Ciara and Mike’s real Autumn wedding is a pretty, rustic celebration with a gorgeous country vintage theme. The wedding took place on 24th October 2015 and the amazing photos are by Duncan Cox Photography. Here’s what Ciara told us about the planning and the big day itself.
We’ve now been together almost 5 years. Mike works in a college with people who have additional learning needs. I’m a Speech and Language Therapist – I work with people who have mental health conditions. We first met when we both worked at a charity for people with autism.We bumped in to each other after I had left and Mike asked for my number. We met up for drinks a week later and had the best time.
We got engaged in Edinburgh in December 2013. We’d planned a Christmas shopping trip while staying with my family. We’ve always loved spending time in Edinburgh and visit any chance we get. This made it really special as it’s definitely ‘our place’ and somewhere we feel is ‘home from home’. Mike asked me at the top of the Royal Mile, while we were looking over the city from the Castle walls. I was so happy and really wasn’t expecting it. He’d apparently been looking for a chance all day but I’d thwarted him – dragging him in to every shop to tick presents off our Christmas list. A tourist approached us immediately afterwards, I thought to congratulate us but instead they asked Mike if he’d take their picture. This left me standing awkwardly waiting so I used this opportunity to phone my parents. They were both waiting for the call as Mike had shared his plan with them before we’d set off!
We got married at Woodhill in Otterburn, Northumberland. We visited at a lot of venues but Woodhill had exactly what we were looking for. We wanted somewhere where we could hold the ceremony and reception as we were looking for an informal/friendly venue, where everyone felt comfortable. Corrine Knight (the owner) and her team really made the whole experience personal and fun (from planning to the day itself). Woodhill is an exclusive venue so we stayed there from the Friday to Sunday. This added to the personal experience. My family from Edinburgh took over the kitchen on the Friday night, cooking welcome food for our guests and then my dad prepared breakfast for everyone on the Saturday morning! This was exactly what we wanted! We’d said all along that we wanted everyone to feel at home. We got married in the Orangery, which has beautiful views across Northumberland. It had been raining earlier in the day and a rainbow framed the ceremony. We had live music from a guitarist and singer, Jessica Avison during the ceremony and drinks reception – she was amazing and helped create a lovely atmosphere by putting her own twist on some of our favourite songs.
We had the wedding breakfast in the teepees, which are a permanent fixture at Woodhill. There were fire pits to keep us warm, and a basket of blankets available. It was great fun. Mike created the playlist for the background music and was very proud of his efforts and he did a great job. The evening reception was held back in the main house, with dancing in the Orangery. We had a live band –Func on the Rocks – they were fantastic and had everyone on the dance floor for their sets! I’m so glad we went for live music throughout the day – I think it was worth the investment as we all loved it. The dining room had tables too so that people could chat and mingle without having to shout over the music. We also had a sweetie table and a suitcase of games in the lounge for the kids, just in case they got bored with all of the grown up stuff.
As soon as we’d set the date we contacted Duncan Cox to see if he was available to photograph our wedding. Duncan had been the photographer at our friends’ wedding in Cyprus and we loved the natural style of their photographs. I’d been bridesmaid at the wedding so knew that he had made everyone feel relaxed and comfortable and had almost blended in to the background to get some really touching and memorable shots. We were not disappointed with our choice because this is exactly what we got. Duncan was great at putting us at ease, especially Mike who does not like his picture taken at all. A couple of months before the wedding we met with Duncan for an engagement shoot – for couples who are nervous about having hundreds of photographs taken on the day. I’d definitely recommend a pre-wedding shoot, as this made us feel more relaxed and it allowed Duncan to get to know us better. On the day Duncan was great – he put us both at ease and I’m so glad he persuaded us to have some romantic photos. I originally wanted all reportage (natural shots) but the romantic photos are some of my favourite, especially as they catch the Autumn light and colours perfectly, which is certainly a great reason to get married in October!
We didn’t really have a theme. We have a really eclectic taste at home – mum calls me a hoarder. I love collecting old pots, pans and crockery from markets and antique shops and this was certainly reflected in our wedding décor. I guess the wedding had a country/vintage theme when everything came together – this really fit with our personalities and the venue. We used brown paper, candles and fresh flowers throughout which helped tie elements of the wedding together. A Pinterest board was helpful in sorting ideas as even if you don’t start out with a theme, a general trend certainly pops out.
I had five bridesmaids, all very close friends who I have met at various points in my life. The girls knew each other before the big day and certainly grew closer through the planning of the hen party and wedding. The hen weekend was a complete surprise to me and it was so lovely to see how the girls had become friends through their planning and organising! The girls were amazing supports as the wedding approached and especially on the morning of the wedding –I remember being woken by a gentle knock on the door as Ashleigh brought me a cup of tea and a big hug to start the day. The girls looked so beautiful on the day. They helped pick their dresses and had decided they all wanted to wear the same colour. The dresses were custom-made from Vintage at Number 18 – a vintage bridal shop in Newcastle. I loved the colour as soon as I saw it and it really suited all the girls. The seamstress was brilliant at tailoring the dresses to the girls’ preferences – with necklines and skirt lengths to suit. Each of the girls had a different bouquet of fresh flowers. They also had fresh flowers in their hair and each had a different hairstyle – this was to prevent them looking too uniform and to show off their individual looks and personalities. Natalie did a fantastic job with hair and makeup and kept us all on schedule on the morning of the wedding.
Mike asked his elder brother to be his best man. Dan is both autistic and deaf, which means he needed support for some of the duties. A friend – James planned the stag do and read during the ceremony and Mike’s dad gave the best man’s speech, which was actually really nice because it meant his parents got a chance to say how proud they are of him! Dan kept the rings for Mike and was supported by his mum to hand them to Mike and he also sat with us on the top table during the reception. They didn’t have matching suits but they all wore shades of navy blue and grey. We went for floral ties from Ted Baker and M&S for the wedding party. We also picked burgundy pocket squares from Ted Baker, which helped to bring them together. We were really happy with the overall look as we didn’t want anything too formal.
The wedding dress
I absolutely loved my dress from the moment I tried it on. It’s an original 1960s white, French lace gown, which I bought from Vintage at Number 18. The dress was only £175, which I thought was an absolute steal. It only needed slight adjustments, which were also carried out by the seamstress at number 18. Vintage at Number 18 was the first place I looked for a dress. I originally thought I wanted a 50’s style dress but immediately fell in love with ‘my dress’ as soon as I put it on. I was nervous about looking for a dress but Lynne (the owner) put us (Mum and I) at ease straight away. She advised me to give it a week to see if I still liked the dress as it was the first shop I’d been to. She also let me take photographs to show my aunt and grandmother, which was great! The whole experience with Vintage at Number 18 was brilliant so I knew this is where I wanted to get my bridesmaid dresses too. (I got the chance to wear a 50’s dress and veil at my hen party as the girls’ planned a Mad Men theme!)
I wore simple accessories as I wanted the look to be quite relaxed and didn’t want to take away from the beautiful jewellery bouquet made by Catherine at Vintage and Number 18. The bouquet was really unique and Catherine even incorporated pearls I’d been given by my aunt for my 21st. I wore a fresh flower crown in my hair made by Dawn at ‘Blossoms and Bows’. I loved it and didn’t take it off until it was time for bed! I felt like Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My dad had given me pearl jewellery to wear at my hen party – I wore the studs and bracelet for the wedding too. My mum also gave me a pale blue Swarovski bracelet, which was the same colour as the girl’s dresses and a very special ‘something blue’. It was really funny as I’d bought my mum the same bracelet in Rose Gold as a special thank you for all her help in planning the wedding. We didn’t know beforehand but it was really lovely to both wear them on the day! We obviously have very similar taste.
Hair and make up
Natalie from Mandarin did my hair and Makeup. She was absolutely fantastic. I always have my hair done there so I was so happy when she agreed to travel for the wedding. I didn’t want a traditional wedding ‘up do’ as I wanted a look that suited the 60’s look of my dress. I had loose curls/waves and small plaits around my flower circlet. I loved it and the main thing was it was wearable all day without headaches from pins. We opted for natural makeup with a nod to the vintage look of my dress with slightly thicker eye-liner than I’d normally wear. I loved the overall look – I looked like me but on a really, really good day!
Highlights of the day
It’s hard to say what the best parts of the wedding were! I think we were both surprised how great the ceremony was as I think we were both worried that a civil ceremony would be impersonal. It felt the exact opposite. Coleen, the registrar, was fantastic and embraced the relaxed atmosphere we were hoping for. Our friends, Rachel and James, read during the ceremony. We asked them to keep their readings a surprise, which meant we heard them from the first time on the day! Having so many family and friends in one place is definitely one of the best things about a wedding. As I walked down the aisle seeing everyone smiling at me and then Mike turning to see me was definitely a really special moment.
What made the wedding unique and special
We wanted the wedding to have an informal feeling and I think we achieved this. This made it really special as I think everyone felt at home and included, which was important to us as we wanted all of our guests to feel part of the day. Someone said to me on the day that they thought the theme was ‘family, friends and love’ – this was such a compliment and exactly what made our wedding special to us.
The most touching aspect of the day
I think the most touching moment of the day for me was the speeches. Mike’s was amazing. I know he was nervous beforehand but he had everyone in tears and then belly laughing all within a couple of minutes. My dad’s was a huge surprise. We didn’t know what was happening as two deck chairs were brought out for Mike and me to sit on, facing the top table. When I was younger my mum, dad and I were part of a sign language group run by a family friend. My dad learned to sign to the song ‘I loved her first’ instead of reading a speech and had us all in tears! He said the words said everything he’d wanted to say in a speech. It was a surprise for everyone and was such a lovely moment. We had no idea – he was even joking with Mike the day before about how he was trying to remember it without notes.
Food and drink
After the ceremony we had a selection of canapes as part of the drinks reception – Mike and I didn’t get to try one as we were busy speaking to everyone and having photographs taken. We had two glass barrels of fruit punch for the children and non-alcohol drinkers during the drinks reception so they didn’t feel left out. The barrels had a tap and we bought colourful paper cups so people could help themselves. The wedding breakfast was afternoon tea served on a range of wooden platters and vintage china. Steve, the Chef at Woodhill, came up with the idea of a miners’ afternoon tea, which we immediately loved. It fit with our table plan, which we’d made out of an old map of Northumberland, naming each table after a town or village within the county. We chose the table names from places we like to explore often with our Springer Spaniel, Bracken. The tea was lovely and even had ‘coal’ made from cinder toffee. The miners’ element was also a nice touch as both my grandfathers and my dad were miners. In the evening we had ‘Mexican Mania’, which we thought was good fuel for the party and dancing! Our main wedding cake was made by Mike’s mum. It had 3 tiers of fruit cake and each layer was a different pastel coloured frosting. It looked beautiful and was perfectly finished with fresh wild flowers and ivy. Friends and family also made wonderful cakes, brownies and macarons to contribute to the ‘cake table’. We decorated the table with flowers and an old mirror, which we’d written ‘With a little help from our friends’ on.
Venue decorations and flowers
My mum was absolutely brilliant when it came to planning the wedding. It definitely became her project and we couldn’t have done it without her. I can’t count the number of times her dining room was made up to look like the wedding to test out ideas. Woodhill is beautifully decorated before we even started. Each room has an individual and quirky style – I’ve never seen so many different types of wallpaper. We knew we wanted colour, candles and flowers, so this was basically what we did in each room. Woodhill have a ‘prop shop’ which we raided for ideas and then collected bits ourselves. We had coloured lanterns in the Orangery and Tepee – the effect was fantastic! We hired Imapct Pyrotechnics (an events company) to help us put these up as we had 100s and high ceilings to contend with. The guys were great and really listened to what we wanted. In the Orangery we had fresh flowers and candles decorating the aisle and chairs. In the tepee we went for more colour and more candles. On the dining tables we had wooden logs in the centre with copper candelabras. We then had wild flowers in crystal vases and coloured water bottles, which looked really twinkly in the candlelight. Friends and family helped collect the vases so they were all slightly different.
Each place setting had vintage crockery, favours and a name place, made from leaves we’d collected and painted when walking the dog. This was our nod to Autumn as we hadn’t opted for a traditional autumnal colour scheme. Instead of writing the table names we collected paintings, photographs and postcards of each place. We displayed them on the table using rubber ducks as the stand (we copied this from the menus at one of our favourite restaurants). We used flowers and candlelight birdcages to decorate the tables for the evening reception. As well as the main pieces of decoration we also added other touches. We had a table in the entrance way with a family tree – we decorated white twigs with family wedding photographs, birds and small fairy lights. This was a great talking point for people. The table also had confetti cones, with natural flowers, and crochet button holes for the guests to wear. The staff also wore them, which was a lovely touch. This felt like a great way to welcome people! We wrote a welcome on a chalk board and put it at the front door to the house so that people could read it as they arrived. My aunt painted an old drinks trolley for us, which we used for the guest book and also as a place for people to put gifts and cards. We asked people to sign Jenga blocks for the guest book – we thought this is something we will be able to use in the future if we have family/friends games evenings! We also used favourite items from ours and my parents’ houses. Writing on mirrors and glass trays to personalise the decor. Mum found some white frames which we also put out for people to use as props to take photos with.
There’s a suit of armour in the grounds of Woodhill which people joke is the ‘drunk knight’. Mum arranged for a shield to be made with our names and the date of the wedding printed on it – it looked great and people loved having their photo taken with it. We used a set of white ladders at the entrance to the Orangery and decorated them with photographs of me and mike – one each from childhood and then a photo from the day we got engaged. My mum has a set of 3 white Buddha ornaments that I love – she brought them along and we put them in the entrance hall. We also used some items we’d bought in Edinburgh on the day we got engaged. ‘It’s Time to Drink Champagne and Dance on Tables’ bunting and a wall sign, which looked great decorating the drinks table. The shop also gave us ‘Mr and Mrs’ bunting as a gift for our engagement – we used this on the cake stand. On the Friday family and friends chipped in to pull things together to make sure everything looked great. The team at Woodhill were also fantastic and made sure that the each part of the day looked exactly as we’d hoped! We met with them regularly on the lead up to the wedding so they knew us and exactly what we wanted to achieve.
I absolutely loved our flowers. Blossoms and Bows, our local florist provided them all and Dawn (the owner) brought them to the hall the day before. I’m so glad we went for so many fresh flowers as they brought everything together perfectly. Each bouquet, button hole and vase/jar was different. We asked for a range of beautiful wildflowers and that’s exactly what we got! They were my favourite part of our decorations! Family and friends took vases of flowers away with them as a memento from the wedding. We also put welcome gift bags in the rooms for family staying at the hall or hotels nearby and mum and my aunt even knitted soft toys to include. We drove to Otterburn on the Thursday evening and delivered them as a surprise for people arriving! It sounds a lot but it all came together! I think people really do appreciate every little touch.
Our favours were ‘brown paper packages tied up with string’ – small bars of chocolate wrapped in brown paper. Mike loves chocolate and The Sound of Music is one of my favourite films so they had elements from both of us. We also placed a small glass heart on each name setting – this helped to weigh down the leaves used as name cards but were also a small gift for people to take away.
We bought brown card/paper invitations and RSVP postcards from Not on the High Street – they were simple, with navy writing and images of a country scene (again in navy). We then printed extra information about accommodation, transport etc. on floral paper we bought from Hobby Craft. The paper had blue flowers pressed in to it that looked like the petals we used for confetti. We used this as a like a book cover for the invitation and RSVP postcard and tied it with raffia.
My advice to other brides to be
My advice to other brides would be to enjoy the whole experience from planning to the wedding day itself! Try not to leave things to the last minute – this was something we learned with favours etc. If you do though – don’t panic, you’ll find friends and family are more than happy to help and actually these moments over a takeaway and bottle of wine, will create some lovely memories. Enjoy your day and don’t worry if things aren’t perfect! It’s a day to celebrate with your husband, family and friends and this is the most important thing! Have the wedding you want –formal or informal – as a wedding that is ‘you’ (both of you) will mean you have the best day ever!
Suppliers Bridal Dress: Vintage at Number 18, Newcastle upon Tyne Wedding Shoes: Hobbs Grooms attire: Ted Baker Bridesmaids Attire: Vintage at Number 18 Groomsmen’s Attire: Own suits. Tedbaker ties and pocket squares Flowers and Bouquets: Dawn from Blossoms and Bows, East Boldon Bride’s bouquet – Catherine from Vintage at Number 18. Entertainment: Jessica Avison (ceremony and drinks reception) Func on the Rocks (evening) Photographer: Duncan Cox Videographer: n/a Wedding Cake and Catering: Woodhill Hall Wedding Make-up & Hair: Natalie from Mandarin, East Boldon Wedding Stationery: Bird and Bee, Not on the High Street.com (and Hobby Craft) Wedding Transport: n/a Reception Venue:Woodhill Hall, Otterburn, Northumberland Ceremony Venue: As above Wedding Venue stylist/planner: Mary Seymour (my mum) with help from Impact Pyrotechnics Ltd, Tyne and Wear.