Engaged: planning a 3-day wedding in Tuscany

Gina Lyons and Mark Lee are planning a wedding extravaganza in the Italian countryside. The couple share not only a love of books and travelling but also a great sense of humour. Read the first instalment of their love story as we follow them on their journey from the big screen engagement right up to the big day taking place in June 2017.

 Gina & Mark
Falling in love
Gina is a Comedy TV producer, and Mark works as a sales director. “We met on a dating website called Lovestruck,” recalls Gina. “Neither of us had really used dating apps before – so within an hour of chatting about our favourite book (A million little pieces, by James Frey) we were skype-ing. In fact, I met Mark’s entire family online before I had met him in person,” remembers Gina.
“Our first date was in a bar in Carnaby Street. I didn’t have the highest hopes – clearly – as I invited him along to my mate’s wedding planning chat – there were 4 girls and a guy sat there drinking. Luckily, he kicked around and we drank cocktails, then took our respective tubes home. We fell in-love within 3 weeks (we say), but in reality it was more like 3 days!”
After spending their first holiday in Thailand, the couple decided to follow their passion for travelling by visiting many places, including South America, Cambodia, Vietnam, America and India.
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The proposal
Carefully planning a surprise proposal, Mark hired an independent cinema in Crouch End. Gina’s friend took her to see a film, but after the adverts, the screen crackled and Mark appeared on the big screen. He had made a beautiful film, which started with him looking down the lens to say why he loved her. He then went on to talk about visiting their first pub date, meeting her mum and brother to ask for her hand in marriage and then finally… checking if their cat and dog agreed.
Suddenly the words ‘Turn around’ came up on the screen, and she turned to find him on one knee in the cinema aisle! After she cried and said “YES” the film continued with more than 80 of their friends saying ‘Congratulations’ – Benedict Cumberbatch even made an appearance!You can watch the full video here.

“Our wedding theme is a relaxed, boho theme, with a lot of personal, bonkers touches like a game we created called ‘Find Bill Murray’. We still have high hopes he’ll RSVP,” jokes Gina.

You’re invited

Over a bottle of wine one night, Mark suggested they should dress as ‘old farts’ for their wedding invitations. So they did! The couple spent three hours getting prosthetic make-up done and hired The Hornsey Town Hall, which they filled with suitable, granny and gramps props. The result is one of the funniest invites we’ve seen in a while – see for yourselves!

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Stay tuned for the next instalment of this couple’s exciting planning journey. We’ll keep you up to date with Gina and Mark’s weird and wonderful choices for their 3-day wedding extravaganza!

Wedding Wednesday: 3 Reasons to read our winter issue

Whether recently engaged or you’ve already ticked most things off your planning checklist, our winter issue can help. We feature some of the West Country’s best venues and industry suppliers and bring you fresh ideas for achieving your dream wedding day whatever the season and budget.5d3_9848

We like to keep up to date with the latest trends in bridal fashion, creative ways to style the venues and all the fun and funky approaches to décor. That’s why we work closely with so many talented industry suppliers and venues, and keep an eye out for all the latest news. We’ll help you find the perfect venue, dress – and suits for grooms – and decide on the smaller details so your wedding day is just as you imagine it.

The Venue

If you’re looking to create your own happily ever after  in a fairytale location, check out our editorial piece on page 43. For this issue we set camp at Clearwell Castle, which features a Ballroom licensed for weddings. However, if you’re looking for a quirky and unique location for your ‘I dos’ , you may wish to consider our roundup of local museums (page 72).

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The dress

Our brides will find inspiration for the perfect dress within our Gown Gallery (page 27) – a handpick of the best dresses of the season from famous designers including Maggie Sottero, Jesus Peiro and Enzoani. For the grooms, we’ve put together the most stylish cufflinks on page 38.

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The details

For sorting out all the finer details, we cover everything from beauty to bridesmaids. Also our five Real weddings couples share their amazing wedding stories with us – each filled with beautiful details and tons of inspiration. Finally, don’s miss out our top tips on planning a winter celebration on page 58!

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Pick up your free copy from local wedding fairs ( you can find all the dates here) or simply browse through our online issue before approaching each planning stage. And don’t forget to follow our blog and social media platforms for inspiration and tips! Whether it’s print or digital format, we’d be honoured to help you make all your wedding dreams come true!

Photos by Emily Rose Photography

Open day wedding event at St Audries Park

Dreaming of getting married in a beautiful manor house set within the picturesque Somerset countryside? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you need to visit St Audries Park this Sunday 15th January for its open day event.

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With an enviable spot, occupying a fairy-tale manor house within a tranquil deer park overlooking the Bristol Channel, St Audries Park could be all yours for exclusive use. Just imagine hosting your ceremony in the superb Victorian Orangery and then holding a grand reception in the banqueting hall of up to 250 guests.

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The venue also has 38 luxury bedrooms so your guests can get a good rest once the wedding celebrations are over. In addition, there are two houses which can accommodate both the bride and bridesmaids and the groom’s party on the night before the wedding – no excuse for being late for the ceremony!

To find out more about the venue and arrange an appointment call 01984 633 633.

Details

St Audries Park

W: http://www.audries-park.co.uk/

T: 01984 633 633

 

Wedding Wednesday: Planning a winter wedding

Happy New Year to you all and congratulations to our newly-engaged couples! Winter is not only a popular season for engagements but also for saying ‘I do’ without breaking the budget. We interviewed Jo Peters, Castle Manager at Pennsylvania Castle in Dorset, on planning a dream winter wedding – think romantic lighting, festive sparkle and stunning sunsets.

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Having hosted a fair amount of winter weddings at Pennsylvania Castle, what would you advise couples when choosing to get married over the cold season?

Don’t be put off by the thought of the winter weather. There is something very magical about the extra sparkle that’s around when the nights draw in early and there’s a nip in the air. The feel of a winter wedding has to be totally different from the typical summer affair, but both are equally beautiful in their own way.orangery-ad-photo

How can the Penn accommodate for winter weddings? Are there any unique features that make it stand out from other venues?

We are known for making the most of a whole weekend for our wedding celebrations, and winter weddings are an ideal time to make the most of the Castle in this way. With our Orangery transformed into the indoor heated pool during the winter months, our wedding parties become more intimate which means that every guest feels even more special. Additional accommodation around the Castle Estate means that everyone can make the most of their time together and enjoy all that the Castle and the island have to offer.

Do you have any décor or styling tips for couples who dream of a white wedding?
Although steeped in history, the Castle is now known for its luxurious and more contemporary interior. We like to keep things simple but effective and feel that works best for any wedding theme – even if the wedding is taking place around the festive season as the Castle is always decorated around that time of year with winter weddings in mind.

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How can couples create a warm and intimate feel for the ceremony?
We love an abundance of soft lighting during the winter. In fact, one of the first thing people notice as they walk round The Penn are the beautiful chandeliers we have in every room – even the kitchen! Nothing looks more stunning than an early evening ceremony, with the lights softened slightly and the room filled with candles (you can never have too many candles going as far as we are concerned!). That’s why we created our Twilight Wedding options.

What excites you the most about 2017 for The Penn? Do you have any upcoming wedding events?

There is always lots to be excited about, every wedding is so different and we can’t wait to see this year’s celebrations come to fruition. And with our recently launched ‘Wed Me On A Wednesday’ wedding experience and our annual ‘Marry Me In May’ offering, there may even be a few couples that don’t even know yet that they are destined for a beautiful Penn wedding in 2017.

Details

Pennsylvania Castle

W: www.thepenn.co.uk

T: 01305 820659

For more wedding planning inspiration, check out our winter issue and visit our Gallery page for everything fashion.

Wedding Wednesday: New year, new look

As we step into 2017 Aztec Hotel & Spa will undergo a £1 million investment, which will see the venue transformed into an even more desirable wedding spot. For the great reveal, the team is hosting a Big Weekend for couples on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th January.

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Having a makeover

Showcasing its unique touches, the newly-refurbished hotel will welcome guests with a glass of bubbly, while the wedding suite will have a brighter, contemporary look. During the event, brides- and grooms-to-be will enjoy tours of the venue and get to meet the team to discuss personal requirements. the-bar-2 “The refurbishment of our main function suite is long overdue and we can’t wait to show off the new look, part of the hotel’s £1 investment, at our wedding weekend in January,” explains Lauren Manning, wedding coordinator.

“We look forward to meeting newly engaged couples on Saturday 28th or Sunday 29th January – complimentary admission on both days – to discuss wedding day requirements. Complimentary drinks and nibbles will be available to all couples and show-arounds of our newly refurbished bar, restaurant and bedrooms will also be on offer,” she adds.

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More details about the event are available on the website or you can contact Lauren Manning on 01454201090.

Aztec Hotel & Spa

W: www.thwaites.co.uk/hotels-and-inns/hotels/aztec-hotel-bristol/weddings-and-celebrations/weddings/

T: 01454 201090

Choose an engagement ring in 7 simple steps

Are you planning to pop the question this Christmas? According to a recent survey, 21% of people believe Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve is the best time to propose.With the festive season fast approaching, here are some great tips from Ruth Donaldson of Heirloom London on getting the right engagement ring for your lady.

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  1. Stick to the one you like

On average finding the engagement ring takes three months. This is because you’ll go online, talk to everyone, go in store, go back online, go to other stores, etc.  If you find a ring you love on the first day why waste another six weeks?

  1. It’s up to you now

As soon as that ring passes into your hands it becomes your responsibility. So look after it, and make sure that you have it insured.

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  1. Keep it safe

The location of your intended proposal may influence where you keep the ring and, in some cases, you may consider not having the ring with you:

  • A winter sun beach holiday – if you are in a hotel or apartment with a safe, then you’ll have somewhere safe to keep the ring. But if you are in a beach hut this may not be as secure for your special ring. Also think about what you are going to present your ring in – the elegant ring box may not look so romantic full of sand.
  • A city break – care should be taken in romantic locations where pickpockets are known to operate. Also take care, if you are presenting a ring on a balcony, bridge, or anywhere else it could be dropped.
  1. A happy surprise 

If your beloved tends to react physically to surprises, maybe you want to propose first, and then present the ring once she has finished waving her arms around (or punching the air triumphantly).

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  1. Safe transportation

A large ring box looks very nice and romantic in the store, but if you are going overseas, it is not something that wants to be placed in the hold, with the ring inside it! How do the professionals move rings? Often wrapped in tissue paper, in a discreet little plastic bag. Not the most romantic, but it protects the ring in your wallet, which is a good safe place to keep it secure while you are moving through the airport.

  1. If the ring fits

If you’re not sure about her exact ring size, it’s always better for the band to be slightly bigger, rather than too small. Some stores provide a ring insert, to ensure that it will at least stay on. If the band is loose, then it may be too risky to wear until it has been re-sized.

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  1. Cherish the moment

Never confuse fashion with style when choosing an engagement ring. Your buying decision should focus around the latter, rather than the former. With so many designs and styles available, you may opt for a unique creation that is personal to her.

Finally, don’t imagine that getting professional help will be expensive or mean you have to spend tens of thousands on the ring. A jewellery concierge can take the pressure off, save you hours of time and angst, and ensure your budget (whatever it is) goes as far as possible – meaning you get more ring for your money.

W: www.heirloom.london

5 Books to read before you walk down the aisle

Planning your nuptials is a big project, which can feel both exhilarating and exhausting. If you want your wedding planning journey to be filled with joy rather than jitters, being informed and organised is key. Take a look at our selection below to get from clueless to clued up on every aspect of your big day.

  • The Step-by-Step Guide to Planning your Wedding, by Lynda Wright, £ 8.99: This book is an easy-to-use guide taking you through all the details of your wedding preparations. If you love using ‘to do’ lists and being hyper organised this book is for you!

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  • Wedding Bible, by Sarah Haywood, £26: Filled with detailed advice and budget-friendly shopping tips, this book offers tips and insights from some of the biggest names in the wedding industry.

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  • Vintage Weddings, by Marnie Fogg, £24: A journey though some of the most beautiful wedding dresses from the past century, the book will teach you about choosing the right silhouette, style, fabrics and accessories for your body shape.

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  • My Handmade Wedding: A Crafter’s Guide to Making Your Big Day Perfect, by Marrianne Mercer, £11: Whether you want to make every aspect of your day yourself or simply choose a few projects, this book is filled with easy-to-follow instructions and helpful tips – all you have to do is take your pick from the 20 projects available!

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  • A Modern Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched: How to Plan, Survive and Enjoy Your Wedding, by Sarah Ivens, £9.99: Both entertaining and informative, the book offers a fun and lighthearted perspective on wedding planning – exactly what you need when things start to get stressful.

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For even more wedding planning tips and inspiration, check our our winter issue here.

Sunday Special: A match made in wedding heaven

Don’t you just love a good love story? So do we! Hence, when we heard about the wedding of Caroline Brealey – a professional matchmaker who found her own Price Charming and then tied the knot earlier this year – we simply had to share it with you!

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Finding love

Caroline, 32, owner of the introduction agency Mutual Attraction, married husband Christian Oliver on January 22nd 2016 at a romantic venue in the Cotswolds. But the dating expert went against all her own rules when finding the love of her life – by meeting him while out partying with her work colleagues.

Caroline tells her clients that love can be found when you least expect it, no matter where you are – but that it can be difficult meeting that special someone when on a night out.

The couple have now been together for four and a half years and she is hoping her personal love story will inspire her single clients in the quest for romance. Caroline, who is originally from Nottingham, explains: “We’ve been together for four and a half years. After three years, Christian proposed and we were married on during our fourth year together.”

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“We met while I was out for drinks in London. He had just moved here and was out with his new work colleagues.  I was also out with my work friends – I had just launched the business and was at my leaving drinks. I sauntered past him thinking I looked cool – he now says I looked like a muppet but it clearly worked. We swapped numbers and arranged our first date,” she adds.

The pair properly met for the first time at a pub in the capital before moving on to dinner – but it wasn’t love at first sight for Caroline. “After meeting we went out the following week but it was a rubbish day. The conversation didn’t flow and everything felt awkward. I think he could tell I was disappointed,” shares Caroline.

“He emailed me the following day and asked if I would like to go for a walk. I thought I would give it one more shot and as soon as we met we hit it off. I always say now to my clients that you have to give it a second chance because you never know. It’s getting the awkwardness out of the way. You have to give people a chance.”

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From wedding disaster…

After three years together, Christian, who is originally from Gran Canaria, proposed at the Old Swan and Minster Mill in the Cotswolds – which also stole their hearts when looking for a wedding venue. “He proposed to me on my birthday, and then we were married exactly one year later on my 32nd birthday,” said Caroline.

“It was lovely and an amazing day. As a bride, you do tend to get quite anxious because you think about it a lot and it’s something you’ve dreamed of since you were young. The closer you get to the big day the more nervous you get but everything went as planned.”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the budding bride after nearly suffering a major fashion disaster: “There was one slightly potential catastrophe. I got ready in a cottage nearby and my dress did get caught in a nail as I left the house. All of my train was caught but luckily there was no damage. We were also lucky with the weather considering it was January. We were prepared for the worst but in the end we even went outside for the photos. It was a wonderful day and very romantic, but not too cheesy.”

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… to happily ever after

The pair were living in a flat in Canary Wharf but re-located in November to a house in Chislehurst where they have recently welcomed the newest addition to the family – a sausage dog called Lady. “I wanted a sausage dog for years and on our wedding day Christian told me that was my wedding present, says Caroline.

“She’s such a Daddy’s girl. I’m at home with her most of the day but he gives her all of the treats. She’s completely changed our lives – she’s our baby. She is like a shadow though – she follows me everywhere.”

Emma Bailey Photography
Emma Bailey Photography

A matchmaker’ job

Caroline works from home for her business Mutual Attraction, which she set up in 2011 as a personalised matchmaking service. The company finds quality dates for time-poor, busy professionals in London by actively searching the city’s busy social scene for them. Caroline spends time getting to know each and every one of her members before then heading out on the hunt for their perfect partner. Only when she has found a suitable date that has been thoroughly vetted, will she arrange an introduction.

Many of her clients are aged between late 20s to mid 40s but she says she has recently seen an influx in those aged over 50. If you know someone who is searching for their soulmate, share with them the following tip from Caroline:

“For me, dating is all about having fun. It’s a great way to meet new people. The best pieces of advice I can offer to anyone are smile, be approachable, and enjoy yourself. Remember, you often find love when you least expect it – just like me.”

Want to read more real wedding stories? Visit our Real Weddings section and don’t forget to check out our latest issue!

Miscellaneous Monday: Engagement rings through the eras

Congratulations to our brides and grooms who got engaged this year! Whether your engagement ring is a classic diamond design or a bold saphire style, its symbol will always be true love and devotion. But did you know that the tradition of giving an engagement ring  has been spanning centuries?

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The designs and styles of engagement rings have changed considerably over time – from Georgian floral motifs to the extravagance of Victorian intricate detailing or eye-catching Art Deco statemet pieces. The following ring style guide created by AC Silver  – a UK based antique diamond and gemstone jewellery retailer – will help you understand each era’s unique features before choosing the perfect piece for your personality.

The Georgian era

Georgian engagement rings (1714-1820) were the first to include open faceted designs. This period is well known to be heavily influenced by nature, and often used leaf designs handcrafted by makers before mass production techniques came into play. This was also the first time that luxurious stones were brought in from around the world to take the designs to the next level.

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The Victorian era

Victorian engagement rings (1837-1900) showcase the age of Romanticism that ruled the literature and art of this era and often incorporated hearts, flowers and bows into the design. The most popular gemstone of the time was opal, as it was a personal favourite of Queen Victoria’s.

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The Art Nouveau era

Art Nouveau engagement rings (1880 – 1910) overlap with some of the Edwardian (1901 – 1910) era. This was the time that celebrated the female form. With the suffragette movement in full swing, this was reflected in the designs of engagement rings from this period. Swaying from the traditional romanticism these rings were designed to encompass free-flowing asymmetric lines complimented with a range of gemstones.

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The Art Deco era

Art Deco engagement rings (1908 – 1935) are perhaps the most famous of the eras and often included sapphires, rubies and emeralds combined with diamonds and geographic lines.

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The engagement rings we see today have a less clear cut style and there is more of a variety. Our generation loves all things antique, vintage and contemporary and engagement styles are much more personal now.

If you’d like to know more information about each style, take a look at the full engagement rings through the eras guide created by AC Silver.

W: www.acsilver.co.uk

Wedding Wednesday: Idyllic ‘I dos’ at The Penn

Would you consider having your wedding on a Wednesday if it meant having more flexibility on dates, cutting the costs and having more supplier choices? If so, then you’ll also love the new wedding experience ‘Wed me on a Wednesday’ from Pennsylvania Castle, in Dorset.

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Situated along the beautiful Jurassic coast, on the Isle of Portland, Pennsylvania Castle – also known as the Penn –  has idyllic gardens, stunning sea views and a fairy tale castle, which provides an amazing setting for weddings. It doesn’t get more romantic than this for your special day photos!

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With just 52 weekends a year, top or preferred wedding venues often book up months and sometimes years in advance. Friday and Saturday weddings are the favourite choices for couples and extremely popular at Penn Castle with couples extending their celebrations over a whole weekend.

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A Wednesday wedding can offer more flexibility by allowing you to book your preferred venue at a smaller price than traditional Saturday nuptials. With savings of up to 30% for weekday celebrations, there’s no better way to keep within the budget.

For more details about The Penn, visit: www.thepenn.co.uk.