Chris and Emma met when they were studying graphic design at university. With an appreciation for amazing design they had the most stylish and personal of weddings. Inspired by the the art installation in Blackpool called the ‘Comedy Carpet’ their wedding style worked perfectly.
They incorporated their favourite music, showcased their collections and donned the loveliest attire.
Thanks so very much to The Retreat for sharing these wonderful images.
THE PROPOSAL | After 14 years together Emma had been very patient with me, but was now dropping unsubtle hints that I really should be popping the question sometime soon. A lot of our friends from university had tied the knot over the years and were now starting families. So I had to get my act together. The proposal began with me hatching a plan to take Emma away for a weekend in the Lake District. We’ve loved visiting there over the years and thought this wouldn’t arouse too much suspicion if I suggested a mini break there. I’d paid Emma’s parents a visit earlier in the week to ask her Dad’s permission to marry Emma and also he was the keeper of the engagement ring. Both engagement and wedding ring’s were handed down to Emma from her grandparent’s so I was safe in the knowledge that I couldn’t get that bit wrong!
When the day came we made our way to the Lakes. My original plan was to save the proposal till the evening, we’d have a romantic meal and I’d then do the honourable thing at desert. However, we’d spent the morning of deadline day at a local safari park and by that time I was already getting slightly anxious about the current plan and thought I can’t last till the evening as I’m having kittens already! We’d arrived at our accommodation later that day and by then I thought I’m going to have to do it soon. So as we were unpacking our bags and Emma was putting the kettle on, I was stood in the bathroom nervously looking at the engagement ring knowing I had to do it now.
I quietly came out of the bathroom as Emma was making a brew and got down on one knee and said ‘I’ve got something to ask you’. And there you have it. Emma said yes and we went on to have a fantastic weekend. Maybe not the most glamorous of situations to do it but the setting and the weekend was one that we’ll both never forget.
THE VISION | Everyone to have as much fun as possible, to make it incredibly memorable and just a very happy day.
We very much wanted this to be a reflection of us, which as it turns out is an eclectic, vintage, music filled party! We really wanted to put our stamp on it and for our guests to arrive and say ‘this is so Chris & Emma’.
Having met at University while both studying Graphic Design, we’ve developed an understanding and appreciation for design, use of colour, imagery and typography. With this knowledge we had a strong visual style in mind for the day. One of our main inspirations for the day comes from our love of the art installation in Blackpool called the ‘Comedy Carpet’. You must visit the pavement in front of the Blackpool Tower which is inlayed with various red and navy granite lettering. The installation is a homage to British comedy and the various acts, routines, sayings and phrases that have appeared on our tv screens and have graced the Blackpool Pier over the years. The Comedy Carpet, its typography and colours gave us a starting point for designing our wedding invites, table plan, and order of service for the church. Everything stemmed from that.
We very much wanted to get involved in every aspect of coming up with creative ideas for how the day would look. So as much as we took advice from people we then looked to see how we could tailor those ideas to fit in with our style and thoughts.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | Lists…..Its all about lists….. The process started pretty much straight after the proposal. Emma had been collecting plenty of bridal material from friends and family and had already started a scrapbook of bits and pieces. We were looking at a summer wedding, anywhere between July and September and started hunting for venues that could accommodate roughly 140 people comfortably. Its a very intense time as many will vouch for and it does engulf your life, chasing people for quotes, doing research on venue’s, finding dresses, suits etc… but what we felt that this was part of the process of being married.
We were doing this together. People say its just for one day, and they’re right to a certain degree but everything we arranged and discussed and made, we did together. That one day turned into months and to see how it all came together was so rewarding for the two of us. The ceremony itself was the icing on the cake. A lot of patience and understanding is needed and Emma was fantastic at dealing with my awkwardness and grumpiness at times when trying to make decisions. But we worked through it fine.
Your guest list can be a tricky one and we deliberated over a few names of who should and shouldn’t be invited. Once we’d finalised that, the table plan was pretty much straightforward. We went with the idea that obviously the people we were inviting were from certain aspects of our lives, whether it be family, friends from school, university or work etc. A lot of those people rarely see each other or get together for any event. So we made sure we could create as many tables of people as possible who knew each other or would have a common ground. None of this mix it up and get people to mingle with random people. We wanted it to be a catch up for them as well, where they felt more at ease with familiar faces and it worked an absolute treat.
THE VENUE | We chose The Bowdon Rooms in Altrincham as our venue for the wedding reception. Its a fantastic quaint Edwardian building with a Ballroom inside and a fully sprung maple dance floor. One of the main criteria for our venue is that we wanted our guests and obviously ourselves to have an unforgettable party, with great music and plenty of dancing. The ballroom gave us the space to make that possible. We had about 130 people there in total once the evening guests arrived and it was just an ideal space to fit everyone in. From booking the venue through to picking up all our belongings after the big day, the staff and organisers couldn’t have been any more helpful and catered for out every need. They helped make the day run so smoothly and were so accommodating. In particular our wedding co-ordinator Suzanne who was just incredible and was on hand whenever we had any queries and gave so much support and advice.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | I knew what I wanted from the start and had been researching vintage inspired dresses on the internet as soon as Chris proposed. While I would describe myself as a girly girl my dress sense always veered toward the practical. Jeans, t-shirts and trainers were my go to outfit. Scared to order a dress straight off the internet I searched for shops which stocked vintage 1950’s style dresses. I found one shop on the Wirral and headed over to at least see if what I had in my head would in any way suit my body shape. I loved the shorter tea length style dresses and just spent the afternoon twirling in them.
While I hadn’t bought one that day I came home convinced I had found the one. On the off chance I booked an appointment at a local dress shop which I knew well as 12 months ago I had been fitted there for a bridesmaids dress (my best friend Becky’s wedding, now she was my bridesmaid). They just so happened to stock the vintage inspired dresses that I had seen on the Wirral. After some discussions I found myself debating over a couple of dresses when the owner Georgia announced that if I wanted something more bespoke her sister was a dress maker and specialised in vintage dresses. I said yes straight away. Georgia and Lisa were amazing and helped me through the process which was somewhat daunting.
I would suggest that if you are getting a dress made always ask lots of questions and really articulate what you like and don’t like. The more information you can get out of your head the more the dressmaker has a clearer idea of the vision you have, and this can avoid late changes or tweaks. On the other hand you have someone there to guide you through and help give you something totally unique.
As soon as I had decided on the dress I knew I needed a show stopping pair of shoes to go with it and I wanted colour! I spent some time on the internet. In my head I thought red and Schuh was the shop for something dramatic there had been a pair of Red or Dead, Dorothy shoes, postbox red glitter with a huge bow on the front but alas sold out in my size and it didn’t look like they would be getting any more of this colour in. So I went for the sliver glitter bow shoes instead I kept them for 3 months as Schuh have a 12 month return policy for unworn shoes which was amazing while I took my time to decide. I kept and eye on the site and they brought in a new range of irregular choice shoes, one of which was a royal blue sued shoe with a navy lace overlay. They we an exact match for the blue coloured material I had picked out for the bridesmaids. I bought them too and took the glitter and blue to my dress fitting. The blue just looked so sophisticated and with a little heal they were super comfy. Then Lisa suggested that I have a matching blue petticoat under my skirt that would be glimpsed as I twirled on the dancefloor! So that was it, blue it was, everyone commented on my shoes and when they did I could help flash my petticoat at them too!!! For a while I didn’t know what to do with my hair but Lisa also came up trumps and made me a head piece with sliver, royal blue and red beading and a net front piece which my hairdresser fixed in my hair.
One other important accessory which finished my outfit was my brooch bouquet which I made with the help of my mum. The main base was two silk hydrangeas in to which I wove stems of wire with broaches attached. The brooches we a collection of new and inherited from both my grandma and Nana. It was so very special to make something with my mum which has so much meaning and significance. I have something I will treasure forever. Never one for having much confidence in how I look, I truly never felt so beautiful as I did that day.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | I think I’d always had in mind some sort of navy blue suit and that fitted in ideally with the wedding colour scheme!! Being a Manchester United fan, I wanted to squeeze in some red for the day, so when Emma ok’d the red and navy blue scheme I thought I had my chance!! I was looking for a 3 piece suit with a waistcoat as I’d never had one before. I found one at Slaters in Manchester which was ideal. A very stress free and simple experience! So all I needed was to accessorise. A crisp white shirt next, followed by red socks, red pocket square and some burgundy red shoes. The tie was an inspired find from Primark at only £2! A blue and red checked tie. To finish off we’d order some old school inspired enamel prefect badges. Myself had one titled ‘Groom’, whilst my Ushers, Dad, Father In law and Step Dad had ‘Ushers’ and ‘Head Captains’ respectively.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | I am not particularly religious but Emma’s family has a strong Catholic upbringing. It was a given that she would want a Church service. I knew this was important to her and therefore it was important to me too. We both felt that marriage was an important step in our relationship and the service was at its heart. This was not just a piece of paper to us this was a very public declaration to everyone that we want to be husband and wife for the rest of our lives. As this was Emma’s area of expertise she was in charge of picking the readings and with her Dad, she even wrote some of the prayers which we got some of our friends to read at the service. It was so special and touching, the priest made us feel so welcome and feel like a very special and blessed couple.
We’d deliberated a while over what music Emma would come down the aisle to and in the end we chose Northern Sky by Nick Drake. Being two Northerner’s the lyrics, title and of course the ebb and flow of the song is just a beautiful piece of songwriting.
The music during the service was a mixture of song that had various significance for us, whether we just liked the lyrics, the tune, or that it filled us with happy memories and feelings. We had the likes of The Beatles – In my Life, Lamb – Gorecki, Zero 7 – Somersaults, Elbow – Mirrorball. On leaving the church we played Elbow – One Day Like This.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I knew I wanted to keep things simple so my sister Collette and best friend Becky would be my bridesmaids. Becky would be 8 ½ months pregnant on the day of the wedding so I knew this meant that shopping for 1 normal and 1 matching maternity dress would prove difficult. A local dressmaker had been recommended and I went to see her. She advised me as to what might suit both Collette and Becky and after some internet research I had found another wedding online which had featured 5 bridesmaids with identical fabric but various styles of dress and fit. This would be ideal so I set about fining some fabric myself. A local shop had the most perfect navy fabric with a large flower print which caught the light and became electric blue when it moved, I matched it with a light georgette fabric which would go over Becky’s bump. They looked so beautiful and were both such a support and invaluable help throughout the whole planning process. I could not believe she did it but Becky was adamant she would be in heals on the day and she was! Without thought of the consequences she charged over to me on the dance floor when The Smith’s, ‘This Charming Man’ was played (this was our song)!
THE FLOWERS | We were extremely lucky to know two very special ladies who are old church friends of Emma’s parents. They kindly agreed to help us with the flowers. We already had some big ideas for the centrepieces and while flowers were important we didn’t really want to spend too much on them. Betty and Margaret were the ladies who did the flowers for Church and did flower arranging as a hobby. They were so good and gave us their time and expertises for a very small cost. We really looked forward to visiting them about the flowers as it generally descended into chatting about all sorts and they always has us in fits of laughter. We invited them to the evening reception and they danced the night away with us.
THE CAKE | Friends definitely come in handy when it comes to weddings. No sooner had we asked around for any cake makers, one of our good friends told me his sister did the odd spot of baking and has made a fair few wedding cakes for other weddings. We wanted a nice sponge cake with a couple of tiers and to incorporate our vintage theme. We were so happy with the final outcome which had miniature bunting draped around the cake and our wedding cake toppers sat proudly underneath a sort of bunting washing line.
Our wedding cake toppers were not your usual toppers… we’ve grown to have a love for ring tailed Lemurs after our many visits to the South Lakes Safari Park in The Lake District. Emma discovered a shop on Etsy called Bonjour Poupette. The artist herself was based all the way in Oregon, but when we saw these animals she’d created, we knew they’d be ideal for us. Along with the Lemurs, and the cake decoration we also managed to get hold of some vinyl record cake stands which provided the ideal setting for our ice cream cones to sit on.
A bonus for us was that our cake maker Helen, also ended up making an ice cream cone cake for our wedding reception dessert! Because of the Blackpool theme, we wanted something inspired by the seaside and what else could you have but an ice cream for dessert. So Helen cleverly baked mini sponge cakes into an ice cream wafer cone, with a generous dollop of icing and raspberry sauce and not forgetting a flake sticking out of the top to recreate the classic ’99er’ ice cream.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Our photographer was a thoroughly professional, kind, friendly and extremely helpful gent by the name of Matt Bowen. It was an easy choice in the end to pick Matt. We’d looked at so many photographers online and just felt so many weren’t right for us. We didn’t want a photographer that may make everything look a bit staged or unnatural. Yes we were aware that we had to include some traditional group shots, more for keeping the relatives happy. But we wanted someone who could record the best day of our lives in a way that captured the love, warmth and happiness of the whole occasion. It was the vibrancy, attention to detail, the emotion that came from Matt’s photos and the nature of his photography that really made us think wow he could make our day even more special.
As part of the package we had with Matt, we were entitled to an engagement shoot with him to help us prepare for the big day. It allowed us to become relaxed and comfortable with him as he took the photos and so he could get to know us too. We felt it was such a great decision as we’re both not fans of having our photo taken. And obviously at your wedding, there is a slight chance you’ll be having your photo taken!
When it came to the day itself with Matt and his assistant Hannah, they acted with great professionalism and respect throughout the entire day, in particular during the church ceremony, where they both acted with the up most consideration. We could not recommend him highly enough.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | Along with the Blackpool connection, we have a habit of collecting various random, tins, posters, programmes, milk bottles, books and knick-knacks. We’re drawn to them because of their unique appeal, style, how they are illustrated or presented. Some people would find it a very strange collection but its very much us. Our centre pieces for the tables, would be little set ups of these collections. Our tables were named after various vinyl LPs of artists, soundtracks, performers and bands that hold different meanings to us and so our table plan became a kind of Variety Show performance poster heralding different acts. The favours on the table’s were a collection of pick and mix sweets that we placed in candy striped bags that doubled up as place settings, adding to that childhood nostalgia, funfair, seaside feel. We used parcel tags and put the names on them. We’d also made some stickers that were a mix of different catchphrases that helped keep the bags sealed.
Amongst the collection of items for the centre pieces we also included various second hand paperback books. The majority were penguin books that we thought had interesting titles and others that had interesting illustrations.
We had a different idea for how we’d liked our guestbook to work. Instead of having a traditional book we’d bought packs of penguin and puffin book cover postcards and left one on each person’s place setting for them to fill in. We’d bought a couple of red and blue vintage suitcases, one for gifts and cards and another for placing the cards in once they’d written on them.
Our love of music is another massive influence on us both and we wanted to find some entertainment for the evening do that was ‘us’ and that would be a great excuse to get everyone up on the dance floor. We were very lucky to come across a group called ‘The Fraudsters’, an indie covers band from Manchester. We’d stumbled across a video of them when we’d found the Bowdon Rooms as our venue and we were lucky enough to book them. We both felt that was it one of the best decisions we have ever made. They were quite simply incredible and our guests loved them. We chose tracks from their setlist that we were sure that people would dance to and they also learned a couple of songs that we’d asked could they play. The two tracks the dance floor was filled from beginning to end and we had so many people saying to us after the wedding how amazing they thought the band were. Brilliant. Just brilliant.
Inside the Bowdon room we wanted to keep it very clean and clear and an emphasis on the details of the centre pieces, table decorations and touches of bunting around the room. The white curtains, fairy lights up in the ceiling and the spot lights on the centre pieces and flowers lit up the room. It was incredible for us to sneak a peek at the room once we’d got to the venue after having a photos taken. As no-one had been allowed in yet so we got the chance to have a wander around the room and take it all in before the guests went in.
We’d toyed with the idea of a traditional wedding breakfast with table service throughout, but in the end opted for a more informal buffet style for better of a word, where each table went up in turn and we’re given the option of a choice of dishes which was then served them. It ran incredibly smoothly and guests commented on how they enjoyed having hot food straight away rather than waiting for all tables to be served in turn with food that may have been waiting before it could be brought too them.
The wedding car was an inspired find. A bright red 1962 Vauxhall Cresta, which looked incredible and was such a cool car to be sat in the back of. The red paint with the polished chrome couldn’t have looked any smarter and to compliment it perfectly we’d booked a navy blue Leyland 1946 vintage double decker bus to transport the wedding guests from the main hotel to the church and venue.
THE HONEYMOON | We’d knew where we wanted to go straight away and that was America. We’d been to New York to celebrate our 30th Birthday and we’d always wanted to go back. So it was just a case of deciding which parts to visit. In the end we’d opted for a coach tour of the the east side of America and into Canada. We began with a 9 day coach tour from New York and from there visited, Boston, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Amish Country, Washington Philadelphia and back to New York. We then spent an extra 3 days staying in New York before returning home. It was an incredible experience visiting so many places and seeing all the different cities. We only wished we could have stayed longer as we barely scratched the surface of exploring each place.
In Toronto we went up to the top of the CN Tower and had the chance to admire the amazing views of the city. Niagara Falls, were simply incredible to see and the Maid of the Mist boat trip into the centre of the Falls was just spectacular. We took a cruise on the St.Lawrence River and take a tour around the Thousand Islands. Visiting the Amish country to see how the Amish community live and work in their world which shuns technology. Washington too was just an fantastic historical journey taking in Arlington cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, The White House, Capital Hill. Its just a who’s who of monuments. In New York we managed to get tickets to see the Ice Hockey at Madison Square Gardens, which was beyond cool. The American’s really know how to put on a spectacle.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | From start to finish the whole day was even better than we had imagined. Different moments stand out for each of us. A family friend said that he had never seen a couple look quite so happy and the whole day was such party atmosphere. That was all we could have hoped and wished for.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Patience is a big thing. Don’t let the planning of your day overwhelm you. As difficult as it can be, try to find time to enjoy that side of it. We found that its not just about one day, yes of course that day is extremely special and memorable but so many good things came from the time we spent building up to it, making choices about different things. It was a crazy 18 months building up to it but we were able to enjoy a lot of it. Before you know it, that time has disappeared and you’re 6 months after the wedding. It really does go by so quick.
Ask lots of questions. I think a lot of people involved with planning weddings don’t explain everything they should because they deal with it everyday, it appeared obvious to them just not to us.
Many people have said it and we’ll say it too. Its YOUR day. As difficult as it is don’t lose sight of that, especially with the pressures of pleasing everyone, from friends and family. Make sure you do want you want to do. You don’t want to look back on the day and think you’d wished you’d done something different just to keep someone else happy.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photography | Matt Bowen – The Retreat
Venue | The Bowdon Rooms
Cake Toppers | Bonjour Poupette on Etsy or Sofieskein
Wedding Band | The Fraudsters
Wedding Car | Cresta Records
Wedding Bus | Classic Bus
Chris and Emma thank you both so much for sharing your wedding story with us xo Lou