When you choose to wed in the Gloucestershire countryside instead of Italy, and it turns out to be the wedding of your dreams
Tell us about the proposal – how and where did it happen?
As we both love Italy, Barry booked an exquisite Italian restaurant called ‘Amore’ in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. The plan was for Barry to go down on one knee to propose during dinner, but that plan got quashed when we were seated on a table for 4 and seated by the wall. Instead what happened was perfect, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and on my return Barry had put my engagement ring in a glass of champagne, telling me to be careful when taking a sip of the champagne, until I saw the ring glistening in the bottom of the champagne flute. We both were very emotional it was a perfect proposal and of course, I said yes.
What was your first step in planning your wedding?
I used Pinterest for my wedding planning, I loved the planning stage and putting my different boards together. My daughter Becky and my maid of honour helped me with different ideas.
The first thing that I booked after the venue was my hairdresser, as I know that she gets really booked up and she agreed to travel to the venue and stay for the weekend, to join in with the wedding celebrations. She did an amazing job on all of the wedding hair for me, the maid of honour, the bridesmaids, the groom’s mum, and my best friend.
Inspiration: Did you use blogs or magazines for ideas?
I brought many bridal magazines for inspiration and loved Pinterest for ideas.
What were your wedding “must have’s”?
The most important thing for us about our wedding day, apart from the stunning venue, was our guests. We decided that we wanted an intimate wedding with only our family and best and closest friends to share it with us, so we did not have extra guests in the evening. It was a perfect decision.
Wedding budget: how did you organise your wedding budget?
We had a budget and we did not exceed it apart from my wedding dress, as we also wanted to make sure that we could justify a good honeymoon.
Wedding venue: how did you search for a wedding venue?
We were initially recommended Gosfield Hall as a venue, as a work colleague got married there. We requested a brochure and decided that it was too big for what we wanted and predominantly what we were both looking for, it did not give us that excitement. However, at the back of the brochure luckily there was a photo of Clearwell Castle, we immediately loved the look of the venue and booked a visit and we were not disappointed.
What made you choose your wedding venue?
We were planning on getting married in Lake Como, in Italy because we both really love Italy, but due to the lack of communication and distance trying to organise everything, it became very stressful. So, we decided to find a venue locally and started looking at various options. That’s when we came across Clearwell Castle in the back of a brochure and decided to view the venue. From the first moment we visited it gave us both goosebumps and we knew that this is where we wanted to get married. It was an awful grey and wet day but we saw the beauty of the Castle and the grounds. It was not Italy as planned, it was much better!!! Clearwell Castle is breathtakingly beautiful and it was the first venue that we looked at. I especially fell in love with the beautiful long aisle and leaded windows in the Ballroom; it left me breathless and very emotional on our wedding day.
Styling your wedding: how did you personalise your big day?
We both absolutely love candles, so we added the full candle package to our wedding; we had candle centrepieces on each table for the wedding breakfast, with scattered crystals, and candles lit continuously throughout the venue and day. My favourite colour is purple, so went with that colour theme for the bridesmaids and candle favours and accessories, it pulled together really well, especially with the beautiful lavender bushes on the castle grounds, it looked spectacular in the photos.
We used a large gilt mirror as our seating plan, which was a beautiful feature, surrounded by lit candles.
Our wedding favours were a miniature bottle of port for the men and personalised candle holders with a lavender-scented tea light for the ladies, to go with my colour theme. The inscription was two linked hearts with our names and the date of the wedding. We thought that it would be a lovely keepsake.
Wedding photographer: how did you choose your photographer?
We had Michelle from Miss Jones Photography, she is a friend and did an absolutely wonderful job with our wedding photos. We invited Michelle to join us for the whole weekend. Michelle also came with us in March 2019 for our pre-wedding meeting with our Personal Wedding Planner, so that she could look around the venue prior to our wedding day. She took some fantastic photos of us on that day, even though it was a very grey and wet day. Clearwell Castle is stunning in any weather.
Wedding suppliers: how did you choose your suppliers?
It all fell into place to be honest, I am quite an organised person and knew what I wanted.
Describe your wedding attire
I must have tried on 50 wedding dresses, trying to keep an open mind but could not find ‘The One’. Finally went to a bridal shop locally that had a closing-down sale and said ‘yes’ to the dress. It made me cry, and my best friend and bridesmaids who were with me, I just knew that it was perfect.
What accessories did you wear on the day?
I wore my best friend Kathy’s gold earrings with a pearl drop for my something borrowed, which I had given to her as a wedding gift when she got married, so it was very special to wear them. My shoes were from John Lewis and were very simple with a kitten heel for comfort. For my something blue, a special friend had given me a very small blue bow which I had stitched inside the bodice of my wedding dress.
What was very special to me, I have a gold locket which belonged to my great-grandmother and I placed a photograph of both my late grandma and father on either side, the florist attached it to my bouquet so that I felt they were both with me on the day, especially when I walked down the aisle. ?They both played such an important part in my life and are dearly missed.
What did your partner wear?
My husband wore a dark navy three-piece tailored suit from Charles Tyrwhitt in Cambridge, he knew as soon as he tried it on it fitted perfectly, and he looked amazing in it on our wedding day.
Tell us about your Bridesmaids, Groomsmen and their outfits
I had my daughter, Becky, and goddaughter as my bridesmaids and my best friend Marie as my maid of honour. They wore a beautiful shade of purple for their dresses, and all looked stunning on the day. They blended in really well and were complemented by the lavender at the venue. My goddaughter’s style was different as she was younger, but the same colour and fabric were used so that they all blended in perfectly. Our two sons wore identical navy three-piece suits to match the groom.
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
My wedding dress, however, I kept it within my original budget, luckily it was half price in a wedding shop closing down sale. It exceeded my expectations, it is stunningly beautiful and it made me feel amazing on my wedding day, the long train was perfect for the venue.
What was your biggest wedding saving?
Handmaking and designing our wedding invitations, which my mother-in-law helped me with as she is very creative.
What was your ceremony like?
My son, Elliott, walked me down the aisle because unfortunately, my father passed away in 2011. He was my hero. I was very proud of Elliott during the whole day and he made the most impressive speech during the wedding breakfast. My entrance song was ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri because I have always loved it and it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. My daughter, Becky, also read a beautiful poem which brought us both to tears.
Tell us about your drinks reception and wedding breakfast
For our welcome drinks reception, we chose Peroni, Pimms and locally-sourced Dadnor Herefordshire Sparkling Wine, which all went down very well with the canapes.
We wanted some entertainment for our guests during the drinks reception and whilst we were having our photographs done, we thought about having a musician but decided on a magician. Clearwell Castle recommended Richard Parsons, who really did not disappoint, he was brilliant and a great icebreaker for the guests, and in many photos, our guests are open-mouthed in total disbelief at his tricks. We would not hesitate in recommending Richard and he was not in a rush to leave either.
For our wedding breakfast, we decided that it would be nice for our guests to be able to have a choice, so in our wedding invitations, we gave our guests the option to choose from either Pork & Herb Terrine or Baked Camembert as the starter, Beef Wellington or Chicken Saltimbocca for the main, and Lemon Tart or Chocolate & Cointreau Parfait for dessert. We then compiled a spreadsheet which we forwarded to our Personal Wedding Planner 6 weeks before the wedding. Everyone commented and praised the quality of the food, and all of our guests were very impressed. They also catered for our guests with dietary requirements with ease.
The speeches were absolutely fantastic and I was totally taken by surprise and amazed by both my son and husband at how intimate and meaningful the speeches were, and they had everyone laughing. A tribute was also made during the speeches for our loved ones that could not be with us on the day, we had an area where photos were displayed too. Everyone commented on the speeches saying that they were punchy, funny and well done, I must admit that I did shed a tear during the speeches and also cried with laughter. They were both perfect and very memorable.
Did you have a band or DJ for your evening reception?
We had the Clearwell DJ for our evening reception who was brilliant. We asked our guests on our wedding invitations to provide their favourite song and artist, as we felt that it was important to receive feedback from our guests and wanted them to especially enjoy the evening reception. We then compiled a spreadsheet of everyone’s song choices and forwarded it to our wedding planner for the DJ. He pretty much stuck to the order and the evening was a huge success. Everyone danced the evening away and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Tell us about your first dance – what song did you choose and why?
We had our first dance to ‘Flightless Bird’ by Iron and Wine, it is not only a beautiful song which we both love, but it always personally makes me feel very moved and emotional.
Based on your own experience, give us some top tips:
We kept to our budget which made it fun and it was very important, as we also wanted a nice memorable honeymoon.
“If we could do it all again…
we would definitely not change a thing. The day went far too quickly and we would love to be able to do it all over again. Clearwell Castle is a breathtakingly beautiful venue, our wedding planner, Michelle, and all the staff were incredible, to ensure that our wedding was a huge success and they did not disappoint.”
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
After our wedding we stayed in a cottage locally for three nights then had our main honeymoon in the September, we went to Moorea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia for three weeks and had a wonderful time.
Purchase & Hire – Tell us who your suppliers were:
Wedding attire: Honey Bridal Boutique & Charles Tyrwhitt
The accessories: John Lewis
Bridesmaid’s dresses: Sourced locally
Other outfits: John Lewis
Wedding rings: Beaverbrookes
Wedding cake: Jenny’s Cakes
Photographer: Miss Jones Photography
Band/disco/DJ: Clearwell Castle DJ
Wedding favours: Personalised candle holders
Hairdresser: Lorna from Phoenix Hair
Makeup: Becky Eeles
Magician: Richard Parsons