Do we have a treat for your eyes today! Captured by one of our favourite wedding photographers, Melia Melia and featuring one of our Festival Brides preferred suppliers, celebrant Jan Shillito of Celebration Ceremonies and Weddings, today’s dreamy wedding takes us to a secret woodland in Yorkshire for the ceremony and onto a fete style party in a barn on a working farm with stunning views. There is some gorgeous DIY decor, awesome wedding style entertainment (think total wipe out style inflatables) and a ruby and champagne wedding dress that is just all things beautiful. What more could you ask for!
Sandie and Mark wanted their wedding to be eclectic, colourful, vibrant, happy, rustic and farmy. They both have a huge passion for travel and love adventure and they wanted this to reflect in all aspects of their wedding. They also wanted to involve their guests as much as possible. To them their day was as much about the love they have for their family and friends as it was for each other….
We didn’t want it to be all about us. We wanted it to be all about everyone there. We wanted everyone to feel invested in it. To feel like they’d contributed to it. We wanted it to be light hearted, fun, loving and a real celebration of not only our love for each other but the love we have for all our friends and family. Just a really great day out in the sun with all the people who matter most to us in the world. We wanted it to be super personal and intensively DIY. Basically if we hadn’t made it ourselves we’d have had a hand in making or one of our insanely talented friends or family would.
Enjoy this wedding peeps. It is full of some great ideas and the venues really are so very beautiful. Look out for their detailed description on the ceremony and readings. Their pre ceremony music line up was epic!
Over to Sandie and Mark….
Finland, A Husky Farm, The Northern Lights and One Knee….
During the summer, when Sandie is working all over the world on cruise ships and I am working all over Europe on different events we see very little of each other. Chances are when she’s at home I’m not and vice versa. So in winter we like to spend as much time together as possible and treat ourselves to random adventures.
Sandie called me from the ship she was on one day to tell me she’d just booked for us to go stay on a husky farm in Northern Finland for a week. I’d thought about proposing for ages but never found the right time. I figured if we were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights while in Finland I’d pop the question.
On our first night in Finland we went out into the Arctic wilderness, just the two of us in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky enough to be treated to the most spectacular display by the Aurora. We both got very excited. I was taking a ton of photos. We had a brief argument about where to put the tripod and I decided the moment had gone and I wasn’t going to bother. Then as if to force me in to it the sky switched up a gear and the biggest, brightest aurora you’ve ever seen showed up. I got down on one knee in the middle of the snow covered road, she said yes then we went back to watching the display before we missed it all!
A Ruby Champagne Dress with Red Flowers….
My dress was by Sophia Tolli Geraldine in ruby/champagne. I knew that I wanted something different yet classic, with colour on it somewhere and I fell head over heels in love with this dress online. Everything that I wanted and perfect for our outdoorsy vibe! I knew there was no way on earth I’d be able to afford one brand new, so I called up the list of Sophia Tolli stockists online and phoned around every single one of them in the hope that someone might be selling one of their samples. It turns out the version of the dress with the red flowers isn’t a popular one to stock in shops, and as such I only came across 1 shop In Crewe that had it (a shop called ‘I do dresses’)… they were selling their sample, and it was immaculate!!! The only problem was that it was a size 16 and I’m a 10. When I tried it on it was absolutely huge on me. I took a gamble and decided to buy it for £850 less than brand new and find someone that could take it in. I came across an incredible seamstress in Stockport who worked wonders on re-shaping my dress. I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was to wear! It was a dream come true and I want to wear it all the time!
A Secret Woodland Wedding Ceremony…
We decided very early on in the planning process that we would like a woodland wedding. We both love the outdoors and were keen to provide our guests on the day with a real sense of adventure. There’s something imposing and yet intimate about a well established woodland that can’t be matched in the built world. Sandie and I have a real thirst for adventure. We’re lucky to travel the world with our careers and when we’re not working we’re seeking new adventures both in the UK and abroad. We wanted to bring a little bit of that to the wedding and take our guests on a little adventure with us for the day. For this reason a lot of the finer details were kept secret until the big day.
We visited a couple of established ‘wedding woodlands’, the sort of place that host woodl and weddings every weekend during the summer. And while they were undoubtedly beautiful the prices we were quoted were absolutely astronomical! We’d pretty much given up on the idea of a woodland wedding and were going to settle with having the ceremony and reception at Hilltop Farm when Mark stumbled upon a leaflet about local woodland walks while visiting North Yorkshire. One of the woods looked perfect, better than all the ‘wedding woods’ we’d looked at and it was only a few miles away from the reception venue. The only problem? They didn’t do weddings!
We approached the land owner who pointed us in the direction of the charity who manages the woods. Who in turn pointed us back in the direction of the land owner. After a bit of back and forth they both said yes! We were astounded. Even better they didn’t want any payment, just a small donation to the charity.
Aware that they were taking a risk in allowing us to marry in their woodland we wanted to make life as easy as possible for the landowner and the charity and we were conscious that we would be sharing the woods with its regular visitors and we didn’t want our wedding to have a negative impact on any of them. The woods has a very small car park so early on we made the decision to bus all our guests from the reception venue out to the woods and back, therefore leaving the car park free for other visitors. We would also keep the area we chose for our ceremony open to all throughout. So if a random dog walker wanted to come and join in the celebration they were more than welcome.
If you go down to the woods today….
We visited the woods on a few occasions in the summer of 2015 and chose a beautiful spot for the ceremony, in a clearing next to a magnificent lake with its own folly. The only problem? It was a half mile walk down steep, narrow paths from the nearest road. We would have to carry everything for our ceremony, including thirty heavy wooden benches, down into the woods and out again by hand. Our guests would also have to be up for a bit of an adventure too! Having always been into DIY and general creative things, We decided to create our own ‘if you go down to the woods today’ signage trail using homemade chalk boards which we painted on to canvasses, to not only lead the guests in the right direction but also build the anticipation as they made their way down the narrowing path deeper and deeper into the woods. A Groomsman was placed on each bus to help keep them on the correct path and the guests were handed a can of beer or cider at the beginning, ready for the long walk ahead! Our greatest trepidation before the wedding was how the guests would take this long walk in to the unknown. Fortunately for us they loved it and we had nothing but positive comments about the excitement it built. The addition of a beer to help them on the long walk may have helped however!
The woods worked so well. The clearing was beautiful with all the trees in full leaf in the middle of a great British summer and dragonflies flew around us during our truly magical ceremony.
And the reason why the woodland is secret? As part of the deal the landowners asked us not to tell as they don’t want to be overwhelmed with people wanting to get married there.
An Amazing Celebrant, A Ring Warming, Unique Readings & Promises….
We chose Jan to to write and conduct our ceremony very early on in the planning process. We knew from the word go that we wanted an outdoor wedding, and were only too aware of the laws prohibiting this in England. For this reason we started looking in to celebrants. We also really loved the idea of having a bespoke ceremony scripted for us and unique to us. We believed this would be far more special than the standard wedding vows. While looking for possible ‘outside of the box’ venues we came across Jan Shillito. We’d not even asked her to be our celebrant yet and she got stuck right in to helping us find a venue. Coming up with really great suggestions and using her contacts in the industry to try and pull some strings to find us the perfect venue. She was as excited as we were about woods and lakes and Yorkshire at a time when everyone else just thought we were mad! She instantly ‘got’ our vision and helped us expand our ideas to make it even more unique and memorable. When it came to choosing our celebrant we simply had to have Jan!
Initially Jan sent us a questionnaire to complete. Recommending that we sit down with a glass or two of wine. Once we’d returned the questionnaire she invited us over to her house for an informal chat. We ended up staying for hours! Chatting to Jan is like chatting to an old friend you haven’t seen for a while. We regaled her with stories of our youth, both our upbringings, how we met, adventures we’d been on together, our loves, hates, likes and dislikes. Including Mark’s secret love of the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4.
Throughout the process she made it clear that although she was writing the script it was our wedding ceremony and we could make any number of amendments until we were 100% happy with everything. We made a few minor amendments but not many. The words Jan had written were beautiful and she’d incorporated some really beautiful moments in to the ceremony to make it extra special. We even had a ring warming, where the rings are passed from guest to guest, each guest says a silent prayer or blessing before passing it on to the next guest.
The ceremony was interspersed with some fantastic, if not unusual, readings. Chosen by Jan. And, despite looking ourselves, we couldn’t find anything that summed us up better!
The first reading was ‘The Shipping Forecast’ by Les Barker. Read by our Groomsman Mick Houghton. Micky is a broad scouser so he put his own spin on it and by the end had all the assembled guests joining in in chorus with “Sound As a Pound!” instead of “Good”.
Later, our other groomsman Dan Appleby read ‘Why Falling In Love Is Like Owning A Dog’ by Taylor Mail. Watched over by our lurcher ‘Dave’ who was happily mingling with the assembled guests complete with tweed bow tie!
The ceremony was rounded out by our bridesmaid Natalie Marlow. Reading ‘Lets Make A Love’ by Tony Walsh.
Jan encouraged us to write our own promises to each other. This was probably the most difficult part as neither of us are very soppy! Sandie wrote hers while sitting on a mountain overlooking a Norwegian Fjord. Mark wrote his in a panic at 2am! Either way they both ended up remarkably similar, funny yet lovely in equal measure. And a great way for us to put exactly how we felt in to the ceremony.
The ceremony was beautiful, uplifting, funny and emotional all in the right measures and had our guests and us in stitches and in tears. We loved it, the guests loved it and no one who was there shall ever forget it.
You Fill Up My Senses….
Sandie is a professional singer so music plays a huge part in her life. Having the right music to accompany each moment throughout the whole day was hugely important to both of us. The music was an eclectic mix of all of our favourite songs. It was a case of going through Spotify, and writing down the name of every song we got excited about, no matter how random! Our personal favourite was an awesome recording of Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as part of our pre-ceremony background music.
Mark’s Dad is also a musician and singer. We’d asked him if he’d like to sing during the ceremony and fortunately he agreed. But he kept the song choice a secret right up until the big moment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as he performed the most beautiful acoustic version of ‘You Fill Up My Senses (Annies Song)’ by John Denver.
Pre Ceremony Line Up:
Candy – Paulo Nuttini
Holocene – Bon Iver
Under Pressure – The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Only Love – Ben Howard
Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez
500 miles – Sleeping At Last
King and Lionheart – Of Monsters And Men
Wings (Acoustic) – Birdy
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – Sleeping At Last
Prettiest Friend – Jason Mraz
Ring warming :
Neil Kimber singing ‘You Fill Up My Senses’ – John Denver
I Do Adore – Mindy Gledhill
Jaw Dropping Beautiful Pictures….
We chose Melia Melia for our photography before we chose anything else. Mark had pretty much chosen them before we even got engaged. Mark went to school with Jo Melia (one half of husband and wife team Melia Melia, the other half being James). And they are very good friends of Mark’s brother and sister in law.
I’d seen a lot of James and Jo’s photos on Instagram and Facebook and was always really impressed with their style and composition. They have an eye for a photo that no one else has. I’m a keen photographer myself so one thing I wasn’t willing to scrimp on was the photography. Myself and Sandie had a long phone call with James and Jo early on and it was clear straight away that we had to have them. We instantly clicked; they are very similar to us. They don’t take themselves too seriously, love an adventure and produce awesome, jaw droppingly beautiful pictures. As important to us as the final product was how they would interact with our guests on the day. In our experience a lot of wedding photographers can be quite demanding and even imposing. With our wedding being a rather fun and informal affair we wanted the photography team to reflect that in their pictures and their attitude. Melia Melia’s photography is quite candid and they’re the kind of people we knew would get on with our guests and blend right in.
Fortunately for them but unfortunately for us Jo fell pregnant while we were planning the wedding and gave birth to their daughter Margot just before our wedding day. This meant she wasn’t available to take photos on the day so James brought in his friend, Igor Demba. We were very fortunate in the end as Igor is the only other person I’ve seen who can take a photo as good as James and Jo! And his style perfectly complemented theirs. The photos we got back from James were truly stunning. Their style suited the day perfectly and they worked so well with us and our guests. Everybody commented not only on the photographs but how fantastic the photographers were with them on the day. They blended seamlessly into the background when required but interacted just enough with the guests to get the best out of them. A very difficult balancing act. We are both over the moon with the photography and could not recommend Melia Melia highly enough.
A Farm, A Barn and Camping….
Our reception was at the Hilltop Farm in Masham, North Yorkshire. At the very beginning of our planning we knew that we wanted a farm to feature somewhere in our celebrations. We both have a thing for farms – on the odd occasions that we have a day off together, we can often be found visiting different farms and stroking the animals. Mark was brought up on a small farm – he even had a pet pot bellied pig called Treacle who used to occasionally come inside the house!
It was also important to us to try to find a DIY venue that wouldn’t be shy in letting us do things our way. It turns out that venues like this are quite hard to come by – many venues we enquired about were stunning, but we just felt too restricted by the do’s, don’t’s, can’s and can’ts! One of the other things that were really important to us is to try to find a venue that guests could stay over (preferably camping, because who doesn’t love camping?!) and not spend an arm and a leg. Both sides of our families live at opposite ends of the country, so no matter where we were to marry there were going to be a lot of people travelling long distances to be there and so we wanted to make things as easy and affordable as possible for them- we know how dear weddings can sometimes be for guests.
As it happens, when you type the words ‘DIY farm wedding venue’ in to Google, there’s only a couple of options that pop up. What we wanted was somewhere that screams FARM! We wanted a barn, but we didn’t want a wedding barn. Hilltop farm cropped up and it immediately caught our attention. It’s in North Yorkshire which is one of our favourite parts of the world. We decided to pay the farm a visit and I’m not going to lie, it was absolutely love at first sight – everything that we ever wanted! As if we weren’t bowled over enough by the scenery, wedding field, reception barn, resident roaming farm dog called Bonnie and hundreds of cows – we absolutely loved the accommodation options! As part of the wedding package the farm came with two amazing 15 bed bunk barns and a big camping field! They also have a beautiful holiday cottage on site which can be rented for the weekend or a whole week! When we met Laura and Rob (who own the farm) we instantly felt at ease – like we could have been chatting to old friends! Nothing was ever too much trouble for them and they got just as excited as us about any weird or crazy ideas that we had! It was the first venue that we viewed, and we knew this would be where we would celebrate out day before our car had even left their carpark… and it was 100% the best decision that we made!
The holiday cottage on site is huge and became our base of operations. Somewhere guests could stroll in and offer their assistance or just have a beer and a chat while we prepped the many different elements that would combine to make the day perfect. We rented it for the week from Thursday to Thursday with the wedding falling on the Saturday in the middle. This allowed us a couple of days to prep the barn, reception field and woods and then a couple of days in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside to unwind after the wedding as we weren’t going to have a honeymoon immediately afterwards. The barn is a fairly modern construction but looked amazing decked out with festoon lights and miles and miles of bunting. The bar was run by the guys at Hilltop and the beer was free flowing and well priced. Everyone commented on how amazing the farm and the team who run it were. We loved it so much we never wanted to leave.
DIY Vintage Decor, Tealights, Wild Flowers and Pot Plants…..
The décor for the reception was purchased over the course of about two years. We didn’t rent anything. We just slowly collected props. Even buying around 400 pieces of vintage crockery and cutlery from Facebook and Ebay. The barn was a blank canvas. It came with wooden picnic tables and festoon lighting and that was it. We filled it with vintage ornaments bought on the internet and borrowed from family. The tables and walls were decorated with hundreds tealight candles in glass jars which Sandie’s Nan had spent the previous two years collecting from everyone in her neighbourhood. Wild flower arrangements by Mark’s mum and Sandie’s sister covered every free surface. The table plan consisted of an old step ladder bought off someone on Gumtree, a blackboard and ten pot plants representing each table. Inside the barn we had two enormous fire pits made from old industrial vegetable boxes and another outside surrounded by hay bales and blankets. Our good friend Justin provided illuminated Mr & Mrs letters which not only looked awesome but made a cracking outside light!
We planned on having fete games in the field when the guests returned from the woods. But as a last minute indulgence we scrapped that idea and had a huge inflatable ‘Total Wipeout’ game instead. For those unfamiliar with the BBC gameshow this involves a couple of spinning padded bars on an inflatable bouncy castle affair with six small platforms on it. You stand on the platforms and the bars spin around and knock you off. I think you’re supposed to jump over them but that was never going to happen in a three piece suit and a wedding dress!
A Village Fete Theme….
Adding to the village fete style was 500 metres of hand made bunting. This tied all the areas together, the reception field was criss crossed with it. The barn and the open area outside the barn, overlooking the valley below, were festooned with it. In fact, the bunting was so abundant it has its own entry in the Guinness Book Of Records! During the Tour De France’s visit to Yorkshire in 2014 the local Womens Institue and local schools around Mark’s home town had decided to try and break the World Record for the longest continuous line of bunting. And they did. Hand sewing 59.939 flags on to over 12km of string. After the event, once the record had been confirmed they sold it all to raise money for the local Mountain Rescue team. So we bought 500 meters of it.
Other than that the stunning views and surroundings provided all the atmosphere we needed!
Mismatched Bridesmaid Dresses….
I never match my socks let alone match bridesmaids dresses, so for this reason we chose to have all 6 bridesmaids in a different dress but in a complimentary style. It was also important to me to have them wear something that they felt comfortable in and that they loved… it might be my day, but it was their day too! We chose 5 different dresses in different tones of nudes/creams with lace effect from Chi Chi London, and one of the dresses we bought from Next from the Little Misstress range. The first time I’d seen them all together was on the morning of the wedding, and I was over the moon with how it all came together, I absolutely loved the overall look!
DIY Bouquets and Flowers….
The bridesmaids bouquets and the table flower arrangements were all put together by Mark’s Mum Rose and my big sister Carlie… seriously, how talented are our families?!! We bought 12 big buckets of flowers from a lovely and quirky independent flower grower from York called ‘Ducks and Daffodils’. We asked for a real mix of wild looking flowers, tons of different colours, shapes, greenery and smells, and they were SO stunning!!! We didn’t know what was going to show up until the morning before the wedding, but we were blown away by them! It was a really beautiful moment watching My oldest sister Carlie and Marks mum having so much fun together arranging the flowers that day- it was the first time they’d met! We had so many flowers we filled the barn, the log cabin we used for the afternoon reception, and every gate post and lamp post all around the farm.
Reading our promises to each other, and Mark’s dad singing during our ceremony was so beautiful.
Our wedding car pulling up to the field on the farm after the ceremony, and seeing all of our friends and family already sat on picnic blankets, with massive scones and jars full of beer that they poured themselves- this was such a memorable moment.
When every one of our guests went CRAZY and made deafening noise when our insanely talented band ‘Ukebox’ got to their last song,chanting “One more song! One more song…” I have honestly never heard a noise like it and we were elated!
Don’t take yourselves too seriously and HAVE FUN!
Don’t choose things or make decisions just to impress other people, make choices that reflect your relationship, no matter how odd they may seem. The people that love you the most will understand, and fully support your ideas… and if they don’t, take it with a pinch of salt!
Spend money wisely- work out what is most important to you and spend your money in these areas- scrimp and save on everything else.
Enjoy the entire process with each other as a couple… laugh often and spend time planning together as much as you can, It’s a real bonding experience!
DIY as much as you possibly can- and where you can’t, draw on the talents and skills of your friends and family. This not only saves you money, but it adds an extra special touch and allows the people that you care about the most to feel truly invested in your day, and it makes for a much more personal, intimate vibe. I can almost guarantee that every single person that you ask to help will feel proud and honoured that you asked, and will go above and beyond for you.
The Line Up
Photography: Melia Melia Photography
Ceremony: Celebration Ceremonies & Weddings
Reception Venue: Hilltop Farm, Masham
Bride’s Dress: Sophia Tolli
Hair: the Hair Gallery, Masham
Groom: Moss Bros
Bridesmaids Dresses: Chichi London
Caterers: Crocodile sisters
Wedding Rings: Goldsmiths
Scones: Riverside Café, Mytholmroyd
Ice Cream Van: Ice Cream Dub
Sound & Lights: SL audio
Mr & Mrs letters: JP Entertainments
Inflatable Total Wipeout: Active Hire
Buses: Atkinsons Of Ripon
Wedding Cars: Yorkshire Chauffer Company
Flowers: Ducks and Daffodils
Wooden Ceremony Benches: YouCan Hire Ltd
Photobooth: Booth Generation
Candy Cart: Lytham Candy Carts
DJ, DJ Booth and Lighting: Lytham Event Company