A surprise Christmas Engagement followed by a Superb September Wedding – 8 months later!
Tell us about the proposal – how and where did it happen?
‘Martyn proposed to me on Christmas Day 2018 and we had just returned from Jamaica! Martyn asked me to open a very large box from him. This revealed another box and so I went on unwrapping all of the boxes, getting smaller and smaller until I reached the last one, a ring box. He whipped it out of my hand and got down on one knee. I could not believe what was happening. Poor Martyn had to wait some time for me to give him the “YES”, Best Christmas ever!’
What was your first step in planning your wedding?
‘The first thing we did was to look for a venue and I started looking at dresses on Pinterest. We really didn’t know what we were looking for in a venue so we booked a variety of different places to see. I figured once we had the venue sorted, we would know what kind of theme, colours etc. would work. In the end, we only went to see one venue which was of course Holmewood Hall. We booked it the same day, 1 month after getting engaged!’
Inspiration: Did you use blogs or magazines for ideas?
‘Firstly, I created a wedding board on Pinterest to save things I liked the look of and build up a theme. Then split out the images into different sections for dresses, flowers, hair, make-up etc. which would be useful down the line to help at meetings. Each month I also bought every bridal magazine to get ideas and to be honest, I just loved looking at all of the beautiful pictures!’
What were your wedding “must have’s”?
‘We didn’t really go into planning mode with “must have’s” as such. I think as we went through the stages, it became clear what was important to us. We just wanted everyone to have a nice, relaxed day and the touches we added like cocktails and fireworks just gave it something extra memorable.’
Wedding budget: how did you organise your wedding budget?
‘We planned our wedding in 8 months so we didn’t have much time to save up or spread costs. I found the easiest thing to do was figure out how much we were prepared to pay for certain things and what we were happy to cut corners on. I used a spreadsheet with multiple tabs to keep track of deposits paid and building costs.’
Wedding venue: how did you search for a wedding venue?
‘Martyn was keen to start the planning as soon as we got engaged so we Googled some local wedding venues and read about them online. I had never heard of Holmewood Hall before and saw it was part of Country House Weddings which had some amazing reviews and photos online.’
What made you choose Holmewood Hall as your Wedding venue?
‘I remember arriving at Holmewood Hall and I am not sure that I can find the words to sum up how we both felt? I don’t think we could have ever dreamed of such a breathtaking venue. As we looked around, it just got better and better. The Gold Room and Bridal Suite completely blew us away. We got swept away in a perfect dream wedding and when we were told available dates, we jumped at the chance to get married in the September and booked there and then. Aside from the appearance of the venue, the package that is put together really made us feel we would be getting great value. A lot of other venues we were looking into only gave a basic cost and we would have had to factor in all the other things that Holmewood Hall provide in their inclusive package.’
Styling your wedding: how did you personalise your big day?
‘We decided on a colour scheme after I found the perfect bridesmaid dress. We had blush and rose gold. I wanted to keep the decorations elegant and romantic so opted for low floral centre pieces with some rose gold mini lanterns. We had gold and pink mini Prosecco bottles as wedding favours and we hung guest name tags on them for the seating arrangements. They looked really pretty.
‘We really liked the idea of having cocktails for our guests in the evening so worked with Holmewood Hall to create two options to hand out before the first dance. We had “Dirty Banana” – Martyn’s choice, a firm favourite from our time in Jamaica and a Prosecco Cosmo for my choice. These went down so well with our guests and was just such a lovely touch. We had a grand cake with a few flavours, it really had the “wow” factor.’
‘We added a few little touches around the venue too. My grandparents are no longer with us, so we had their photos on top of the piano. I had some personalised tissue packs made up for our guests to help themselves to as they arrived and I also popped a basket in the ladies toilet with some bits our guests might need during the day, plasters, mints, hair ties etc.’
‘Following on from the cocktails, first dance and cake cutting, we had the fireworks. The team created something bespoke for us and we had our initials with a heart too – it was so special for us and our guests loved it!’
Wedding photographer: how did you choose your photographer?
‘I met our wedding photographer (Daniel Ackerley) at a wedding fair. I had always dodged them previously as I found it all a little uncomfortable but something about Danny’s display drew me in. Choosing a photographer’s style is very personal and I felt that his pictures were just want we wanted for our day. Relaxed, not posed and fun! He really made me feel at ease and all our guests commented on how great he was. Holmewood Hall is such a beautiful place, I wish we had more taken inside. Our photographs are amazing though – I don’t think we could ever have had enough.’
Wedding suppliers: how did you choose your suppliers?
‘Luckily, there are lots of wedding fairs early in the year so I think I attended every single one in the area in January and February and a couple in the summer. I found them so helpful and found a lot of suppliers this way.’
Describe your wedding dress?
‘My dress was a real princess affair! I spent a really long time looking at the styles I liked and sourcing which stores had that designer and style to look at. I had a wish list of dress codes I wanted to see but told the bridal shop that I was open to any suggestions. The ladies at the shop were amazing, I felt like I had such a great experience getting to try on lots of different styles. As it happened they saved my favourite until last for me to try. Turned out that my wedding dress was one of the first ones I had pinned to my Pinterest board – sometimes you just know!’
What accessories did you wear on the day?
‘My shoes were from Dune Bridal but I also had a pair of back up Carvela wedges for comfort. This was a lifesaver on the day as my shoes got a little soggy during the photos! I ordered some personalised underwear from Etsy and some personalised socks for Martyn which I left at home for him as a surprise. I knew he would have forgotten about nice socks for the day! Jewellery was by Ivory and Co. which included earrings and a necklace; my dress had detailing on the waist so I felt I did not need a bracelet. Finding the perfect tiara was one of the most stressful things. For some reason, I just could not decide what would be best. In the end, I actually had one delivered from China, it was perfect – and saved me a lot of money!’
What did your partner wear?
‘Martyn had a pretty good idea of what kind of suit he wanted. He opted for deep blue jacket and trousers with a light grey, tweed style waistcoat and a blush pocket square. His best man and my father wore the same. When I saw them all, I felt so proud and a little emotional. Martyn is a plasterer, so it is not often we get to see him dressed up to the nines!’
Tell us about your Bridesmaids, Groomsmen and their outfits?
‘I had my sister as my only bridesmaid and 3 flower girls, Martyn’s 2 daughters and my niece. I gave my sister a Boom pop out confetti cube with our favourite pictures on and a little message, she was very surprised! The girls all got a balloon in a box to pop. Inside the balloon was some confetti and a little scroll asking them to be flower girls? We made videos of each one so they are really lovely to look back on. The flower girls had high street dresses which were personalised with rose gold sequin bows to match in with the bridesmaid dress. I found a picture of the bridesmaid dress I wanted on Pinterest. We had little clutch bags which I bought online; they are really special! Martyn asking his friend to be his best man was a much more low-key affair! He was pretty nervous about it and in the end, they were just working together and he popped the question – again!’
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
‘So many things! I had rough budgets in mind for each item but a couple of things crept over. The cake was one of them after we got a little carried away at our last meeting! We also decided to have fireworks, that was probably the biggest splurge but it was definitely money well spent. The dress was the most expensive item after the venue, photographer and flowers.’
What was your biggest wedding saving?
‘I saved a lot of money buying the flower girl dresses from John Lewis and asking my local sewing shop to make bows for them to match my theme. They turned out really well and the little girls loved them.’
What was your ceremony like?
‘My Dad walked me down the aisle in The Gold Room. This is something I thought would never happen after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the start of 2018. I think Martyn had considered all of this when he proposed and encouraged starting the planning so quickly after we got engaged. It was so important to us both that my Dad was still here and well enough for our day. I think all our guests felt so emotional seeing him walk me down the aisle, the Gold Room has that effect on its own! I chose the aisle music after so much debating on what to have and we put together a nice play list for our guests while they were getting seated. We had our favourite Reggae song played when we walked out.’
‘It was really important to Martyn that we had a religious element to our day so when Holmewood Hall suggested a blessing could be carried out by the local church on the same day, we knew this would give us both everything we wanted in a ceremony. We had planned on using the bandstand for the blessing however, the weather had been so rainy leading up to our day, the ground was too wet so we went back into The Gold Room and I got to walk down the aisle again – with my husband this time!’
Tell us about your drinks reception and wedding breakfast?
‘Our guests enjoyed Bellini’s, Prosecco and Strawberry Daiquiris served alongside delicious canapes. The chocolate strawberries were fabulous!’
‘Martyn and I spent hours agonising over food choices for the wedding breakfast. In the end we gave our guest a choice. Martyn and I both chose a dish each. Then we had a competition when the RSVP’s came back to see who’s choice was the most popular!’
Starters – Mozzarella and Rocket Salad or Chicken Liver Parfait
Main Course – Slow Cider and Herb Roasted Belly Pork or Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Fondant Potato and Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce
Dessert – Caramel Apple Crumble with a Custard Ice Cream or Dark Chocolate Fondant with Cherries, Mascarpone Cream and a Raspberry and Prosecco Sorbet
‘We really could not have asked for better food – all of our guests really enjoyed it and the selection of wine was lovely too!’
‘After the food, we had speeches and gifts. My Dad absolutely stole the show and there was barely a dry eye in the room. I felt so grateful and proud of him. I am not sure how our best man Scott felt about following my father’s speech but he did an amazing job too.’
Did you have a band or DJ for your evening reception?
‘We used the Holmewood Hall DJ for our evening reception but spent a fair bit of time creating a list of songs we wanted so that we had the right type of thing to suit us.’
Tell us about your first dance – what song did you chose and why?
‘After a lot of thought and evenings spent playing all sorts of songs, a new one was released by Taylor Swift called ‘Lover’. It is such a beautiful song we both agreed that is was perfect for us. We didn’t really think about how we would dance. Maybe we should have as it felt a little awkward – we are not dancers! But, it was “us” and it was perfect.’
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
‘Because we didn’t have a really long time to plan the wedding, we had to make our decisions quickly and we were really lucky that we didn’t have to compromise and were able to book the suppliers we liked. I honestly think that if we had all the time in the world, we probably would have still had everything the same. Suppliers can get booked up so far in advance so best to book when you find what you want rather than leave it and be disappointed. One thing we should have done is been more careful with our cake choices! We got carried away in a meeting – added loads of costs and although the cake looked amazing.’
‘I would also really recommend taking a break away together as soon as you can after the wedding, the day after even! I found it really hard going back to normal for a few days before we went on our mini-moon.’
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
‘We took a little trip to the Lake District a few days after the wedding as we hadn’t booked our honeymoon yet and thought it would be nice to get away for a couple of nights after all the madness. We stayed at The Gilpin and were totally spoilt with a 7 course tasting menu at the Michelin starred HRiSHi restaurant. We also enjoyed a couples massage with a view over the hotel’s lake. It was a total dream. In December we headed off to Mexico for 10 nights for total R&R. Perfect. Then it was Christmas again, what a year 2019 was!’
Purchase & Hire – Tell us who your suppliers were:
Photographer: Daniel Ackerley
Makeup: Kiss and Makeup
Other Décor: Elegant Design
Wedding cake: Cakes By Carol
Wedding attire: Gowns and Garters – Thrapston
The accessories: Ivory and Co, Emma Gordon London, Swarovski & Dune
Flowers: Hive Garden Flowers
Other outfits: Robert Goddard
Invitations: Invigraph (also provided signs/table numbers/guest book etc.)
Disco/DJ: Holmewood Hall
Décor: Elegant Design
Wedding rings: Ernest Jones