Real Weddings

Ronald Joyce for an Elegant Festive Wedding at The Coniston Hotel – Zoe & Kieron

Julia Smith

A cancellation at their chosen venue meant that today’s couple switched their original big day vision of a bright summer celebration for a post-Christmas wintery big day, which they pulled off to a tee.

Avoiding an overly festive or stereotypical seasonal look, Zoe and Kieron settled on a neutral colour scheme with a soft blush tone leading the palette, and brought in pretty yet subtle nods to the time of year with use of metallics, pinecones and a little sparkle to add to the venue’s already tasteful Christmas décor.

Not only are there plenty of gorgeous elements to inspire here, but beautiful bride Zoe also has lots of practical advice to share too; so fire up the Pinterest, grab your wedding planners, and prepare to take note.

With images by Hayley Baxter Photography


Zoe says: With both of us being teachers, we are lucky enough to make the most of and enjoy our school holidays together. On the year that we first met, now five years ago, our first February half term get away was to The Coniston Country Spa & Estate Hotel in Skipton. The hotel itself boasts stunning views, which we enjoyed from the outdoor jacuzzi in the spa (one of the best that we’ve been to), and our dining experience was just exceptional. All in all, we had the most wonderful stay, and following on from that, most half terms we decided to go away, but no other hotel quite lived up to our experience at the Coniston Hotel – it is our special place.

After always hoping that one day we would go back together, I was over the moon when Kieron handed me an envelope the night before my birthday in March 2019 – he had booked for us to stay at the Coniston Hotel for my birthday weekend! Not only that, but it made it even more special that he had booked for us to stay in a luxury room, with a balcony overlooking the lake, afternoon cream tea, a couple’s massage in the spa, the full works! I was beyond excited to leave work that evening to arrive at the hotel, unbeknown to me, what would be one of the best weekends of my life.

When we arrived, I sat and opened my cards and presents, one of which was a beautiful dress from Kieron, so I decided to wear it that evening. Whilst I was getting ready, little did I know, he was acting like 007, sneaking between the wardrobe and the sofa with a small box…Finally, we sat down together to enjoy a glass of fizz, and once we had finished, he asked me to go to top up our glasses. Me being me, I said, “But it’s my birthday?!” It is fair to say that I didn’t make his proposal set up very easy!

Eventually, I gave in and went to fill our glasses, and when I came back, he said “I have bought you something else to wear…” I still hadn’t any idea as to what was about to happen, when suddenly, he dropped to one knee, and with the sweetest, most thoughtful and romantic words, he asked me to be his wife. I could not believe it. I think I left him down on the floor for a good few minutes while I was dazzled by the light up ring box.

Engagement was something that we had never discussed, so it was a complete surprise, and as for a ring, I wouldn’t have had a clue what style I would have chosen for myself, so for him to pick it by himself, made it even more special. I absolutely loved it, and even better, it fit me perfectly!


We had initially decided upon a summer wedding due to our jobs, knowing that we would both have a long summer holiday to then enjoy our honeymoon. When we enquired at the Coniston Hotel of their availability, luckily for us, they had one date left – Friday 27th July 2020 – and it felt like it was meant to be. Without a doubt, and with such excitement, we provisionally booked the date and arranged to see the venue.

When we arrived, it was even more perfect than we first imagined. The décor of the hotel was very country, yet stylish and modern, something that we both really liked. We knew the venue was the one! Whilst looking around, the wedding co-ordinator asked us if we had thought about a winter wedding because they had just had a cancellation – the first Saturday after Christmas! At first, we weren’t sure as we were certain that we wanted a summer date, but after she had shown us some pictures of the venue dressed in Christmas decorations, we were completely blown away! She told us that there would be a Christmas tree in every room, and we saw that the wooden beams were wrapped in fairy lights, with baubles, stars and wreaths, lights hung over the bar and their log fires were blazing. It was tasteful, cosy, elegant and oozed glamour!

After much thought, we eventually chose to go ahead with a winter wedding. For us, we simply LOVE Christmas, and it was the most perfect date between Christmas and New year, to avoid the usual ‘lull’ after Christmas Day. Our decision was made. A Christmas, winter wedding it would be – Saturday 28th December 2019, with only nine months to plan!


I have Brides Up North to thank for our wedding theme. One night I read a blog on the website written by a bride who had said how she was going to go for a red colour scheme for her winter wedding until she realised that she didn’t want it to look like ‘Santa’s grotto’. It was at this moment that I knew I also didn’t want our wedding to become Christmas themed, with the bridesmaids looking like Santa’s little helpers, dressed in red and wrapped in white fur capes.

So instead, after continuing to look for inspiration online, we decided that we wanted a more neutral theme that was elegant and glamourous, with a hint of sparkle. We considered many colours including: nude, champagne, silver and gold, when finally, we came across blush pink – this was the one.


As I started to look for my dress, I didn’t have much idea of what style I fancied or what would suit me, so I tried on many designs and styles.

We eventually came across Ever After Bridal Wear in Batley, West Yorkshire. The owner of the shop was ever so welcoming and helpful, and after trying on many dresses, I fell in love with a dress made by Ronald Joyce, named Jamie. It is a slim fitting lace, crepe dress with an illusion neckline and back, that fastens with buttons down the back. I instantly loved the lace detail across the body, yet the simplicity and elegance of the skirt, so I said ‘yes to the dress!’

From the same shop, I bought a veil that has lace detail on the edges and a fur cape. My veil was a separate story in itself! I deliberated over a long veil, which I thought would look amazing on the photographs flowing in the wind, yet I didn’t want to cover the detail on the back of my dress. Finally, we decided upon a mid-length veil, so that the detail on my train still could be seen. After all of this extra stress deciding, can you believe that I forgot to wear my veil – it was still hung in my wardrobe! Following the ceremony, my mum hesitantly told me, thinking it would upset me although I simply laughed – typical me! I wore it for the rest of the day, and I honestly feel that I had the best of both worlds.

Finally, as a nice little touch, the owner of the bridal shop offered to sew a piece of my dad’s jumper inside of my dress, since I sadly lost him when I was only 17. He was tragically killed in a motorbike accident and growing up I always knew that my wedding day would be extremely difficult without him. A small piece of his jumper was sewn inside of my dress in the shape of a heart, so in that way, he was beside me every step of the way. I will be forever thankful to Ever After Bridal Wear for this significant and special little touch – it meant the absolute world to me.


Kieron, his groomsmen, and our little page boy, all wore a Marc Darcy blue check tweed three-piece suit, named Dion, from Joshua Adams in Cleckheaton. Kieron wanted to look slightly different, so he decided to wear a brown waistcoat, in contrast to his groomsmen, who all wore blue. They all wore blush pink ties, which were also made by Marc Darcy, and our page boy wore a little bow tie.


For the bridesmaids, we fell in love with a dress designed by Hilary Morgan, named Flora, which we ordered in blush from Ever After Bridal Wear. They are chiffon dresses with a scooped neckline, and illusion shoulder straps, which are scattered with sparkly beads. Down the back, they have a zip and buttons, which I thought matched perfectly – a small element of my own dress. We also ordered white fur capes, designed by Jenny Packham, from Debenhams.


After a successful makeup trial, we decided upon Rihanna Lydia Makeup to do our makeup. She made us all feel incredible, and it lasted really well throughout the day.

For our hair, I have two cousins who are hairdressers, so they kindly agreed to do the bridesmaids’ hair. I decided to style my own hair, which seemed a risky decision, but I usually prefer it when I do my own. Although I couldn’t help but doubt myself, wondering whether I should have been having an up-style. I received some reassuring advice from a friend, who also had worn hers down at her wedding. She had told me that she felt the same that wearing her hair up, even though it was more ‘bride-like’, simply wasn’t her. She told me: “Just think of it as that you are getting ready for the best night out of your life” – and so I did!


Hayley Baxter was our photographer, and she was recommended to us by the Coniston Hotel. We had seen copies of her albums there, and instantly we fell in love with her style. We would both have no hesitation in recommending Hayley to other couples who are looking for a photographer – our day was captured so beautifully.

We decided to have a pre-wedding shoot, which I would definitely recommend. We had ours at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and it was lovely to meet Hayley in person before our big day – one less thing to worry about on the morning itself. She is very relaxed and friendly, and she answered all of our questions, which put our nerves at ease.

During the shoot, we felt very comfortable around her, as posing for a ‘natural’ photo seemed to be the most unnatural thing at first! However, with her instructions and advice, we soon grasped what we needed to do, almost forgetting that we were having our photograph taken! We had the most enjoyable experience as well as lovely photographs, which we have since put in frames in our house.

It is obvious that Hayley has a strong passion for photography, and she loves what she does. To her, our wedding day wasn’t ‘just another job’, but it was clear that she felt privileged to be there, and that it was important that we got the best photographs from our day, making the most of every opportunity. On the day itself, she was unobtrusive, and she happily snapped away in the background. Due to her confidence and experience, it was reassuring that she was prepared to alter our schedule, dependent on the weather and light in order to get the best photographs possible. She also kindly offered to take us into the Hotel’s ground in her own car, which again, saved us money on transport.

Hayley has a very creative eye, knowing exactly how to get the best and most picturesque shots. We absolutely LOVE our photographs that capture the emotion of our entire day perfectly including: close up, distant, natural, posed, scenic and family group shots.

I would definitely recommend to any couple to invest in their photographer. You are paying for their experience, confidence, and most importantly, their creative eye, which is definitely worth the expense. We are nothing but pleased with our photographs, and since our day went so quickly, these are memories and moments that we will treasure for ever. Having Hayley as our photographer was undoubtedly one of the best decisions that we made.


We booked a videographer quite a lot later than everything else, as to begin with, we weren’t going to have one due to our budget. Although, as the date got closer, this was a decision that I couldn’t help but doubt, and so I started my research. I came across a small business, Special Day Films. We paid for a highlights film, set to our own music choices, covering the day from bridal preparations through to our first dance.

We absolutely love our highlights film, so much so, that we decided to pay for additional footage including: the full ceremony, speeches, and extra coverage of our day. To anyone deliberating whether to have a film, we would without a doubt, say go for it since it brings your day back to life. The photographs are amazing, but the video footage is so real, seeing and hearing your loved ones is priceless.


Because our date was so close after Christmas Day, flowers were a bit of an issue. We were told that we wouldn’t be able to get hold of any real flowers since most florists would be shut over this time. We soon found out that we would have to have silk flowers, which, at first, I was a bit disappointed about. I immediately thought of cheap, artificial, and plastic -looking flowers. How wrong I was! Our bouquets were absolutely gorgeous, and they looked 100% real due to the use of real foliage.

We used Blackburn’s Florist in Horbury, West Yorkshire, to create our cake topper, bouquets, buttonholes, my head garland, and a wand for our flower girl, all of which were absolutely stunning. The shop gave us lots of ideas, and they worked hard to match our wintery theme by using ivory coloured roses that also had a tint of blush pink, pinecones, pearls and frosted, wintery foliage.

From our florist, we bought wintery garlands which we used to decorate the ceremony table, as well as our top table, which we also dressed with glass cylinders and floating candles, along with our bouquets in vases. In the middle of our top table, we chose to have our initials, which were mirrored letters from Next. The rest of our venue, the ceremony and reception rooms, were decorated by Creative Events. We chose to have light backdrops in both rooms, with ceiling light drapes and love letters, which were moved between rooms.

We also had a white aisle runner, petals and lanterns for the ceremony, and silver candelabras, mirrored plates and diamante gems on our reception tables. Also, as a personal touch, some of the children from my class wrote a ‘Love is…’ quote, which I displayed in frames on each table. The wedding co-ordinators and the Coniston also helped decorate our venue, and they had a keen eye for detail, making sure everything was perfect. They helped set up a ladder, crates, and a palette that I had provided, as well as Mr & Mrs letters and other little touches – they did an excellent job.


These were a miniature Baileys – a nice after meal tipple, which we thought was also perfect for the time of year. We didn’t have many children at our wedding, but for the few that we did have, we gave sweetie cones to, and a wedding activity book, which was personalised.


Our cake was made by The Yorkshire Cake Fairy; it was a three-tier, semi-naked cake. We went to Sue’s house for a taster of her cakes, and they were simply delicious…she was a real cake fairy! We chose vanilla, raspberry and lemon flavours, one for each tier. Sue provided us with a silver cake stand and she decorated our cake herself at the venue with flowers from our florist and a personalised, mirrored cake topper that I had ordered from Etsy.


Our menu tasting experience was out of this world – something that we will definitely remember. Luckily, we had already booked to stay over since we were supplied with so much wine. There must have been at least seven glasses on our table at one point…each!

Choosing the menu was very difficult as all of the dishes were delicious. After much deliberation we chose a leek and brie tartlet for our starter, chicken breast wrapped in pancetta, with sautéed potatoes, and served in a brandy and mushroom sauce for our main course, and finally, a chocolate brownie and ice cream for dessert.

We also had canapés to be served after the ceremony: mini Yorkshire puddings with sirloin beef, goat’s cheese and red pepper tartlets, and chipolata sausages with mash.

For the evening reception, bacon and sausage sandwiches were included in our wedding package, but we also added chips to ensure our guests didn’t go hungry.


We both love live music so this was something that was important to us. We chose Dan Reynard to sing for the whole of our day. He sang acoustic covers on his guitar, setting the mood just right for each part of our day. During the evening, Dan offered to play music through his sound system in between his sets, which thankfully saved us money on hiring an additional DJ. We were able to specify the style of music that we both liked and wanted to be played. His music was absolutely fantastic, and his foot pedal livened up the atmosphere in the evening. So many of our guests have since commented on how good they thought music was, throughout the entire day. All we had ever said for the evening reception was that we wanted lots of people singing and dancing, a celebration, a party, and it definitely was that!

Without a doubt, Dan’s music was one of the highlights of our day, and we would have no hesitation in recommending him to others; he was friendly, and professional throughout, and he was very quick at responding to emails, answering the questions that we had. We were able to choose personal songs for three parts of our ceremony, away from his song list, and he also performed a mix of two songs (again of our choice) for our first dance. We chose Ed Sheeran, Perfect, as I walked down the aisle; Rita Ora and Liam Payne, For You, as we signed the register; Ellie Goulding, Love Me Like You Do, as we exited the ceremony; and finally, Oasis, Wonderwall, and Tom Walker, Just You And I, for our first dance.


We bought an instant camera, which we sat by our guest book, along with pens, tape and films. One of our bridesmaids passed the camera around the room, during the wedding breakfast, and asked people to take their own photograph to stick next to their message in our guest book. This made it extra special for us when we read our guestbook and will be a nice memory for years to come.

For when it started to get dark, we had bought sparklers to have a ‘sparkler send-off’. This was so much fun, and all of our guests seemed to really enjoy it. It also made another nice photo opportunity.


We wouldn’t hesitate in recommending The Coniston Hotel to other wedding couples. From first meeting our wedding co-ordinator, we knew that we were in experienced hands. The whole team were friendly and professional, and they couldn’t do enough for us to ensure that our day was perfect in every way. No question was too small, and they were efficient at replying to and answering any of our queries. We were able to arrange to meet with our co-ordinator on first booking the venue, and also closer to the day itself to discuss the finer details of our day. The team were always very reassuring due to their experience and knowledge, and this gave us confidence that our day would run smoothly, just as it did.

On the day itself, our co-ordinator clearly explained what would happen and her relaxed and positive approach was just what I needed to help settle my nerves. Every room was set out perfectly, and their attention to detail didn’t go unnoticed. Nothing was too much trouble as they moved the love letters and lanterns between rooms, just like we had requested. Also, the hotel itself and its grounds are completely stunning, with many breath-taking photo opportunities.

Our overall stay and experience at The Coniston Hotel was extremely positive, and it will be forever memorable. All of the staff, from the reception to the spa, to the restaurants, gave us their well wishes, and they did everything that they could to make our day perfect in every way.


I find it difficult to select a favourite part of our day, as every single minute was wonderful. We did however really enjoy our time together during our photo shoot in the grounds of the hotel. The weather was perfect – a crisp, sunny day. It was so peaceful, and we were able to get away from all of the excitement to take it all in.

We also loved the speeches, everyone did amazingly well; they were heartfelt, yet funny.

For me personally, seeing Kieron at the end of the aisle was exciting and emotional, as after all of the planning, it was finally real. We were getting married!

Finally, another highlight of my day was the moment that my grandad saw me. It was an honour for me to ask my grandad, my dad’s dad, to give me away and the look on his face, pure pride, I will never forget.


We stayed an extra night at The Consiton Hotel, the day after the wedding. It was lovely to spend time in the hotel, especially in the spa, and coincidentally the same room in which Kieron proposed to me, to sit back, relax, and to take it all in. We were able to open our cards together and fully enjoy our first full day as husband and wife.

Following this, our mums had kindly booked for us a minimoon – a small break to Manchester to celebrate the New Year. We stayed in King Street Town House, which was very luxurious, and we celebrated New Year’s Eve at 20 Stories sky bar, where we enjoyed a seven-course meal sat at a window table. It was very romantic!

We still have our main honeymoon to look forward to Koh Samui, Thailand.


I have three top tips that I would pass onto other couples. Firstly, even though you read all of the time advice telling you not to stress over the little things, as a bride, I know that it is almost impossible not to! I certainly did as I wanted everything to be just right. You want the day to be perfect, but believe me, it will be. Make sure you enjoy planning for your big day and take your time to research and read the reviews of your suppliers. Just like me forgetting to wear my veil, don’t let anything that doesn’t go to plan on the day bother you. I’m a big believer in that everything happens for a reason, so don’t let anything dampen your day, but enjoy every single minute as compared to the time taken to plan your special day, the day itself is over in a flash.

Try your best not to worry if your guests are having a good time, and that you say ‘hello’ to everyone. The day is all about you and your husband, and most guests will come say hello to you. Make sure that you spend time together, greeting guests and dancing.

Finally, be prepared for every eventuality. It sounds really negative but think of everything that could potentially go wrong and plan carefully for it. Nothing is going to spoil your day – you’ve got this! Little things such as: a needle and thread (for any fallen buttons); alcohol free wet wipes (for any accidental marks on your dress); a nail file and glue; umbrellas; wellies (for walking in the grounds) etc.

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