Real Weddings

Essence of Australia for a fantasy woodland wedding at The Aldwark Arms – Beccy & Richard

Sarah Symonds

We’re keeping it perfectly personal with today’s wedding; incorporating community spirit, the local pub, the bride’s own cake business (just wait until you see her creation!) and locally foraged decorations collected by friends and family of the happy couple. It doesn’t get much more DIY than this!

We love a casual Pinterest sesh as much as the next person but it gets serious when the bride-to-be spots her dream dress… but doesn’t know the name of the gown or the designer! Thankfully Beccy managed to track down her dream dress and, my goodness, it was worth it! And from cupcake-esque dresses to an actual tower of cakes… when the bride runs her own bakery you know the result is going to be insanely good!

Our couple spent their engagement on many a dog walk, collecting bits and bobs that they knew would tie into their woodland theme and, after settling on a tipi at their local pub as a venue, have absolutely pulled together the perfect day, both for themselves and for their excited dog, Benjen! Read on for the lowdown on this midweek March wedding, and for top tips on how you can incorporate your alternative musical choices, while ensuring it’s kept elegant and guest-friendly.

With images by Aaron Jeffels Photography


Beccy says

:We got engaged on 21st September 2017, whilst on a self-drive tour of Europe! We had booked various hotels and visited some friends that lived abroad. We drove from France, to Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria and then back to France. It was the most amazing two weeks.

I had no idea Richard was plotting and planning to propose and, unbeknownst to me, had attempted to ‘pop the question’ numerous times but I spoiled it every time! I’d always told him I didn’t want a big fuss making if and when the time came, and would prefer it to be just me and him. He tried to lure me away from the tourist attractions or crowds, but each and every time, I threw a spanner in the works by opting to do something else! We visited Neuschwanstein, a castle that looks like something out of a princess fairytale and he tried to get me on my own by the lakeside but I wanted to go to the souvenir shop instead. Another time, we’d been driving all day and he’d locked the ring in his suitcase (thinking he wouldn’t get an opportunity again that day) but we found a quiet picnic area off a German auto-bahn. We had a wander around a beautiful marina in the autumn rain but he couldn’t go rooting around in the suitcase to get the ring without arousing suspicion, so that was another failed attempt! In the end, on our penultimate night in France, he asked me to marry him at our hotel. Not quite as a romantic setting as he’d hoped but we still laugh about all the times I foiled his plans!


We got married in St Stephen’s church in Aldwark, near York, and had our reception in a tipi by Papakata at The Aldwark Arms, the local village pub. We chose Thursday 21st March 2019. We desperately wanted to get married on the 21st of the month as the date is a special one for us. My birthday is 21st January, we met on 21st June 2012 and Rich eventually managed to propose on 21st September. We thought getting married on the 21st would be a good omen! We wanted an off-peak date too, to save some pennies and the way the dates fell March was our best option.

We have close ties to the village and the church community as I used to work there, and we’re good friends with the pub owners. We love the food they serve and their beers are to die for so it was a no-brainer for us. They allowed us to put up the tipi across the back of their car park and beer garden which offers views across fields down to the River Ure.

The village church has the most amazing architecture, small and quaint with gothic details and the community is incredible and made us feel so at ease. I come from a small, rural village in Lincolnshire and would have loved to have got married at the church ‘back home’ but logistically speaking it wouldn’t have worked for us, in terms of all we wanted to do.


Our theme was a rustic, woodland style. We love walking with our dog, foraging and being outdoors and wanted to incorporate these elements into our wedding. I’m a very creative person and our wedding became the ultimate DIY craft project! We wanted there to be a huge focus on my creativity as I am a cake artist by trade and naturally wanted to show off what we could achieve!

We opted for a mix of purples, blush tones with some deep, rich colours to accent – purple is one of my favourite colours.


I chose a sleeved, tulle dress with illusion lace by Essence of Australia, purchased from Ava Rose Hamilton in Silsden. I went to so many different types of dress shops from small, boutique type shops to larger bridal outlets. I even visited a dressmaker who would have made me a one-of-a-kind dress.

My initial plan was to buy a budget dress as I’m not overly fussed with big labels or trends – I just needed to feel comfortable and if I could find a dress for £200 and not £2,000 then it would suit me down to the ground. But then my mum insisted on paying for my dress and said that there was no budget, so instead of looking at budget options, I widened my search options.

After trying on a few dresses, I had in my mind what I wanted but I couldn’t find it anywhere in any of the shops we tried! I did a lot of searching on Pinterest and then, finally, I found it. But, I had no name, no designer, nothing but an image. After channelling my inner Ally McBeale and many Google searches later, I found the designer and a stockist! Ava Rose Hamilton didn’t stock this exact dress but were able to order it especially for me and have it made and tailored at their store in Silsden.


Once I’d purchased my dress from Ava Rose Hamilton, we then turned our attention to what Richard and the groom’s men would wear. Ava Rose Hamilton offered us a discount if we got our menswear from their ‘sister’ store Bridgewater Menswear as I’d purchased a dress from them. Richard, both dads and all the groomsmen wore a Marc Darcy suit. Rich had a pretty clear cut design in mind and wanted something tweedy and heavy; the Marc Darcy suit he chose was perfect.


We had two adult bridesmaids and two flowergirls. We purchased the adult dresses from ASOS’ bridesmaid range. They were TFNC dresses from the same range, though the skirts were cut slightly differently. I wanted the dresses to match but not be identical to allow them to complement each of the bridesmaids.

The flowergirls wore a Monsoon dress with faux fur stoles.


Zoe at Hearts Professional Salon did my hair and Kelseigh at Tigerlilly Beauty Spa did makeup for me and my two bridesmaids.


Richard and I spent the night before the wedding apart. I stayed in a local self-catering holiday cottage, Rising Sun Farm Holiday Cottages, with my bridesmaids and Rich stayed in a local B&B at the Oak Tree at Helperby. We live around an hour away from the venue so we thought staying close by the night before the wedding would be the best option.

On the morning of the wedding, Richard’s friend gave him and his best men a lift to the church in his very swanky, brand new Mercedes AMG. I, however, went for the more traditional approach to ‘horsepower’ and travelled in a horse and cart. My mum is a huge royalist and loved Harry and Meghan’s landau and was adamant she wanted to treat me to this, so we had two beautiful grey mares and a convertible landau take the bridesmaids first and then me, my mum and my dad to church! After the ceremony, Rich and I managed to steal a few minutes away in the horse and carriage and went for a trot up and down the village whilst our guests made their short walk from the church to the pub for the reception.


Aaron Jeffels Photography based in Guisborough. We would definitely recommend him! We really hate having our photo taken and equally hate posed ‘fake’ shots. We found him after trawling through so many different portfolios and loved his candid style. He was brilliant to work with and he got some incredible shots.


We kept our flowers to a minimum at the venue itself and only had one large statement floral arrangement, on our top table, which mirrored my bouquet.

I carried a loose and wild bouquet of roses, ranunculi, thistles and eucalyptus by iBloom Florist and then we had smaller versions of my bouquet made for bridesmaids and flowergirls.

To decorate our tables we got in touch with our inner thrifty and creative sides and DIY-ed most of our decorative elements for the wedding reception. My dad grew primulas in terracotta pots and we all foraged for different varieties of moss, pine cones, acorns and conkers throughout our engagement! It was hard work but we got all the family involved and everyone helped out where they could!

We also begged and borrowed ornaments from friends and family, and raided charity shops and online second hand websites for stags and woodland creatures to put on the tables for decoration. We bought mismatched side plates, repurposed old slate for our place names, and collected old gin bottles and jam jars for candle holders.

We also created our own 5.5ft tall fantasy tree to frame our wedding cake – I’d seen them used as table centrepieces at wedding fayres but couldn’t afford to rent one so we opted to make our own with artificial silk flowers and were gifted a huge tree branch to use! Our house was full to bursting with wedding decorations as our wedding got closer!

We used the Brides Up North directory, features and real wedding pages for inspiration too, and found it helpful to get comparables and ideas together!


Our cake stole the show! I am a cake artist and owner of Cabbage Patch Bakery based in Leeds. We really went to town on our cake! If I didn’t do this as my job, there is no way we would have been able to afford to have the cake we had on our small budget!

We had a towering 5ft tall, nine-tier woodland themed cake featuring a hollow woodland arch way, sugar flowers, bas relief and hand painted designs. It was displayed on a full dessert table with homemade cakes, macarons and a cheese ‘cake’ and biscuits too! We incorporated all the elements of our wedding into the design of our cake including the florals used in the bouquets, the colour palette, realistic sugar blackberries and family references in the form of animal painted details.

I had a lot of help from my maid of honour and best friend, Emma, making the cakes and macarons the day before the wedding and setting up the cake display on the morning of the wedding! Yes, that’s right, at 8am on my wedding morning I was busy setting up the cake!


We are very foodie people and really wanted to give favours that wouldn’t be left behind and would be enjoyed by our guests. So we opted for homemade blackberry vodka! We foraged the blackberries on our favourite walks with our dog and then steeped the blackberries in vodka for six months, before bottling the liquor into miniature bottles, labelling with our own personalised DIY labels and serving as favours. We chose vodka because Richard is a quarter Polish!


We love our food, and enjoy cooking and using varied cuts of meat. We both love chicken liver pate and sticky toffee pudding and knew they were crowd pleasers, so we had decided on these long before we decided on our main course. After discussions with our Head Chef, Jim, from the Aldwark Arms, he came up with the idea of an ox cheek stew (and a special vegetarian version so our non-meat eater guests didn’t feel left out) which was served with homemade bread and butter, proper Yorkshire style! For the evening, we opted for a hog roast which was supplied by a local butcher.


For the ceremony, we decided that the traditional bridal march wasn’t quite ‘our’ thing and I wanted to surprise Rich with an alternative bridal entrance. We’re both emo kids at heart and love a good rock song. When we first met, Richard introduced me to a song called My Curse by Killswitch Engage and I found a piano version of this song. It was still a rock song but like you’d never heard it before, instantly recognisable to him and me but to our guests who had never heard the song before, it just sounded like a nice piano track.

For signing the register, a good friend and our church warden played the violin for us during the hymns along with the organist. At my mum and dad’s wedding almost 20 years ago, I played the organ and played Viva Forever by the Spice Girls for them at their blessing in church. Whilst we signed the register, Vivenne and Helen played this same song for Richard and me on the violin and organ. No one was expecting it and we had our family in tears!

To exit we played a strings version of A Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay, covered by The Muses – it has an epic drop and was amazing walking back up the aisle to as Mr & Mrs!

We carried on the music theme through our wedding reception – Rich’s best man, Matt and I created a playlist of rock/punk songs covered by piano or string quartets and we had the likes of Blink 182, Fall Out Boy, Paramore and The Used soundtracking our day, but unbeknownst to the older generation who wouldn’t have appreciated our taste for music.

For the evening we had Club Class Entertainment provide us with DJ entertainment to get the party going into the wee hours!

Special touches

Aside from the musical special touches, we also had our dog, Benjen, with us for the reception. We would have loved to have him at the ceremony but at the rehearsal he got so excited and wouldn’t stop shouting whilst we were exchanging our vows so we decided it was probably best to have him only join us for the reception! We had a friend go and grab him after the ceremony so he joined us for photos at the church and then spent the rest of the day with us. We put his bed just behind the top table where he settled during our wedding breakfast. He was a superstar until the speeches and then got a bit too excited again with everyone clapping!

Thanks to

The Aldwark Arms is an absolute rare gem. They served the most incredible food, locally sourced produce, cooked from scratch and seasonal. They are the perfect venue for smaller parties and can cater to larger parties and offer catering off site too! They supplied a pop up bar and, had we have decided to go off-site with our tipi location, they can offer a full catering setup for marquee/tipi weddings. The service they offer is outstanding and we would definitely recommend them.

Best bit

My favourite part of the day was definitely the evening reception when we could let our hair down and enjoy time with friends and family. We were so fortunate with the weather, it was mild and dry and meant we could sit outside when we weren’t dancing!


We went on a minimoon to Northern Ireland! We’re huge Game of Thrones fans and went on a tour of the filming locations used for the programme in Northern Ireland, but also did the usual sight seeing things too. We’ll definitely go again!


My top tip for other Brides Up North would be not to be afraid of asking suppliers if they offer discounts if you’re having your wedding out of season – we had our wedding on a Thursday in March primarily for this reason! Some suppliers may be able to offer a discount, or throw in freebies because they aren’t as busy, or give you extended hire! If you like a supplier and their products but they are a little out of your price range, don’t be afraid to haggle! Sometimes suppliers can tailor their pricing to your needs and aim to work to your budget.

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