"We booked a holiday to Europe travelling through France, Belgium, Switzerland to Lake Garda in Italy, where we would stay for five days before visiting Verona and Venice and then travelling home via Austria and Germany. It was the last night of our stay at Lake Garda and Jon had booked a table at the Grand Hotel which had a lovely restaurant overlooking the lake. It was very romantic- sweetheart tables in white linen and waiters in white with napkins over their arm!
The food was the best I have ever tasted and was lovely to reminisce with Jon about the holiday and our relationship so far. After our meal we left the restaurant and started to walk back to the hotel along the banks of the lake. Jon stopped under a little lamppost and told me to close my eyes; when I opened them he was down on one knee holding up a ring box with my Mum's engagement ring inside!
Choosing our wedding venue
We looked around many different places- castles, stately homes, manor houses, hotels etc. but when we went to Sandhole Oak Barn wedding venue in Cheshire we instantly knew this was the place for us! It had such a welcoming feeling - classy and elegant without being over the top or ostentatious.
I wanted a country/ vintage/ traditional but laid back-style wedding and Sandhole Oak Barn was perfect - beautiful, set in the countryside away from the main road and overlooking a lake. Plus the whole venue was ours for the day and no other wedding party would be there. There was overnight accommodation for guests and the owners were so friendly. The caterers Top Table were fabulous too!
We knew we wanted to get married in a church and the church we wanted, St James and St Pauls, Marton, was just five minutes up the road from Sandhole Oak Barn. This little black and white church is the oldest working church in England.
Laura's wedding dress
I bought my dress from Per Sempre in Wilmslow. It was a Caroline Castigliano gown called "Beautiful". It had a lace bodice, a full skirt and a silk ribbon sash around the waist with a diamante brooch in the centre of the bow. I wore an ivory sash for the ceremony and reception then changed to a purple one to match my bridesmaid's dresses and groomsmen's colours in the evening. I also wore a long cathedral length veil which I LOVED also from Per Sempre, which had little teardrop crystals on the edges.
I tried on a number of dresses but as soon as I put this one on I said, "this is it", started crying and just said "I am having it" without even asking what the price was!!! I decided to have it made to measure which ended up costing almost £3000 altogether but I paid it in installments and it was worth every penny in my eyes!
My tiara was a side tiara I got from Glitzy Sectrets - I loved it! I wore a bracelet I borrowed from my best friend's Mum and a Tiffany bangle that my husband bought me as a gift. My shoes were gorgeous ivory coloured peep toes from Dune that had a big diamante-covered bow on the front of each. My underwear was quite functional; a nice strapless bra set I got from Victoria Secret (changed into a negligee from Debenhams later that night!).
My best friend, Natalie, who I have known for 15 years, was my Maid Of Honour and then I had three young girls as Bridesmaids; my cousin's daughter, Holly (who was 12) and Jon's two nieces, Courteney (11) and Megan (9). The Bridesmaids seemed obvious choices and they were all desperate to help in some way on the day- very sweet!
They all wore taffeta dresses in a purple/silvery colour. The three girls had the same style while Nat's was more grown up. The younger girl's dresses were ankle length ballerina-style. They had a wide cream lace band around the waist with a thin bow through the middle and diamante detail on the front- very pretty and quite unusual. Natalie's was strapless and fitted with a fishtail hem. It had gathering detail to the side and a cream lace section around the bust. They all wore little cream fur shrugs.
We hired Jon's suit from Platts in Crewe. We chose it together with input from my Dad but the decision was Jon's in the end. He went for tails as we thought this suited the theme and wedding venue but he decided not to go all out and have a top hat etc. The suit was a lovely mid- dark grey with a bit of a bluey tinge to it - very nice quality - with an ivory shirt, an ivory waistcoat and shiny black shoes.
Best Men and Ushers
Jon had two Best Men; his best friends from school. One of them stood at the front and gave the rings while the other signed the register. They both did the speech together which was hilarious! The Ushers were my brother, Richard and my cousin, James, who also did the church reading and sang a couple of songs at the reception after the first dance!
All the Groomsmen wore the same as Jon with the only difference being Jon had a more elaborate buttonhole. They wore proper ties - not cravats, which I bought with the hankies for the pockets from the Bridesmaid shop so they would be the same colour and fabric as the Bridesmaids' dresses. All the men wore the same colour.
Laura and Jon's wedding ceremony
We had a church service with three hymns and a reading. I walked down the aisle to the traditional "here comes the bride" music and our recessional music was The arrival of the queen of sheba, which is one of my favs! We had a string quartet at the back of the church that played before I arrived and played both these pieces of music as well as The Cannon and Memory from Cats as we were signing the register. The hymns were played by the organ player. The order of service was in keeping with the style of the invitations and featured our school photographs at the ages we met.
Best memories of the service
- Saying my vows: we looked at each other the whole time and it was like no one else was even there! Walking down the aisle and seeing Jon's face (he looked like he was going to cry- or faint!! :)
- Seeing my Mum there at the front of the church; she is very ill and so had to come just for the ceremony in a wheelchair. As the church is so small the wheelchair wouldn't fit at the front but luckily the very kind vicar agreed to remove the front pew just for the wedding. My dad also arranged for Mum to come back for an hour in the evening as well which I wasn't expecting and that was really nice.
- The vicar's mobile phone going off just as we were beginning to say the vows - hilarious!! He had even asked everyone at the beginning of the service to turn their moble's off. When the phone started ringing, the lady playing the organ turned around as if to say "who is that!" then a look of horror crossed her face when she realised it was the vicar's phone! Very, very funny! Need to send in to You've Been Framed I think!
My wedding theme was vintage roses/country garden, a mixture of roses: dusky pink, (Old Dutch) grey-pink vintage (Amnesia) and creamy pink (Sweet Avalanche) roses with a brighter pink flower and pinky-purpley tinged hydrangeas and alba flora.
My bouquet was just the roses and alba flora, to which I tied an old locket of my Mum's with photos of my younger brother, James(who died a few years ago in a car accident), inside.
The Bridesmaids had hydrangea with roses. Church pew ends had a white organza bow with roses and greenery in them. There was a large pedestal arrangement on the altar and an arrangement above the archway at the side of the church both with a mixture of all the flowers.
Styling the day
Sandhole Oak Barn was beautiful all on its own with cream walls and oak beams. The round tables and oval top table had floor length ivory tablecloths and napkins and the small cake table and top table were both swagged with ivory organza. I had the "dingle dangles" and bird cages hanging from the chandeliers. I also bought some ribbon from Cox & Cox which had "to have and to hold, from this day forward" printed onto it and used this to tie around each of the napkins.
There were beams all across the barn so from these I hung jam jars with tea lights inside that I had decorated with lace, beads and jewels and ribbons. I attached them to the beams with different coloured ribbons.
I didn't use white chair covers as the chairs were lovely without them, however I did tie a thick purple ribbon on each chair so I could attach a vintage-looking name tag that looked like a worn looking luggage label.
Each table was named after a place in Hawaii and had its own driftwood sign. The signs were created by an online company and looked really effective!
The present table in the reception room (dance floor) had an old worn luggage case on it for guests to put their wedding cards in. I created a montage of photographs from our Italian trip (where we got engaged) to which I added an aged effect and stuck them to the inside of the case. I also had a lot of photographs, in varying different vintage style photo frames, of family members- particularly lost family members and grandparents/parents on their wedding days.
We had an afternoon tea reception so as well as having Buck's Fizz and canapés we also had tea coffee and cupcakes! I bought special delicate cupcake wrappers and white cake stands and set up a table full of mix and match china tea cups and saucers that I had borrowed off people and bought from charity shops. So tea and cakes was served before the wedding breakfast.
I saw a photo of a cake in a wedding magazine that I wanted to recreate and a friend of the family made it for me. It was fruit cake with four tall tiers (we also had an M&S sponge cutting cake we gave to guests as well).
Our sweet table had old fashioned sweet jars and glass vases with Love Hearts, strawberry bon bons, jelly beans, sherbert flyer scaucers, Ferrero Rocher, marshmellow Flumps and lolly pops. It had little scoops and pink and white striped paper bags with stickers on saying "Mr and Mrs Eardley's Sweet Shop, Love is sweet!" on them!
Each table had a stack of mini newspapers that I made myself - the front story about me and Jon getting married, the inside about how he proposed and the back was a crossword puzzle with clues about me and Jon and then an advert advertising our honeymoon in Hawaii! I bound them up in little piles with string and attached a luggage label that said "Read all about it!"
Each person also got a little envelope with a lottery ticket in for the draw the following night (one person won £10!). I also included a little wish list which was a piece of paper with a £50 on one side where I had superimposed mine and Jon's faces over the Queen's and on the other side were pictures and a list of suitable gifts our guests could buy for us if they were lucky enough to win the lottery e.g. an Aston Martin, a home in the Bahamas or a 50ft Yacht!! The children each had a bag of goodies right for their age group.
We had a disco and a band. The band came on just for about an hour at 9pm. They were two singers from Richmond, London called Richmond Soul and sang Soul and Motown music - they were really good. Then the disco continued until the end of the night and had everybody up doing the party favourites like YMCA etc - got to be done at a wedding!! After the first dance, my cousin James, who was an usher sang an old Irish song We'll walk the road together (as my family is Irish) and I'm a believer which was really lovely and personal.
The best bits
- The last dance - at the very end of the night the DJ played New York, New York. Jon and I were in the middle and our guests created a circle around us and did the New York kicks - a really great way to end a fab night!
- Jon's dancing - Jon did his Micheal Jackson /90s MC Hammer-style dancing to Don't stop till you get enough in front of everyone -very funny!
- It stopped raining - the weather was terrible all day and poured with rain so we couldn't have any photos taken outside. However just as the sun was setting and the evening meal was about to be served, the rain stopped so we dashed outside with the photographer and got some stunning photos overlooking the lake with the sun setting in the background; gorgeous!
- Make it personal: every detail I was planning I was thinking of ways to get me and Jon and our personalities and our story into it. I think our guests really appreciated all the little efforts I made to do this and it added a special touch without it being a big expensive statement.
- Be organised: make lists, have a scrap book to put ideas down- always get visuals if you can- wedding magazines are pricey but they are full of great images and inspiration!
- Include your groom as much as possible on the things you think he will have good input on e.g. transport, the Groomsmen outfits, food, music etc. He might surprise you with some fab ideas!!
- Show an interest: your bride will generally have everything in hand, but you need to be there to listen to her ideas and support any decisions etc.
- Don't be afraid to get involved! Jon was great at building on my ideas or coming up with new ideas- it's your wedding too so get involved but remember the key decisions are going to be made by the Bride!!
For keeping to a budget
- Try to negotiate: get more than one quote- contact a number of companies before deciding on a final one. I contacted four different string quartets and got the price down to £325 from the original price of £495!
- Call in favours: we got our cake, photography, bus hire and disco all for nothing as we were lucky enough to have friends and family to help us out with these usually costly items.
If we could do it all again, we'd…
…I wouldn't change anything - except for the weather!! It bucketed down with rain all day but even then it didn't spoil anything and kept everyone together so there was a lovely atmosphere, plus it did stop in the evening so people could mingle outside as it was warm."
Images courtesy of Kelvin Jay Photography ©