17/12/2004 – Ettington Park Hotel, Stratford-Upon-Avon
photos by RGS Photography
How and when did you meet?
They say you meet that special person when you’re least looking for something serious!
Where, when and how did he (or you!) propose?
Unfortunately I had to leave to attend university in York (over 100 miles away from our home) only three months after meeting him. He came up to see me the first weekend I was there and said that he couldn’t bear to ever be without me, and asked me to marry him – in bed as we were going to sleep! Not very romantic, but he had ordered the ring and he had been intending to propose the following week, but said the moment had just struck him! He proposed for a second time with the ring in the park at night where we had seen shooting stars together and he told me that it had been his wish that one day I would agree to marry him.
Did you have hen and stag celebrations?
I had a spa day with the close female members of my family followed by dinner with a couple more guests. I wanted something relaxing before the wedding – and I’m so glad I did! John chose not to do anything.
Did your groom help you with the wedding planning?
He was helpful, but most of the creative stuff was left to me (and my mum!). We always made joint decisions.
Tell us about your outfit, and where you bought it.
It was bought at a shop in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. It was an off-the-shoulder, corsetted, ivory Thai silk dress. It had a dipped back with hand-beading around the neckline of crystals and pearls with a straight skirt and a train at the back – so I had the best of both worlds. I adored it and it fitted like a glove. I wore a chapel length veil with scattered pearls.
Did you have bridesmaids? If so, who did you choose and what did they wear?
I had two adult bridesmaids and one flowergirl – my niece. The two adult bridesmaids wore stunning deep claret red satin gowns with a cowl neckline, empire line style which were fitted and had buttons down the back and a fishtail. They also had matching wraps. I adored them and so did they! They were more like evening gowns, which was fitting with our theme. My niece wore a dress made from the same material as my bodice with buttons down the back again and a tulle skirt.
Who did your groom choose for his best man and ushers, and what did they wear?
They chose black tail coats and matching trousers with an ivory brocade waistcoat. The ushers wore claret red cravats and John wore an ivory one.
Did you have a civil or religious ceremony?
We had a civil ceremony.
Where did you hold your ceremony?
It was in the Long Gallery on the top floor of our venue – Ettington Park Hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was beautiful – the ceremony was at dusk in candlelight which really stood out with the vaulted ceilings and gothic windows. It was truly amazing!
Where did you hold your reception?
We had exclusive use of the hotel and the reception was held downstairs with pre-dinner drinks in the library and then dinner in the Great Drawing Room, which looked beautiful at night with big bay windows, gold roccoco ceilings and mirrors. I loved our venue.
Did you have any special wedding transport?
No – because we had exclusive use, all the family stayed the night before the wedding and had a meal at the local pub and then all of our guests could stay on the night of the wedding.
How many guests did you invite to your wedding, and did you have a separate evening guest list?
We had 96 guests in total (the maximum at the venue) and no separate evening guests.
Did your reception have a particular theme in terms of colour or style?
Really just a general ‘winter wonderland’ theme. It was mainly ivory because of our choice of flowers with a hint of red. I wanted it to feel very classic and timeless, and I think this reflected it. We had lots of candlelight as it was an evening wedding. All our guests wore black tie and it gave a great party atmosphere.
How did you incorporate this in to your table settings?
We had tall ivory candelabras with six candles on each table. They needed to be tall because of the high ceilings, but we were careful to make sure our guests could see each other properly. They were all decorated with ivory roses, bear grass, snowberries and trailing singapore orchids.
Did you give your guests favours?
Describe your flowers (bouquets and table decorations). Who was your florist?
On the top table we had square glass vases laid out to re-use the bridesmaids bouquets here, which was a really good way of not wasting them! They were small posies of ivory roses with red berries for the adult bridesmaids and red roses for my little bridesmaid so they worked perfectly on the top table with lots of church candles. My bouquet was also really important to me and it had red roses in differing shades in a long tear drop shape (advised by my florist to give the illusion of height as I’m only 5ft 3in and John is nearly 6ft 5in). The roses were wired to trail down delicately with beargrass and singapore orchids. We spent a long time choosing a florist because I think you need to click with someone and make sure they share your vision of the day.
What did you choose to have on your menu? Did you have an outside caterer or did your venue handle the catering?
We wanted a really warming winter menu, which the hotel created for us. We started with smoked chicken and pancetta salad with a parmesan and tarragon dressing, followed by sirloin of scotch beef with wild mushrooms and baby onions. For pudding we had warm apple and sultana tart with caramel ice cream. We served our wedding cake and platters of cheese for those who were peckish later instead of doing a buffet which was unlikely to get eaten as we didn’t eat until 6pm.
What did you choose for your wedding cake?
We had a three tier wedding cake – two layers of fruit and one of vanilla sponge. It was decorated with trailing red roses and made by a friend of my sister in laws. It travelled down all the way from Wales – I’m surprised it made it!
Did you have any entertainment during the day or evening?
Yes – we had a string quartet for the ceremony and pre-dinner drinks, playing mainly classical music for the ceremony and more upbeat for the drinks. We then had a pianist for the meal playing light jazz and Christmassy music and we had a DJ in the evening. We also booked a toastmaster through the same company to save hassle.
Did you have a gift list? If so, who did you have your list with?
Yes with John Lewis who were just amazing. I would definitely recommend them.
Where did you spend your first night and honeymoon? Who did you book your honeymoon with?
We spent our first night in the bridal suite of the hotel and then we honeymooned in Vienna and Prague over Christmas.
What was your most memorable moment of the day?
Oh there are so many. Probably the ceremony in general, just being absolutely terrified before walking in and then seeing the look on John’s face. The two readings were amazing – my friends fantastic rendition of the comic ‘Yes I’ll Marry you my dear’ by Pam Eyres, which went down fantastically and calmed my nerves. The other was by my sister in law who had written a poem especially for us which we hadn’t heard before the day, so that was very touching. And my very nervous father making a speech. He burst into tears at my sister’s wedding, so his friend went round taking bets on how long the speech would last – everyone was in stitches! It lasted two minutes 13 seconds! They raised about £270 for us for our honeymoon, but we gave it to Breast Cancer Research.
Is there anything you would do differently, or any advice you would give to other brides?
Yes, no matter what happens with the stress – I promise, you will enjoy it. Just remember why you’re doing it and that it’s only one day – married life is where the fun begins!