If today’s real bride would have got things her way, she and beau Chris would have eloped to marry but we’re sure glad that Sharon was swayed by a larger-scale celebration in the Lake District – as we get to share all the pretty details of their big day with you today!
Surrounded by their family and friends, Sharon and Chris combined a pretty pastel colour scheme with a fun theme that gave nods to both of their passions (films and cats, need we say more!)
We love the relaxed vibes as guests have fun in the sun, entertained by garden games and live music. Other standouts for us include the super-cool choice of wedding transport and Sharon’s beautiful Nottingham lace dress and flower-crown combo for boho bride perfection!
With images by Brides Up North Sponsor, Bethany Clarke.
sharon says: We got engaged on our fifth anniversary, on August bank holiday weekend in Dolgellau, Snowdonia.
We had spent the day wandering around Portmeirion, which is a little fantasy village perched on a cliff, filled dreamy Italianate architecture and with lovely views over the bay. It’s a beautiful but surreal place, which is why it was chosen as the setting for the 1960s TV show The Prisoner. Later that night we went out for dinner and Chris insisted on driving. He is a keen photographer and so he decided we would drive out somewhere after dinner so he could take photos of the stars.
I had been trying to talk him out of it all night as it was actually very cloudy and there was not a star in the sky, but he was insistent. We drove out for about half an hour, trying to get the best vantage point at the top of the hill, and eventually Chris pulled over into a layby and got his tripod out. I was in the car, playing on my phone and wondering how long he was going to be as I really needed to pee, when he came back to the car and asked me to take a look at his photos. I looked at the screen on his camera and he had taken a beautiful photo… of the clouds. “Aw hon… it’s a bit cloudy, isn’t it?” I said. “Yeah,” he sighed, disheartened. Then suddenly he pulled out a box. “Anyway, I have a present for you… I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind marrying me?”
It turned out he had been hoping to get a shot of the stars on the night we got engaged. I think I had previously said that my worst nightmare would be to get engaged in a public place with loads of people around. He’d decided to find the most isolated and private place he could find; under the moon, with just the stars over us and no one else around.
In the box was a ring with an amethyst stone (my birthstone). He had been trying for about two years to figure out my ring size, but as I don’t normally wear rings he’d failed at every turn. He had tried getting friends to ask if I knew my ring size (I don’t) and had tried measuring my finger with a piece of string as I slept – all with no luck. Rather than guess, he decided to let me pick out the kind of ring wanted and get his friend, a jewellery designer in Birmingham, to make it just for me.
We got married on 17th June, 2017. I really wanted to get married in the summer as I desperately wanted some sunshine on the day and we didn’t want to wait until 2018. Unfortunately, this left us with less than ten months to plan a wedding in the Lake District in peak season, so the date was very much down to whether we could get the venue and the registrar. We also renovated and moved into our house this year, so it was a busy time for us.
I spent about two months trying to convince Chris to elope to Iceland or Vegas. I hate being the centre of attention and the stress and expense of a big wedding felt like a terrible way to start married life. Somehow Chris talked me round – he said we deserved to have a day with all our friends and family making fuss of us.
Having been convinced to go the whole hog, we agreed to get married to in the Lake District, where I grew up. We got married at Belmount Hall, between Ambleside and Hawkshead. The building is part of Beatrix Potter’s estate, but the main reason we chose it was for the incredible setting with views of Esthwaite Water and Gummers How in the distance. As soon as we stepped out of the car we were blown away by the surroundings. Belmount was the blank canvas we were looking for; small enough that we could have the whole site to ourselves but with vast and beautiful grounds in which to enjoy the sunshine (I was adamant that there would be sunshine).
Once we had the venue, we knew it was going to be a ‘Pinterest wedding’; rustic and a bit bohemian with lots of little touches that would make people say, “That is so Chris and Sharon”. We’re both big film fans and cat lovers (Chris is a film and TV lecturer and I’m a bit of a crazy cat lady), so our tables were named after feline film puns. The Big Meowski, The Great Catsby, Furris Bueller’s Day Off, etc. An extremely talented young artist called Amy Lewis took our silly ideas and transformed them into some adorable cartoons for each table and I designed the table plan myself.
I don’t like matchy matchy colour schemes so I went for a pastel rainbow of dusty pink, light blue, dove grey and soft peach.
As a big girl with big boobs, wedding dress shopping was a nightmare experience and I hated every minute. I had been dreaming of a 1920s-style beaded dress, in the style of Jenny Packham or Eliza Jane Howell, but whenever I managed to track one down the samples were all size 10 or 12.
I had almost given up hope when I walked past Kula Tsurdiu’s studio in Nottingham. Kula is a Greek designer, but her base is in the historic lace market of Nottingham, where she sources a lot of her materials. I made an appointment with Kula’s manager Laura Summerson and she was one of the few people to really listen to what I wanted. She didn’t try to force me into a stiff, ruffled, strapless A-line monstrosity, like almost every other store I tried. The dress I eventually settled on was all-over Nottingham lace with a natural waist, long sleeves with tiny sparkly sequins sewn into the fabric. Knowing that the dress would be made to my exact measurements was a relief and Laura managed to make the whole process as stress-free as it could be.
Chris and his groomsmen all wore matching French Connection suits hired from Moss Bros in bright blue, with baby blue ties and pocket squares purchased from Burton. All the men, including the two dads, wore Paul Smith cufflinks we gave them as gifts. Our page boy, my nephew Jack, wore a junior version of the men’s suits, with his waistcoat and trousers also coming from Moss Bros.
My bridesmaids ranged in size from a 6 to a 26, so trying to find something that would suit them all was a challenge. We settled on some tulle tutus, three of which were from Elsie’s Attic and one from MyStylishFantasy on Etsy. I wanted to be as flexible for the girls as possible, so I let them choose their own tops and shoes to wear. Each girl wore a different colour and my little flower girl Lucy wore a gorgeous ivory tulle dress.
My mum has the good fortune to live next to a hair salon, and Tracey Knowles and Jake Hodgson at Salon TK were kind enough to let us take it over for the morning of the wedding. They got up at the crack of dawn on their day off and worked so hard to get me, four bridesmaids and my mum ready for the 12 noon ceremony. They were joined by Aileen Shand of Vanilla Beauty, who travelled all the way from Grange to do our make-up. It was all stations go for about four hours, but they did a fantastic job.
I have a bit of a thing for classic American cars and so I wanted something a bit different for our wedding transport. When I found out that Excalibur Wedding Cars & Limousines in Dumfries had two 1950s Cadillacs, I knew I had to have one. I picked Ruby, their white 1958 Cadillac sedan. I can’t praise Excalibur enough; their driver was amazing on the day, chatting to my dad all the way and having a laugh with us as he tried to squeeze Ruby down the narrow roads around Hawkshead. He took Chris and me for a drive after the ceremony down to Esthwaite water to take some photos. He even let my mum pose for pics in the car as well – I don’t think she wanted to get out and it was a real shame to wave that car goodbye.
Chris works with cameras and, as a journalist, I work with photographers, so getting the right person to record our day was really important to us. A photographer friend of mine recommended Bethany Clarke, saying she was “the best wedding photographer working in the UK today” and he wasn’t wrong. I was really apprehensive about getting the photos back as I am not very comfortable in front of the lens, but Bethany’s work is stunning. She was an absolute star on the day, lots of fun to work with and even put up with some rather persistent flirting on the part of one of our groomsmen!
My auntie Anne Doyle, who works as a florist in Waterford, in Ireland, designed my flowers. We ordered them from a nursery and a lot of them turned up dead, so she had to improvise a bit. We later found out that our local florist would have supplied them wholesale, so if you are thinking about doing your own flowers have a look at local options first before ordering online. Nevertheless, my aunt and her husband Sean did an amazing job. My bridesmaids and I had bouquets of peonies, lisianthuses, David Austin roses and succulents. The aisle was lined with buckets of gypsophila and we had candelabras on the tables decorated with more roses, hydrangeas and more gyp. The men all wore succulent buttonholes and the cake was decorated with yet more succulents and pink roses.
We are very lucky that one of our close friends, Claire Swinscoe, owns a wedding business called Nuptia, based in Calverton, Nottinghamshire. She was a great help in the run-up to the wedding, providing us with lots of helpful advice and experimenting with different looks for our chair decorations. She kindly lent us her lace and chiffon chair sashes in four different colours, wood slices and silver candlebras for the tables and a big, red postbox. The rest of the decorations we did ourselves, mostly fairy lights and bunting from Amazon. Chris spent the best part of two days up a ladder stapling lights to the beams, while I, er, ‘supervised’ from the ground. Special mention must go to my mum for decorating about 20 mason jars in the weeks leading up the wedding, which looked so good I passed them on to my maid of honour to use for her wedding.
Our confetti was supplied by Adam Apple.
As favours, we gave tiny Jagermeisters for the men and apple schnapps for the ladies, all bought from Amazon.
My good friend Jen Laud, who is an incredibly talented baker, made our cake as a wedding present. The bottom tier was black forest gateau, the middle was lemon and the top tier was gluten-free pistachio and almond, all topped with white chocolate buttercream icing. Jen even made the cat couple cake topper and brought it all the way up from Nottingham the day before the wedding. We also had a cheese and pork pie cake, purchased by mum at the Morrisons cheese counter – there was enough cheese there to feed an army and she saved a lot of money by doing it herself.
For the wedding breakfast, we had starters of butternut squash and sweet potato soup with a hint of ginger or warm potted shrimps on a large brown bread crostini. This was followed by poached fillet of salmon served with Hollandaise sauce, or boeuf en croute with mashed potatoes, vegetables and red wine sauce. We also had a duet of savoury flan (caramelised red onion and Lancashire cheese and Feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, black olives and basil) as a veggie option. Desserts were treacle tart with lime and mascarpone sorbet and lemon posset with lemon butter biscuit. All of the food at Belmount Hall is locally sourced produce where possible, including meat from Lake District farmers. We had a lot of compliments about the food, which was truly the best I’ve ever had a wedding.
My mum chose the wine, which was mostly Wolf Blass from Morrisons. I think by the time the wedding came round she was glad to be rid of a ceiling-high stack of booze from her house! Thanks must go to my maid of honour Michelle and her partner James for ferrying it all up to the venue in the back of their car the day before the wedding.
In terms of day entertainment, Hudson played an acoustic set during our reception in the grounds of Belmount and provided the evening entertainment as well. We chose them because they offered a bit more than the usual wedding playlist of Bruno Mars and Pharrell. Chris and I are quite into 80s/90s pop, Motown and hip hop and the lads’ repertoire covered a lot of our favourites. Hudson set up and started playing without any direction or prompting, never bothered us for a thing, did an amazing job of our first dance (God Only Knows by The Beach Boys) and had our guests dancing and singing along to rock anthems long into the night. God bless Bonnie Tyler.
We couldn’t afford a photo booth, so we left an Instax camera and some film to one side and strung up some pegs in the hope that people might take a few photos of their own. By the end of the night, the strings were full of beautiful and hilarious memories.
We made activity bags for the smaller children, to keep occupied during the dinner, and every child received a little Jellycat monkey to take home, purchased from World of Bears.
Chris’s parents kindly picked up our wedding games (giant Jenga, giant Connect4 and lawn skittles) from a company called HappyCakies, based in Grimsby. We weren’t sure if people would be bothered by them, but people played them all day in the sun and we got some great photos of kids and adults alike making the most of the sunshine over a game of Jenga.
I wanted to have a vintage bicycle serving ice cream on the lawn, but the cheapest one I could find was nearly £300. My mum had the ingenious idea of filling the boot of her car with cool boxes full of ice creams, so during the reception all our guests were able to tuck into a Magnum in the sun.
Following our wedding, we would absolutely recommend Belmount Hall to any couple considering a Lake District wedding. Exclusive wedding venues are hard to find in the Lake District in peak season, so we were very lucky to secure Belmount at fairly short notice. The surroundings are unrivalled, even in somewhere as consistently picturesque as the Lakes, and the food was incredible.
It’s difficult to say which part of the day was my favourite as every minute was amazing, but our first dance stands out as a special memory for me. I had managed to keep the feels in check for the whole day (unlike Chris) up until that point, but as soon as our song started, the floodgates opened – it was an emotional moment and I still smile every time I remember it.
We left for Jamaica three days after the wedding and stayed at the Royalton Negril. After two years of house hunting, house buying, house renovating, house moving, plus ten months of concurrent wedding planning, we had a much-needed break in the most chilled-out place on earth. We played with dolphins, went parasailing and swam in the sea, but mostly we got day drunk on rum in the pool and napped – it was the best.
I have several tips to share with other Brides Up North – firstly, wedding planning is only stressful when you are trying to juggle the needs and desires of everyone around you. You will never please everyone so you might as well please yourselves.
Second, if you’re on a budget, DIY it. We made our own invitations, favours, table plan and did our own decorations. We also had some very generous friends and family willing to pitch in and lend us their time and talents.
Finally, free wedding websites are a godsend. I spent hours trawling wedding blogs like Brides Up North and boards on Pinterest for inspiration. All good ideas are borrowed!