James and Katy wed in a riot of colour at Hargate Hall on the 29th April 2017. This pair did everything completely their own way and while they didn’t want to spend too much on their wedding, they did splash out a little on the things that were really important to them, which is what it’s all about right?
The vegetable bouquets really started as a joke but Katy fell in love with their gorgeous, quirky appearance and who can blame her! For me, they really sum up the vibe of the day, which was consciously not wasteful and our couple wanted to make sure that everything wouldn’t just be used once. So important when you’re putting so much into one day. They didn’t go overboard with décor but the touches they added are just so effective. How festive are the streamers in the marquee?
Katy and James both had their incredible outfits made for them and the bridesmaids had free rein to choose their own dresses. All in all they make a gorgeous group!
The brilliant images are courtesy of Mylo Photography, who has captured this laid back and love filled day just perfectly. Thank you Kieran and Joanne.
THE PROPOSAL | On the beach in Rarotonga (Cook Islands). We were living in New Zealand at the time. Absolutely blissful picture-perfect beaches, sand, water and coral reefs. We’d been together for over eight years at that point but James still managed to keep it unexpected, right up until the hour leading up to the question itself, when I definitely guessed something was about to happen. It was super chilled and it wasn’t until a few days later when it sunk in that it actually felt really exciting and special.
THE VISION | Stress free, relaxed, fun, happy and entertaining. We didn’t want much formality and tried to bring as much personal character to the event as possible but we brought this to life in the people we involved and the atmosphere we created as opposed to lots and lots of tiny details. We also brought a few small traditions from other cultures – our sister-in-law is Swedish and when she married James’ brother in 2014 it was a brilliantly Swenglish affair on an island in Swedish Archipelago. Here we were introduced to some wonderful Swedish wedding traditions such as the open speech policy so whoever wants to say something can (it’s not limited to the traditional figures of Groom, Father of the Bride and Best Man). We loved this, it felt so inclusive, and so much fun as the open floor tends to breed shorter less formal speeches and even poems and songs! We loved this and knew we wanted the same at our wedding, so we asked Mark and Sofie (brother and sister in law) to be our Speech Master & Madame (basically our MC’s) and they spent months leading up to the wedding secretly contacting all our guests and co-ordinating all the speakers. We thought it might be a bit alien to our English friends, but we were so overwhelmed on the day when so many people participated, every speech, song and poem was a surprise and we flitted between hysterical laughter and tears all through the dinner!
THE PLANNING PROCESS | We had just under two years to plan which was ample time. Both of us found parts of the planning fun, but definitely enjoyed some time off wedding planning time-to-time, so we tackled it in bursts.
We had a rule we established once we got engaged, that wedding planning should be fun, and we shouldn’t ever overthink or argue about anything. Definitely easier said than done when you’re spending large chunks of money but we pretty much managed it.
We divvied up main responsibilities, so James took the lead on food and drink and Katy took on all the decoration of the main hall and marquee, florist etc and then we just split the rest of the tasks. The worst bit is definitely deciding the guest list, once that was out the way it was fairly plain sailing and after worrying about how many people we would end up with, we landed on just over 80 confirmed which was perfect! Half of our planning took place remotely, from New Zealand and then the final nitty gritty was completed from the UK. We actually booked our venue completely blind as we were organising this part while we were still living in New Zealand.
BUDGET | APPROX £15,000
THE VENUE | Hargate hall in a small village called Wormhill, which is just outside of Buxton in the Peak District. Dry stone walls, rolling hillsides and lots of farm animals surround the area. It is beautiful.
We had a strong idea of what we wanted from a venue so did lots of internet research. Our criteria were:
Ability to sleep over (all that planning for just one day didn’t feel right, we wanted to make a weekend of it)
No curfew (don’t you just hate it when you’re in full party swing and the DJ calls last song!)
Ability to bring in our own catering and drinks (we love our food, it’s a big part of our personalities and we were really keen to have great beer on tap and some imported bottles and cans from New Zealand).
After a long stint of nightly searching, James found Hargate, and magically it ticked all the boxes.
Amazingly, the prices were incredibly reasonable, the owners, Anthony and Julie seemed really open minded and chilled out (just the vibe we wanted), there was no corkage on any of the booze we brought in (amazing right!) and we had free rein to do what we liked!
As we said, we didn’t see Hargate before booking, we sent our parents on a recce and trusted their opinions, we hadn’t even seen the venue when we paid the deposit. When we got back (June 2016) we went to see the venue and absolutely loved it as it ticked all the boxes we were looking for.
The venue itself is a huge old country house that has 12 self-catering apartments and sleeping capacity for 75 people plus a marquee for the seated meal. You hire the venue for the whole weekend (3 nights), so we had a full venue for the night before the wedding, the night after the wedding and then a number of people stayed on for the third night as well. It was like a huge family and friends get together in the middle of nowhere with no distractions – just fun and entertainment.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | Was a simple sleeveless dress with a scallop edged sweetheart neckline and a separate guipure lace ‘topper’ with elbow length sleeves.
It was made by a local Sheffield dress maker called Liza Brothers. She was really lovely and incredibly laid back but in a way that put me totally at ease. She helped me source a beautiful guipure lace material for the topper, let me have four fittings along the journey and delivered a stunning dress that felt great to wear.
Accessories were minimal as I don’t wear lots of jewellery. My earrings were some pretty little glass bead studs I’d bought on a holiday with James’ family and my necklace was my great grans locket which is a dainty gold heart on a chain.
As much as possible I wanted everything we bought for the wedding to be reusable, as I struggled with the excess and frivolous nature of weddings, so for my shoes I bought a pair of yellow, red and orange Swedish Hasbeens. They’re not cheap, but I’d wanted a pair for ages and knew they’d get plenty of use post wedding – they also added a great pop of colour and personality to the big white dress.
My mum and dressmaker also talked me into a big old veil, which I hadn’t planned. I did manage to compromise and go for a single layer so it wasn’t too ‘frouffy’ but as it happens, I ended up loving it. It was longer than my dress, single layer, with a pretty guipure lace trim. I was glad they’d got their way in the end, it definitely made me feel like a bride.
FINDING THE DRESS | I never had a strong idea of what I wanted until I got engaged and started looking. I knew what I didn’t want better.
After lots of fun hours fully absorbed in Pinterest I found myself drawn to the laid back, soft and stylish designs of a number of designers. In the pictures, I loved the designs of Laure de Sagazan, Donnatelle Godart, Lora Folk, Minna Bridal, and Kate Beaumont.
I decided to try on some of the designs and I booked an appointment at a shop that stocks lots of beautiful designs from the French designers.
To be honest, I was fairly disappointed in the whole process, all the sample sizes were an 8 or 10 and I’m a 12, so I felt pretty crap trying on dresses that wouldn’t go past my hips, gaped at the bust and clung on the stomach, they didn’t mention that when you booked either, and charged you £25 for the appointment. I don’t really understand how you’re supposed to commit to a £3,000 dress, when for the average UK woman, it’s going to look fairly dreadful, the actual staff in the shop were lovely, but not for me I’m afraid.
I also tried a few high street options but again this was a bit disastrous. I planned a day with my mum and bridesmaids in central London to visit all the big wedding sections in the department stores. House of Fraser, John Lewis and Debenhams all advertised wedding departments in these stores on their websites, but all three no longer had them when we visited – so that was a waste of time. Phase Eight was the only saviour as their flagship store is a lovely experience, but none of the dresses were quite right.
I decided that I wasn’t up for any more searching so I was lucky to find a lovely local dressmaker, Liza. We quickly designed the dress together and then had a lovely smooth process to make it.
The thing about trying your dress as it’s being made was that, for me anyway, I never had that ‘wow’ moment. I wouldn’t let myself have any pictures of it so I couldn’t over analyse, and every fitting I went to, the dress was better than I remembered. I might not have had the ‘wow’ but I did feel supremely comfortable and just like ‘me’, which was all I wanted.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Being a proud and local guy from Sheffield, James was keen to find someone local to make a suit rather than somewhere big and corporate. After a very quick search James found a local tailor called Mohammed Tariq, based down in Sharrowvale, the ‘trendy’ part of Sheffield.
Working closely with Tariq throughout the whole design and tailor process, the suit was made from 100% organic and textured wool from Yorkshire which gave it a very natural look and feel. The two-tone bow tie was made out of the same material and everything tied together perfectly on the day.
The process of designing and tailoring the suit evolved throughout the process. Nothing was contrived and we pretty much started with a blank canvas.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | We had two readings. One from the bride’s brother, David, which was taken from a Death Cab for Cutie song called Passenger Seat. The other reading was from close friends Sarah, Pete and their 18 month old daughter Eva who read ‘the owl and the pussycat’ – that was a real highlight as all three had been practicing hard to teach Eva the last word from every line. She was so proud of herself and made everyone smile.
The bride walked down the aisle to a song by M83 called ‘Raconte-moi une histoire’. The signing of the register was a Lemon Jelly mix (although we weren’t bothered about spending ages posing with a weird pen so cut that as short as we could). We walked out to Louis Prima, Sing Sing Sing, which was lively, upbeat and recognisable from the Guinness adverts from a time when Katy’s dad worked there.
Our first dance was Come Up and See Me (Make me smile) by Steve Harley and the Cockney Rebels. As we said, we agreed decisions should be quick, easy and natural. This choice happened on a cold day in Wellington (New Zealand), waiting for Sarah and Pete (from the reading) to collect us when we put on a random song to dance to and keep warm. We both liked it and decided there and then that it should be our first dance. It was an awesome choice, one of those songs almost everyone recognises and can sing along – plus it is from The Full Monty which ticked the ‘Sheffield’ box for James. We thought about choreographing some moves, but after a few rehearsals, we were getting sick of hearing the song over and over and didn’t want to ruin it for ourselves. So we decided we’d freestyle it – we both love throwing some pretty slick shapes. If I do say so myself, we smashed it and even managed an impromptu lift! By the second chorus, everyone was up on the dancefloor singing in unison – PERFECT.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | I had six/seven bridesmaids. Originally, I wanted a small group, but then I felt like I was cutting numbers for the sake of it, so decided to just go with who I wanted up there with me.
I say six/seven because my maid of honour, our mutual best friend Jen, also doubled up as our best man – she was our Maid of Man! She got ready with the girls and stood at the front with James as I came down the aisle.
I also had three other girls from our university gang – Sarah, Sophie and Sam, my oldest friend Nicola and two of my best male friends – John and Sam. The guys loved being part of it, especially hanging out with the girls, while we got ready before the ceremony started – they said it was cool to experience something they’re unlikely to ever do again.
My bridesmaids are all different shapes, sizes, personalities and styles and I wanted them all to feel great on the day. So, I had no matching dresses and simply asked them to get what they wanted and contributed a budget for the dress. I set a brief that:
They had to love it
They had to want to wear it again
Some of them wanted more of a brief so I said I liked rich or bright colours and above shin length, but other than that they got what they wanted and I loved the effect of them all – the variety adds some really diversity and colour to our photos.
THE FLOWERS | James suffers with quite severe hay fever and so I wanted to avoid any pollen at the wedding, we jokingly discussed having a vegetable bouquet and it went from there. I looked them up as a joke and kinda fell in love with these quite quirky but beautiful bouquets made of all sorts of veg.
I found a lovely local florist Emma at Orchis who was up for the challenge and she made us 5 awesome bouquets full of cauliflowers, beetroots, radishes, heritage carrots and beautiful smelling fresh mint – they were ace! We also had chilli buttonholes and corsages.
Emma also produced a beautiful foliage garland for the banister in the main hall. She knew I loved ferns and even though she only quoted for ivy, she surprised me with the most gorgeous variety of foliage on the day. She was awesome and the visits to her amazingly scented unit to discuss plans were my fave bit of planning.
Lastly, she made me and the bridesmaids some simply foliage head pieces so despite the non-matching outfits, we all felt like the bridal party.
THE CAKE | we had an open cake table so we asked guests to bake and bring cakes and have a big sharing buffet style table. So we had rice crispie cakes from the mother of the groom to homemade flapjacks, brownies and a very special hummingbird cake, inspired by New Zealand.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Kieran from Mylo Photography.
We found him through internet research and loved his style. It was stylised without being overdone, it all just felt really natural. We met for a pint when we returned from New Zealand and felt he was a great fit, super chilled, listened to what we were wanting (more natural / less posed) and he was local which was important to us.
We met a couple of times before the wedding (over a pint of beer) so we felt really sure he was going to nail it. On the day Kieran was great to have around. He’s got a gentle and chilled manner which was lovely to keep everything calm while we got ready. I really didn’t want a pushy person who shouted at our guests or forced us to pose and Kieran totally got that. He was a lovely presence on the day and our guests were amazed at the shots he got.
Because James and I stayed in the same venue, Kieran managed to get shots of both of us getting ready and even some of our guests pottering around in their jammies in the morning.
So many people have said how brilliantly the photos tell the story of the day – we couldn’t agree more, they’re fantastic.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | We had two big rooms to decorate, the main hall (which is a beautiful dark wood country hall) and the marquee.
The marquee was a bit intimidating, it’s huge… and very white… My main objective was to inject some serious colour and make it feel a bit more intimate. We chose a long banquet style table formation as we find it more communal. Our food reflected this too, Whirlowbrook Hall outside catering did an outstanding job taking on a menu designed by us based on lots of middle eastern ‘Ottolenghi’ style food and completely nailed it. Everything was vegetarian aside from some big ‘carve it yourself’ sirloin of beef. It was important to us that everyone felt stuck in, with of yummy choices to eat so everything was sharing style.
To inject some colour in the marquee we bought lots of paper streamers, string and some paper honeycomb and star decorations. The guests all helped to make the brilliantly haphazard streamer garland on Friday night and were all mucking in to work out how we’d hang it – I had no set plan… We also had some Bolivian/Peruvian inspired fabric table runners, material bought online and cut myself. This added some gorgeous pattern and colour. You’ll see there was no real theme, we just worked with the space we had and considered how best to fill it. We had fresh herbs on the tables instead of flowers, which were for guests to pick and garnish their food with – again, trying to be resourceful not wasteful.
The main hall needed very little. We just had the foliage banister garland and some simple white ‘berry’ style fairy lights.
I was very much trying to keep our wedding in a sensible budget, so spent hours sourcing the most cost-effective paper decs and fabric etc on Ebay.
THE HONEYMOON | Because we’ve been lucky enough to travel to some big destinations and lived on the other side of the world for two and a half years, we wanted to embrace and explore Europe. We spent two weeks travelling around Slovenia. We stayed in about six different locations from city centre apartments, to rural farm stays, vineyards and even two nights in a secluded tree house. It is a beautiful country – a lot of alpine passes, beautiful blue waters, outdoors, grass and adventure sports including white wafting rafting, kayaking through a disused mine and paragliding.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | There are too many to mention. The food was outstanding, a fantastic rendition of Kate Bush ‘hounds of love’ by the groom’s brother on acoustic guitar, a flash mob rendition of God Only Knows by the beach boys, our first dance, James’ Dad reading James’ 12-year-old ‘autobiography’ describing his future wife and seven storey house, and some absolutely amazing dancing on the Friday night by the father of the bride on a balcony to r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Just do things that will make you happy, laugh and have fun on the day. Don’t be too serious about anything. If you haven’t thought about it until about a month before the wedding then it really isn’t that important. Also, don’t feel the need to blow the budget. We had two big rooms to decorate and we just made it up a bit, nothing too pricey – but we loved it!
A DIY wedding is ace, and friends and family are always so keen to help, it really brings people together. But being the central person directing it all can be a little overwhelming. If I did it again, I’d write some lists and divvy them out so people didn’t have to keep asking me questions – my head was buzzing.
It’s also worth remembering, that the clean-up is quite tiring, make sure you book that honeymoon straight after the wedding – you’ll need the recuperation and some bride and groom time.
Lastly, we started off with a really low budget – thinking we might be able to do it within £8-12,000. We totally could have achieved this, but then along the way we made some conscious decisions to spend more on bits that mattered – for us that was food and drink and James getting a tailored suit.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Mylo Photography
Venue | Hargate Hall
Bride’s Dress | Liza Brothers
Suit | Mohammed Tariz
Florist | Orchis Floral Design
Catering | Whirlowbrook Hall Outside Catering
What a fantastic day! Thank you very much Katy and James for sharing it with us. Rachel x