Real Weddings

San Patrick for a Romantic Blush Wedding at Askham Hall – Vanessa & Ian

Sarah Symonds

Today on the blog we’re taking it from Northumberland beach proposal to a big Cumbrian wedding over in the gorgeous Askham Hall.

Rather than the originally-planned blush pink, spring wedding, our happy couple had to replan an October affair, adding in some seasonal darker tones, layering warm furs and throwing in that classic autumnal styling – and our adaptable pair certainly weren’t mad about that.

Well, whatever the season, we’re obsessed. It’s beautiful, it’s elegant and let’s face it, happiness never goes out of style. Let’s hear all about it from the bride herself…

With photography by James Green Studio


We got engaged on 25th August 2018 on Warkworth Beach in Northumberland. Whilst strolling along, we got to a quiet spot and I asked Ian to take a photo of me. When I turned around he had got down on one knee, placed my camera in the sand and all I could see was this ring glistening in the sunshine! I said yes straight away, shortly followed by ‘Did you ask my Dad?!’. We’d also exchanged contracts on our house the day before too, so we had the perfect weekend.


We originally booked our wedding for 9th April 2020 but we all know what happened there! It was important that we got married during school holidays as we have a lot of nieces and nephews in school. This made postponing so many times really difficult as we always had to go with half terms.

Our fourth and final date was 28th October 2021. We had the beautiful autumn colours but unfortunately we also had the weather to go with it – torrential rain all day!

We chose UNVEILED Network Member venue Askham Hall in Cumbria to host our wedding, with a Church of England ceremony at St John’s in the nearby village of Plumpton. Marrying in church was important to us and in my home county also made it very special to me. As we didn’t have a connection to the church, we had to attend regularly in the run-up and the congregation were all so welcoming. Our vicar was so personable and everyone said what a great service it was.

I have always loved Askham Hall after visiting for lunch with family. It’s such a beautiful mix of old English country glamour and the rustic barn just oozes warmth and ambiance.


We didn’t really have a theme to our wedding, I just chose things I liked that I felt suited the venue and hoped it would all come together. Askham Hall is such a beautiful old building, steeped in history, that I just wanted the scenery to do the talking really. The style was quite natural, beautiful and romantic for a timeless look.

We are National Trust members and regularly visit many of their stately homes and gardens. We decided it would be a great idea to name our tables after our favourite properties, which I think is unique and really suits the venue. I found Harriet’s Houses and commissioned her to do some beautiful drawings of the properties to go within the centrepieces and she did a fantastic job.

Originally planning for an April wedding, my colour scheme was blush. I also loved it cause it was romantic and pretty so when we moved to October I stuck with it but just added more autumnal colours and textures, and it worked really well.


My dress was by San Patrick, which I got from UNVEILED Network Member boutique The Wedding Dress Company in Corbridge. My Mum and I had already visited 8 boutiques, trying on over 100 unsuccessful dresses and I was beginning to come to the conclusion that I just didn’t suit wedding dresses!

I love the Spanish lace on my dress and how the bodice runs seamlessly into the skirt. I didn’t want any bling, beading or fuss to my dress – just something chic and elegant. It was comfortable and I loved how I looked in it. No one knows it but I did have a little tear in my eye as I looked at myself in the mirror and my mind was made up.

I paired my dress with a two-tier fingertip length veil also from The Wedding Dress Company. I loved the delicate sections of lace which matched my dress and, having a church wedding, I knew I’d always go traditional.

My shoes were from Paradox. I’m quite tall so I didn’t want anything too high that would make me taller than Ian. They started the day off ivory and by the end they were black!

Because I moved from April to October and my dress was sleeveless, I figured I’d need some form of cover up. I came across Melissa from Moxie Furs and she helped source vintage furs for me and my bridesmaids. She found me a beautiful Norwegian fox fur stole in mocha and I loved it – I felt so glam and it kept me warm!


Ian wore a dark navy suit from Slaters Menswear in Newcastle. We really loved the donegal fabric which was perfect to suit the rustic/autumn vibe. We didn’t want anything too shiny or modern. He teamed it with a pair of dark tan Ted Baker brogues and matching floral Liberty tie and pocket square, which just completed the look perfectly. We were lucky enough to find a pair of tabby cufflinks, or ‘Snuflinks’ – a little ode to our cat Snufkin, who sadly couldn’t be there!

Ian’s two older brothers and best men, three of his nephews and our dads all wore the same matching suit from Slaters Menswear. Our Ring Bearer and Page Boy wore similar matching suits from Roco Clothing. My seamstress made the two younger ones matching bow ties in the same Liberty fabric.


After a near miss with an online purchase coming from China, I found some beautiful blush dresses from BIBA at House of Fraser. They were perfect and my ‘maids loved them too. They were complemented by dainty Swarovski pearl jewellery, as a gift from me. I commissioned Folky Dokey to make some beautiful flower combs for their hair. Their look was completed with mink stoles from Moxie Furs in the colour Autumn Haze.

Our two adorable nieces were my flower girls and they wore dresses from Debenhams which were almost an exact replica of my dress with very similar lace and tulle skirt – which is why I chose them. I paired them with ballet pumps and ivory cardigans from Monsoon with a faux fur collar to match our fur stoles. I also made their hairbands. The younger one carried a basket of petals and the older one had a floral hoop.


Chiara Murtus did hair for me, my bridesmaids and our mums. She created a very classic and sophisticated up-do that stayed put all day.

Rebecca Williams made me a beautiful lace and pearl hair comb, upcycled from an old lace top I never wear anymore. It was so delicate and finished off my hair and dress perfectly.

Leonie Caniffee and Emma Lusby did all the makeup and we were all so pleased with it. I had two trials with Leonie beforehand where I experimented with different looks before deciding. Leonie really listened to what I wanted (and didn’t want) so, on the day, she got it spot on.


I went with my parents to visit Cumbria Classic Wedding Cars. I chose a 1958 Rolls Royce Cloud. I always loved the idea of rocking up in a fancy car just me and my Dad and it was such a special moment. I felt like such a princess, it was such a beautiful car.

The bridesmaids, flower girls and my Mum all travelled in a Bramwith which complemented my car perfectly.


Unfortunately, two days before the wedding, our original photographer had to cancel because she had tested positive for Covid. It was Ian’s birthday and we were just about to head into a spa day when we got the news! After a very unrelaxing time and a sleepless night, frantically contacting photographers for availability for a wedding in 36 hours, I eventually found James of James Green Studio.

James was amazing on the day and totally went above and beyond for us, constantly standing out in the rain to get the best shots. I can’t thank him enough for stepping in at such short notice and averting a crisis, and he has provided some beautiful images in what was a really difficult day, weather-wise.


Moviart Films was our videographer. We really loved Mick’s work and decided to add a second videographer to get more footage which I’m so pleased we did. Mick and Rachel have created the most beautiful wedding film for us. We cry every time we watch it and we will treasure it forever. We didn’t even notice them on the day, they were so discreet, and they got some beautiful footage despite the weather, which just adds to it really. Mick also created a special feature of our first dance.


The wonderful Michelle and Ashley of The Floralistas put together the most incredible floral creations, whilst battling the elements! With moving from spring to autumn, I had a slight change to my flowers. I still kept my original blush roses but added in lots of seasonal foliage, brown tones and dried textures. I gave them a few specifics but really just let them have free rein because they are so brilliant at what they do. They have a passion for using locally sourced/organically grown flowers and no plastic. My bouquet, church flowers and venue flowers were just insane and definitely one of the highlights.

I collected a lot of glass vases which The Floralistas then filled perfectly. I also sourced a lot of brass décor and candlesticks which really complimented my theme and paired with all the twinkly lights and candles in the barn, it was just so cosy and warm. Janet from Wilde and Romantic provided rustic crates that I styled, and a ladder for loved ones we’ve lost.

I also wanted to incorporate a few ‘country garden’ aspects which I did with my post-box for cards and table plan cartwheel. The log bases were also bespoke and I did the little cross stitch myself. The welcome sign was done by Lilac and White and our confetti came from Shropshire Petals.

I found UNVEILED Network Member Julia Eastwood through the Brides Up North website. I instantly loved her delicate whimsical range and knew it would fit our style perfectly. When we moved dates, she sent me a sneak peak of a new range she had been working on during lockdown. It was perfect and ended up being our design. She produced all the invitations, change of dates and on the day stationery. She was an absolute dream to work with, really helpful and friendly and nothing was too much trouble for her.

I absolutely loved reading all the Brides Up North real weddings. Each and every one is so different and it was great to see how the couple injected their personality into it. I found them very inspiring (also because I’m nosey!) and it was great to see some previous weddings at our venue, as well as other venues in the Lakes and North East I’m familiar with.


I booked Kelly of Wren Cake Design after seeing her beautiful cakes on Instagram! She created the most immaculate three tier, semi-naked cake for us, decorated with fresh flowers from The Floralistas. We chose raspberry and white chocolate, sticky toffee date and dark chocolate and caramel. I absolutely loved it when I saw it and it tasted even more delicious.


It was so difficult to choose from the extensive menu at Askham Hall. Everything sounded delicious! We were given a voucher to use at their sister establishment, The George & Dragon, where we sampled the cheese soufflé. It was so delicious that we just had to have it. We also chose potted duck. For the mains we went with roast chicken and slow cooked lamb. Deserts were a chocolate fondant and cherry bakewell both with a boozy sauce.

We also provided welcome canapés with prosecco for our drinks reception, then we had pizza with salads in the evening, as Askham is famous for its outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.


We always knew we wanted a live band and booked Nick and his Vice Band & DJ service through Askham’s recommended suppliers. I spoke to Nick a lot through postponing and he was always so great so it was a pleasure to finally meet him on the night! The band were amazing. We had such a party, I don’t think I’ve ever danced so much in my life – it was so worth waiting for! A lot of guests commented on how good they were.

Special touches

We used our first dance as an opportunity to learn a proper waltz, which was always a dream of mine. When and where else would we ever get the chance?! Luckily, with Ian’s performing arts background, he was able to teach me the steps and he choreographed the whole routine, which we practised, moving the sofa and coffee table out of our lounge every Saturday! It was a really fun time and really took the edge off when things got a bit stressful. Even before we decided to get married, I’d always chosen I Just Can’t Stop Loving You by Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett, as a potential first dance song as I’m a huge fan and the lyrics are just so meaningful and beautiful. Ian loved the song too and we absolutely loved dancing to it performed live by the band.

On the morning of the wedding I wrote a surprise letter to Ian and one of my flower girls delivered it to him. I love writing and thought, as I wasn’t doing a speech, it was only fair for him to know my feelings! It was very emotional and he cried reading it.

Thanks to

Our coordinator, Jenny, was amazing. Having been hit hard by Covid, she still went above and beyond for us. She let me pencil in a backup date (now our anniversary!) which really took the pressure off in the height of the pandemic. Without that flexibility I’m not sure how I would have coped. The whole team on the day were amazing too. So helpful and friendly and looked after all our guests in what was such a challenging time for them with many more weddings than usual. The standard of service was second to none.

Best bit

The whole day was just so emotional and happy! From getting ready in the morning with my bridesmaids, seeing myself in my dress with my hair and makeup done, to riding to church in the car with my dad, then seeing Ian at the altar and his reaction when he saw me – I was just so overcome by it all. The moment you walk down the aisle is like no other. You are flooded with a mixture of overwhelming feelings. I felt so much love. Looking at my husband, he had tears in his eyes and my smile was beaming, it was pure joy. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

I also loved riding back to the venue in the car with Ian. It was our first proper moment alone together as husband and wife and we were both full of excitement. It was lovely to just compare notes on how our mornings had gone.

And then sitting at the table together during our wedding breakfast enjoying the delicious food and watching all our family and friends enjoying themselves was a real ‘pinch me’ moment. Knowing that we were finally married and all the people who are important to us were there in the same room, having a great time in honour of us. It was just such a lovely feeling that we will treasure forever as it will never happen again.


We’ve not yet booked a proper honeymoon. We did have a mini moon in the Cotswolds, a part of the UK we’d never explored. We were surrounded by autumn colours, the smell of open fires, good food and beautiful Cotswold scenery. It was sheer relaxation which was just what we needed after 18 months of stress up to the last second.


Delegate, communicate and be organised! I was very much on top of things the weekend before our day and I’m glad I was due to our last minute stress with the photographer, I wouldn’t have had time otherwise. No matter how organised you think you are, something can always go wrong at the last minute so it’s always good to be as prepared in advance as you can be.

I didn’t delegate at all, I tried to do everything myself and as a result, a few things got forgotten. In hindsight, I should have given a few small jobs to my bridesmaids – they did ask me! There is so much going on during the morning that it’s so easy to forget things. Having a few people in the know acting as a human checklist will help avoid this.

And finally, it’s been said time and time again but it really is true, do try to take the day in and enjoy it!  A lot of things went wrong on our day, we didn’t get one single photo of us together from guests because we were just so busy but we made time for each other and I remember enjoying myself and being so happy in the moment despite the things beyond my control. You’re never going to experience it again so make sure you absorb every moment and don’t let things stress you out.

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