Real Weddings

Mark Lesley for a Colourful Multi-Cultural Wedding at Hazlewood Castle – Karen & Damitha

Julia Smith

Follow us as we delve into the planning details and on-the-day magic of Karen and Damitha’s big day, bringing a taste of Sri Lankan tradition to a historic Yorkshire castle wedding.

A natural autumn feel with the rich tones of the season fused with Asian elements as our bride and groom, Karen and Damitha, tie the knot and perfectly blend their two heritages into one wonderful day. Earning some major brownie points with the in-laws, Karen has had the most beautiful jewelry and headpiece handmade for her by her sister in the traditional Sri Lankan style and it looks incredible. Two cultures meant two dresses for us to swoon over too. She looks picture perfect in her western style A-line Mark Lesley gown and silk cathedral length veil, and then glows in her authentic red and gold Sri Lanken saree. Truly the best of both worlds.

Now, let’s talk about the cake! For Karen, The Vintage Cake Fairy herself (and one of our UNVEILED Network members!), it was a given that she would be making her own cake and she certainly went all out to make a delicious impact. An incredible five tiers of loveliness, assembled with gourds, mini pumpkins and fallen leaves, all ceremoniously sat atop an old barrel and tucked into a stone alcove above the top table, it’s a wonder the cake didn’t steal the whole show! We do love it when a wedding industry supplier gets wed – the details are always a real treat!

With photography by AD Photography


Karen says: We got engaged on the late May bank holiday of 2018. We had taken a day trip up to Aysgarth Falls and Damitha asked the question whilst we were sitting watching the lower falls. It was so unexpected, but after the shock of the question (and also Damitha nearly falling into the actual falls!) I said yes.

He told me the ring he proposed with was just a stand-in because he wanted me to choose my own Ceylon sapphire and have a proper ring made the next time we went to Sri Lanka, which is Damitha’s home country. So I now have a gorgeous cornflower blue sapphire and diamond 18ct white gold sparkler, and I LOVE IT!


We got married on the 27th of October 2019. We chose this date purely because I love autumn; the colours, the bright days and cool nights are just magical. Working in the wedding industry for the last six years means that I know this time of year tends to be less busy than during the height of midsummer wedding season too. We had two dates in October in mind and two venues and left the rest to fate.

Even though we wouldn’t consider ourselves traditionalists, we felt we still wanted a traditional venue. So we had our ceremony and reception at the stunning Hazlewood Castle near York. This hidden gem, surrounded by acres of woodland was a no brainer for the time of year and the castle was just as stunning on the inside too!


We didn’t have a ‘theme’ as such for the wedding, we wanted to keep everything natural and reflect the season. We used foraged pieces, such as pine cones, conkers, dried leaves and such to use as decoration. We also used cut up leaves as confetti too.

Keeping things within the autumnal theme, we had lots of rich colours; burnt oranges, blood reds and deep greens. I really wanted to try and bring the stunning colours of autumn inside our venue.

Since Damitha’s home country is Sri Lanka, we were keen to try and include as much of his culture as possible. So during the ceremony we had a procession of Sinhalese drummers and dancers walking us in. Traditionally this procession is very long, with 100s of drummers and dancers but since our venue was tight on space, we opted for a much smaller affair, with just two dancers and two drummers instead! We also lit a ceremonial oil lamp whilst a conch shell was blown. This lamp lighting is a very traditional Sinhalese procedure during the ceremony and represents lighting our paths forward into our next venture.


I chose to wear two different dresses on the day, my ‘English’ dress was a Mark Lesley dress that I bought from The Bridal Affair in Boroughbridge. I didn’t want to spend a fortune knowing that I was only to wear it for a matter of hours, so I bought it in a sample sale for a fraction of the full cost. I’m a bit of a ‘less is more’ type of person so I imagined myself in a plain, classic dress with a stunning silhouette, but ended up with an A-line lace detailed number! I did take out some of the layers in the skirt because I didn’t want anything too full.

My veil was a beautiful silk cathedral length Diane Harbridge beauty with delicate lace details around the bottom edge, I bought this from a wedding fair in York a few weeks before the wedding. It was a last minute add on as I hadn’t really thought I wanted a veil, but this one was just so perfect I knew I had to have it, and it really completed my overall look.

My evening outfit was a beautiful deep red and gold saree that we bought on our last trip to Sri Lanka. Sarees are hand made to measure and are usually quite tight fitting, but from the January when we bought it, to the wedding in October I had lost weight so it was a little looser than it should’ve been and kept falling off my shoulder as I danced!

My shoes were my showstopper! I bought my gold glitter heels from Irregular Choice, and they even lit up and flashed when I walked! I wore these throughout the entire day so had to make sure I chose something that would go with both outfits.

Finally, my jewellery and head piece was made by my eldest sister Lindsey. I wanted something to reflect Damitha’s Asian culture, but Asian jewellery styles tend to be heavy in gold and jewels. This really isn’t me so I wanted something more toned down. I searched high and low for a jewellery maker who could make this for me with no luck, so I asked my sister who had made her own jewellery for her wedding 10 years ago. The finished piece was so beautiful and it even got the thumbs up from my new mother-in-law too!


Damitha wore a traditional tails suit in a beautiful deep blue, a grey tweed waistcoat and a burgundy ruched tie with matching pocket square. This was hired from Slaters Menswear in Leeds. He finished off his look with a pair of dark tan lace up shoes which were bought from Zara.

Our groomsmen were kitted out in the same colours as Damitha, but they all had traditional suit jackets and matching deep blue waistcoats.


I had my two sisters as my bridesmaids and then my two nieces along with my best friend’s little girl as flower girls. I didn’t want a huge bridal party because I thought that sourcing dresses for lots would be a nightmare, but as it turns out having just two bridesmaids was still a huge nightmare! I really wanted a ‘rust’ colour but really struggled to find anything, so in the end I chose deep burgundy Alfred Sung dresses from Joys Bella Bridesmaids. The flower girls’ dresses were bought from Debenhams, I added the orange sashes myself, and their shoes were Monsoon Kids.


My sister, Sally, did my hair and makeup and then my mum’s hair and makeup. She then did her own, as did Lindsey. They both have stunning long curly, wavy hair, so I wanted them to be kept natural with minimal fuss. Lindsey then did the flower girls’ hairstyles.


We all stayed at the castle for two nights because we had a massive family dinner the night before, so we had no need for any transport. Much to the disappointment of my husband who would’ve loved to have been driven around in a vintage Mustang!


Our photographers were a husband and wife team that go by the name of AD Photography. I met Alex and Janet when I first started doing wedding fairs with my own wedding business back in 2013, so they are good friends of mine and I knew they would be perfect to capture our day. Their style is quite formal and traditional but if you really want a certain type of shot or style they would be happy to do so. We wanted quite a few formal family photos, but also wanted some arty shots of just the two of us too. We realised that the time of year made this incredibly difficult (the clocks had gone back the night before too so we had already lost an hour of precious autumn sunlight) and time was very limited, but they were brilliant! We got all the shots we wanted without the feeling we had been rushed! They’ve been in business for over 20 years so they really know their stuff, and they helped to keep me calm and collected when things got that little bit too overwhelming! I would 1000% recommend them!


I carried a large hand tied bouquet made by the amazingly talented Mel at Passion Flowers Pontefract. It was a mixture of orange, purple and red flowers with beautiful rich foliage and rosehip berries all tied together with a burnt orange ribbon.

Following on with my autumnal vibes, I asked Mel to decorate my venue with lots of pumpkins, gourds, crab apples, dried leaves and such. I had lanterns with candles inside to line the aisle, with acacia trees at one end. In a traditional Sinhalese ceremony, the couple say their vows on something called a wedding poruwa which is a platform covered with beautiful cascading flowers. I wanted to try and create something similar so Mel made a beautiful wooden arch decorated with flowers and hessian and we were married underneath it. The arch then got moved and placed directly behind our top table, which framed the stone fireplace perfectly. Our table centres, also keeping with the theme were tall candelabras with huge flower displays on top, which again contained little pumpkins and lots of trailing foliage. It was so perfect, it was everything I ever imagined and more.

We hired our beautiful cross backed oak chairs from Elite Event Hire and our photobooth was a vintage style camera with a big backdrop provided by a company called Magic Images. We had loads of fun posing with all the props they provided.


We decided to donate to the British Royal Legion on behalf of our guests as wedding favours. Since it was coming up to poppy day, we bought everyone a 2019 poppy lapel pin badge. I also had all my place names laser cut from wood, so this was a small extra gift if guests wanted to keep them.


Having a cake business, Vintage Cake Fairy, meant that the first thing that I usually got asked after mentioning I was planning my wedding was, ‘are you going to make your own cake?’ Well, naturally, being a control freak, of course I did!

At Hazlewood Castle, cakes are usually placed in a beautiful stone alcove just to the left of the top table. As soon as I saw this my mind was a whirlwind of how could I create a stunning showpiece worthy of this alcove. I then bought an old rum barrel to put my cake on top of. I asked Mel to dress it with baskets of over spilling gourds and pumpkins, leaves and general Autumness. The cake itself was a five tier masterpiece, consisting of a barrel effect hexagon shaped bottom tier, sugar flowers and foliage, gold leaf, hand piped monogram and finished off with sugar figurines of myself and my groom. Now, I can’t take full 100% credit with the making of this cake. I knew that even with this being my profession there was no way I could make this cake and do all the final preparations that a bride needs to do in the days leading up to her wedding, so I ask my dear friend and cake pal Rachel to come and help me, she was the only person I could trust to come and set it up on the morning of the big day and she did a sterling job too!


We chose to have quite a traditional dinner for our wedding breakfast. We wanted to give Damitha’s family and friends that had come all the way from Sri Lanka a taste of English cuisine so we had prawns to start, roast pork with all the trimmings for main and a citrus tart for pudding, finished off with a Sri Lankan favourite of Gingelly rolls (sesame seeds with coconut tree treacle) with coffee. We toasted with prosecco and orange juice for the non-alcohol drinkers. We also asked a Sri Lankan friend of ours to make some traditional Sri Lankan vegetable rolls and fish patties to go along with the bacon sandwiches we gave to our evening guests.


There was only one thing that my groom really wanted for the wedding and that was a string quartet, and I couldn’t deny him the one and only thing he really wanted now, could I? We hired a wonderful group of ladies called Ackworth Strings to play during our drinks reception. We met them at a small wedding fair hosted at Ackworth School.

Special touches

I’ve been to weddings in the past where there wasn’t that much to do to entertain yourself during the lull between the reception and the evening party and, dare I say it… these were super boring! This memory was almost always in the back of my mind whilst planning our big day, and it was the last thing that I wanted, so I hired a lovely lady that I had met at a previous wedding to make me some ‘fun stuff’.

Susy at Sweetspaces makes and styles all kinds of events and has a keen eye for detail. The wedding I worked on with her was such a feast for the eyes and mind that I knew instantly that I wanted her to create some things for me. I consulted with her around a year before the big day, told her my theme and the ideas that I had. Again, going with the season, I thought it would be fun to have apple bobbing, sparkles and s’mores. I never thought in a million years that she would take these few daft ideas and turn them into beautiful and fun stations. Speaking to my guests after the event, they all enjoyed playing around and eating the treats so much!

With only a couple of months to go, I asked Susy if she would be able to make us an apple cider station if we provided the cider. She took that in her stride too and, without an issue, she turned a bland corner of the room into an apple cider extravaganza! It was ace, and many guests commented on how nice it was.

Finally, we thought it would be fun to hire some vintage arcade games. My groom and his tribe love to play computer games, so when we saw a company that hires them out for weddings we instantly knew we had to have them. The three arcade machines we hired were from a company called Arcade Hire and they were brilliant guys from start to finish.

Thanks to

I can’t go through this without mentioning UNVEILED Network Member Bia of Bianco Blanc Paperie, I met Bia at a wedding fair I was attending with my own business and totally fell in love with her style. Not only is this lady super talented, she is also a genuinely lovely person! When I approached her to potentially make my wedding stationary I didn’t really know what style I wanted. A dear friend of mine had designed us a gorgeous monogram, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that, but that was about it! So with only this small piece of information inspiration, she set to work and I was over the moon with the result! It was simple yet informative, modern yet traditional, it was everything I never knew I wanted. She even hand delivered it all the way from York, just to make sure we had them in time to take with us to Sri Lanka to give to friends and family in person.

I would also 100% recommend our venue, they truly went above and beyond. Anything that we could’ve asked for, they did without an issue, even down to a last minute room shuffle to accommodate an elderly relative. It truly is a hidden gem!

I would like to give Mel our florist an extra mention too, purely because this lady is a genius! Not only is she so talented and lovely, she genuinely cares about you and your wedding. She wants it just as beautiful as you want it and it really shows in all the tiny little details and precise placements. In collaboration with Susy, she took my wedding from nice, to exceptional and I will forever be thankful for it!

Our photographers also deserve a small extra mention, not only are they both calm and professional, they are also genuinely talented photographers! They took over 900 images on the day and for our album we had to choose just 90. It was an impossible task, so we ended up upgrading our album to have more pages but still getting them down to the 120 we finished with was almost impossible too! Our album is something we will cherish for many years to come.

Best bit

I don’t think I have a specific favourite part! The entire day was just so perfect and, not to sound too clichéd, it truly was the best day ever!


Because we had Damitha’s parents staying with us for a month after the wedding we decided to push back our honeymoon, two weeks travelling around Italy the following May. Due to the current pandemic we had to cancel it in the end anyway. We do still hope to go at some point in the future though!


Our top tip would be to not stress out on the tiny details too much in the days leading up to the big day. The day itself is a whirlwind of love and happiness, and if anything does go amiss I am certain it wouldn’t be noticed by anyone! Oh and get a videographer! We didn’t have one and we now really wish we did!

I am really lucky to have friends in the industry so choosing our suppliers wasn’t a difficult thing to do, but most of these friends were found whilst exhibiting at Brides Up North wedding shows. I follow all of the Brides Up North social posts and read most of the real wedding blogs, which I have to say did help with some idea finding. It’s always great to see what others have done, then take that idea and tweak it to make it work for you and your big day.

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