I know, I know… We are all still waiting for Summer to arrive and here we are bringing you a Christmas wedding… But lots of you will be planning a winter celebration and there is much to be learnt from Carly and Andy’s festive union.. namely mulled wine and Gingerbread Daiquiris.
Grab a mince pie and a hot mug of eggnog, draw the curtains for that authentic winter vibe and settle down for a cosy heart warmer…
Carly The Bride: I knew that I wanted a fairly traditional lace wedding dress and because of the time of year I was keen to have a long sleeves. Luckily for me and with the help of my mum, mother-in-law and the ladies at Cheadle Bride, I found my dress on the very first shopping trip. The sleeveless, lace sample dress in the store was almost perfect and when I was told that my own dress could be made with a delicate lace sleeve, I couldn’t believe my luck.
Because of the intricate lace detail of the dress, I opted for simple pearl earrings and borrowed a beautiful pair from my best friend. For an added bit of sparkle, I chose a pearl and diamanté hair slide which matched the clasp on the belt of my dress.
We were both keen for Andy and his groomsmen to wear three piece suits on the wedding day and thought that a dark navy would go nicely with the champagne bridesmaid dresses, and I knew it would go perfectly with the ivory colour of my dress! Finding Andy’s suit was as painless as finding my dress – first attempt, job done! Andy’s outfit was finished off with a gold pocket watch that I gave to him the evening before as a wedding gift.
Andy’s parents have been keen visitors of Arley Hall and Gardens for years and as soon as Andy showed me the photographs, we were completely in love with the idea of having our winter wedding there. The huge open fireplaces, beautiful rooms and majestic staircase of Arley Hall were perfect for the cosy Christmas wedding we had in mind and the converted barn ‘Olympia’ was ideal for the evening shenanigans. There’s a theme here…Arley was first and only venue that we visited.
We were fortunate enough to have an 18ft Christmas tree as the centre piece in the dining hall and we wanted to keep the decorations classically festive. Everyone thought we were mad when Mum and I set about (on Christmas Eve) making 22metres of garlands using ivy, pine cones and holly with red berries from various relative’s gardens and lots of foliage from the woods near my Mum and Dad’s house. They smelt and looked beautiful, particularly over the fireplaces and on the bannister of the staircase and to compliment the greenery, our friend Ruth used ivy and snow-like gypsophila for the table centre pieces. Ruth also used ivy and gypsophila for the bridesmaid bouquets and groomsmen’s button holes and my bouquet had ivory roses added as did Andy’s button hole.
The champagne colour of the bridemaid’s dresses looked wonderful against the greenery of the decorations and the sequins on the bodice of the dress and the towering gold sparkly shoes worked so well at our special Christmas party! The chaps looked super dapper in their navy three piece suits and after a bit of a panic, we finally managed to find ties and pocket squares which matched the ladies dresses. The flower girls had sparkly gold shoes, headbands and handbags to make sure their older counter parts didn’t out sparkle them!
The ceremony was our favourite part of the day as it was so relaxed. We had rehearsed the bridal party’s entrance for a good hour the day before the wedding so that the girls and I had plenty of practice walking down the staircase in heels! It’s a good job we did as Sophie, one of my bridesmaids, heel snapped 5 minutes before the ceremony started and she had to walk without putting weight on one foot! After we had conquered the staircase, everyone took their seats and I walked down the aisle to an acoustic version of the eighties hit ‘Higher Love’, which our extremely talented friend played on the grand piano and sang pitch perfect.
Andy and I said our vows in front of the fire place. A best friend of ours did a slightly unconventional reading as his only brief was to write something constructed from song lyrics. He delivered this to perfection and even threw in a couple of interpretive dance moves to our delight and the delight of our friends and family.
After a disco-tastic 2013, we asked our friend to DJ for the first hour of the evening reception and he started things off with the Sister-Sledge hit ‘Thinking of You’ as our first dance. The evening entertainment was put together by our friends Matt Nickson and Sid Simon and the band they assembled were unbelievably talented session musicians who kept everyone on their feet for the duration of the evening. Even when there was a temporary power cut they took to the bongos and we all had a sing-along whilst limbo-dancing under a line of fairy lights. Fun times and sore feet for everyone!
When Rob Owen Brown, a friend and one of the Northwest’s best chefs agreed to do the catering for our wedding we were delighted. Rob, a true advocate of northern cuisine, was really excited to cook at Arley as Mrs Elizabeth Raffald, the lady who invented the Eccles cake was the housekeeper at the hall in 1769. With this and the time of year in mind, the brief was ‘Christmas surprise and local to the northwest’. The result was a Christmas bauble starter – a sparkly white chocolate bauble which we had to crack open to reveal a goats cheese and honey beetroot salad; pheasant with a lime and orange jus for main and for desert an assiette of Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, crème brulee and an Eccles cake. The wedding breakfast was a huge hit as was ‘Andy & Carly’s Manchester Kebab Shop’ that Rob and his team built from hay bales, from which they served gourmet kebabs later in the evening.
To complement the food, we had a brilliant bar team who looked after our guests, serving mulled wine on arrival at Arley Hall and Ginger Bread Daiquiris at the beginning of the evening reception.
I know John from the years when I lived as a student in Leeds and have been admiring his stunning wedding photography for a number of years. When John said he was available on our wedding date we were made up and we met a couple of times to look through his work and decide on the style of wedding photographs we liked. The whole process was so easy and considering we aren’t big ‘photo people’ John made us feel relaxed and captured the essence of the day perfectly. We were incredibly lucky with the weather – a perfect winter’s day in the middle of the horrendous storms of last year. We couldn’t be happier with our photographs, they are beautiful.
As an added something for the evening, we had a photobooth and Christmas themed props, much to the delight of our friends and family. The photographs are hilarious and perfect bribery material should we ever need it!
Our mums had a fudge-off and went head to head in creating the best Christmas fudge which we wrapped up as Christmas presents and used as favours. Carly’s Nanna made the wedding cake as she had done before at her Sisters, Mum and Dads and Aunty and Uncles weddings. We turned jam jars into festive lanterns wrapped in ribbon, ivy and holly berries. Our guests carried these from the hall to the evening reception and hung them on the trees for decoration.
One of our extremely thoughtful family members filmed the day without telling us. We now have a candid wedding video which captured the day and is one of our most treasured possessions.
- Always check that your wedding invitations have the correct amount of postage or go through the nightmare of your wedding guests having to pay to collect it from the post office!
- Everything takes longer than you think it will when you do it yourself! Get lots of people involved and leave yourself lots of time.
- Your mum is always in charge!
- Enjoy every single moment, it really is the best day of your life.
Brides Gown – Augusta Jones at Cheadle Bride | Jewellery – borrowed from best friend | Shoes – Monsoon | Headpiece – John Lewis | Florist – Ruth McIntyre – our very talented friend | Venue – Arley Hall | Decor & styling – our own fair hands | Cake maker – Carly’s very special Nanna | Caterer – Robert Owen Brown (chef) Escapade (bar service) | Bridesmaids dresses – Monsoon | Groom – New & Lingwood | Groomsmen – Marks & Spencer | Wedding planner & Stationery – Andy & Carly | Entertainment – Matt Nickson & Sid Simon | Transport – Belle-Vue