Real Weddings

A handmade wedding gown for an outdoors celebration at Paxton House – Katie & Alex

Julia Smith

We’re heading to Scotland for today’s gorgeous nuptials: to Paxton House in Berwickshire, to be precise.

The fact that this stunning venue was 300+ miles away from the Cotswolds home of the happy couple was but a detail – with the help of Katie’s parents, planning the celebration was a breeze.

The talents of Katie’s mum didn’t end with helping with the planning, by the way; she also made her daughter’s beautiful gown, as well as the bridesmaids’ dresses, too. The crafty ability clearly runs in the family, with Katie handmaking exquisite shawls for herself, her ‘maids and her mum to wear, too.

Another of the stars at the celebration? The couple’s gorgeous greyhound, Cora; she delivered the rings in style and looked resplendent in her special collar in the process. Cora also features in the couple’s post-ceremony portraits, with the trio enjoying a sunny stroll around the picture-perfect Paxton House estate.

It didn’t end there. Katie and Alex hosted their reception in a light-and-airy marquee, with the couple and their bridal party pitching together the day before to decorate it. The hardwork paid off – we think you’ll agree that it was stunning. Read on to find out more!

With image by Ceranna Photography.


Katie says

: We had been talking about moving in together for a while and I decided to surprise Alex with a leap year proposal first.

We were having a weekend away in Copenhagen and I insisted on walking to a park in Frederiksberg, where we found a bench on the riverbank. I popped the question in front of some Danish ducks who were swimming past and he said ‘yes’!


We got married on May 11 2019. We wanted to get married in Scotland and May is usually the best bet for nice weather. We were really lucky in the end and had a beautiful sunny day.

We held the ceremony outdoors in the grounds of Paxton House, in Berwickshire, and held the reception in Paxton’s beautiful wedding marquee.

I grew up in the Borders and had visited Paxton House before. I’m Scottish and Alex is from England, so getting married right on the border seemed like a good compromise. We actually live in the Cotswolds now so had to plan the wedding from a distance, which I don’t think we could have managed without my parents up in Scotland helping to organise everything!

Along with the beautiful setting overlooking the River Tweed, the best thing about our choice of venue was the incredible Wedding & Events Manager at Paxton House, Mel. She went absolutely above and beyond for us and was always so cheerful, down-to- earth and amazingly organized. It was also very reassuring to have her there on the day making sure everything ran smoothly, despite her being about to go on maternity leave! We honestly couldn’t thank Mel and the Paxton team enough.


We wanted our rescue greyhound, Cora, to be there with us on the day, and we ended up having a bit of a greyhound theme in terms of the decorations. She carried the rings in the ceremony for us and basically stole the show!

Angela and George from Plodders Dog Walking did a wonderful job of looking after Cora on the day. Their unobtrusive presence meant shewas able to be there with us at the ceremony and for the photos but could head off afterwards for a walk and a nap while we had our meal. It was great to know that Cora was being well looked after and enjoying her day too!

We didn’t really have a colour scheme in mind. I liked the idea of having seasonal local wildflowers for the bouquet, so the colours were mostly taken from those. We also had multicolour bunting made by my mum.


My mum, Maggie, is great at making clothes and I asked her to design and sew my wedding dress based on a picture we found online. I wanted a fairly simple style as I was worried I would feel a bit ridiculous in a fancy full-length gown.

I thought the dress was beautiful, and the amount of time and love that my mum put into making it made it feel really special. I also wore a cream-coloured shawl, which I made myself.


Alex and his best man, Nick, wore matching outfits. In keeping with the informal style of the wedding, they chose a waistcoat and jacket by Marc Darcy and chino trousers by Asquith & Fox instead of a full suit.


My incredible mum also made the bridesmaids’ dresses! We sourced the material for all four of our dresses from Beckford Silk in the Cotswolds, near where Alex and I live. We chose natural silk for my dress and flowers-and-leaves patterned silk in blue, pink and beige for the three bridesmaids.

I also made matching cream shawls for the three bridesmaids and a navy blue one for my mum.


Tanha Scott (Wedding & Occasion Hair Design) styled our hair. She was absolutely wonderful – she came round to do a trial session with me the day before, and she did a great job keeping us all calm on the morning of the wedding!


My parents and I were staying in a cottage near Paxton House and we got ready there in the morning. My parents drove us all to the venue.


Our photographer was Anna Cervinkova of Ceranna Photography. We found her website and we loved her fine art photography – it seemed a bit different to what the other wedding photographers were offering. I would absolutely recommend her – she did such a great job of fitting in with our requests (such as taking lots of pictures of our dog!) and she made the whole day look magical.


The bridal bouquets were provided by Ali and Steph at Ginger House Garden. They were absolutely wonderful and took such care in putting together the perfect bouquets for us, using native flowers grown locally in their garden just over the river from Paxton House.

We did all the decorating for the reception ourselves. We were able to access the marquee the day before and the whole wedding party pitched in to get everything done. There was a lot to do but in the end it was actually a really fun day!

We had ordered buckets of fresh flowers from Ginger House Gardens and Mill Pond Flower Farm, which is also near Berwick, and arranged them into vases for the table decorations. My amazing mum made almost everything else, including the table decorations, bunting, the guest book and the card basket. We also bought a garden arch to use during the ceremony and decorated it with ivy.

The mother of the groom, Janet, put together some wonderfully imaginative ideas to entertain the kids, including goodie bags, a photo booth, a sweets table and a variety of outdoor games. Some of the grown-ups seemed to enjoy these quite a lot too!


Instead of traditional favours, we had special wedding coasters for everyone to take home. We made the coasters using a personalised stamp from A Hue of Duck Egg Blue on Etsy, with a greyhound design and the date of our wedding. We also used the stamp for the invitations and the orders of ceremony, which Alex and I hand-made ourselves.


Our cake was made by the brilliant Cathie Simpson at Cakes by Cathie. The cake-tasting session at her house was probably my favourite part of the wedding planning process! Cathie was so helpful and accommodating. She created the beautiful greyhound cake topper and flower decorations from icing.

The cake itself was delicious and had three tiers (chocolate, carrot and sticky toffee). She also provided individual cupcakes for our gluten-intolerant guests.


We were struggling to decide what food to have for the wedding meal. I’m a vegetarian and Alex is a rabid carnivore, so there’s not that much food we agree on! We do, however, always enjoy an Indian takeaway on a Saturday – and we decided we didn’t want to miss out just because we were getting married! Sinita and her team from Punjabi Junction cooked us a fantastic selection of curries, with options for all dietary requirements.

Later on in the evening, we had a burger van provided by Well Hung & Tender, who also ran our bar for the day. There was also a crepe cart and chocolate fountain by Maisie’s Events – this was a definite highlight for me!


I play the harp and have been performing at weddings since I was a teenager, so I really enjoyed having the opportunity to hire a harpist for my own wedding! We asked Elinor Evans to play for our ceremony and during the drinks afterwards, and I can’t recommend her enough. She did a wonderful job.

The Music Gallery in Berwick provided a microphone and PA system for the speeches and played background music from our playlist during the meal.

We booked a band called Wireless through Hire A Band for the ceilidh and disco dancing in the evening. Everyone loved them and the dance floor was packed all night long.

Best bit

Obviously the curry! Apart from that though, I think our favourite part of the day for both of us was the ceremony itself. We were so lucky with the weather and everything went pretty much perfectly, including Cora’s big moment carrying the rings. It was so nice to have all our friends and family there to support us in making our vows.


After the wedding, we had a few days on the west coast of Scotland and then flew to Canada, where we spent almost three weeks travelling around. We visited Toronto and Vancouver, drove through the Rockies in an RV, and stayed for a week on a narrowboat in Bella Coola harbour, on the North-West Pacific Coast.

Highlights included hiking in the snow at Lake Agnes, seeing bears in the Rockies and swimming with wild otters in Bella Coola.


Having worked at many weddings over the years before planning my own, my advice to other brides would be to relax and try to think of the bigger picture. It’s easy to get hung up on details but no wedding is ever perfect and there will inevitably be things that don’t quite go to plan. Your guests will have a blast anyway so just enjoy your day! And for the grooms, you should know that your first task as a new husband will probably be to remove over fifty hairpins from your bride’s head. Good luck!

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