You won’t believe me when I tell you that this wedding was held mid-Winter in the UK. It’s so light, bright and fresh, partially down to the amazing photography and partly thanks to the glass roofed venue. It really goes to show that a winter wedding can be soft and pretty yet cosy and atmospheric in equal measure. Also a quick heads up; the wedding report here today is amazing, so thorough and full of top tips, a must read for any planning couple.
WWW readers Dawn and Pete were hitched on Saturday 21st January 2017 at Hexham Winter Gardens in Northumberland. Their vision was to create a large DIY wedding filled with all of their favourite people on an £8000 budget. So many of their nearest and dearest contributed towards their day to make it possible, it was a real labour of love. There are so many touches I love, from the whimsy rustic cake, to the utterly divine florals and the twinkling festoon lights. You’re going to be spoilt for ideas here today.
Let’s talk about the super cool attire shall we? Bride Dawn chose a satin Ella Rosa gown and the most awesome unicorn flats, teamed with pretty waves in her hair. Groom Pete went for a blue suit, floral tie and grey waistcoat. Don’t they look amazing?
Many thanks goes to Sarah-Jane Ethan Photography for providing these wonderful images.
THE PROPOSAL | The proposal was a typically low key one – Pete asked me the day after our tenth anniversary as we were heading out the door on our way to work. Needless to say, despite the casual approach, it was a somewhat memorable drive to work that day! Our friend Tony who we give a lift to everyday ended up being the first person to know and we toasted with a celebratory stop for coffee.
Pete had rang my Dad earlier that morning to ask him if was all ok, to which my Dad of course agreed and then pointed out that Pete was on speaker phone. My Dad is a coach driver, so Pete had asked my hand in marriage in full earshot of a youth team he was transporting that day… much amusement all round!
My engagement ring is art deco style and dates back to the 1930s. Pete knew my love of all things old and historical so it was the perfect style for me.
THE VISION | Initially we had an idea of something small and low key, but with 24 Aunts and Uncles and 21 cousins between us we knew we were going to struggle to keep it on the smaller side, particularly being close to our extended families and wanting them to share our day.
We consequently established that it was going to be a large wedding but refused to accept that it was going to cost a fortune so settled on a vision for a DIY wedding with plenty of personal touches. Having been together for almost 12 years we have also accumulated so many lovely friends as a couple so we really wanted the day to be a laidback one all about friendship and family.
We’re both love winter more than any other season so opted for January as we thought it would not only save us money being outside the main wedding season (which it did) but also that it would give people something to look forward to on what is usually a pretty dreary month.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | I sometimes wonder how people planned weddings before Pinterest as, alongside input from friends and family it was my main source of inspiration! However, it is easy to go over the top with Pinterest, so with each thing we saw and liked we took a step back first to decide if it suited us and so with things like table names we chose our favourite films, and picked our favourite puddings for the dessert table and made chalkboards with puns and quotes (because we love puns and quotes).
To keep to a budget we knew we would have to put in a lot of the work ourselves and our long engagement (nearly 2 years) allowed us the time and space to craft away. We made sure to space out the projects so they didn’t become too overwhelming and last minute (or take up every weekend), so every few weeks we would, for example, tie ribbons on jars or decide what pick and mix we would order, or make invites. Of course there are always some inevitable last minute things, and my Dad and Pete spent the day before the wedding doing various forgotten tasks like buying batteries for fairy lights or trying to find an extra jar because we had ordered too many sweets!
Some of our favourite crafts included the hand stamped invitations and order of the days as well as placemats, which we printed ourselves and were used in place of a comments book (I always found standing over a comments book trying to get the right words across a bit stressful and like the idea of people being able to sit at the table wine glass of wine in hand and write – indeed we got some hilarious answers!).
We also really enjoyed making the favours – for these we got a load of scrabble tiles from eBay and bought the pins to turn them into badges, with each guest getting the first letter of their name as a keepsake badge. These were then pinned to little packets of jelly beans. Seeing so many people at the wedding immediately pin them on their suits and dresses was great and worth the evenings of accidentally supergluing my fingers together.
I also found a very old, very paint-splattered ladder, which I wanted to use for the table plan. The man I got it from thought I was totally nuts but let me have it – I then took it home and sanded it down and repainted it and it worked brilliantly once decorated with spray painted letters and jars of foliage.
Before the wedding I wasn’t a particularly crafty person but with all the online tutorials and videos I learnt so much and there was a real sense of pride and satisfaction from looking around the wedding and seeing so much of your own handiwork.
Of course we had help though and I can’t thank everyone who offered up their crafting services enough. If I have learnt anything about wedding planning it’s that people are usually kind enough to let you take full advantages of their skills. So if you have a mother in law who can teach you how to paint furniture, or a friend with beautiful chalkboard handwriting or a bridesmaid who will sit and help you tie ribbons on 250 jars don’t turn down their offers of help! The whole planning process and wedding was truly a team effort
BUDGET | Around £8000.
THE VENUE | Hexham winter Gardens in Northumberland.
Whilst we are both from Warwickshire, we have lived in the north east for almost 7 years now so knew we wanted to get married up here. We were worried that it would deter family and friends from travelling as the majority live in the midlands and the south but people really took to the idea of a weekend away.
The venue is a wonderful glass-roofed hall which dates back to 1907 and was originally part of a hydropathic hotel. It is a school now, but is such a beautiful building we fell in love with it when a friend got married there. We wanted somewhere where you could host both the wedding and the reception without anyone having to move and the Winter Gardens (along with a lovely panelled hall next door) allowed for this.
One of the highlights of the venue was that it is something of a blank canvas. Once you have hired the room and the registrars everything else – food, decoration, entertainment – is entirely up to you. We both knew that we didn’t want to be tied to a wedding ‘package’ so this presented the ideal opportunity to create a wedding that was truly ours.
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | My dress was Ella Rosa in vintage colour and a mixture of corded lace and satin. The veil was from Pelican Rose Bridal on Etsy and offered the right mixture of quirky and old-fashioned that I wanted. The only jewellery I wore was my late grandmother’s ring and lovely gold earrings, which I borrowed at the last minute from my friend Elise.
My unicorn shoes were an ASOS find. I knew I wanted flat shoes as I am a mega klutz in heels but wanted something fun, and you really don’t get something more fun than sparkly unicorns!
My hair and makeup (and the bridesmaids’ and mothers’) was all done by Jane, owner of retro salon called Chez Titine in Leamington Spa. Whilst I ended up going with the simple approach with my hair and makeup, this turned out exactly as I wanted and she and Sally did the most beautiful and fun styles on the bridesmaids and kept us smiling all morning.
FINDING THE DRESS | I was ridiculously nervous about going wedding dress shopping as I assumed all of the dresses would be in a size eight and they would laugh me out of the shop. However, after losing two stone I eventually summoned up the courage to go and I was proven so wrong as the Jennifer at Darcy’s in Newcastle was absolutely lovely and made me feel so welcome. I tried on a few dresses but chose mine in the end as not only did it fit with just a few tweaks but the vintage colour was breathtaking and made me feel like a queen with its full satin skirt and train.
I came back for a second visit with my bridesmaids and my mum (whose opinion I trust above all else) oversaw the whole thing on FaceTime and we all agreed it was the one.
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Pete’s suit was from a tailor in Singapore who had made one for him a few years’ ago on a family holiday. They have an agent that travels to the UK and does fittings so we met him in Newcastle and chose a royal blue suit and tailored white shirt.
I bought him some cat cufflinks to wear on the day to highlight our love of cats (we have two) and his floral tie was a great find the week before the wedding at T M Lewin.
The waistcoat that he and the other ushers (and Dads) wore were handmade by Pete’s mum Diana and were a charming addition to the boy’s suits as we wanted them to be able to wear their own clothes but with something to distinguish them all. They looked great and she also made a mini one for my nephew with train shaped buttons which he adored.
They also all wore buttonholes, which I made myself with buttons, wires and hessian leaves – they were simple to make but were really effective on the day. Definitely one of my favourite crafting projects!
THE READINGS & MUSIC | I walked down the aisle to Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and we had ‘Everlasting Love’ by Love Affair and ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ by Aretha Franklin whilst we signed the register. We walked back down the aisle to ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now’ by Starship because you really can’t beat a good 80s power ballad and it has long been our favourite song to belt out in the car.
For readings, my sister read ‘Tin Wedding Whistle’ by Ogden Nash and Pete’s brother Doug read ‘Foxtrot from a Play’ by WH Auden.
We both spent ages looking for a reading that didn’t make us roll our eyes and stumbled across the Ogden Nash piece when it was mentioned by another WWW reader and found it to be perfect. We were at a loss for a second one but Doug came to the rescue and suggested the WH Auden one to perfectly complement our love of a good cup of tea.
All music for during and after the ceremony was provided by Paul Martin, who then sang a few sets and was in charge of the music until the end. He was my Dad’s brilliant idea and whilst I was initially nervous a singer may be a bit cheesy I was so so wrong as he is a wonderfully talented singer who sang some rat pack classics alongside some more modern stuff. When it came to the DJ section he has years of experience and seemed to just have an innate sense of what people wanted to hear, keeping the dancefloor packed all night with everything from ‘Come on Eileen’ to N-Trance’s ‘Set You Free’ (a song I will never hear again without joyfully thinking of the wedding and the place turning into a total 90s rave).
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | My bridesmaids were my sister Laura and my three best friends, Amy, Alexis and Katie. I only have one sister and I knew immediately that I wanted her as my maid of honour, whilst the other three were friends I had made since moving to the north east and had grown hugely close to.
I knew I had chosen wisely as each was so supportive along the way. My sister is an excellent events planner and offered lots of practical advice and guidance; Alexis and Amy got married recently so not only provided lots of beautiful second hand accessories but had the best advice and Katie recently moved back to Canada so was my favourite Skype confidante and flew all the way here to be here for us.
Their mint green dresses were from ASOS – I picked out the colour and they chose the style to suit them. My sisters navy blue dress was from ChiChi London. They wore their own accessories and shoes but I provided them with some gold earrings as a gift and metallic ‘Team Bride’ tattoos!
THE FLOWERS | I knew I wanted more foliage than flowers at the wedding and I also knew that as much I was enjoying DIYing everything adding the flowers on top of all of the crafts would be too much so I found Katie at a local wedding fair. She is a wonderfully gifted florist and joy to work with. She got married at Hexham Winter Gardens too so was full of helpful advice and insider tips. She arranged a stunning bouquet of flowers and greenery for me with trailing ribbon and wrist corsages for the bridesmaids which were attached via snapbands (a stroke of genius!). I was also able to provide her with jars for each of the tables which she filled with foliage and decorated with ribbons – a simple touch that worked wonderfully with all of the candles for the evening décor. Finally, she added the ivy to the railings around the room to add even more greenery.
THE CAKE | We are very lucky that Pete’s brother’s girlfriend Rozie is an immensely talented cake artist by trade and she kindly offered straight away to design and make one for us. I knew that I could trust her to make something remarkable so I gave her the colour scheme and our preferred flavours and she had free reign!
Pete’s only request was alpacas (he loves alpacas) hence their appearance at the top of the cake. As you will see from the photos what Rozie came up with is an incredible mint green, blue and gold creation that took my breath away and became a real talking point at the wedding.
The flavours were red velvet and vanilla sponge all coated in ganache.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | I first met SJ and my friend’s Megan’s wedding and was struck by how happy she looked the whole day – a smile never left her face. Unlike some wedding photographers we had witnessed in the past, she was wonderfully unobtrusive and seemed to always be in the right place. Looking at the photos afterwards I completely fell in love with them and the natural light and moments of happiness and detail they portrayed.
When we got engaged, the very first thing I said to Pete was that I wanted SJ. We were on our way to another wedding and I was arguing the case for a photographer against Pete’s initial thought that it was an unnecessary expense. When we reached the wedding, we walked in the church and there was SJ! So fate was on my side and we booked her the following week.
I could spend paragraphs talking about how incredible SJ was so I shall try to limit myself to a few sentences. Not only is she one of the warmest and kindest souls you could hope to meet (she greeted me with the biggest of hugs and pretty much enamoured herself to everyone she came into contact with at the wedding) her talent as a photographer is quite simply breathtaking. With it being January it of course got dark petty quickly, but she still captured all of the photos in natural light and they are such genuine snapshots of the day from the morning of to the fun of the dancefloor. Pete and I aren’t the most relaxed when it comes to ‘mushy’ photographs but she made us laugh so much it was hard to be awkward and she captured the most beautiful moments.
For anyone also planning a wedding on a budget I would strongly fight the case for spending as much as you can afford on a decent professional photographer as the perfect photographs will help you remember your very favourite memories for the rest of your lives and that to us was of the utmost importance.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | With it being a glass room and knowing that it would be dark by 5pm, we knew we wanted plenty of candles and fairy lights. I spent over a year collecting jars of all shapes and sizes from everyone I knew, which we filled with water and floating candles – they were such a simple thing to decorate the table with but so effective.
We also put fairy lights around the pillars in the room and Pete’s brother and helpers did a fantastic job of hanging metres and metres of festoon lighting the night before. This was sourced locally from a supplier in Gateshead who were very patient with my silly questions and gave me and put up with lots of haggling over the amount of metres!
Coco Luminaire provided the large ‘P&D’. I had seen these at a wedding fair and had become a bit obsessed with them. They were a lovely and efficient supplier and kindly offered a winter discount. As well as providing light, the letters were also the ideal backdrop to the room and I would highly recommend them for anyone getting married in a large scale space as they saved us going to too much effort to decorate.
Pete’s mum made the stunning wreath, which was hung above where we said our vows and again, was a simple but lovely feature to showcase the greenery theme and fit in perfectly with the high ceilinged room. As well as this, she also made metres of green, blue and lace bunting (with help from her talented friend Ann) which we hung in the hall where we hosted the welcome drinks.
FOOD & DRINK | For food we started with an array of delicious canapés with the welcome drinks which Pete’s family friend’s Amy and Steve wonderfully prepared and served. These included salmon (smoked by Pete’s mum), cheese muffins and glazed sausages, which people were still talking about two weeks after the wedding! We also set up the pick and mix table during the welcome drinks also – I know this is perhaps something of a wedding cliché now but I am a firm believer that everyone secretly loves penny sweets regardless of their age and we enjoyed seeing people tucking into bags of treats throughout the day and into the evening.
For our main meal we had jacket potatoes with an array of toppings. We knew from the start we wanted something simple and hearty and we considered fish and chips and pie and mash before deciding on potatoes as we both love a good baked potato (who doesn’t really?!). We had salads and breads on the side and toppings included chicken curry, chilli and the classic beans and cheese – these all seemed to go down very well with our guests.
I love to bake so I knew I wanted to do all of the desserts for the wedding. Whilst there were some moments of panic caused by this decision it was also a lot of fun. My friend from work kindly offered to make her renowned millionaire shortbread and lemon drizzle cake, but everything else was made by myself with assistance from my bridesmaid and the guests enjoyed an evening spread of cake pops, cupcakes, cheesecake jars, alpaca shaped cookies and tiffin. Our usher Dave also made a spectacular doughnut board which was a wonderful focal point of the pudding table and very much a talking point.
My sister and her husband Tim provided the most delicious cheeseboard, which we supplemented with Gregg’s sausage rolls to showcase our love of the North East.
We also set up a hot drink station using a hot water urn and cardboard cups – I must confess that I completely forgot to get milk, which I didn’t realise until the night of the wedding – luckily my brilliant bridesmaid Amy and my friend Sue had remained sober enough to dash to Waitrose and get some so were total saviours on that one!
The bar was provide by Nickynoo who were brilliant throughout and even renamed one of their gin cocktails ‘The Kitson Cocktail’ in our honour.
The prosecco for the welcome drinks and toasts was sourced by my Dad on one of his coach trips to Italy and transported back amongst the children’s luggage on a school trip!
THE HONEYMOON | We took the week off after the wedding and my friend Jo very kindly offered us her holiday cottage in Alnwick so we spent time there, exploring Northumberland, walking on the beaches, enjoying plentiful afternoon teas and relaxing in front of the fire.
I’m lucky enough to work for a tour operator so we are heading off on our actual honeymoon to Iceland in May where we will be driving around the island and exploring the natural wonders! It was one of my favourite places I have ever been to and I can’t wait to see it again with Pete.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Seeing everyone come together to set up the venue the night before the wedding – everyone was so incredibly helpful!
Looking into Pete’s eyes for the first time walking down the aisle and distinctly remembering my friend Matt introducing us in front of the lockers in sixth form all those years ago.
Saying hello to everyone we loved afterwards and feeling just sheer, unstoppable happiness.
My usually stoical and shy Dad giving the most heartfelt speech.
Cutting the cake with a sword (it was the witch-king’s sword from Lord of the Ring’s naturally…!)
The dancefloor pretty much the entire night – it was never empty!
Ending the night with Meatloaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’ (my choice). This became something of a wedding anthem for us as, if I was getting too anxious about the wedding, Pete would always put it on at full volume, the theory being that you can’t not sing along to meatloaf and inevitably you would forget to worry (which is an excellent theory and of course very true!)
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Accept right from the start that weddings are a topic that EVERYONE has an opinion on and that, whilst you don’t always agree with them, it pays to be patient and listen to advice and thoughts people offer. People who have planned a wedding recently are an invaluable resource and have some excellent insights, and parents and family who got married a long time ago can remind you of how much more relaxed weddings perhaps used to be and to not get too caught up in modern trends. Their lengthy years of being wedded will serve to remind you most importantly that a wedding is about the marriage to come, not just the wedding day. And when people tell you not to worry, listen to them! (I wish I had been better at this!)
If like me, you are a bride who is not a perfect size ten or smaller, please don’t worry about going into dress shops as any decent shop will make you feel just as valued and embrace that humans come in an array of sizes. Whilst I was proud that I had lost some weight in the run up to the wedding I got very upset in the weeks before that it wasn’t enough and I regretted not trying harder (let’s face it, the pressure for a bride to look perfect can be overwhelming). But at the end of the day Pete has always loved me regardless of my size and I didn’t for even one second feel fat on my wedding day, I just felt like me (and deliriously happy!)
We chose to have a child free wedding with the exception of my nephew, as we worked out that if we had allowed children there would be over 25 of them at the wedding, the vast majority of whom would be under 5. This was something we knew we wouldn’t cope well with. So my advice is that if you also want a child free wedding to not fret too much that it is a controversial decision or be concerned it will cause problems – accept that your guests are all adult and will be honest if it is not feasible for them. We learnt pretty quickly that if people really want to come to the wedding they will figure out a way regardless, whether it is cutting their time at the wedding short or bringing along a parent to look after a child at the hotel. My cousin, bridesmaid and one of Pete’s very best friends had all had children less than 6 months before the wedding and they found a way to come which made us so very happy. In all honesty, some of the guests with older children admitted they enjoyed having an adult weekend away awash with alcohol, so a child free event can also have some brilliant advantages…!
Pick a decent team to support you and that you know you can rely on. Whilst DIY weddings come with the freedom to choose and make everything yourself one of my main worries was that our friends and families would be required to work, particularly when we changed the room over after the ceremony for dinner and I knew that we would also need them to do odd jobs throughout the day as we just couldn’t afford to hire in staff. However, they were quite simply incredible, changing the room over with speed and style and running around throughout the ceremony filling up water jars, collecting bottles, moving tables and clearing plates. I shouldn’t have worried as they all said yes without hesitation when I asked them to help so my advice is to trust in your ushers, bridesmaids and parents for their support with all parts of the wedding and don’t be afraid to ask more of them than to wear nice clothes and stand next to you!
My final, and most important, advice would be to purchase some glowstick bracelets for when it gets dark – everyone bloody loves a glowstick bracelet! (huge thanks to Amy and Dave giving me this idea from their brilliant wedding)
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Sarah-Jane Ethan Photography
Hair and makeup | Chez Titine
Shoes | ASOS
Veil | Pelican Rose Bride
Bridesmaid Tattoos | CreativeStylesUK
Flowers | The Garden Studio
Carnival Letters | Coco Luminaire
Festoon Lights | Festoon Lighting Hire
Bar | Nickynoo
Canapes | @Amy_Claridge
Jacket Potatoes | Sadly no longer in the baked potato business
Cake | @sugarfeat
Stamp used for invites, order of the days | The English Stamp Company
Music | Paul Martin
Honeymoon | Artisan Travel
Dawn and Pete, thank you so so much for sharing your epic celebrations with us xo Lou