Becky with the good flowers.

Flowers. Where on earth do you start? Those of you who know me well will know I’m not the most green-fingered person and I struggle to even keep cacti alive at the best of times. In fact one year Matt even bought me a plant pot for my birthday inscribed with the words ‘I will survive‘, just to see if he could encourage me to remember to water the plants. I obviously inherited my Dad’s knowledge of flowers and not my Mum’s love of gardening.

So when it came to choosing which flowers I wanted to include in our wedding, I was a little overwhelmed. The flowers I knew of, loved and definitely wanted to include turned out to be spring flowers; apparently not so easy to get hold of locally grown peonies or ranunculus in September! Luckily I was introduced to a lady in the know…

Enter Becky of Florae Foray, another fantastic supplier recommended to me by Aaron Collett. When I first stumbled upon photos of Becky’s work, I knew I loved what I saw. Her designs were beautiful, and ranged from traditional arrangements with a difference, to wild, boho bouquets and some examples were just completely unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I decided to make contact and get the ball rolling and was invited to an evening appointment with Becky and her Mum. (Even better – a small business Mother-Daughter dream team – girl power!)

Matt joined me for the first appointment, and we were presented with plenty of magazines, books and freshly picked home grown flowers for inspiration. We soon realised we had no idea what we wanted (not even a colour scheme had been decided at this stage) but somehow Becky managed to read me like a book and work out my likes and dislikes. It was also at this appointment that I realised I wanted a pinky/purple theme, as the flowers I was drawn to were always country garden style, romantic and light in colour.

In the week or two following our appointment, Becky pulled together a proposal and a mood board listing the flowers to include and a rough outline of costs for the size and quantity of pieces we were after. She also took the time to create a Pinterest board which was super helpful. She had populated it with ideas in line with the original brief and as I was a contributor I could also add in any ideas that I found to share with her. That Pinterest board remained private between Becky and I until after the wedding and what it was narrowed down to in the end can now be viewed here:

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Our joint Pinterest board to share ideas

We had a few further consultations and made some changes to the rose types and quantity of pieces required in order to suit our budget, and the end result was just sublime. Becky even assisted with some last minute requests, including a few extra pieces for my table plan and welcome sign, vases to display the bridesmaid bouquets in at the reception venue, some hammered gold bowls instead of all tall vases for the centrepieces and ribbon I believe made from recycled sari silk for the girls.

My bouquet was a hand tied, cascading bouquet which had tones of ivory and blush to complement my dress. I love foliage with bluey grey undertones, and this went so well with the colour scheme. My bouquet was just the right size and shape, not too structured and it had some of my favourite scented flowers in there including freesias.

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My beautiful ivory trailing bouquet

The bridesmaid bouquets were a nod to the colour scheme, with a combination of ivory and blush blooms like mine and a few interspersed lilac and lavender tones.

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The bridesmaid bouquets complete with silk ribbons.

Becky produced the flowers for the wedding party and the reception venue. Luckily for both of us, she had a dress rehearsal at The Orangery at Rushton Hall‘s first open weekend just a few weeks before our wedding so knew the size of the room and what would work well visually. The differing heights of the tall conical vases and the lower gold bowls worked well and I’m glad we changed to that at the last minute.

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When you’re spending a good amount of money on flowers, the last thing you want to see is them go to waste once the big day is over. Becky arranged the flowers for the tall vases and head table centrepiece in plastic trays with some oasis in which meant we could easily take them home with us and many family members and friends enjoyed them for the week or two after the wedding whilst we were away on our mini moon. I have also been gifted dried flowers and cuttings from these which I can enjoy for years to come.

As previously mentioned, Becky did not produce the flowers for the church as we had a family friend volunteer to do this for us. Becky’s brief was so thorough that the church flowers tied in with the bouquets and the rest of the arrangements really well. The same kind volunteer also dismantled some of the gold bowl pieces and church flowers the day after the wedding ready for our afternoon tea party, which meant we could all enjoy them for longer.

Since the wedding, I have kept in touch with Becky on social media and was even lucky enough to attend one of her Christmas wreath making classes, which was a great day out and so much fun. The wreath itself was HUGE and such good value for money. I can’t wait to book the next one soon. If you’re looking for a florist in Northamptonshire for a wedding or any other occasion, I can wholeheartedly recommend Florae Foray. Soon, Becky will be launching her newly renovated barn for floristry appointments (and production) and I can’t wait to see it!

 

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Save the Dates

So we had our Bridal Party on board- next we needed to make sure our other guests were available too! As we got engaged 18 months prior to our wedding date, we weren’t too sure when we should send out our ‘Save the Dates’. As soon as we booked The Orangery at Rushton Hall, we made sure our nearest and dearest knew the date straight away, but we didn’t want to leave it too long before letting everyone else know.

There are mixed opinions online as to when you should send out both save the dates and formal invitations, but for me, I wanted to give at least 12 months notice so that our guests travelling from overseas and across the UK could book their transport and accommodation well in advance. I think timings are a very personal choice and in reality, it doesn’t really matter too much when you send your invitations; the most important people will make sure they are there no matter what the date is. However, it was another opportunity for me to get creative so I dived right in!

In early 2016, after a work colleague (Nathan) came up with a concept for our ‘Matt & Nat’ wedding logo which I absolutely loved, I sat down with my brother Tom to discuss what options we had to create something unique with the facilities we had available to us.

I purchased a dozen sheets of plywood from Kitronik (about 6mm thick) and luckily the Trotec lasers we have at work were able to cut through them and produce some wonderful heart shaped tags with a little hole in the corner to attach a ribbon to. The edges came out a little charred, but rather than just sanding them down, I decided to coat them with a layer of my trusty Annie Sloan chalk paint to give them a smooth finish,

Painting them front, back and along the continuous edge whilst simultaneously finding somewhere to allow them to dry was a little tricky when you’re as impatient as I am. I improvised and hung the little hearts up to dry around the kitchen. Sorted. When they were dry, the hearts then went back into the ‘jig’ ready to be laser engraved with our Matt & Nat logo, the wedding date and the words ‘Save the Date’ on the reverse. We buffed off any excess paint with sandpaper and wiped the wood staining around the edges of the lettering with baby wipes. For anyone interested in how we created our bespoke save the dates, check out my Instagram video here:

Our friends and family proudly displayed their hanging hearts in their homes and shared photos with us when they received them. It was so nice to think the save the dates were being used as intended, it made the hours of painting, sanding and attaching ribbon worthwhile!

The Invitations

Having browsed through various invite designs on Pinterest, I decided I liked the look of a pocketfold invitation with separate card inserts for each piece of information. Pocketfoldinvites.co.uk were great as they offer a sample service which gave this indecisive bride-to-be fifty shades of grey, ivory and lilac to choose from before committing to an order.

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We finally decided on the ‘Finest Lilac Pearlescent Pocketfold’ which closely matched the bridesmaid dress colour swatch.

The textured paper was purchased online (apologies, no link as I cannot remember where from!) and my brother Tom went through various font choices and layouts with me until we got it just right. My two chosen wedding fonts were Buttercup and Anglecia Pro Display which gave me the right balance on the page. These fonts were also to be used later on other wedding stationary items and accessories.

As a little something extra, I got personalised circle stickers printed to seal the envelopes with. Each pocketfold contained a self addressed envelope, so that our guests could easily return the RSVP along with their menu choices.The invitation itself was assembled and finished by both Matt and I, as my hubby-to-be could sense that the ribbon, double sided sticky tape and the world’s smallest magnets were driving me a little bit crazy. Sharpie teamwork at its best.

Finishing your own invitations sounds like a great cost saving idea initially, however you can see why people who do this for a living charge the amount they do. Beware: they are time consuming to design, assemble and send out yourself. However I’m glad we did it as our invitations were 100% unique to us and our wedding and we were chuffed with the finished product.

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The Boys.

As well as his Best Man “Paddy”, Matt decided he needed three Ushers to be there by his side on our big day.  His choices were: my brother Tom, our very good friend of over 10 years Wills, and our relatively new friend at the time, Tom Pace. We also couldn’t resist having not one but two very cute page boys, Lucas and Jacob, who were so well behaved on the day and loved by everyone at the wedding.

So for Matt the decision on who to choose was fairly simple, but how to ask them? Over a pint? A quick text? He probably would have done just that, but as Matt had already popped the most important question all by himself, I thought I would lend him a hand in coming up with some creative ideas on how to ask the boys. For those of you who read my last post, you will know I am lucky enough to have access to some very nice wooden presentation boxes and printing / engraving facilities at my work, so I decided to start there.

Each groomsman’s box was personalised to the lid and contained a homemade postcard, photos of the boys, a mini bottle of Jägermeister and a cigar. The gifts looked really neat sat on a bed of black shredded tissue paper and hopefully they were put to good use! There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest on what to include in these kind of boxes and you can choose whatever you feel is most appropriate to make it more personal to the recipient.

As for the page boys, we didn’t want to endorse drinking or smoking at such a young age, so we decided to go for pictures, sweets and for Jacob the ring bearer, a little velvet pouch to put the rings in.

The boxes went down a treat and gave me some inspiration on what to put together as a bit of a “thank you” gift for the boys on the wedding day itself. #TeamGroom managed to pull off not one, but two stag dos (or was it a stag do and an excuse for a lads skiing holiday?) so we thought we would express our gratitude.

We decided to include items they could actually wear on the wedding day itself, as we did for the bridesmaids. In addition to a pair of ‘Best Man’, ‘Usher’ or ‘Bride’s Brother’ cufflinks, we also included a bit of dutch courage in the form of a mini bottle of whisky or gin, a personalised thank you card again from Sarah Burns Prints and some matching Happy Socks to add a splash of colour (and provide us with another photo opportunity!)

The boxes themselves were from the Tiny Box Company and they are great because they come flat-packed, there is no minimum order and they can be assembled yourself as and when you need them, saving much needed wedding storage space! Rather than add to my brother’s never ending “wedding design” workload, I decided to have a go at personalising these myself with a bit of help from Dovetail Stencils and some Annie Sloan chalk paint. I also stenciled the mini boys’ gift boxes with their initials, which contained the cutest little pairs of children’s Happy Socks for them to wear on the day too.

Knowing that Matt would feel a bit left out if he didn’t have a matching pair of socks to show off, I decided to put together his very own gift box as a surprise. He also received a pair of cufflinks and a mini bottle of something strong. The Tissot pocket watch I picked out from our local jewellers Steffans was engraved with his initials and was a perfect choice as he loves all things retro. I also stumbled across a book written over 100 years ago on Amazon (Don’ts for Husbands) and I highlighted some relevant passages in there which made both of us chuckle.

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The page boys received not one but two gifts on the big day! I couldn’t resist these gorgeous teddy bears printed with their names on the front and our Matt & Nat logo on the back – something for the boys to keep and play with on the day.

As I mentioned where we got the bridesmaid dresses from, I thought it would only be right to mention the suits. We decided to go “full wedding” with the mens outfits and hired traditional morning suits from Moss Bros. This was the most convenient and cost effective option for us. As the page boys were so young, we decided to choose something a bit more comfortable to wear instead of waistcoats and tailcoats. Page boy outfits are in high demand during peak wedding season it seems so I found it a little difficult to find something suitable in the right sizes at the time. As such, I decided to pull something together from different shops, including chinos from Next, short sleeved shirts from River Island, braces from Amazon and a bow tie from John Lewis. They looked the part and hopefully will get some use out of the individual items of clothing for the next few months.

The Bridesbabes.

And babes aren’t they just! I am grateful every day for the women I get to call my best friends; without them, I don’t think I’d be half the woman I am today. They inspire me to be the best version of myself, to look after my health and wellbeing, to have fun and let my hair down and to be 100% open and honest with each other no matter what. They are all ridiculously funny, intelligent and drop dead gorgeous, so when it came to choosing the girls I wanted by my side on my wedding day, I knew exactly who I was going to call. Six might seem excessive, but each one of these girls has been there right by my side throughout most of my relationship with Matt. I wanted them with me!

So I’d made my decision… but how do I ask them? Two of my best friends had already “popped the question” and asked me to be bridesmaid at their weddings (one at a champagne bar, the other with the cutest personalised postcard!) so I wanted to put some effort into my proposal too. As some of you might know, I have access to various printing and engraving facilities through my workplace, so I decided to make good use of this and come up with my very first mini wedding project. These gorgeous pastel boxes were the perfect solution, as I was yet to decide which colour scheme to go for. My poor brother Tom got lumbered with his first task of coming up with the print artwork for the boxes, and they came out great. I filled the boxes with some Love Hearts, Yankee Candles, a packet of tissues and a mini nail varnish from Boots.

Each box was finished with some co-ordinated ribbon, and without realising it *BAM* I’d caught the DIY wedding bug. The girls loved them and so did I, DIY-ing wasn’t going to stop here.

As the big day drew nearer, I started to think about what I could give the girls as a little token of thanks for all they did for me in the lead up to the wedding. I also wondered what else I could come up with that could be personalised just for them. Enter the first of many Ikea hacks. These gorgeous hangers cost just £4 for a pack of 8, plus a little bit of ribbon. Each one was engraved with the girls’ names in one of our chosen wedding fonts (Buttercup).

The hangers were put to good use on the morning of the wedding, but this wasn’t the only item I decided to pop in their goodie bags. As well as a simple Thank you for being my Bridesmaid card I found on Etsy, I also wanted to include a few things they could use on the day and hopefully afterwards too.

Katie Loxton offer some chic but affordable clutch bags and I decided to go for the Perfect Pouch in a light grey colour to complement the wedding theme. The gold text on the bag says ‘SHINE BRIGHT’ which I thought was quite apt for my gorgeous girls. These days, Katie Loxton have a much broader range of bags specifically targeted at weddings, including ones with ‘Bridesmaid’ or ‘Bride’ written on them. I probably would have chosen these if they were available at the time, however I’m glad I went for the generic ones as hopefully the girls will still make use of them now. I also purchased some simple drop earrings from Joma Jewellery so the girls could have a little bit of sparkle on the day. As their dresses were very elegant, I didn’t feel anything too over the top would be appropriate.

Talking of dresses, didn’t the girls look AMAZING? Our Maids to Measure Regent Dresses were supplied by the wonderful Icon Bridal in Kettering and I am so pleased we went to visit Amy and the team on that Saturday. In fact we only went to this beautiful little bridal shop after I’d purchased my own dress, and a little part of me regretted not visiting them before (even though I was over the moon with my dress and bridal boutique, a girl can dream of trying on more dresses can’t she?!). Icon offer a very personal and intimate service, as they only allow one group or bride at a time. We felt very welcome and well looked after from the moment we went in.

Whilst the bridesmaids dresses didn’t look particularly comfortable or easy to wear at first glance, when the girls tried them on we knew this was the one. It was simple but dramatic at the same time with the cowl back and slim silhouette. And it flattered everyone perfectly.

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The only issue we faced was the ‘bra situation’. As the dresses were backless, the girls wouldn’t be able to wear a traditional bra. Many tips and stick on bra recommendations were exchanged over WhatsApp, and even on the wedding day itself I heard questions of “how the bridesmaids were keeping everything in place” going around. It’s top secret really, but I can reveal that Laura had the best solution. As well as an unintentional side zip which made the dress a lot easier to get in and out of, Laura added cups to the front of the dress which actually made a lot of sense. If Maids to Measure could do anything to improve this dress, a side zip and cups would both be great suggestions! The girls paired the dress with their own heels and they looked phenomenal.

I know I’m biased but I can’t help but feel I had the best ladies for the job and I am so grateful that they all made such an effort to ensure I had the perfect day. Girls, I love you and am so thankful for you.

Nat x

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Slimming down for the gown.

Every bride wants to look their best on their wedding day and why wouldn’t you when all eyes are on you for one day only? For me, I was happy in my skin and wasn’t too fussed about losing weight specifically for the wedding. Perhaps I would try and tone up a bit but nothing too drastic….

… that is until I saw THIS photo of myself from New Years Day, 2017:

Thanks father-in-law-to-be. OK, so the angle isn’t very forgiving and even now almost two stone lighter my chins still like to make an appearance whenever I laugh, but it was just the motivation I needed to make a change. There was NO WAY I was going to like any wedding photos with my face looking like that in them. What’s the point in hiring a professional photographer if you’re not going to be happy with the end result?

The following week, whilst discussing the need for a New Year diet with my boss, he mentioned he was going to sign up to Slimming World and suggested I did the same. It would be a bit of a competition between ourselves to lose the most weight each week – perfect, as neither of us like losing! I have never been one to try fad diets – the Special K diet for 2 whole weeks was as far as I had gone in the past – I simply believed that if you ate the right things and moved enough you would be fine and didn’t need to live on milkshakes or be educated in a class to lose weight. However, I was over a stone overweight for my height and I was under the impression that my diet was OK, clearly I had some things to learn.

Slimming World taught me the true meaning of moderation with certain foods – namely fats and sugars – whilst still allowing me to eat everything I usually eat, including unlimited pasta. Sure enough, with each week that passed, another pound or two magically disappeared and after a few months, I had the basics of the diet nailed. OK, so there wasn’t *that* much variation to my meals and even now I still eat pasta, broccoli and/or spinach for lunch pretty much every day, but I liked what I was eating and it kept me satisfied. I wasn’t a big fan of committing a few hours every week to sitting through the class, but the prospect of a weekly weigh in kept me in check.

As I reached my goal weight, I became a target member, meaning free membership for life whilst I stay within 3lbs of my target. I still pop along every month or two to weigh in and stock up on cereal bars. Hopefully I will be able to keep up my good eating habits over the winter, but the wine is already creeping back in and I have the prospect of a two week all inclusive honeymoon coming up! Luckily I know how to optimise my meals and roughly how many treats I can have per day should I need to get back on track.

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Within just a few months, I could notice the difference after following the Slimming World diet!

Now Slimming World wasn’t the only change I made in 2017. My bestie Emma decided that after having her little one, she wanted to tone up and bust some stress at the same time with a weekly workout. However with a busy schedule and a dislike for the gym, what she really wanted was a personal trainer to come to her and luckily, she knew just the lady. Enter Blossom. Blossom’s real name is Tash, however we prefer to call her Blossom.

Emma and I are without a doubt Tash’s craziest clients, but she still puts up with us every week without fail. Our hourly sessions are hard work and Tash doesn’t let us get away with slacking, no matter how much we moan. Each week I have to psych myself up to get out of my comfort zone and put in 100% effort, which isn’t easy when you’re not feeling yourself or have had a lot on. But each week after our session, I feel on top of the world and that’s what keeps me coming back for more. Every session is different and Emma and I find we are each better at different things which keeps it interesting and competitive! Tash is kind, patient and puts a lot of thought into our routines and we wouldn’t change her for the world. Hopefully one day we’ll have a #buttlikeblossom, but until then, I’m sure she’ll keep pushing us to do our squats.

As an aside, I found my strength in weekly yoga classes improved vastly in 2017. This was probably helped by my weight loss, but after completing a month or so of our PT sessions, I could hold a headstand for over 30 seconds, something that I’d never been able to achieve before having practised yoga for over two and a half years.

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Patricia’s yoga classes work on building upper body strength amongst other things, and whilst this wasn’t anything new in terms of my fitness routine in the lead up to the wedding, I do believe it contributed to me being happy with my top half in my wedding dress. I feel very lucky to have met both Tash and Patricia, as their contribution to my health, wellbeing and fitness over the past few years has been invaluable. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

On the big day itself, my dress fitted like a glove and whilst I wasn’t the slimmest I’ve ever been in my adult life, I felt so happy with my womanly curves.

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Religious or Civil Ceremony?

Once we had booked the reception venue, we knew we had to make a decision on where the actual ceremony should take place. Neither of us are regular churchgoers so our initial choice was a civil ceremony in the Orangery. We had been to many wonderful civil ceremonies in the past, including those in hotels, town halls and even in beautiful outdoor locations. I called the registrar’s office and luckily there was one available slot left on Friday 1st September; however it was at around 2.30pm, almost two hours later than our desired start time. It was only when the lady on the phone asked if I wanted to book that I hesitated and started to question if this is what we actually wanted.

Both of our parents were married at St Mary’s Church, Higham Ferrers, and whilst this particular church was out of the question as we wanted to keep travelling to a minimum, we did like the idea of a church wedding and started to look into it. To us, certain elements of a traditional wedding are unique to a church setting. The hymns, the bells, the organ – for me, it evokes memories of weddings I attended as a child and deep down part of me wanted that for us too.

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Revd Ruth Colby blessing our marriage!

One evening in early 2016, we went for tea with Revd John Westwood at the Vicarage in Rothwell. We discussed our history, ideas for the service and what we would have to do to get married at All Saints Church, Rushton (6 weeks attendance minimum). It was nice to get to know who would be ‘marrying’ us, so on that day we decided to book the ceremony with John. We were advised by other married couples that the day goes by so quickly and we should try and make the most of it – so we decided on a 12.45pm start time, the earliest I could see myself being ready with 6 bridesmaids to glam up too.

In the lead up to the wedding, we researched readings and hymns and managed to get our* ‘sign in sheet’ complete in advance of our Banns being read. A few months before the big day, we were contacted by the very lovely Ruth Colby who said she would be conducting the ceremony for us instead of John, if we would agree. We had never met Ruth before, and after she suggested we meet up, we were delighted that she agreed to come to us and discuss the ceremony in our own home. I think this is one of the main reasons our service was so personal to us; the cycling quotes and photos in our home must have given her some inspiration for her special ‘riding tandem’ prayer.

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Our bespoke Matt & Nat ‘Order of Service’ booklets

Those of you who know me well know I LOVE words, so I took my time in deciding the three readings for our service. A Church of England wedding must include one Bible reading, and the natural choice for me was one that I already knew, 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. This reading had previously been chosen by some of my good friends at their weddings, and I loved it too (not just because it features in a Destiny’s Child song). The other readings included just summed up what marriage means to me – have a read for yourself of Why Marriage, by Dena Acolatse and an extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis De Bernieres and see what you think.

The service for us was perfect in every way, and we are so grateful to everyone who played their part. We were pleased with our choice of religious ceremony and were even more pleased when the sun shined on the day so that our guests could enjoy a short walk over to Rushton Hall for welcome drinks!

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Half of #teambride making their way over to The Orangery.

*I say ‘our’ here very loosely… Matt conveniently works every Sunday so only made one or two appearances at church!

The Venue.

Just after we got engaged, the very first thing we started to look at was the venue. This is probably the most critical decision when you start to plan a wedding, as you need to check both availability and costs with your top venue choices to ensure your ideal location fits in with your budget, desired timescale and your venue wish-list.

Our criteria for the perfect wedding venue was as follows:

  • No further than 1 hour from our home
  • Ability to host service and reception in one location without the need to travel
  • Accommodation on site*
  • A large space that “flows”.

We did briefly consider a marquee and motorhome set up in Matt’s parents’ village, but we weren’t keen on how involved and stressful that would be. Ultimately, we wanted somewhere to host it for us, to help us co-ordinate our day and share some of the pressure.

Rushton Hall was always on our hit list when viewing Northamptonshire’s top wedding venues, but it wasn’t the very first venue we went to look at. As well as the 5 venues listed below, we also visited Hothorpe Hall, The Talbot Hotel, Wadenhoe House, Barton Hall, The Sculpture Gallery at Woburn, Fawsley Hall, Sharnbrook Hotel… the list is endless. I like to do my research.

If you’re thinking of getting married in Northamptonshire then take a look at my Top 5 Wedding Venues listed below:

1. Dodford Manor

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Dodford Manor made a great first impression!

When I first walked into the ceremony barn at Dodford Manor, I thought WOW. This place would certainly make an impact. The barns are a lovely blend of wooden beams, large glass windows and cosy up-lighters. It felt clean, modern and romantic and I immediately thought this was the kind of venue I wanted to celebrate our wedding in. The gentleman that showed me around seemed to know everything there was to know about weddings, and having been engaged for less than a month, I started to realise the research that was going to be involved in choosing the perfect venue. Dodford boasts a lovely long drive to the car park, where sheep share the driveway with you, and a church just down the lane if you wanted a religious ceremony. However, it lacked Matt’s one request; on site accommodation. Dodford wasn’t for us.

2. Dodmoor House

Photos from a visit to Dodmoor House, Northampton
Dodmoor House looked great – but was too small for us.

Just 5 minutes down the road from Dodford Manor is the (very similarly named) Dodmoor House. At first glance, it had a very similar feel to Dodford, with a lovely outdoor space between barns and wooden beams galore. It even had a little honeymoon suite so we wouldn’t have to travel at the end of the evening (albeit everyone else would). The ceremony room was a lot smaller than Dodford, and lacked the space our guestlist would demand. The wedding breakfast room was split into two sections; a downstairs area with room for most of your tables, and then an upstairs section where one table would be situated for the meal. This was also where the bar was, which we thought might a bit of a pain for our less able-bodied guests. Whilst we found Dodmoor charming and cosy, it was more suited to an intimate wedding.

3. Kelmarsh Hall

A few photos showing the outside and inside decor at Kelmarsh Hall, Northampton
We loved Kelmarsh Hall – they just need to add in some bedrooms!

If Kelmarsh Hall had on site accommodation, we probably would have booked it there and then. We are both in sales, and know that people buy from people, but my gosh were we blown away by the warm and friendly welcome we received from Emma when we went to view this stunning venue. I know this is true, as a year and a half later and I still remember her name, after only meeting her that once! Kelmarsh is probably the most similar to our final choice in terms of look and feel. It had recently been renovated and had a real wow factor. However, the recommended accommodation was a 5-10 minute drive down the road which wasn’t for us.

4. Bassmead Manor Barns

Inside at Bassmead Manor Barns, St Neots
Bassmead Manor Barns is in demand!

I had never heard of Bassmead before I went along to their open day, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. We visited on a lovely sunny day, and were greeted by complimentary food and drinks upon arrival. Boy do these guys “do” weddings. The ceremony barn was rustic, grand and had a special feel to it which I hadn’t felt anywhere other than a church. The bar and main barn were a lot more modern and kitted out with twinkly fairy lights and up-lighters. It was roomy, spacious AND it had on site accommodation! Not only did it have a honeymoon cottage, it also had a separate “B&B” for close family and friends. PERFECT. Sign me up. For a wedding in 2018? Damn this place is popular. Bassmead wasn’t for us.

5. The Orangery at Rushton Hall

Images showing Rushton Hall and their plans to build the Orangery
Choosing The Orangery at Rushton Hall wasn’t an easy decision!

We had both been to Rushton Hall before, and were aware it boasted great food, almost 50 bedrooms and an on site spa. But we hadn’t ever been to a wedding there, and thought it might be a bit too “regal” for us. The driveway sets the tone for its spectacular surroundings and you can’t help but be wowed as you approach the Grade I listed building. The Grand Hall is certainly impressive, but we thought the red and gold colouring might be a bit too bold for our liking. The cellar bar was the current option for an evening reception, but could only hold around 90 people. This was a bit of a sticking point for us. What about the “scouts hut” around the back? The Pavilion was not going to be used for weddings any more. Sigh. Rushton Hall wasn’t for us.

“Has anyone told you about the Orangery?” a lady piped up as we were about to leave. “No, they haven’t…” Suddenly, we were whisked into a back room where some concepts of a new building were on display. The Orangery was set to be just as grand as the rest of Rushton Hall, but neutral, bright and different to any other wedding venue we had seen. “When will it be finished? I asked. “Early 2017“.

Now when anyone gives you a generalised completion date, without tying themselves down to a date, you can’t help but feel a little nervous. “Just book it” Matt’s Dad said to us. But I couldn’t stop my anxiety getting in the way of making a decision. I tried to get a completion date out of the team, and must have called, emailed and visited them a dozen times. Bridezilla. In the space of a month, I was told it would be finished in January, May and June 2017. Confused.com. At an open day, I provisionally booked the 23rd of June. Luckily, I had cold feet on the drive home and pushed our booking back to the 1st September. This is what The Orangery looked like on the 25th July:

The Dancefloor in the Orangery at Rushton Hall    IMG_7641

However, the team always assured me that it would be ready for our wedding, and once we had been inside the building, we knew it was going to be special. I was just pleased I wasn’t the bride getting married two days later – I would have been having kittens! But true to their word, they worked through the night and the first wedding at the Orangery went ahead that week. Boom – we were sorted.

Those of you who know me quite well might describe me as organised (kind), a control freak (accurate), or even a mad woman at times (alright, don’t be mean). Trying to organise a wedding in a venue that wasn’t built yet put me right out of my comfort zone. But boy was it worth it! Rushton Hall pulled it out of the bag, and we couldn’t believe just how amazing the Orangery was.

Inside the Orangery at Rushton Hall.
Our Wedding Breakfast setup.

The staff went out of their way to ensure we had the perfect day. We were so pleased (relieved) when Claire joined the Events Team at Rushton Hall, as the previous Events Managers did nothing to calm my nerves. Claire’s patient, kind and organised nature was just what I needed. We are eternally grateful to Claire, David, Baj and the rest of the team who were there for us in the lead up to the wedding and on the day itself. Nothing phased them, they were always on hand and our fairytale wedding became a reality. Rushton Hall – you are well positioned to take the crown of best wedding venue in the Midlands (and beyond) – congratulations.

Rushton Hall on a sunny day
They even ordered a clear blue sky for us!

*Matt was very insistent on this – he just wanted to be able to “flop” into bed at the end of the night without the need to get in a taxi.