All the feels today thanks to Alex and Katie who are sharing their gorgeous Castle View wedding in Leicestershire held on the 21st September 2019. Firstly though they held their outdoor ceremony at Holywell Hall and the surrounding grounds looked just amazing! It’s no wonder they chose to tie the knot there beneath the clear blue skies.
I love a lot about their day, from the quirky cool attire they chose, to the sublime flowers and personal touches such as the signs and photo booth. Fun was had by all thanks to live music, garden games and the really relaxed atmosphere, it was ever so lovely.
Sally T Photography was there to capture it all in beautiful style and I cannot thank her enough for sharing these shots with us.
The proposal happened on a bridge over a canal in Venice – although not in quite the romantic way that suggests. We’d arrived early in the morning and spent the day exploring on foot in hot weather. We were both tired and tipsy after a fun evening sampling the local specialities of cicchetti (small bites of food) and house wine. We stumbled across perhaps the only bar specialising in Belgian-style beer in Venice (we both love Bruges and have been three times together), and after a couple of strong beers we were wandering home. Alex had had the ring in his pocket all day waiting for the right moment, and it turned out this was it! It was a silly walk home with lots of giggles, and we are at our best when we are being silly, so although it might not have been romantic in the traditional sense – no getting down on one knee or emotional speeches for a start – for us it was perfect.
We wanted to have a relaxed day with everyone that we love and care about. We hoped we would be able to have the bulk of the wedding outdoors, and we wanted lots of music, dancing and good food and drink. We wanted an intimate ceremony followed by a big party, getting everyone involved as early in the day as possible. We weren’t too worried about sticking to tradition and wanted to shy away from a formal sit-down dining experience, focusing instead on street food in an atmosphere where guests could relax and mingle.
Holywell Hall, where we had the ceremony and stayed the night before, is breathtaking. A beautiful house set in stunning grounds, it has been recently refurbished by the owners to a fantastic standard. The stables accommodation even has a bowling alley and spa for guests to enjoy.
The package included a venue co-ordinator, who took care of everything on the day so we didn’t have anything to worry about. We had numerous options for ceremony locations, both inside and outside, and it was a real highlight being able to share a meal with the bridesmaids and groomsmen the evening before the big day.
Castle View was a complete contrast in many ways – a sparsely decorated barn and stables with few frills. But that gave us the opportunity to put our own personal touches everywhere. From homemade decorations (including several miles of bunting from Alex’s mum) to beautiful flowers from Paisley Flower Company, we were able to transform the space into something that felt like our own. The setting, overlooking Rockingham Castle, and the incredibly helpful owners, made it a perfect choice.
The Readings & Music
As this was a civil ceremony, we had some scope to choose the wording of the vows etc. We sat down together one evening and adapted some of the stock phrases to suit our style and personalities.
We also spent a long time looking for a suitable reading. We’d decided to ask Alex’s groomsman and school friend Struan to do the reading, as he is a big personality with a love of performing. We went through countless romantic options but we wanted something a bit more fun. We ended up going for an excerpt of a poem called I Like You, by Sandol Stoddard. It’s a funny, childish and silly set of verses which we both loved. We thought it summed us up nicely.
On the day we were both a bit overcome with emotion at the start of the ceremony. You can tell in some of the photos that we were struggling to hold it together a bit, as we both look really serious. This reading, with Struan reading it, ended up being a great choice as it made us both smile and relax, and from then on the fun could start.
We asked Alex’s brother Phil to play guitar during the ceremony. His usual style is pretty heavy metal, but he has some classical training and we knew he would be able to play something really nice. Katie is a big Ben Howard fan, and we were looking for a lovely piece to accompany Katie’s walk down the aisle. In the end we went with an adapted version of Old Pine, which couldn’t have been more beautiful on the day. It had Alex in tears just hearing Phil practising it earlier that morning.
Following the ceremony Phil played an instrumental version of Prettiest Eyes by the Beautiful South. We both love the band, going way back to family holidays and tapes in the car, and the song itself is a lovely account of growing old together.
Wedding dress – I didn’t know where to start with this initially. I am 5ft and very petite so was very conscious that many designs would not really suit my petite frame. I started with the obvious pinterest page to get a few ideas and decided to book a few appointments just to get a bit of a feel for what I wanted. My mum and sister came with me for support. I initially went to a few shops which I remember visiting with my sister and confirmed my initial thought that I did not want a big poofy princess dress and instead wanted something simple with a lot of emphasis on comfort – (I wanted to be able to dance). I was also conscious of the potential risks of having an outdoor wedding in September, so though something with sleeves might be a wise choice. After a few unsuccessful trips I booked some appointments for a number of local shops recommended by friends or friends of friends. I initially found the process quite overwhelming and not being the most decisive person in the world definitely overthought it. I in fact I tried my dress on on two separate occasions before making a final decision. I finally settled for Savannah by Wtoo from Dress Me Pretty in Hinckley. It felt right for my size and figure and I loved the bardot neckline and intricate lace. Also it was easy to move around in, so hopefully a good choice for dancing.
For alterations I used Kerry Arnold Ltd Hair & Beauty. She was amazing with such attention to detail, calling me back for an additional appointment to make sure the fit was just right. She made the dress fit like a glove and even coated my shoes so that they wouldn’t stick to the lining of my dress.
The shoes – I have a bit of thing for shoes and knew I wanted something slightly different and not your typical silk white shoes. Again I have the problem of small feel (size 3 or sometimes 2.5) so many shoes just don’t fit right. I have always loved irregular choice and tried on multiple pairs, but the higher heals were just that little bit too big. I made a little bit of a gamble and ordered an older design online from ebay and when they arrived just loved them. And as they were that little bit flatter they fitted much better.
I enquired with a local jewellery maker about making some earrings for myself and for the bridesmaids as gifts. I also had a necklace made to match. This was a really lovely experience as I was able to design the jewellery myself and the thank you gifts for the girls. Again it was another little personal touch.
My mum also lent me a bracelet of hers to wear and finally my Auntie lent me a garter which both herself and my sister had worn on their wedding days.
Bridesmaids & Best Woman
Again comfort and danceability was a big factor. I wanted the girls to be comfortable, so the lunge test became a bit of a thing when trying on the dresses. Another consideration was that Alex was having a ‘best woman’ (Kim), so we needed to ensure that she would stand out as part of the groom’s party, whilst tying into the overall theme and remaining feminine. In the end we decided to have a colour theme for the boys and Kim (sage green) and one for the girls (purple). It made sense to have the same dress but in two separate colours. We therefore needed to find dresses that had a good colour selection. The girls had a long day of visiting multiple shops and trying on hundreds of dresses. In the end we got them from the Dress me Pretty (the shop Katie had purchased her dress from) as well.
We also got a colour coordinated dress for Katie’s niece, Imogen, to wear as a flower girl. We opted for sage green to match Oliver in his suit.
I knew I didn’t want anything too formal – no top and tails, no shiny suit material. I wanted something smart and stylish but still fairly relaxed, to fit with the theme of the day. My main thought was a tweed suit and I was keen to get something that fitted perfectly, so I was considering buying a tailored suit.
We looked at a few different options, including a Cotswolds-based tailor who also hired their own suits, and a couple of chain shops which seemed like a bit of factory, with little attention paid to you. We ended up finding the perfect mix at Duncan James Menswear in Walsall, not too far from Katie’s family in Solihull. Based in an old brick-built factory building, the shop had a bit of a trendy Peaky Blinders vibe (with amazing tartan carpets) but the service was great and the selection of suits for hire was good. I settled on a dark grey tweed with matching suits for the groomsman and both dads. We accessorised with sage green ties, matching the best woman’s dress, and the suits came with the must-have pocket chain and tie clip accessories. My waistcoat was a U-neck to differentiate from the rest of the boys. We also got a mini waistcoat, trousers and bow tie for Katie’s four-year-old nephew Oli.
My dad, brother and I have a bit of a tradition of trying to fit Sheffield United, our football team, into family weddings. To be honest I’d completely forgotten about it, so I was thrilled when my dad presented me with a pin badge on the wedding day morning. It’s subtle, but I love that you can see it in a lot of the pictures. I was also pleased to have a chance to wear my 80s-style robot cufflinks.
Like Katie, I have a thing for statement shoes. Whilst shopping for her in Irregular Choice shops, I’d spotted their range of men’s shoes. It didn’t take long for me to go for a pair of brogue-style Edwin shoes with a fantastic rainbow silver sheen – similar to the colours you see in petrol on the ground. I was a bit nervous of pairing them with the suit, but in my humble opinion they worked perfectly and led to plenty of comments on the day (almost risking overshadowing the bride). One of our favourite photos is actually just our legs, showing off both pairs of shoes in the ground at Holywell Hall.
I’m not one for heavy make-up and had never really had my make-up done professionally before, so I was quite worried that I wouldn’t look like me. I contacted several make-up artists for quotes, but actually ended up going with my usual hairdresser and a close friend of hers who works independently. I had a trial with Kat (make-up artist) and had my make-up done for a friend’s wedding as an additional trial.
My sister and I also had hair trials to make sure it was all seamless on the day.
On the day Katie (hairdresser) and Kat (make-up artist) were so calm and relaxed and made all of us feel at ease. This was particularly helpful as I was starting to get the wedding morning nerves at this point. Myself, my mum and my bridesmaids were really pleased with the end result and the make up lasted, all day long. We had some additional flowers from the florist delivered for our hair which just set the whole thing off.
Photography was really important to us. We knew we wanted really high quality photos to capture the day, but neither of us are keen on posed photography so it was vital that our photographer was able to capture natural, candid moments throughout the day. We spoke to a few more locally-based people at wedding fairs and through friends’ recommendations, but we’d heard fantastic things about Sally from our friends Holly and Stephen, who used her for their wedding in the North East a few years prior. Their photos were beautiful and had the kind of natural feel that we were after. We did a Skype interview with Sally, and she immediately got what we were looking for and seemed really excited by what we were planning. We also really liked the stop-motion videos that she produces from various photographic bursts throughout the day.
In the end Sally was the ideal choice. She was energetic, enthusiastic and well-organised, but at the same time we hardly noticed her during the day. When we were racing through the grounds of Holywell Hall on a golf buggy to get some photos after the ceremony, we never felt uncomfortable as Sally encouraged us just to behave as we would if we were alone. These ended up being some of our favourite photos and completely justified our decision to have the ceremony at Holywell. When we got the photos back, it was clear why we hadn’t noticed Sally much at Castle View, as she’d been busy darting through the crowd and getting so many fantastic candid photos of all of the guests. She got the fun and silliness of the day, as captured perfectly by the welly-wanging shot – another of our favourites.
Sally was fun to work with and gave us hundreds of amazing photos with which to remember our day. The stop-motion video is also the perfect three-minute snapshot of a day with hundreds of special moments, and the bound album is of exceptional quality. We’d happily recommend Sally to anyone.
Alex’s school friend Kelly is a skilled baker in her spare time, but had only ever made a handful of wedding cakes before, mostly for weddings where she has not been a guest. When we asked her if she would consider making our cake she was a little apprehensive, but soon agreed and even did a tasting for us, where we discussed flavours and design. Katie was keen to go for a naked style cake (again keeping to the theme of simplicity). We decided to have three tiers with different flavours for each, based on our favourites – Ginger, lemon and poppy seed and chocolate orange. The end result was amazing and we could not have hoped for anything more perfect. It was yummy and we had enough to freeze and continue to eat for the next few months.
The Details & Décor
One thing not previously mentioned is the use of the separate stables at Castle View to create different areas. We used on as a children’s play area with multiple toys donated by my sister. Another we turned into a fancy dress / photo booth. Katie really liked the idea of a polaroid guest book, so we decided to combine our love of fancy dress (linked to many years of festival going) with a photobooth. We used our own collection of items, along with donations from friends and family. Katie’s bridesmaid Laura spent hours setting it up the day before and it was such a good addition. Not only did this provide fantastic shots for the guest book, it added to the fun and atmosphere as some of the items even made it onto the dance floor and the band.
Outdoor games – Katie’s dad has made a giant jenga for the day and we also decided to hire some outdoor games and a sweet cart from a local company. Again this added to the atmosphere and ensured that guests, young and old, had plenty to do and explore during the day.
We opted for picnic benches and hay bale seating in the courtyard and dressed them with blankets and cushions collected from charity shops and family donations.
Alex spent many an hour spray painting signs, obviously under Katie’s direction. These again added to the personalisation and we have also been able to keep many of these as mementos.
A work colleague of Katie’s had gotten married the year before and highly recommended her florist – The Paisley Flower Company. She had used large floral displays to line the poles / props of a marchee and was so happy with the end result. As we had a large venue to fill at Castle View we thought larger floral displays would be a perfect addition, so I contacted them for a quote. Vicky was so friendly and relaxed when Katie met her and she seemed to understand exactly what we wanted for the day. She also seemed to be very competitive with her prices.
We decided to have several larger floral displays at Castle View to help fill the space and tie the theme together. These included an absolutely amazing flower arch at the entrance to the venue (which was so much more beautiful then we could have possibly imagined), a garland going up the stairs in the barn and a corner display on one of the stable archways. We also opted for a couple of milk churns and palate stacks to tie in with the stable theme.
Vicki and her team were there the day before to put everything in place. We were overwhelmed with the quality of the end result and were amazed by the time they spent installing the displays, not to mention the fact that two heavily pregnant women were not afraid to get up on ladders in order to put things in place.
When the bouquets arrived on the morning of the wedding Katie was overwhelmed with emotion – they were so beautiful and just as discussed all those months ago – a mixture of purples, whites and greens with lots of texture, including thistles. There was also a little flower wand for Katie’s niece Imogine (too cute).
Alex’s mum also put in more hard graft when it came to the flowers for the ceremony venue. We opted for simple gypsophila and rosemary in glass jars to line the aisle, which Alex’s mums spent much of the evening before putting together. The ceremony needed little else to decorate it due to the stunning gardens and surroundings.
We spent a lovely few nights in Bruges immediately following the wedding. We then spent three weeks over Christmas and New Year in Hong Kong and then Australia, touring Sydney, Melbourne and a few areas in between.
The meal and bowling the night before the wedding.
Katie crying over toast with the bridesmaids the morning of.
Alex crying with his mum whilst his brother rehearsed the ceremony music.
The glorious sunshine and deep blue skies all day, after months of worrying about rain contingencies.
Struan’s reading making us all laugh.
Speeding around Holywell’s grounds in a golf cart and dancing amid the beautiful flowers.
Seeing Castle View transformed from a sparse barn and stables to our own little festival.
The amazing music all day.
The speeches, including a brilliant mix of laughter and emotion from the best woman.
Dancing, dancing and more dancing.
The reaction to the silent disco and the amazing videos of people singing along at the tops of their voices.
People getting fully involved with the fancy dress.
Arriving back at the B&B to realise we had been locked out…
Katie crying at everyone the following day.
And so many more moments from what really was the perfect day.
Advice For Other Couples
Don’t worry about what you think anyone else will want. It’s your day, focus on how you want to spend it!
Personal decorations mean more work for you, but really do make all the difference if you want a wedding that reflects who you are. Contact Alex’s mum for bunting!
Having a relaxed street food style meal meant we had much more time to mingle with guests – this really worked for us.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Photography & Stop-Motion Video
Sally T Photography
Wedding Coordinator (Holywell)
Cara at Katrina Otter weddings
Paisley Flower Co
Bridal & Bridesmaid Dresses
Dress Me Pretty
Kerry Arnold Ltd Hair & Beauty
Hair & Make-up
The Hair Room by Katy Bhoe
Kirsty Ward Jewellery
Shoes (his and hers)
Duncan James Menswear
Post Ceremony Drinks & Canapes
Castle View Food
Caviar and Chips
Chairs – Ceremony
Outdoor Games & Sweet Cart
No Limits Street Band
Silent Noise Events
Mini Bus Hire
Lawson’s of Corby
Oh so wonderful. Alex and Katie thank you both so much for sharing your wonderful wedding story with us xo Lou