An Engagement at Castle Hedingham with a Wedding at Gosfield Hall 7 months later!
Tell us about the proposal – how and where did it happen?
‘It was on the 1st May 2019 when Ali and I had a rare day off together. It was a lovely warm sunny day so Ali planned a trip to Castle Hedingham as I hadn’t been there before. We started by looking around the castle and then Ali asked me to stand on the bridge and face the island, because it would make a lovely photograph. I turned away and then he said “All done, you can turn around now” and there he was holding a ring out and asking me if I’d marry him. After the initial shock and some happy tears I of course said “Yes!”’
What was your first step in planning your wedding?
‘Pretty much as soon as we got engaged we contacted potential venues by email to request a viewing. We enquired about Gosfield Hall, Leez Priory, Hadham Hall and Boreham House. We only actually viewed Gosfield Hall and we both fell in love with it. Ali just knew nowhere else would win me over, so we booked our wedding date there and then.’
‘I bought a wedding planning book to keep track of what I needed to sort out. I think the first thing we ordered were the guest invitations. These were made by a friend of mine who specialises in arts and crafts, she did a wonderful job.’
Inspiration: Did you use blogs or magazines for ideas?
‘As soon as I changed my status to ‘engaged’ on my social media, I was inundated with many sponsored ads for all kinds of wedding fares and wedding suppliers. I went to a wedding fare at Great Leighs racecourse where I found lots of ideas and contact details for suppliers.’
What were your wedding “must have’s”?
‘Since choosing Gosfield Hall as our venue, we knew we wanted to keep an historic feel. We both love Christmas so it was easy to decide upon a date for our Winter Wedding. Ali pointed out that the venue would look amazing with Christmas decorations, especially the Christmas trees and glowing open fires.’
‘Ali was determined to wear a morning suit for the wedding and even found appropriate morning suits and waistcoats for his groomsmen and best woman.’
‘A must-have for me was our singer ‘Simply Swing Lewis’. I’d listened to him on You Tube and knew he had to be booked for our special day.’
Wedding budget: how did you organise your wedding budget?
‘We didn’t really set a budget although we did know our financial limits. After purchasing the must-haves there were friends and family members asking if they could contribute, which was so kind of them. It helped that all of the food and drink was included in our wedding package’
Wedding venue: how did you search for a wedding venue?
‘I follow Olivia Buckland on social media and watched her wedding video on TV. She was married at Gosfield Hall, which is only a half hour drive from where we live. Ali had never heard of it but was more than happy to book a viewing there. I think he was rather blown away when he got out of the car and saw Gosfield Hall for the first time!’
Styling your wedding: how did you personalise your big day?
‘Being so close to Christmas, the venue was already decorated with garlands, Christmas trees, other seasonal flowers and decorations. We wanted Christmas colours for our theme, so my bridesmaids wore hunter’s green and cranberry red dresses. Our bouquets also contained green and red flowers. We looked online at ideas for winter themed wedding favours and found some we loved. We had place names for our guests which were wooden snowflakes and they also had string attached so they could be taken home and hung on Christmas trees. The tables were decorated with candelabras, rose petals and sliced spiced oranges which was just like Christmas.’
‘The wedding cake was a gift from my Auntie. With 4 tiers, decorated with icing and flowers to give it a rustic look which fitted in with our theme. Each tier was a different flavour – we had red velvet, white chocolate and raspberry, lemon, and chocolate!’
Wedding photographer: how did you choose your photographer?
‘Ali’s father is a keen photographer and a member of a local camera club. He knew a couple (H N Photography UK) who had recently started a professional wedding photography business and could offer an expert service at a reasonable rate. We had a meeting with them to see their work portfolio and to discuss packages. We felt very relaxed having met them (rather than booking a photographer we would only meet on the day). It was very helpful that there were 2 of them as this enabled them to photograph both the bride and the groom getting ready. We also had videographers (Forever Flame Productions) filming the wedding from start to finish.’
Wedding suppliers: how did you choose your suppliers?
‘Mostly, we came up with our own ideas and used Google to find more information and details of suppliers. I did attend one wedding fair at Great Leighs racecourse. I do highly recommend that any newly engaged couples check these out as you will amazed what you see.’
‘I spoke with my married cousins to discuss ideas, get their advice and ask what they thought were their must-haves. One of my cousins had a lot of leftover sparklers from his wedding so he gave them to us for our wedding.’
Describe your wedding attire?
‘I watched a lot of wedding programs on TV, so had a rough idea of the kind of dress I wanted. I’m a curvy girl, so some suppliers couldn’t offer my size. One supplier recommended the location used to film ‘Curvy Brides Boutique’, which is a fairly local shop called ‘Curves and Couture Bridal Boutique’. The staff there are so lovely and helpful, making you feel so relaxed and confident. I tried on the dress I had in mind – An A-line dress with long sleeves and lace. It was nice, but it didn’t give me a ‘wow’ feeling. From this I went back into the dressing room to discuss my likes and dislikes. A dress caught my mum’s eye, and it just so happened to be in my size. I closed my eyes while the dress fitter put me into the dress and my mum had already started to cry. Once I was in the dress I was put in front of a mirror and I opened my eyes. Tears flooded down my face! I knew this was the one for me.’
What accessories did you wear on the day?
‘I wore a brass clip and bobby pins in my hair given to me by my late Nan. It was a lovely way to include her in my big day. She had also given me a decorative brooch for my 21st birthday which I had kept safe knowing that I would wear it on my wedding day. I wore my engagement ring on my right hand. My mum had given me silver droplet earrings as a wedding gift, and had bought me a beautiful silver tiara that matched the beading design on my dress. My shoes were low block heeled and champagne colour to match my dress.’
What did your partner wear?
‘Ali was determined to wear a morning suit for the wedding as he loves them. He wanted to purchase one to keep, so he ended up ordering from Dobell. It was a beautiful royal blue coloured suit with a split tail. His custom made waistcoat was from Essex Waistcoats based in Mayland. Under that he wore a double cuffed ivory shirt with silver stag cuff links. He opted for a cravat rather than a thin tie, and had it in cranberry red to match some of the bridesmaids’ dresses. He also wore a matching red handkerchief in his top pocket and had a rose button hole. His shoes were brown pointy leather laced shoes.’
Tell us about your Bridesmaids, Groomsmen and their outfits?
‘I had 5 bridesmaids including my maid of honour, and 1 flower girl. My maid of honour was a close friend I have known for 10 years. One bridesmaid is a close cousin of my mine who’s more like a best friend. My hairdresser friend has always been close to me and my family and was delighted to be asked. Another was a friend I’d known since high school, and the final bridesmaid is my clubbing friend. The dresses were long and plain but we added diamante belts to match their jewellery and shoes. To make it Christmassy (and to keep them warm in winter!) they had faux fur white shawls. All had silver tiaras too to add some sparkle. My flower girl was Ali’s 9 year old niece who looked adorable in her ivory dress and shoes. She also had a white faux fur shawl to match the bridesmaids.’
‘Originally Ali had 1 best woman, 2 groomsmen and 1 female usher. Sadly, his original choice for best woman passed away in the summer. This was obviously deeply upsetting but we were determined to soldier on. The female usher was asked if she’d mind stepping up to be the new best woman and she was delighted to do so. She was a friend Ali had met at university and had remained very close with. His 2 groomsmen were former colleagues his still regularly meets up with. They were shocked to be asked but of course they were more than happy to accept. The best woman and groomsmen all wore morning suits the same as the groom, however they had navy blue suits so they wouldn’t clash with Ali (who wore royal blue).’
What was your biggest wedding splurge?
‘This was my wedding dress which my father paid for. It was a design by Michelle Bridal for plus size brides. The dress plus all the corrections and additions came to around £2,600. A lot more than originally planned! But my dad was insistent that I had the dress exactly how I wanted – he didn’t want anyone to have any regrets.
What was your biggest wedding saving?
‘Ali and his groomsmen were very lucky with their suits. Dobell, the website he ordered them from, was clearing a lot of stock including their morning suits. Many were already reduced to £80, but daily offers meant he picked one of them up for just £40. Bargain!’
What was your ceremony like?
‘My father walked me down the aisle. This meant a lot to me as he walks with walking sticks and has had many major surgeries throughout his life and was told he would soon be unable to walk far. He actually provided a great comedy moment for the wedding. My dress was very puffy, and my dad is a larger gent (6ft 8). Because of this, he ended up treading on my veil! I told him “I can’t take you anywhere!” and everybody laughed. It was my flower girl who walked down the aisle first, followed by my bridesmaids one by one while an instrumental version of “A Thousand Years”. Then I walked in with my Dad and walked up the aisle where Ali, his groomsmen and best woman were waiting at the front for my arrival. Ali’s mum and brother both read readings that we had chosen. My 2 brothers were our witnesses. After a few photos at the front we headed back down the aisle as husband and wife while everyone showered us with confetti. Such an amazing moment!’
Tell us about your drinks reception and wedding breakfast?
‘Guests enjoyed welcome drinks upon arrival and listening to our harpist playing . Drinks and canapes were also provided after the wedding ceremony. Guests were offered Raspberry Daiquiris, Mulled Wine and Kir Royales as well as a selection of meat and vegetarian canapes including Tempura Prawns and Blue Cheese and Fig treats.’
‘For the wedding breakfast, guests enjoyed – Starters were Duck Confit, Ham Hock Terrine or Avocado Salad. Mains were Pork Belly, Lamb Rump or Aubergine and Saffron Stew. For desserts, we enjoyed Crème Brulee, Apple Strudel and Pecan Pie. All of the food was prepared by Gosfield Hall chefs and everybody complemented the food.’
‘My dad’s speech was the first one and it was so lovely to hear my him talk about my upbringing and saying how proud he was of me and welcomed my husband to the family. Ali’s speech was next and he was so nervous but had written a long speech full of love, remembering those who couldn’t be with us, and a good few jokes about his mother-in-law! He handed out gifts to the bridesmaids and had a champagne toast. Ali’s best woman speech was last which was mainly to embarrass Ali. It had everyone laughing which was so lovely.’
Did you have a band or DJ for your evening reception?
‘We had Simply Swing Lewis singing Frank Sinatra songs as well as other timeless classics. He also sang plenty of Christmas songs which had everybody singing and dancing along. Highly recommended!’
Tell us about your first dance – what song did you chose and why?
‘Ali hates dancing! But of course he agreed that we needed to have a first dance. We practised at home but to be honest we pretty much just made it up as went along on the day. Ali loves his rock and metal music, whereas I love my chart music. Very different tastes, but we were able to meet in the middle and chose Aerosmith’s ‘I don’t wanna miss a thing’ as our first dance song.
Based on your own experience, give us some top tips:
‘Definitely make a check list, and ask friends and family members for advice, just in case you forget anything. It’s so easy to get distracted and carried away when the planning so it helps to keep a list that can be ticked off so that you don’t forget anything.’
‘Get your outfits arranged early. It’s trickier than you think to find the perfect wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses and suits so you need to allow time to find them and get any adjustments made. We only had 7 months to plan so this was a challenge! Also book your makeup artist and hairdresser as early as you can, and remember to do a few trials so you know exactly what you want and are 100% happy with tour choice.’
“If we could do it all again, we’d…”
‘Our wedding was perfect for us. It’s hard to find things we would change. We would possibly rehearse our first dance if we had to do this again. Also agree a budget, as we did not do this, oops!’
Did you go on a honeymoon or mini-moon?
‘After the wedding we went on a mini-moon to Shropshire. Being so close to Christmas, we didn’t want to go abroad but still wanted to enjoy time alone together as husband and wife. We stayed in a beautiful cottage in the hills with a hot tub and fire place – bliss!’
‘We had booked to go to Mauritius in March/April for our proper honeymoon but had to postpone it due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Not to worry, better safe than sorry. We got our money back so we’ll just have to look forward to going at a later date.’
Purchase & Hire – Tell us who your suppliers were:
Photographer: H N Photography UK
Videographer: Forever Flame Productions
Wedding cake: Cakes by Rachel, Braintree
Wedding Dress: Bride – Curves and Couture Bridal Boutique
Bridesmaid’s dresses: Essex Bridal Boutique, Chelmsford
The accessories: Bridesmaid shoes – Quiz. Tiaras & Pocket watches – Engravers Guild of London
Wedding attire: Groom – Dobell & Essex Waistcoats
Cars: Herts Limos, Hertfordshire
Invitations: Donna King
Band/disco/DJ: Simply Swing Lewis plus Gosfield Hall DJ
Harpist: Lynne Creasey, Essex
Flowers: Poppydots Florist