Real Weddings

Justin Alexander for a Simple & Elegant Wedding at New Craven Hall – Hannah & Chris

Sarah Symonds

Join us today for the picture perfect wedding of Hannah and Chris as they celebrate their marriage in an elegant and classic church ceremony followed by the-party-to-end-all-parties at the industrial, urban luxe venue, New Craven Hall in Leeds.

The perfect Battenburg wedding cake doesn’t exis… Oh wait. Looks like Hannah and Chris have nailed that too! Well, when you have a favourite, why not roll with it? This is your day afterall! If you want pizzas and Battenburg then you shall have pizzas and Battenburg!

Cake aside (important though cake certainly is), this wedding is also jam-packed with sentimental and personal touches that nearly had us reaching for the tissues. If there are special people who can’t be with you on your big day for whatever reason, there are so many incredible ways to involve them in the celebrations too. For more ideas on that we’ll hand over to our couple. Let’s catch up with the bride as she tells us all about how the big day unfolded…

With photography by UNVEILED Network Member Hannah Brooke Photography


We got engaged over 11 years ago, when Chris was in the army, and I was heavily pregnant with our baby. We knew he was going to be in Afghanistan when the baby was born, and we didn’t want to marry whilst I was pregnant, however Chris wanted to show his dedication to us. He proposed to me in a restaurant in Leeds – with a bottle of champagne on standby which of course had to be cancelled! Nerves had set in and he’d forgotten that pregnant ladies can’t drink!


We left our plans for a wedding on hold due to bringing up our son, Alex, and with Chris leaving the army a few years after Alex was born. We then finally decided on a date of 9th October 2020, when we would have been engaged 10 years exactly to the date. This was then moved twice to our final date of 20th November 2021, which is my birthday!

We got married at Netherton St Andrew’s – where Alex and Chris were both christened. Then we celebrated at New Craven Hall in Leeds. We immediately knew it was the venue for us. It was so different but also inviting and cosy, yet with an industrial look!


We didn’t have a theme as such, we just wanted simple, elegant and timeless. We opted for elegant white florals with hints of green foliage. Bridesmaids were in navy blue, matching the groomsmen.


I went to a boutique that sold ex-display dresses, UNVEILED Network Member Off The Peg Bridal. It’s a Justin Alexander dress and I knew it was the one straightaway. I tried several others on but mine was still the one I’d had my eye on for months! It fit me like a glove, so I knew minimal alterations would be required. I felt like a princess and didn’t want to take it off. Plus it had pockets, to keep a hanky in that my mum gave me from her wedding day.


Chris wore a stunning suit from Frank Bird in Wakefield that we’d picked out as soon as the shops reopened after the first lockdown. The team there were great and couldn’t do enough for us and the groomsmen. He wore it with a gold tie. Chris loves his shoes, and for our wedding he picked a pair that were a beautiful ox blood red.

All suits for the groomsmen were also from Frank Bird, just in a slightly different shade. Our son Alex wore a navy suit from Next with a matching tie to Chris’. We wanted Alex to play a part in the wedding so he was our ring bearer.


I had my Maid of Honour, two bridesmaids and a flower girl. We got the two bridesmaid dresses quite quickly and easily from Simply Be, but my MoH is petite and 5ft 2, so we both couldn’t find any dresses to fit. In the end we went back to Simply Be, got a size 10, and had it altered to have all three of them in the same dress.

My flower girl niece wore a beautiful Monsoon dress – she loved how it swished when she moved. She felt and looked like a princess.


I wanted my mum to have her makeup done too, and wanted a makeup artist that matched her style and age, who was used to working with ladies in their 60’s. Cheryl Marie Wright took the time and prepped beautifully to ensure all our makeup lasted ALL DAY, with no touch ups – even when I cried in the church and at the first dance!


The church was close to my mum’s house. I stopped there the night before and rented a classic Jaguar from All Luv’Dub. When we first looked through the pictures we saw that the reg was ‘CNK 919F’ and we thought it stood for Chris Nicholson Knowles (Knowles is my maiden name) so we knew this was the car for us.

Chris got ready at our house, and I told him he was getting a lift from a friend and left it at that. What I’d actually done was book him in an Aston Martin Rapide to take him, Alex and Stephen to the church. Our neighbours knew, as did the photographer, but Chris was truly surprised. Travel Prestige Cars in Manchester were truly great. I didn’t worry about anything, and they gave Chris a ride to remember. I can’t thank them enough.

We had plenty of time after the church ceremony and would be early to the reception so Chris and I actually snuck home in the wedding car and got our neighbour to take a picture outside our front door!


Hannah Brooke Photography! We picked Hannah as I knew her from when we used to work for the same company. We knew her style was what we wanted.

When we had to delay the wedding on Valentine’s Day 2021, Hannah came to the church and took some socially distanced photos of us, so we could announce the delay to our family and friends.

For the official pre-wedding photoshoot, Hannah took us to a local park and took some great photos with the natural look and feel. We felt so comfortable and so did Alex, who usually doesn’t want to be the centre of attention. Hannah was amazing and perfectly captured us as a couple.

On the wedding day Hannah brought a second photographer, Darren Hemsley Creative, with her, who covered Chris’ groom prep and followed his journey to the church, while Hannah covered the bridal prep with us. She also helped do the little things in the morning to help us get ready and even locked up the house. She gave us so much advice. Photographers are secret weapons at weddings!


The flowers were provided by Blooming Fantastic, who are just at the end of my road. I wanted to use local suppliers wherever we could. I’ve still got all the flowers now, dried and framed!

The room was decorated by Tracey Williamson Designs. She was recommended by a florist friend of my mum. We wanted the decorations to really complement the venue so we had two 10ft foliage trees with loads of lanterns around them. On the tables, we went with a foliage wreath of eucalyptus with a gold lantern and candles in the middle.

The table numbers were found on Etsy, with a matching design to the gold lanterns and eucalyptus leaves. We didn’t decorate the church as we like it as it is. However, we did ask the vicar to leave the Remembrance Sunday decorations up, as a nod to Chris’ army friends he’d lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I had loads of photos off Pinterest and used some of the Brides Up North articles for planning and prepping for the day, ensuring I hadn’t forgotten anything. I liked looking at the other real wedding pictures for inspiration for photos. It gave me the idea to have smoke bombs!

We handmade our place setting stand using frames we ordered online and with a piece of MDF from our local DIY shop. We included pictures of us from our pre-wedding shoot to build up the board. It worked really well, and we’ve still got it at home now!


We always knew who was going to make our cake! My mum’s oldest friend, Andrea, has made mine and my brother’s birthday cakes since we were very little.

We wanted two tiers, with one a typical fruit cake, which my Granny made at 88 years old. For the other layer we had Battenburg! It’s our favourite cake so Andrea made a Battenberg top tier for the cake and used the mini Mr Kipling ones to decorate it. The Battenburg cake all got eaten on the wedding day and neither me or Chris got a single piece, so it must have been good!

When it came to cutting the cake, my Granny had a genuine Mr Kipling cake knife, and we used that to cut the cake.


We always wanted a relaxed feel for the food, so we went with a local caterer, Shaun at Café Create in Wakefield, who was fabulous. Shaun and his team were great at accommodating everyone with their dietary requirements; vegans, vegetarians and any allergies.

We served canapes of mini-Yorkshire puddings with onion gravy and mini pate. For mains we had pork three ways, served at the table for everyone to share, with slaw, rice bowls and roast potatoes, and of course crackling! Dessert was a warm chocolate brownie and Chantilly cream!

For the evening food we wanted something different, so we went with Fired Up Pizza Co. Rob used to play rugby with my brother plus the pizzas are amazing. Everyone loved the food! We had a choice of goat’s cheese and caramelised onion, pepperoni, veggie or pesto and mozzarella.


We went to another wedding years ago where they used singing waiters and from then on we knew we wanted some too. It was one of the first things we booked. We went with The Undercover Waiters – Michael and Adam – who were brilliant. We didn’t tell anyone, not even our son. We kept it secret for nearly two years!

They entertained our guests perfectly and had everyone up, then came back and did a set in the evening too, incorporating all our favourite songs. Everyone joined in and sang Never Forget by Take That, which now we will never forget! They’re honestly worth every single penny.

Special touches

My Gran, at 96 years young, couldn’t be at the wedding due to her dementia, and had gone into a care home during Covid, which I found so hard. Three days after the wedding, Chris and I put our wedding outfits back on, I had my hair done and we went to her care home with our photographer to get some pictures with my Nan. She always wanted me to marry Chris and she used to write to him whilst he was in Afghanistan, so it was important to us that she was in the wedding album.

She sadly passed away on 10th April this year, not even six months after the wedding, so I’m even more glad our photographer came along and was able to capture this moment.

With both my grandads also having passed away, I wanted us to feel like they were there so Chris wore one of my grandad’s watches on the day. It meant so much to know that he was there in spirit, especially as I was his only granddaughter.

It was also my birthday on our wedding day! My mum had decorated my old bedroom with birthday balloons and decorations which were so lovely, I even had a birthday tiara (which came out in the evening)! When it came to the speeches, Chris’ opening line was “I’d like you all to sing happy birthday to my beautiful wife” which just made everything feel even more special. His speech was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard.

Our first dance song was also a special touch for us! We had Tom Walker’s Better Half of You. He sings about being away and apart. With Chris being in the army, and Alex being born whilst he was in Afghanistan, every time we heard it – whether we were together or apart – it would always make us both emotional.

Thanks to

Everyone really! Following the pandemic, life was hard for small suppliers and they were all amazing.

The team at New Craven Hall couldn’t do enough for us. They were so good at communicating through the uncertain times of Covid and didn’t falter on their promises and commitments to us. They’re a small team who do a fantastic job every single day! If anyone wants a venue local to Leeds City Centre with a different feel – New Craven Hall is the place to go!

Best bit

My best bit was when I saw my husband in the church. It was strange not seeing him or hearing from him on the morning of my birthday. Chris works away during the week, and we normally talk every morning and night, so it felt a very strange 24 hours but when I started to walk down the aisle and saw his face, I knew everything was ok and I couldn’t wait to say, “I do”. Everything else after that was magical and it didn’t matter what happened as I had Chris at my side!


We flew out to Mexico for a week on the date that marks 15 years since we got together. We wanted somewhere hot, sunny and a place to remember.


Our top tips would be to make sure you have a list of everyone’s responsibilities on the day, from groomsmen to bridesmaids, and everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing. I’d recommend you create a running order of the day for each party. But then don’t worry if things don’t go 100% to plan. It’s all part of the memories and the day.

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