This gorgeous countryside wedding at Brinkburn Priory in the heart of Northumberland would have been my idea of music heaven; with a Gospel Choir in the church and then a first dance to Disney’s The Jungle Book ‘I want to be like you’ I would not have been able to sit still! Zoe & Jon must have created such an electric atmosphere all day!
Zoe looked stunning in her ‘Geneva’ Maggie Sottero wedding gown and her beaming smile looks infectious! Jon’s paisley lilac shirt and blue tweed Ted Baker suit is pretty dapper too matching the pastel colour scheme perfectly.
Zoe The Bride: We looked at lots of lovely wedding venues around the North East but felt there were none quite right for us mainly because the people who showed us around would actually tell us exactly how our wedding would take place if we were to have it there! So as to avoid an off the shelf wedding at all costs and follow our dreams of having something totally unique to us and very different to all other weddings we’ve been to recently (as we’ve reached ‘that age’) we continued our search. My mum actually found our venue on the internet as we were looking for somewhere we could have the right mix of outdoor and indoor, should the lovely British weather let us down and somehow incorporate Tipis too! When we arrived at Brinkburn Priory and parked the car at the top of the country lane, we didn’t know what to expect as we walked down to the venue, how far is it… where does it go? Then suddenly as we turned a corner and arrived walked a bit further the whole place in all its wonder unfolded before our eyes – hidden away in the coquet valley we stumbled upon this breath-taking site with a huge old monastery and converted stable building, set in stunning grounds, with a river flowing through lots of enchanting woodland. It was magical and a bit like when you buy a house, from that moment I just knew it was the one! The Wedding Co-ordinator there Laura was very helpful throughout the planning answering all my questions in the months before and especially the day before the wedding when we were styling the venue and on the day its self – we really couldn’t have done it without her!
The Wedding Style
Jon and I absolutely love music festivals – just being outside in the wilderness with all the flamboyant creative elements that go with them and so for our wedding we wanted to create that kind of scene for all our family and friends, who are all so full of fun! So the style I set my sights on was an eclectic mix of vintage inspired colourful festival/country fayre crossed with a midsummer nights dream… sounds like a lot to cope with but to all extents I think we achieved just that! We hired 10 huge colourful flags you see at Glastonbury from Big Wave Flags which added to the festival theme and also inspired our table names (festivals that either one of us or ideally both of us have been to)
The wedding was late Spring, early Summer as we love that time of year when you’ve the whole Summer to enjoy ahead of you and we really hoped for good weather – we were so lucky as the sun shone most of the day and the rain stayed away!
One of the first things I did after getting engaged and landing back on English soil was buy about 5 wedding magazines full of great ideas on wedding styling that inspired me so much I decided to do all the styling myself – plus when I have an idea in my head I’d rather try to create it myself! So my mum and I started collecting items of frippery such as hanging hearts, wooden butterflies etc and did so for a whole year so we had lots of bits and pieces to decorate. I had a clear vision and wanted something that combined all of the inspiration around me so I made all of the wedding save the dates, invites, menu cards, place names (a painted peg!) and the table plan using an old pair of ladders with a lick of paint and some potted plans for effect. I did have lots of help from friends and family to fulfil this huge creative project I’d taken on, particularly from my mum and sister. I made the wooden direction sign from left over wooden pallets I found and spent a whole day cutting, sanding and painting this (with some help from hubby to be of course) and arranging it perfectly according to where it was going to be positioned at the venue.
The Colour Scheme & Bridesmaid Dresses
If you haven’t guessed it already I love colours and rainbows and was determined not to have a wedding where everything was white and just one other colour as that just wouldn’t be ‘us’! So instead I wanted everything to be as (tastefully) colourful as possible, whilst in keeping with the vintage theme, so between my 4 bridesmaids they wore lilac, coral, sky blue and buttercup yellow. The dresses were tailor made by Anh of Mao Couture who was great in accommodating the 2 girls who lived in different cities far from Newcastle. The style suited them all and they all looked stunning on the day.
I was living in Liverpool when we got engaged so started trying dresses on at various shops throughout the North West as well as the North East over the course of several months. In the end I returned and bought the second ever dress I tried on as I realised in my mind I was always comparing everything back to that one! The dress was Maggie Sottero ‘Geneva’ with a lace bolero, both from The White Tulip Wedding Company which is a lovely bridal shop in Prudhoe, again the vintage style suited the feel of the wedding. It was the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen with a bit of everything going on – lace, sparkle, appliqué flowers, and it felt so elegant. I felt like a princess and all I want to do now is put it on again and have the whole day all over again, I mean when else do you get to have your nails, makeup, hair done and wear such a special wedding gown in your life?? Rebecca from Heavenly Beauty came to the venue to do our makeup and Bernie and Susan came from Urban Concept to do our hair which were both fantastic and completed the bridal look and feel perfectly.
Jon’s family are good friends with a Reverend and so we invited him to conduct the wedding ceremony for us at Brinkburn in the Priory itself which was very special having someone we know up there with us and as it was a blessing ceremony this meant we could work with him to create the words and the structure of the service ourselves, what’s more his calming voice definitely settled my nerves on the day! Inside Brinkburn Priory is absolutely stunning and I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw it. However, I wanted an alternative to hymns and so we had to think of something which would work in such a dramatic building so we looked far and wide for a Gospel Choir that we could a) afford and b) that was bigger than just 4 people to fill the space. We actually found a fantastic group who practice about 2 miles from where we live! So we went to watch them perform and thought they were perfect – with 25-30 of them turning up to sing their hearts out – the North East Gospel Choir were amazing. Singing songs acapella including ‘Lean on me’, ‘I will follow him’ and ‘Higher & Higher’ – it went down a storm with everyone clapping and bopping about!
My father passed away in 2005 and so my mum gave me away and we walked down the aisle to one of my dad’s favourite songs (‘Annie’s Song’ by John Denver) and although I had been very nervous during the hours before this, I felt strangely comfortable once I got in there.
My mum also did a cracking ‘mother of the bride’ speech leaving barely a dry eye in the house but also filling everyone with laughter at just the right times. With 4 page boys (my gorgeous nephews) all dressed in casual waistcoats and chinos from Ted Baker and Debenhams, as well as different colour Converse style shoes, they looked fab and fit in with the style of the day perfectly.
We didn’t want to hire traditional wedding suits as the wedding was pretty far from traditional and so we opted for something more characteristic and like an English country gentleman’s suit. The Groom and 2 Best Men wore tweed style blue suits from Ted Baker, again matching the country style of the day. One of the best men came over especially from Australia as the three of them have all been best mates since they met over 14 years ago.
Having read so many wedding magazines showing lots of brides carrying stunning bouquets of all shapes and sizes, I knew the sort of style I wanted was spring wildflowers that look freshly picked from an English country garden but I couldn’t name any of the flowers I was thinking of. Unless you know your stocks from your scabias, agreeing the flowers you want just by a mutual understanding of what you think you have described and hoping you’ve come across successfully is quite scary as the flowers were such an important part of our day. So when Vicky from Floral Quarter sent me a Pinterest page she’d made especially for me showing each type of flower she had in mind for my bouquet – this was perfect! We had ideas flowing back and forth and in the end when the flowers turned up on the day I was absolutely blown away – they were stunning and exactly what I wanted! She even left us with a huge bunch of spare flowers that were left after she’d laid out all of the jam jars with small cluster arrangements, table centres and pew ends.
Our wedding breakfast was yet another element of the day we wanted to be a bit different and especially suited to us and having spent a lot of time in Spain, we both love sharing food like antipasti, olives and homemade speciality breads. We also chose to have a hog roast served with lots of different type salads and pasta, almost like a medieval banquet! Neil from Wilkins Fine Dining was a star and accommodated our every need and special requests (including having edible flowers in the salad!) For favours we made up individual bags of marshmallows each with a wooden stick so people could toast them on the fire in the middle of the Tipi’s
My mum also made our wedding cake which was absolutely fantastic with three layers – one Victoria sponge, one chocolate & cherry and one lemon! It looked very professional and was decorated with coloured ribbon and satin flowers.
I have to admit the musical elements of the day were all down to Jon – and he chose very well! We had Spanish style music during the breakfast to compliment the style of food, and then we hired a band called Blue-Heart Mitch and the Blazin’ Jacks for the evening entertainment. Until just 3 days before the wedding we didn’t even have a first dance and everything we thought of just wasn’t right – we aren’t the type to sway awkwardly together to some soppy love song but we don’t really have one special song and so it was that job on the wedding list that never got addressed… that is until we heard the band play their rendition of ‘King of the Swingers’ from the Jungle Book. Being one of Jons favourite films and one I grew up with too we both loved their very upbeat swing style version of this classic and practiced about two made up dance moves we could do before the chorus when everyone else could then join in. And this was most definitely the case as everyone bounded onto the dancefloor to be nicely surprised as the band lead singer proceeded to teach us all a special monkey dance together, all as part of our first dance with all our family and friends joining in – who’d have through we could pull off such a blinding first dance!
Having never hired a professional photographer before we really didn’t know what we were looking for and so just ended up explaining what we had in mind for the overall style and theme of the wedding, plus we didn’t want lots of overly formal shots that involve all the extended family and take forever to shoot. We talked to a few photographers but felt that Paul Santos really understood the style we were after (modern and quirky) and could provide stunning shoots that would show off our day and the surrounding venue. I wanted to get some shots of just Jon and I alone in the wilderness surrounded by greenery and countryside views and he very enthusiastically made it happen in the tight time squeeze before we cut the cake. He also jumped in his car and went to rescue our band from the side of the road as they had a puncture on their way up to our venue!
To sum up…
One of the last purchases we made to finish the styling was buying 30 flower head garlands from ebay and we put them in a basket with a homemade sign saying ‘help yourself’ – well these went down an absolute storm! Even the boys were fighting over them! Even though there was a lot to organise as we did all the styling ourselves, roping family and friends in to help and it took over our lives during the months running up to the big day, it was all definitely worth it – I’d do it all again in a heartbeat! The day was exactly what we wanted and our whole wedding experience was perfect thanks to our families for their invaluable help and all our suppliers who did their best to make our day so special. It was the best wedding day we could have wished for followed by a holiday of a lifetime in Bora Bora French Polynesia for honeymoon.
My main advice to others would be just enjoy the planning and don’t get too stressed with small technicalities, (although its easy for me to say now) on the day you’ll be so high on life and love you won’t even care if something’s out of place!
Photography by Paulo Santos Wedding Photographer
- Bridal Gown The White Tulip Wedding Company
- Bridesmaid Dresses Mao Couture Bridal
- Tipis Special Event Tipis
- Venue Brinkburn Priory
- Florist Floral Quarter
- Caterers Wilkins Fine Dining
- Band Blue-Heart Mitch & The Blazin’ Jacks
- Festival Flags Big Wave Flags
- Make-up Heavenly Beauty at Four Lane Ends
- Hairdresser Urban Concept
- Gospel Choir North East Gospel
- Grooms Suit Ted Baker
- Bridal/Bridesmaid Jewellery Debenhams
- Shoes New Look