Gemma and Pete’s Victoriana-Style Wedding

Gemma and Pete’s Victoriana-Style Wedding | CHWV

Gemma and Pete’s relaxed yet elegant wedding at Packington Moor in Staffordshire had a hint of Victoriana as well as a “things that go well together” theme.


Bride and Groom Kiss Under Umbrellas


How did you feel when you first met?

We were friends for a long time before we got together so there was a connection between us as we were friends, which meant we got on well and understood each other. Our first date was a meal in a gastro pub. I asked him to pick me something to eat when he ordered and he ordered the only thing I don’t like - mushrooms! I was too polite to say anything so I ate it!


What’s your funniest memory of your time dating?

I always try to jump out at Pete to scare him. Once when we were on holiday and were visiting the theatre, I hid round a corner to jump out at him after he had visited the bathroom. I heard him coming, jumped out, and shouted. To my horror it wasn’t Pete, but a member of staff - who jumped out of his skin! Pete witnessed the whole thing because he was actually stood behind the poor man.


Gemma with Makeup Artist



I was completely surprised! We were on a cruise round the Med, the highlight of which was a stop in Venice. When I got up that morning I was so excited about sailing into Venice; I was doing all sorts of jobs and asking Pete to get things sorted for when we got off the ship. He was patiently waiting for me to go in the shower so he could set the Champagne breakfast up on the balcony.

When I eventually went on to the balcony I saw the Champagne and initially thought the ring box was a box of chocolates. I went for the Champagne thinking what a lovely romantic gesture it was, at which point Pete suggested I may want to open the box! He then got down on one knee. We then went on a gondola ride for two and spent the day in Venice before having a romantic open air meal as we sailed out of Venice.


Bride and Bridesmaid Getting Ready


Packington Moor

We wanted to get married in a barn and we had a window of two weeks in which Pete’s brother could get time off work from being a head chef in South Africa. A friend suggested Packington Moor and we fell in love with it. It happened to be free on the dates we wanted - it was just meant to be!


How did you feel when you first saw it?

We fell in love with it immediately. We could visualize our wedding there straight away and knew it was where we wanted to hold our special day.


What were the best things about the venue?

The rustic feel, the beautiful rooms, the intimacy of the ceremony room and the spaciousness of the wedding breakfast room was a lovely contrast. The cottages were also wonderful. The fact that we can go back and have a coffee in the farm shop is also really nice as we can relive our day as often as we want!


Rustic Barn Venue Courtyard

Gemma Arriving at Venue


Wedding dress

I went with a friend just to have a look in Gracie Bleu in Matlock. I had a very specific style in mind. I wanted embroidery and tulle, quite vintage-looking, but more importantly I wanted a coffee or deep cream colour. I also did not want to spend more than £600 pounds, which we thought would be a problem, but then the wonderful staff at Gracie’s realized they had an Eternity Bride dress that fitted my description in the back room that was on sale!

They brought it out and I fell in love with it. It was a classic sweetheart strapless dress in a beautiful cream colour with coffee coloured embroidery on the tulle that covered the dress. It wasn’t quite the right shape so I had it altered quite a bit to be more of a fishtail shape. All in all the dress and alterations cost £580!!!!


How did you feel when you put it on?
Straight away, I knew it was the one. Even though I then tried on several hundred others as I couldn’t believe I had only tried one dress on and found the exact one I wanted! I had put a deposit on it so it didn’t sell but after two weeks I went back and bought it.


Gracie Bleu Eternity Bride Wedding Dress


Bride’s accessories

I struggled to find the exact shoes I wanted because I wanted a taupe colour, not too high and with some sort of embellishment - not traditional wedding shoes. So I bought some plain taupe coloured shoes from M&S for £30 and embellished them with pearl cluster shoe clips, which I bought off eBay for £10. My bracelet was from coast, earrings and underwear from Debenhams.


Gemma's Wedding Shoes

Gemma's Wedding Bracelet

Gemma's Wedding Bracelet and Bouquet


Did you have something old, new, borrowed and blue?
At the last minute (a few days before) I realized I hadn’t thought about it. I had a brooch from my grandma which I attached to my bouquet as my something old, I borrowed a charm to sew onto my garter which had a little blue bow and my something new was my perfume - Miss Dior.


Gemma's Bouquet with Brooch


Groom’s outfit

We both wanted normal suits, not tailcoats. Pete chose the colour – grey - and when we went to try the suits on we decided to make the groom stand out. He would have a cream waistcoat and the two best men would have grey to match the suits. The suits had a striped detail which was very subtle.The colour we had chosen for the cravats was sage green to match the bridesmaids.


How did he look when you first saw him?
Tired!! He had completed a triathlon that morning!! He looked very handsome and I felt immensely proud as I was about to become his wife.


Gemma Arriving at Ceremony



I had two bridesmaids; my best friend from school and my niece. I chose my eldest bridesmaid, my friend from school, as she was the most excited person I knew about us getting married! Plus she loves weddings and is a good organiser as well as a great friend! When I asked her to be my bridemaid, she told me she was pregnant and that her due date was four weeks before the wedding. I gave her the option to turn the role down but she would not hear of it and, despite being pregnant with her first child, helped me no end with the organising and even came on my hen do at 8 months pregnant! She was also back in her dress size for the wedding!

I asked my niece because it is every little girl's dream to be a bridesmaid. She lives quite a long distance from us so I didn’t see her much in the lead up to the wedding but she proved her weight in gold on the day. She helped arrange the centerpieces, ran errands, kept everyone stocked up with drinks and smiled beautifully for every photo - aged just 9!


Bridesmaid Dress


Bridesmaids dresses

I really wanted sage green but not a long dress, as so many of them seemed to be in bridal shops, so I looked on the high street and fell in love with the dresses in Coast. The adult dress was £145 and the child’s was £65.

My niece’s shoes were from Next (£18) in a lace material and my friends were from Debenhams  (£25). I accessorised with cream flowers for their hair from H&M (£2) and pearl bracelets, which I tied with the same lace as the bouquets to give them a vintage feel, and earrings from Primark. My friend also had a cream lace bolero jacket that I found on Amazon (£25).


How did they fit with the theme?
The subtle green colour just tied in so beautifully with the rustic nature of the wedding venue and the pearls and lace tied in with my dress and the vintage look I was going for.


Gemma and Pete at Ceremony


Best man and ushers

My husband had been the best man for his brother when he got married in South Africa and he felt it was an honour to be asked to do that as his brother, so it felt perfect to have them both as they are a very close family. The morning of the wedding Pete competed in a triathlon and it was the best men’s job to make sure he got to the wedding in one piece so they both got up 5am to go with him!


Wedding ceremony

We asked two of our friends to write poems about us. One of Pete’s friends wrote a poem entitled ‘What does she see in him?’ about Pete’s qualities and my friend wrote a poem with the title ‘What does he see in her?’ about mine. We gave them the titles but that was it. We then only read each other’s so that on the day what our friends had written about us was a complete surprise. I thought this was lovely and helped to make the ceremony personal and informal.


Best Man Reading out Poem


As guests were arriving ‘Can’t help falling in love’ by Elvis was playing. I walked down the aisle to a piano instrumental version of ‘Amazed’ by Lonestar. Pete chose this song because he felt it summed up our relationship. While we signed the register, we played ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ to keep the atmosphere informal, ‘Count On Me’ by Bruno Mars, because of the lyrics and ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole because it’s a beautiful song!


Who walked you down the aisle?
I walked down the aisle on my own with my bridesmaids in front of me.


Bride and Groom at Ceremony

Bride and Groom Smiling with Confetti


Wedding theme

I love Victoriana – anything with scrolls and elaborate detail. So as well as being “things that go together”, we tried to make our tables different and elegant looking in a slightly vintage way.


Wedding Gift Box



I bought some ivy and faux rose garlands to decorate the arch at the front of the ceremony room. I hired linen for the chairs in the wedding breakfast rooms and had different chairs in the ceremony room, which I had decorated with sashes and a single rose.


Barn Wedding Decorations

Wedding Breakfast Decor


We had personalized confetti cones, which I purchased from eBay and a ‘fill me in party poster’ from a brilliant website called Not On The Highstreet. This was particularly useful when it rained and it has also provided us with a unique (and amusing) piece of art to have in our home.


Bouquet and Confetti Cones

Confetti Cone and Wedding Ring

Wedding Guest Poster


We decided against buttonholes. A family friend did our top table flowers, which were also our flowers for the front of the ceremony room. We had an another stand with flowers on it in the ceremony room as well. I bought the flowers from a wholesaler and she made the arrangements as a wedding present.


Table centrepieces
For the centrepieces I decided I wanted vintage-looking handbags filled with roses, which I asked my local florist - Polka Dot florist in Ripley - to do. I sourced the bags from my own collection and eBay. Each table was different and I wanted a vintage/Victoriana feel.


Wedding Table Centrepiece

Wedding Table Centrepiece


I borrowed candlesticks and hurricane lamps and bought glass dessert holders from charity shops, which I filled with bonbons I draped pearls in Champagne glasses on some tables, while others had customized tealight holders from Ikea, which I embellished with lace.


Wedding Table Centrepieces


Table names
Tables were named after ‘things that go together’ such as Fred and Wilma, Jonny and Baby, Take That and Party, which had been the basis for our invitations (the meaning behind it was that we were meant for each other). The names were in gold scroll frames from Boots. We also had quiz cards to do with the table name for guests to complete.


Wedding Favours


We had mini chocolate cupcakes made by a friend as a gift. This was a last minute addition after I melted my original favours by accident the week before the wedding!


I made my own invitations with the help of a friend. We took the inspiration from a wedding card I bought her last year. Another friend helped me make the table plan. I bought the tags from a shop on eBay and we bought a cheap frame from a charity shop and sprayed it. We then bought mount board and mounted the tags. It cost £20 in total.



I did not want to spend £ 500 on a cake!!! I know so many people who ended up throwing wedding cake away so we opted for Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead. It was fun, quirky and became a huge talking point! In total 144 doughnuts cost us £91.


Krispy Kreme Donuts Wedding Cake Alternative



Our photographers were absolutely amazing and really paid attention to everything we said that we wanted. On the day they were so relaxed and friendly. They really helped to make the day special. They also got the photos to us super fast and we are so impressed with the beautiful, creative shots. I had asked for not too many posed shots. I like the reportage style and wanted memories captured, which they did brilliantly. HBA Photography are the best!


I'm His Mrs Photo

I'm Her Mr Photo


Wedding reception

I chose a selection of instrumental songs on the piano for the wedding breakfast and had great fun getting people to guess which song was playing because the artists ranged from John Lennon to One Direction!


What did you serve for the wedding breakfast?
We decided as it was a Sunday we should have a traditional Sunday roast! For the starter we had warm beetroot tartlet, then beef for main course (vegetarians had Quorn roast) with triple chocolate brown with vanilla ice cream for dessert.


Seating plan
We planned the tables by arranging guests so that friends sat together. Our top table was not traditional and had bride and groom, the two bridesmaids and two best men.


Guest numbers
We had 50 for the wedding breakfast and 120 for the evening. We had a hog roast and veggie burgers for the evening food but most people were still stuffed from lunch!


We didn’t have a traditional set of speeches. The groom’s father made a beautiful speech, toasting absent friends and family. Then it was my turn where I toasted my wonderful new husband. Then it was the groom’s turn - he thanked the bridesmaids and guests and toasted me as his new wife. Then it was the best man who had never made a speech before. Although he was nervous he didn‘t show it and made a very funny and witty speech.


We had a caricaturist (Beefy’s Illustrations) prior to the evening reception, who was brilliant - again allowing guests to take home a personalized momento of the day.


Bride and Groom in Gardens


Evening Reception

We had been to a wedding a couple of years ago where there was a ceilidh and we loved it so we decided to divide the entertainment pre hog roast and post hog roast! Prior to the evening food we had an American hoedown barn dance, then after we had a disco!


First dance
Neither of us wanted a first dance so we had one huge barn dance with all our guests as our first dance instead.


Tell us your most memorable moment
One of our friends who we will call Russian Roy! He had had several drinks too many but cleared the dance floor by Russian dancing very impressively. We also had a video screen to leave messages on instead of a guest book (Dreamscreen). The same guest left us a montage of videos of him trying to sell a Renault Espace to several guests!


Bride and Groom in Field

Shot of Wedding Party Through Water Droplets


Based on your own experience, give us some top tips…

For brides
Stay organized and don’t put any jobs off. It takes two minutes to send an email and I found this was the best way to get jobs done quickly.


For grooms
Relax and enjoy every minute of the day because it flies by.


Bride and Groom in Woods


Keeping to a budget
Get yourself a big scrapbook. In one side, add pictures of what you like and stick fliers from potential suppliers. In the other, keep a track of your finances and check them regularly to make sure you don’t go over budget. Also, shop around. Using charity shops and eBay doesn’t mean you are compromising on quality. Don’t be afraid to ask suppliers for discounts - they can only say no!


“If we could do it all again, we’d…”

Video our ceremony – a detail we completely overlooked! But we have the memories in our heads.


Bride and Groom Outside Barn



Prior to the wedding, Pete qualified to represent GB at the world triathlon championships taking place in New Zealand in November 2012. We had to fund the trip ourselves so we made it our honeymoon at the same time.


What’s your favourite memory

It’s difficult to select just one memory as there were so many. I just remember smiling the whole day and seeing Pete so happy as well. If we had to say one thing it would be that it was amazing to look around the room and see so many people that we love in one place and that so many people had made such a real effort to attend our wedding. Our wedding was childfree so guests, as well as travelling to our wedding venue, had arranged childcare (including a friend who had given birth two weeks before).


Bride and Groom Kiss in Woodland

Images courtesy of HBA Photography ©

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