Alex and Paul’s wedding day at Bowcliffe Hall was exactly as a wedding day should be, full of fun, laughter and entirely representative of the couple themselves. After drinks in the Drivers’ Club, Alex and Paul held their beautiful wedding breakfast in the Ballroom – a perfect setting for the couples classic decoration. The night do – held in the Blackburn Wing – was exactly as they envisaged, a space that truly knocked guests socks off. Here’s the story behind Alex and Paul and their wedding at Bowcliffe… it’s a good one!
We’ve lived about four miles from Bowcliffe Hall for almost three years, yet never knew about it! We must have driven past the signs so many times but it’s so well tucked away – a real hidden gem. We’d already looked around a few venues but, because we both like to get things done, had started to look at locations and venue types that weren’t totally ‘us’. We were really happy (and relieved) to eventually find ‘the one’ on our doorstep, and to have driven away without any worries!
We met just over six years ago at a house party, although, as we soon found out, we were actually living in the same block of flats at the time.
Paul proposed on New Year’s Day, under a huge stone arch in the Parlington Estate. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from our house and I like that we can walk back and relive the memories whenever we want. Fifteen months later, on our wedding day, we even took the wedding photographer there to get some photos under the arch.
I’d never really given the finer wedding details much thought over the years, as I figured that my tastes might change or that the groom would have some ideas, too. But I knew I wanted a traditional church ceremony and a classic feel, with a few creative twists that would keep things interesting.
I tried on all sorts of dresses, as you never really know what’s going to suit you ‘til you get it on. The defining moment was when I went shopping with my now sister-in-law and tried on a slash-necked Audrey Hepburn style dress with a full skirt. I knew then that I wanted something that nipped in at the waist and relatively high on the neck, so I could relax and not worry about any wardrobe mishaps. When I found a photo of ‘the dress’ online and it was from an old collection, we were all ready to call every stockist in the UK but luckily found a sample in Manchester.
We met in a very traditional way at a house party and bumped into each other a few days later and started a long dating game!
I’d been planning to propose for a couple of months and wanted to do it somewhere near to us. As we walk to the arch a lot, I decided to do it there.
We wanted to have a really fun, relaxed day with good food and ambience. When we first looked around the venue, we just had the feeling that it was the right place.
As the church is very close to our house, the groom and most of the groomsmen walked there – with umbrellas just in case! My dad and I travelled in a silver Bentley S Type and my mum and our two bridesmaids went ahead in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes.
Ultimately, we wanted our guests to have a great time and feel comfortable, but we wanted to give them an experience, too. Bowcliffe gave us a great setting and some really quirky details that we knew people would love, like the car memorabilia in the Drivers Club and the elegance and light of the Ballroom. The Blackburn Wing was our absolute favourite and gave us gorgeous views, indoor and outdoor space and little breakout areas where people could chat or rest their feet.
How did you choose your venue?
We were very realistic about the venues we looked around, typically going for older venues with a bit of character. Bowcliffe is stunning, but the thing that stood out was the quality of the fixtures and fittings, the cleanliness and even the smell when we walked in! Everything was pristine, and we knew that meant our day would be, too.
The Blackburn Wing really did it for us. It wasn’t like anything we’d seen before, and we thought it would really make our evening do an experience.
The venue was already perfect for what we wanted to be a classic, elegant day, so we tried to enhance it rather than changing it. Our table centres were clear glass fish bowls with simple gypsophila, with sparkly gold mats just visible underneath. They would have looked a bit too bling on their own, but the hint of sparkle just set it off and tied in with the gold wallpaper. We also made our own table numbers by sticking large cardboard letters – one for each letter of our shared surname – onto strips of dowel, painting them white with gold splats and propping them into each floral table centre. Other than that, we sprinkled paper confetti on the tables and dotted little bottles of bubbles around for a bit of fun.
I wanted quite a rustic-looking bouquet and had always had a soft spot for sea holly, but it was only when we decided on navy bridesmaid dresses that we realised we could tie them in! As everything came together, we started to get quite a few navy elements, so the cornflower blue of the sea holly, white flowers and plenty of greenery, helped to break it all up.
We had two bridesmaids, five groomsmen and one flower girl. The bridesmaids wore v-neck sleeveless navy dresses which were nipped in at the waist like mine, and we found a gorgeous mini version for the flower girl at Monsoon. The groomsmen wore grey tails with a silver waistcoat and pale blue cravat, to complement the navy theme and create quite a formal look.
We were both nervous about the ceremony, with the standard worries about tripping down the aisle or forgetting what to say! Thankfully the team at the church had everything in hand and really relaxed us both, so much so that I clearly remember the walk and looking at everyone. Surprisingly neither of us got emotional – I think everyone was just very focused. I walked down the aisle to The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, which we both loved when we first heard it.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
We are both really big fans of food, so this was one of our favourite parts! We’re relatively adventurous but not all of our guests were, so we wanted to keep the dishes quite traditional. In the end, we went for chicken for the main (with the most amazing pressed potato, sage and bacon) and Bowcliffe’s take on Eton Mess for dessert. We went off-piste with the starter and had a trio of pierogi, which is a traditional Polish dish. As Paul’s family comes from Poland, we thought it was a nice nod to them, and hoped people would like trying something new – even though we kept the fillings fairly simple.
Our favours were macarons, partly because we love them and also because they seemed to fit with the luxurious theme of the Ballroom. We spent days making up the tiny cardboard favour boxes, which drove us mad, but packing the macarons in the day before, and munching on the leftovers, was a lovely reward!
Tell us about the cake…
I have to credit Pinterest for the cake design – I just loved the simplicity of the white royal icing and the bold gold pattern. It was made by one of Paul’s former colleagues, who once made a cake for the Queen, and we went for three flavours – Victoria sponge at the bottom, chocolate in the middle and fruit cake on the top. I’ve never been a fan of fruitcake but tried it seeing as it was in our wedding cake and have never looked back – I’m a true convert and we were nibbling away at leftovers for days.
We love wedding photo booths and wanted to have something similar, so decided on a caricaturist to capture as many guests as possible. We also had a DJ who played classic songs to get people dancing. Our first dance was to Etta James’ At Last.
We rounded up the troops and thanked the team as we left – it must have been such a long day for them but you wouldn’t have known it.
We contacted several photographers but ended up choosing the one who took my brother’s wedding photos down in Cambridge, Peter Oliver at Peter Oliver Photography. We knew he’d do a great job and he has a skill for catching people completely unaware, to get some really natural, romantic photos. He was also a really good price and we didn’t feel we missed out by not going for a team of two. We asked for several traditional family and group shots but mainly wanted some relaxed shots to remember the day. We loved the photos when we got them a few weeks later and already have our favourites up in the living room.
Wedding dress: True Bride at La Fleur Bridal, Manchester
Bridesmaid dresses: JJ’s House
Groomsmen outfits: Moss Bros
RINGS: H Samuel
FLORIST: The Topiary Tree Florist, Malton
CAKE: Mandy Gater-Ferguson
TRANSPORT: Classic and Vintage Travel Harrogate
Thank you so much to Alex and Paul for sharing the intimate details of your beautiful day with us, we loved having you.
Bowcliffe Hall is unlike a traditional country house wedding venue. If you decide to say ‘I do’ here, the entire Estate is at your disposal, and our events team will do everything in their power to ensure every detail of your day is perfect. To enquire simply email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01937 541111.