Real Weddings

Eliza Jane Howell for a Tipi Wedding at Stanton Gardens – Lauren & Tom

04th February 2022 | Rachel Hirst

Get ready for an explosion of love, foilage and flippin good times on the blog today as we immerse ourselves in the awesome North East wedding of Tom and Lauren.

A chic garden fairytale by day and fun-filled festival by night, this pair went all out to create celebrations that were all about them, but that would give their guests a party to remember after months spent in lockdown spells.

Prepare for one dreamy garden setting, crazy beautiful florals and foliage galore, plus street food vans, a live band and a super pretty collection of cakes.

Oh, and your swooning will be OFF THE SCALE when it comes to Lauren’s incredible bridal look, which includes a heavily embellished gown with bespoke cape, a bold bridal crown and the wedding shoes that dreams are made of. Let the crushing commence…

With images by From The Smiths Photography

PROPOSAL

Lauren says: We got engaged on a trip to Australia in February 2019. We had planned an amazing three-week break, and I had put together a very organised itinerary, but not long after we arrived, Tom told me that a couple of things would have to fall to the wayside as he’d booked us a hot air balloon ride across the Hunter Valley, the wine region three hours outside of Sydney, with a company called Balloon Aloft.

I was delighted and surprised as it’s always been on my bucket list, but still had no inkling that’s what he was planning to do. We had to get up at about 3.30am that day to be picked up by the organisers, and when we arrived on-site, they were keeping us separate from everyone else – I thought it was because we were late!

Anyway, it turns out he had pulled it right out of the bag and booked us a private hot air balloon ride and, at 3,800 feet in the air, got down on one knee with a gorgeous tanzanite and diamond ring. It’s a good job I said yes, as it was a long way down! Just kidding – it was the easiest yes I’ve ever said!

The rest of the day was pure magic. We then had a vineyard tour across the valley and an unbelievable seven-course tasting menu in the evening. We did almost manage to fall asleep in our dessert, mind you, as the 3.30 am wake-up call for the balloon ride caught up with us. Up there with one of the best days ever!

SETTING

We opted for 12th June 2021 as we wanted a midsummer wedding on a Saturday. When the pandemic hit the year before, we were convinced we’d be absolutely fine, but in January 2021, I was starting to feel a little worried and thought we best plan ahead.

We decided to bite the bullet and move our wedding to Friday 27th August, way before the roadmap was laid out in February. I’m so glad we did because it meant we were already sorted with our many, many suppliers and had our date locked in. It was still nerve-wracking, but we were well aware that so many other couples were in a much tougher situation with two, three, four postponements, so we just kept positive and planned as we could. Those extra 11 weeks meant we were able to have our full capacity and have the wedding we had hoped for, which really was the best turn of events ever, and we were so thankful.

From the outset, we both knew we wanted to do everything our way. We’re lucky to have so many incredible venues on our doorstep living in the North East but sadly found that a lot were quite restrictive in terms of their packages and what they’d allow couples to do. We knew we wanted a largely-outdoor wedding with a chilled, festival sort of vibe, with a big focus on food and fun. Let’s face it – after god knows how many months in lockdown, we all needed a bloody good knees-up!

We came across Stanton Gardens, a gorgeous plant nursery just outside of Morpeth, who were holding around 12-15 weddings a year. It was love at first sight. The venue is absolutely stunning, with plants and trees as far as the eye can see, a gorgeous, whimsical ceremony space, a fantastic barn space to hold our wedding breakfast and speeches, and lots of outdoor space, perfect for the tipi and pop-up food stalls we wanted for our evening reception. At night, it’s all lit up beautifully, and it’s a very “enchanted forest” sort of vibe, which I was absolutely into!

Stanton’s wedding coordinator Laura was incredibly accommodating and full of ideas – she knew the space like the back of her hand as it’s her family’s business, and she grew up in Stanton Hall, so we were more than confident this was the venue for us. There were also perks like no corkage fee and three-day hire, as well as it being somewhere you don’t see a lot of weddings. The venue is no longer holding weddings, unfortunately, but we are so delighted we managed to have ours there as it was utterly magical and exactly what we wanted.

THEME

We weren’t really set on a ‘theme’ as such, our focus was just on having a day that was fuss-free, maximum fun and felt like us – hard to explain, but I think we nailed it.

I suppose you could say it was a sort of festival theme on the evening as we had the tipis, food vans and horsebox bar, but the rest of the day was fairly traditional, albeit very laid back. The pandemic certainly shone a different perspective on the whole thing, too. It became less about every detail being absolutely perfect and more about just being able to be surrounded by our loved ones and get married.

The one thing I was absolutely sure of was that I wanted loads of foliage, and the next colour I used as a basis for things was a muted, almost nude, blush pink. I became quite particular about what was the “right shade” of pink! I’ve never been a matchy-matchy sort of person, and when I was looking for inspiration for my bridesmaid’s outfits, I found various pictures where they were all in different dresses. I loved the relaxed vibe and the fact that each bridesmaid wore something that complemented their style, so decided to go with that, with that nude/blush pink as the common thread!

I also wasn’t obsessed with the groom/groomsmen matching perfectly with their ties etc., and it would have been too tricky anyway because of the check running through their suits, so I was just very chill about it in the end. Nobody notices those tiny details except you – if you get the overall vibe right, it really doesn’t matter if a pocket square isn’t perfectly complementary!

DRESS

I only visited two boutiques for dresses, despite having a Pinterest board full of ideas. I had a good idea of what I wanted and became fairly obsessed with Eliza Jane Howell dresses early on. I visited UNVEILED Network Member boutique Epernay Bridal in Gosforth, and the lovely Laurie and Judith helped me find ‘the one’ – the Miss Lady Lucille gown. The only issue I had was that I felt the train wasn’t long enough, so Eliza Jane Howell sent extra fabric with my handmade dress for the seamstress to work with as part of my alterations. As it transpired, the train couldn’t be extended, however, the brilliant Aimee at Corsetry and Couture made me a custom button-on cape using the fabric. It completely transformed the already-amazing dress and really made me feel fantastic. It was nice to have a unique take on the dress, too.

I was in search of the perfect pair of shoes for months, despite already buying a pair, and came across the Loeffler Randall ‘Camellia’ shoe in the most perfect shade of muted blue. They are pretty hard to come by as Loeffler Randall is a US brand that really only sells in tiny numbers to small boutiques, but I managed to bag a pair from Halo and Wren Bridal in Hemel Hempstead.

I knew I didn’t want a veil since I had the cape, but I did want a bit of something in my hair, so I opted for the most spectacular headpiece from Miss Clemmie accessories, the Luna crown. This was such a statement piece, and I felt a zillion dollars wearing it on the day. In terms of other accessories, I wore a lovely bangle from Carrie Elizabeth, bought for me by amazing bridesmaids, and some celestial diamond earrings, also from Carrie Elizabeth, given to me by Tom on the morning of our wedding.

Finally, I wore a leather jacket from Topshop on the evening, which I’d had hand-painted by my friend and artist Laura Diamond, who created something completely bespoke for me, with a floral/foliage design all over the back. I felt so very rock ‘n’ roll on the evening wearing it!

GROOMSMEN

Tom and his groomsmen were also easy customers and headed to Master Debonair in East Boldon to try on suits one afternoon. They opted for the Jenson three-piece suit by Marc Darcy in a lovely navy check, with Tom going for a contrasting waistcoat to set his outfit apart.

They wore lovely knitted silk ties in a burnt bronze colour by Knightsbridge Neckwear (also via Master Debonair) which went really well with the check on the suits, along with complementing pocket squares in a paisley print.

I bought Tom a lovely watch by Hugo Boss with a navy face to open on the morning of our wedding, which he wore on the day, along with some customised cufflinks bought for him by his groomsmen, which had the date and map coordinates of our engagement and wedding engraved on each.

BRIDESMAIDS

I had five bridesmaids, and each wore a completely different piece, bought from a variety of places: Rewritten Bridesmaids, ASOS and Hope and Ivy. I bought them muted rose gold barely-there heels from Missguided after searching high and low for something! They each wore fresh foliage and flower crowns, created by our florist/venue stylist, The Whole Sch-Bang.

They all looked absolutely beautiful, and the dresses worked perfectly in harmony together – much to my relief on the day!

BEAUTY

Makeup-wise, there was only one gal for me, and it was UNVEILED Network Member Victoria Holdstock. I was aware of her work through friends and loved her style of makeup: soft glam with a focus on skin and keeping things as natural as possible. I had a trial with her in June, about 12 weeks before the big day, and it was such a nice, relaxed experience. She really got what I wanted and created a look that was me but on a really good day.

Hair-wise, I’ve had a chequered past when it comes to hairdressers, but in 2019 I came across Chelsea O’Connor, and she’s been doing my hair ever since. There was no doubt she’d be doing our hair on the day as I didn’t want ‘bridal hair’ for me or my bridesmaids, just a great hair day for all! “Soft, piecey waves” was the brief.

The morning of the wedding was so chilled and nice, and I credit both Chelsea and Victoria with that because they were such a pleasure to have with us and were relaxed but super professional, ensuring we were all ready, had our touch-ups and were photo-ready in plenty of time. Considering there were eight of us in total, that’s no mean feat!

TRANSPORT

We both travelled with our bride/groom crew, so I hired us a Mercedes G7 each from Parkers Chauffeurs. I did have big visions of rolling up in a vintage Porsche, but my practical nature won over in the end, and I decided I wanted to just be with my bridesmaids and travel comfortably, with air conditioning, so that’s what we did.

For the rest of our day and evening guests, we hired coaches from Phoenix Coaches.

PHOTOGRAPHER

The first thing we booked once we had our date sorted were the photographers. I have had my eye on the work of From The Smiths for years, and it was absolutely non-negotiable that we’d have them capture our day. I love their relaxed, unique style and knew they would just nail it – they certainly did.

Both Simon and SJ are lovely, down to earth, friendly people who slotted right into the day and made sure they were all over everything. They’re both so good at giving prompts and essentially herding cats on the day!

I’ve always thought it’s a cliche when photographers/videographers say, “you’ll not know we’re there”, but I genuinely didn’t know photos were being taken a lot of the time. It’s also a huge benefit that there’s two of them, so multiple angles are caught.

They were so adaptable in the run-up to the wedding and provided dates they could do when we were toying with moving it all, which was a massive help and most appreciated considering how many suppliers we had!

I couldn’t recommend them enough; we are absolutely delighted with our photographs and how they captured every essence of our day.

VIDEOGRAPHER

We booked with Hello There Films for our original date but unfortunately, Craig and Charlotte were unable to shoot the new date. However, all was not lost, and they sent Mike from Moon River Films to capture the footage on the day for them, and they would do all the edits. Best of both worlds, really!

Mike was fantastic on the day, and again, we didn’t even notice he was there! Charlotte and Craig have also been brilliant throughout, and we’d highly recommend them all. Our videos are absolutely perfect, and we will cherish them forever.

STYLING

The Whole Sch-Bang were responsible for our floristry and all venue styling, and I wanted to make a really big statement when it came to both. My bouquet was full of lots of fresh, fragrant foliage such as eucalyptus, nicoli and French ruscus, big blousy flowers in whites and blush pinks (they even managed to get peonies for me, which is virtually unheard of in August!) and some gorgeous earl grey roses, along with Lovelace roses, lisianthus and other complementing florals. I also incorporated thistle into my bouquet as a nod to my Scottish mam!

This was mirrored in the table decorations and on our moon gate arch, which was situated at the bottom of the ‘aisle’ and then moved to the reception room surrounding our sweetheart table for the dinner. They also provided buttonholes for Tom, the groomsmen and the dads, as well as corsages for the mams and my nana.

The team at The Whole Sch-Bang were at the venue most of the day before and really did a wonderful job. Everything was absolutely stunning and made our venue feel even more romantic and whimsical.

In addition to the above, we had light up letters from Coco Luminaire, including a large wooden L&T, a swooshy Love sign and a letterboard heart on which we put “It’s Friday, I’m in Love” and was situated at the entrance of the tipis.

We used Laura Diamond for all stationery/signage and asked for name tags, table numbers, an order of the day (which we had put on a reclaimed shipping crate that my mam painted for me!) and our table plan/welcome sign, which were both on cork boards. These were all decorated with florals by The Whole Sch-Bang.

FAVOURS

I am very lucky to have a super talented maid of honour who kindly offered to provide something totally unique for us as favours. Danielle, aka Perfect Presints, usually specialises in gorgeous dog tags made of resin; however, she created beautiful keyrings for our guests that complemented the style of florals and overall vibe. Each keyring had the guest’s initial on, and they were so well received. I have mine on my keys, and it’s such a lovely little memento of the day.

For the guys, we just bought a job lot of little bottles of Jägermeister because, let’s face it, you can’t go wrong!

CAKE

We aren’t big ‘cake people’, but as wedding law dictates, you’ve got to have a cake of some sort. We were let down by a previous supplier three weeks before the wedding, but luckily, the great people at PureKnead came to the rescue!

We opted for a single-tier tall column cake of white chocolate and raspberry decorated with florals and gold leaf, then 60 small cakes of lemon mascarpone decorated with roses. They were absolutely gorgeous.

I sourced a cute cake topper from Etsy in gold that said The Etheringtons, which was perfect. Our cake table was assembled in the tipis, and we used log bases to sit everything on, which fitted the overall vibe.

DINING

Food was one of the most important factors of the day for us both, being big foodies and knowing very much what we like and don’t like! We used Jacob and Tori Caterers for our three-course wedding breakfast and canapés – they were outstanding. They allowed us to create our own menu of dishes we love, and our guests chose from three options per course in advance. It was seamless on the day, and everything was delicious.

In the evening, we had two of our favourites, Scream for Pizza and Meat:Stack, rock up and serve from their vans. This was such a fun way of doing night-time food and allowed our guests to grab food as they fancied it, rather than having a designated time for food. My only regret is that I was so busy mingling that I forgot to have anything!

For drinks, we provided prosecco, beers and wine for our guests, and no corkage was charged by the venue, which was amazing. My mam and step-dad kindly covered the cost of the wine. We also hired Maggie’s Drinks Company, a cute little horsebox bar, and they ran the bar in the evening (and throughout the day in case anyone wanted spirits or a sneaky shot of tequila!)

ENTERTAINMENT

Another big thing for us was entertainment – we didn’t want to have to worry about the music at all throughout the day, and we hired the best of the best, Bride and Groove, to ensure that was all taken care of. I’ve known Ben for years, so it was a no-brainer for me – I actually used to DJ alongside him from time to time so knew he’d do a belter of a job.

As well as DJing on the night, he ran all things music and PA on the day, too, providing speakers and mics etc., for ceremony music, speeches and dinner music. Everyone commented on how great the music was throughout, so that was a real testament to how well he knows his market – there really is nobody better.

We also had a band for the evening reception, a good pal of mine Phil Davids fronts The Good Times Band and my god – did they show us a good time! They played two 45 minute sets, including our first dance song and another of our choosing, and they were absolutely phenomenal. Think a mixture of crowd-pleasers, soul and a bit of hip hop thrown in for good measure. They had the dancefloor full and even did a few extra tracks for us as the vibe was so good! They’re usually a five-piece band, but we really wanted to up the ante, so asked them to add brass to the band for us, so it ended up being a seven-piece band, and the whole collective was something else. I am so glad we booked them, and I’ve had so many people ask me for their details to book them for their own weddings

Our VW campervan photo booth, Rosie, from VW Weddings, was perfect for our relaxed, festival vibe and our guests absolutely loved it. They gave us a USB in an engraved box and a photo album of everyone’s pics and messages, which we will cherish forever. Such good fun!

SPECIAL TOUCHES

I ordered natural confetti from The Eco Bride, which was put in customised little envelopes and made things nice and easy as we just popped them on everyone’s chair in the ceremony room.

We wanted everything to feel really personalised and intimate throughout the day, and I think we achieved that with the little touches like the favours, name tags and by keeping things really fun and relaxed.

I bought my bridesmaids a range of little gifts to say thank you, but one of the highlights was a print of us all in our wedding outfits (tricky, considering it hadn’t happened yet!), created by my friend Katherine of KK Doodles. She used a picture of us from my hen party, and I worked with her for a few weeks sending her the looks of each bridesmaid, what they’d be wearing etc. They were such a lovely memento and brought on the tears!

OTHER SUPPLIERS

Our invitations were created by the one and only Bee Davies, whose work I have been a fan of for some time. She created some lovely one-pagers for us (we used a website for the rest).

Northumberland Registrars at Northumberland Council did our ceremony. Anthony and Andrew, our registrars, were both so friendly and made the ceremony nice and relaxed and fun.

Our tipis were provided by the brilliant Tipi Chic, who I’d highly recommend. What I found most useful was that, when speaking to other tipi companies, every single thing was itemised. It gets confusing and very expensive, very quickly. Tipi Chic don’t operate like that. You pay to hire the tipis, and they throw in whatever you need, such as furniture, lighting, a fire pit etc. This makes it so simple, and you can pick and choose what you need – ideal. James from Tipi Chic was a pleasure to deal with, especially during the tricky time of trying to rearrange.

We hired our tables, chairs, plates, charger plates and glassware from Crosby Hire, who are basically the definitive name in event catering supply hire in the North East, for good reason!

Because of the nature of our evening party and the venue, we also had to hire a generator and posh portaloos – both of which it’s safe to say I have never hired before. We used Pretty Privies for the loos and GenHire for our generator – both were brilliant, great at communicating with us and delivered/collected on time.

THANKS TO

Stanton Gardens is absolutely beautiful. We were able to get some incredible photos thanks to having so much space, as well as the gorgeous greenhouses etc., which provided a completely different backdrop. The whole place has an enchanted feel to it, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. As mentioned, however, they are no longer running weddings, so as much as I’d love to recommend it, there’s no point!

Every single supplier pulled it out of the bag for us. They were all so adaptable in changing dates, first of all, then doing everything in their power to bring the various elements of the day together perfectly. Communication was key to this, and I was so thankful that everyone was great at keeping in touch, even during scary times when COVID roadmaps were uncertain/pushed back. We had the best bunch of suppliers ever, and the seamless day we all enjoyed was a testament to them all.

BEST BIT

Erm, can I say the whole thing? I loved the getting ready part in the morning, it was so chilled out and fun, with lots of happy tears, sharing stories and laughs and getting glammed up by the best.

Seeing Tom at the end of the aisle is something I’ll never forget, and the whole ceremony part was just lovely, too.

The speeches were all incredible, and my mam had the whole place in tears with hers. I actually had people asking me if I could introduce them to my mam afterwards so they could tell her how amazing her speech was!

One of the funniest parts of the day was us as a bridal party trying to get some photos using smoke cannons. The guys made such a song and dance about it and wouldn’t hold them up, with us girls screaming at them to “just do it for the photo!”. Amazingly, they turned out alright, but it was not without drama!

Lastly, having my nana there was such a special thing, and I only wish Tom’s gran could have been there too, but she sadly passed away the Christmas prior.

HONEYMOON

We had a week in the Lake District because, well, COVID. We booked an amazing cottage that had been renovated to an amazing standard, with a hot tub, sun terrace and barbecue, and thankfully, the weather couldn’t have been better for our week away.

Whilst we were confident that the wedding could go full steam ahead, we weren’t prepared to book something extravagant abroad for the honeymoon until we knew we’d actually be able to do it. The plan was to go in February/March this year, but that’s not likely either now, and just as well because we are now expecting a baby boy in early summer!

I hold out hope that we’ll still manage a honeymoon, just much later than planned.

ADVICE

Stay calm and open to change. There really is no other choice when you’re planning a wedding during a pandemic. Try not to obsess over the news (I stopped looking at anything from about February to June!) and be adaptable. There are thousands dealing with the exact same thing and finding a route through, and you will too. You will have your day, and it’ll be perfect, there just might need to be adjustments and last-minute decisions, which nobody likes when you’re planning such a big thing, but doing your best to embrace change will help you stay sane. If you’re really worried like we were, then making the call early to push back is the best call and will give more chance of you being able to get all your suppliers.

Also, don’t bottle it up. I couldn’t have done the months running up to the wedding without opening up to Tom, my mam and my best friends. A problem shared is a problem halved, and you’ll be amazed at how much your people will want to help you. That’s why they’re your people.

I found Brides Up North really helpful when planning our wedding! I used the supplier directory, which came in very handy indeed, and I was also a frequent visitor to the real weddings articles and loved reading about the amazing wedding days of others. I’m a very visual person and was inspired by the amazing photography, which definitely informed my decisions on styling our day. I have no doubt I’ll still read Brides Up North because I just love a wedding, and there are always friends and family to help – just need my brother to pull his finger out and propose to his girlfriend so I can get my spreadsheets out again, like the true Monica Geller I am!

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