I love how individual this gorgeous pair are. They ditched the usual wedding traditions and went all out to create a personalised and homely affair.
Lily and Alun were married over a gorgeous June weekend, first holding a legal ceremony with two friends as witnesses at the Harrogate registry office. Then they had a Church blessing followed by a knees up at Burnsall Village Hall in Yorkshire. They used all of the local facilities including the camp site, school car park and a field opposite, it had a truly village community feel.
They kept the details simple to really show off the stunning hall space and hand crafted everything else with the help of their loved ones. Lily had her 1960s inspired knee length frock custom made and she wore real flowers in her hair. Didn’t she look wonderful? Alun went for a real 1970s vintage suit teamed with colour pop red tie and DMs. Woah.
Thanks so much to the brilliant Fox & Owl for sharing these remarkable images with us.
Lily (the bride) is from South London and Alun (the groom) is from Bradford. We met working in a pub in Leeds so although we now live together in London, we wanted a Northern wedding and if it wasn’t going to be London ‘urban and edgy’, it had to be ‘country and wild’ in Yorkshire. We considered running away and getting hitched on the quiet but at the same time were looking forward to the opportunity to bring our families together for perhaps one of the only times in our lives. After looking around for places in the Bradford area we settled on the beautiful village of Burnsall, just on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. On Friday 3rd June Al, Lily, Maid of Honour Emily, and Best Man Rob jumped in a car in casual clothes and drove off across the Dales to Harrogate registry office. We had a very short and very simple private ceremony with just our two friends as witnesses which felt totally badass. We celebrated our badassness with a pint at the pub. While we were in Harrogate, our friends and family were arriving in Burnsall from all over the world for a small wedding blessing in the local village church and a right old knees up party on Saturday 4th June. We chose the last weekend in Spring – bulbs, blossom, peonies and fresh rain that smells like lush green grass full of hope and excitement of what the year might bring.
THE PROPOSAL | 1st May 2015 Lily jumped on a coach from London to visit Al (who was living in Leeds at the time). We went to a 30th birthday, left the bar drunk at about midnight and headed straight for the pizza shop in a taxi. As soon as we jumped out the taxi Al was down on two knees, it went something like this:
‘Will you marry me?’
‘Outside a pizza shop, in the backstreets of Leeds, are you joking?’
‘Yes. No, I mean, will you marry me’.
‘Yeah okay then.’
Cue a hug, a bit of smooching and jumping up and down, Al disappeared off to relieve himself behind a parked car and Lily went into the pizza shop to ask if they would do a discount because we just got engaged.
THE VISION | The theme was ‘there is no theme’. Simple, relaxed, uncoordinated, colourful, happy, understated and fun. We didn’t want a stately home or a tent in a field so we chose a village hall, do-it-yourself wedding venue. In the alcove at the front of the hall is a swallow’s nest so as things progressed the theme became birds. For our wedding favours we called the RSPB and asked for 100 bird badges – we pinned these to every name tag. We didn’t want a wedding package or a wedding planner but we were lucky enough to have the most brilliant bunch of friends and family. The brief was mainly ‘whatever you think looks nice’ and the rule was ‘if it’s stressful, it’s not worth it’.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | Planning a wedding is not done in a one person vacuum as it is in your childhood dreams, the process evolved as we discussed our options but the order spiralled as we started to book everything. We set the date with the venue and sent the ‘Save the Date’ cards. We then booked all the amenities in the local area: the school next door rent their playground out as a car park, the local BnBs, the band, the field opposite for our drinks reception (the venue doesn’t have its own garden but the farmer opposite gives you a little grass paddock). We divided all the big things across the year and paid for a chunk each month. We also made an ongoing list of all the little things – twine, button hole pins, cable ties etc. which we just got from Amazon in a few big bundles. We considered a humanist ceremony in the small field under a tent, but then met with the local vicar who kindly said he would bless our marriage for us in St Wilfred’s church adjacent to the village hall. There were a few nights of craft making, sewing, cutting and sticking in the weeks before and nearer the time we packed up the household box of scissors, marker pens, hammer and nails etc. The table plan was definitely the worst thing. We attempted it 3 or 4 times before realising there’s no point until you know exactly who’s coming and who’s bringing who. The amazing Emily came round the week before and we bashed it out in an hour before proceeding to drink the house dry in celebration. Al wrote it up on a blackboard which was ace because a few extras came and a few dropped out so we just rubbed out names and put a few more in.
BUDGET | Our original budget was £6K, but we ended up spending £7K and I think we did amazingly! That is down to all the friends and family who lent a hand. Al’s parents bought the table wine, Lily’s parents bought the flowers, which were arranged by her family and friends and everyone loves a candle in a jam jar don’t they!?
Lily’s friend Jess came all the way from Portugal and set the tables and put the cake together when it arrived. Al’s friends played the band, Lily’s brother in law sorted the music system from a playlist we supplied. Al’s brother made the bar notice and we made every sign including the table plan out of blackboard.
There were a few things that closer to the time you realise are just not that important – for us it was ‘do we really need those real feather bird cake toppers? No. Do we really need the posh water glasses instead of the standard delivery? No. Or those beautiful vintage type straws? No (we bought 100 plain straws from Tiger and they didn’t even get used – good job we just spent £1 on them!) Do we really need to hire those pale wooden chairs instead of the black plastic ones the hall have for free? Yes. Do we really need 8 hour tea lights instead of the IKEA pack 2 hour ones? Yes. And so on and so on.
THE VENUE | Burnsall Hall was perfect – literally a village hall – stage at one end, varnished wooden floor, beautiful tall leaded windows, fully kitted out kitchen, toilets, wifi, campsite opposite for anyone who can’t afford a BnB and showers in the hall.
There’s one big room and one smaller room which we had as the food and bar area. It’s almost in the middle of nowhere but we booked the local cab man, Gordon, to shuttle everyone home to their BnBs from 11pm to 1am. There is a wild swimming beauty spot just behind the hall so we invited everyone to come and nurse their hangovers with us on the river bank on the Sunday. Once you arrive in Burnsall there was no travelling anywhere, everything was a stone’s throw from each other. Could you ask for anything more?
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES |
Blue lace dress, pale pink leather jacket, curled hair and silver hoops – a London gal!
60’s minimalism – early sixties plain knee length cream double washed silk crepe dress with white guipure lace trim. A colourful real-flower head wreath with ribbons down the back. I loved it and I wore it all night! Single drop diamond earrings – something borrowed from my mum – actually I borrowed them from my mum about 5 years ago and was keeping them for my wedding ever since! Gold heeled shoes and nothing else apart from the wedding ring, and an engagement ring which had been Al’s grandmas.
FINDING THE DRESS | Originally I looked at vintage shops but these were quite above my budget and each option we found would have needed a lot of altering so I googled vintage dress makers, came across the most wonderful lady called Jax who said she’d make it for me for a reasonable fee and material.
I loved Mia Farrow’s wedding dress and wanted a plain and simple sixties pattern that I could sit on the grass in, play games in, and dance in! Jax made just that.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | 1970’s navy blue wool suit jacket and trousers bought from the most brilliant men’s vintage outfitters called Sensi in West Norwood, South London. You just walk in, the man tells you your measurements and what colour tag to look out for, you find everything in that size and try them all on. We also bought a light blue stripy waistcoat and a maroon tie. We bought a yellow cream shirt with a button down collar from Uniqlo – Al already had the same shirt in blue. Fresh underwear for the groom including Canary yellow socks from Urban Outfitters and Cherry Red Doc Martin shoes, matching the tie.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | The Yorkshire Volunteer Band played a trumpet salute to announce the arrival of the bride and she walked down the aisle to the wedding march by the organist. The 1st hymn was the beautiful ‘Be Thou My Vision’. Isobel, a school friend of Lily’s read the reading from Ruth and Al’s friend Danny read an extract of his choosing: What Means To Love by Rainer Maria Rilke and himself. The second hymn was the country gospel song ‘Down by the River Side’. Lily, Al and the congregation were then played out by the band who played a selection of Dixie swing music. The band then played marching tunes and marched the congregation over the road and into the paddock for prosecco and canapés. They then played for an hour.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | Lily had one bridesmaid, Maid of Honour Emily – She’s been my best friend since I was four and it was a no brainer. Al’s two nephews were page boys and his niece was the flower girl. The page boys wore what they wanted – pale blue shirts and grey waistcoat and trousers with a button hole flower. Cayleigh, the beautiful flower girl, wore a white dress with a side clip with a flower in it. Emily wore a navy blue jumpsuit with her hair in an elegant up-do, dark eyes and pale lips with bright coral shoes.
THE FLOWERS | Anything and everything in season. The bride’s head wreath was made by her mum on the day of the wedding. Being an expert flower arranger for her local church in London, Lily’s mum also made three beautiful flower arrangements for the church from flowers bought from ‘Paul at the top of Lordship Lane’ in East Dulwich, London and with the left over flowers, made up a vase for the church entrance. Lilies, thistles, eucalyptus leaves, lisianthus, hollyhocks – all different blues, yellows, pinks, pastels. The village hall flowers were bought from Berries flowers in Skipton and Lily’s sister India made the button holes and her friends Gemma and Carlie made the table flowers. To keep costs down we bought a few choice ‘heads’ of yellow roses and peonies and then we just cut lots of ivy and bush from the surrounding countryside and padded out the vases with these. We just had small jam jars of posies on the tables and a few vases dotted around the venue.
THE CAKE | We had a tiered cheese cake (i.e a cake made of cheese) from Lincolnshire Poacher, which was delivered by mail order in a cool pack to the venue two days before. They have a selection on the website but we just called and stated the amount we wanted to pay and they gave us a three wheel option topped off with goats cheese. We also had a side of bree. Lily gave it to her friend Jess and just said ‘make a cake’ and she made the most beautiful cake we could have imagined. We bought a load of fruit from the local market and some chutneys and crackers and hey presto! We cut the cake straight after the speeches – save having to get everyone’s attention again later and then it meant anyone who wasn’t into puddings could just have cheese. If you have a wedding cheese cake, make sure you get the fruit a few days before so they ripen – our apricots were rock solid but who cares, they looked pretty!
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | The wedding photos were a present from Al’s friends who are the most talented wedding photographers around. They’re a Yorkshire-based duo called Fox & Owl and, even though they were also guests, they were absolutely amazing on the day! We didn’t want any official group shots but they managed to capture each and every guest at least once, it’s been amazing looking through all the shots of everyone. None of them were staged, and everyone is just laughing and smiling in all of them.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | We chose a beautiful venue so we didn’t need any decorations. Just a string of lights around the edge on the hall and we let the windows, beams, globe lights and ceiling arch do the rest. In the room to the side we had the bar area and tea and coffee station. We packed up Lily’s complete collection of vintage and retro bowls, jugs, and prints and Lily’s sister India peppered the place with succulents – nothing uniform, everything art deco style onwards, it looked great. Al’s brother made two brilliant signs, one for the bar and one for the tea and coffee sign which we had like the Twin Peaks coffee sign. India strung a waterfall of brightly coloured ribbons up to cover the prefab ceiling. It was literally PERFECT.
For the wedding meal we sat everyone in three long tressel tables and we sat opposite each other in the middle with our friends. Lily made table runners out of some patterned John Lewis material which were placed in alternate blue and yellow down the tables. We had no centre pieces or table names, just two little posies of fresh flowers and tea lights in jam jars on every table. Our table places were recycled brown card, the order of service and the invitations were a sheet of cream white paper folded three ways. Lots of fairy lights did the rest. The band set up their instruments before dinner so the stage looked really cool with a standing lamp at the back reflecting off the instruments.
THE HONEYMOON | We haven’t yet managed to fit a honeymoon round our work schedules so instead we stayed in the Dales for a few more days with all our friends and went for walks, swam in the river and had some wonderful pub lunches. It was the perfect relaxing ending and a real treat to spend time in the beautiful countryside with our closest friends. At some point we plan on going to Sicily and on a trip round Deep South America.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | The speeches were beautiful – they were heartfelt, honest and so touching.
Dancing to the band – lots of foot stomping and doe si doe-ing.
When everyone cheered in the church.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Every couple is different – some are the kind who get to a party, split up and don’t see each other again for the whole night save for a quick kiss as they pass in a corridor. Others love hanging out together canoodling in a corner. Whichever kind you are will probably have an impact on how you act on your wedding day. So if you always spend your nights together, take time to split up and have a few chats with people, and if you always spend it apart, take time to grab each other’s hand and just look and observe everyone else having a great time for just a moment and you will feel so blessed.
Don’t over stress about the everyday life stuff like, whether there’s a car parked outside the venue, or whether there’s an exit sign, or a fire extinguisher – you will NOT notice on the day so don’t go overboard in trying to cover all that up – no one gives a rat’s arse and just as you do in everyday life, your eyes skip over it and you won’t notice at all.
Flowers – as I said before – it’s one day so if you’re getting married somewhere away from home and you’re not leaving them to the venue, don’t feel you need to go overboard, just a little sprig here and there to make the place feel lovely works fine – you don’t don’t need bloody ginormous blooms that cost a bomb (of course if you want to, that’s cool too) and definitely make sure they’re not too tall on the wedding tables or no one can see over them to the people opposite.
Plan for every weather possibility and plan for all the little things but remember – they’re little and in the end it doesn’t matter if it’s pissing with rain and you don’t get that group wedding photos – who cares – or if the wifi doesn’t work and you forget to play your fave song that you insisted was on the playlist – who cares? It will be a bloody great day.
BAR: There’s always loads of discussion about paid or unpaid. We went for a happy medium – every guest had two glasses of prosecco after the service on us with canapes, then the bar was open for them to help themselves – table wine was free and all other drinks were £2. We had a selection of beer bottles and cocktails – amaretto or whisky sours, elderflower of apple gin and tonics, dark and stormies.
If you can’t afford a wedding planner, choose your reliable friends and divide everything into little jobs so that no one is overburdened. We had a person whose job it was to light the candles when it got dark, one whose job it was to turn the music down for the speeches, one whose job it was to pay the bands and the bar staff when they were finished etc. Everyone was more than happy to help and they all only had to remember one or two things.
There are always going to be last minute changes to the table plan and you will have drop outs but don’t think about the catering price per head – at least you don’t have to be stingy with portions and if the table plan changes after you’ve printed it, just let the individual guest know, as no one minds.
If you’re having anything outside and you’re worried about wind – clear marbles in the bottom of small glass vases will weigh them down (tip I learnt from my local wine shop – Bruno’s on Lordship Lane, East Dulwich).
We ran our own bar, (bought all the booze from Tesco because we could buy what we wanted, they deliver it to site and they take it back if you don’t use it!) and hired two local men on an hourly rate to run it for us. They were great!
The band played us out and then Al and I stood at the back of the church and greeted each guest as they walked by – although this meant everyone was slow out the church, we got to say hello to each and every guest together and thank them all for coming at the beginning of the day – job done!
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Photography | Fox & Owl
Cheese Cake | Lincolnshire Poacher
Wedding venue | Burnsall Village Hall
Caterers | Café No 8, York
Hire equipment (lights, table cloths, glass wear, chairs) | Blue Sky Hire, Skipton
Camping | Farmer Daggett (campsite opposite the field)
Wine | Aldi – Torre Loco – best red wine ever for £3.50!
Dress | Mrs Bee Vintage Dress Maker
Head wreath | Fresh Flower Company
Church Flowers | Indaco Flowers
Hall flowers and button holes | Berries
Day band | Yorkshire Volunteer Dixie Band
Evening band | Backyard Burners
Suit | Cenci
Hair and Make-up | Sarah Morten
Signs | Nathan Evans
Such a fabulous celebration.
Lily and Alun, many thanks to you both for sharing your wedding story with us xo Lou