illustrator, although normally it’s children’s books that he illustrates!

We had a photo booth set up under the staircase which people had great fun using as the night went on. Our friends Jess and Jamie set that up for us, and my friend Emma provided the props. We had a guest book and polaroid camera so that everyone could leave us a message and photo at the same time. On the same table we also had a record player which had the single Heroes – David Bowie on it as that was our first dance.

We had a ‘wish you were here’ area with photos of our grandparents and my uncle who are sadly no longer with us and, in the Vaults, we hung lots of childhood photos and had a cinema room with bowls of popcorn which was showing old black and white horror films.

On the morning of the wedding, we opened our cards from each other and were very surprised to discover that we’d ended up picking the same card! It wasn’t even a wedding card, just a picture of a cat in a white jumper, but it was the closest I’d found to a cat in a wedding dress, and he’d obviously had the same thought. Richard got me a print of the Belfry Tower in Bruges, and I gave him a print made of a Library card with all our important dates on it.


Our favours were jars of homemade strawberry jam that my mum and I made together (although she did the majority!) and Richard did the name labels. We gave out bunches of flowers to our parents to thank them for all their support.


Our cake was amazing, the best cake we’ve ever eaten! It was three tiers; bottom tier was Cherry Bakewell, middle was lemon and the top was salted caramel, all made by Ashleigh from Scrumbcakes and we would definitely recommend her. In fact, we’re trying to think of more excuses to order cake now! It was white with gold drips, real flowers, a gold ‘R+C’ cake topper and bride and groom flamingoes that Richard and I made a little top hat and veil for.


After the ceremony everyone had beer or bucks fizz and canapés; parmesan scones with sun blush tomatoes and basil, sticky sausages with sesame seeds, spicy tempura prawns with a sweet chilli dip and chicken tikka kebabs.

For the wedding breakfast, starters were either Bruschetta Provencal or crispy camembert. This was followed by roast topside of beef, roast chicken or oven-baked aubergine and goats cheese, all with seasonal veg. Desserts were Sticky Toffee Pudding with honeycomb clotted cream or custard and toffee sauce, or chocolate fudge brownie with salted caramel ice cream.

We had prosecco for the toasts during the speeches and then there were bottles of Pinot Grigio, Malbec and White Zinfandel on the table during the meal – the ones we liked best at our menu tasting. We also made sure there was plenty of rhubarb gin in stock at the bar!


During our ceremony, our friend Grace Christiansen sang as I walked down the aisle. Grace has a beautiful, ethereal voice so we knew she was the perfect choice for our day. She also played a set in the Vaults after the ceremony, while we were having photographs taken.

We had a DJ in the evening provided by the venue.

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Thanks to

We’d definitely recommend our venue to anybody planning their wedding! Booking our wedding at Hirst Priory was easily one of the best decisions we made. Hazel and her fantastic team are brilliant, she always gets straight back to you, no matter how random or trivial the question, which is so reassuring when you are dealing with so many other aspects of planning a wedding simultaneously. The whole team are very professional, they know exactly how to make your day a success and they cannot do enough for you. We knew from the first meeting that our special day was going to be in safe hands, there’s also a real family feel to the team at HP; they really make you feel at home in the venue.

It is a beautiful, historic venue set in gorgeous grounds. I would definitely recommend visiting, as I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it instantly, just as we did.

The woodland area is stunning, and was one of the main reasons we chose to book here and we’d always dreamed of an outdoor ceremony. Unfortunately, on our special day it was raining so we had to go to our Plan B and hold the ceremony inside, but this didn’t stop us from having a fantastic time. In fact, this in itself was a testament to how brilliant the staff are, as they were able to seamlessly turn things around and still make everything perfect for us.

Our day was amazing, we’re so grateful to everyone at HP for making it so special, and making sure that it ran smoothly.

Best bit

It’s hard to say what our favourite part of the day was, as there were so many lovely moments. I loved getting ready in the morning with all my girls around and feeling excited for what was to come. It was really special when my mum, aunt, dad and bridesmaids all saw me ready for the first time. Richard really enjoyed seeing everyone before the ceremony, and then I loved the first moment that we saw each other as I was walking down the aisle.


We went to Mauritius for our honeymoon and had the most wonderful time! It was so nice to relax together, eat amazing food and drink cocktails in the sunshine. We went on a dolphin cruise, a boozy tour around a rum distillery and saw giant tortoises! It was such a blissful time; so nice to enjoy those first days being married in paradise and leave any stressful wedding planning moments left far behind.


My top tip would be to plan in little moments of your day where you get to be alone together as it really does go so fast. We asked the caterers to put aside some canapes for us and had ten mins together after the ceremony to take it all in.

Also, try not to overthink every detail, undoubtedly some things may not go exactly as planned but in the end you will be having too much fun to care.

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