We asked the newly-weds Henry and Helene to share their experience, and here are the details about their big day…
Can you tell us how you met?
We met initially at a friend’s themed 21st birthday party, where I was dressed as a baseball player and was unimpressed as Henry had decided to shun the fancy dress entirely. We met again at a New Year’s party a few years later and kept bumping into each other through friends until Henry built up the courage to ask me out. We went on our first date and at the restaurant the waitress forgot to take our food order for over an hour – we were so busy chatting we didn’t even notice until she came to apologise!
Tell us about the proposal…
I’m a huge fan of Tudor history, and Henry decided to surprise me by taking me away to Thornberry Castle near Bristol, where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent part of their honeymoon. He had prepared a picnic of my favourite foods, and managed to source a bottle of the same wine we had on our first date (with a little help from the restaurant). We had the picnic in the castle gardens and he gave me a handmade photo album filled with photos and memories of our relationship. When I got to the end and looked up he was down on one knee…
His Mum had helped him pick the sapphire and diamond ring, and he had spoken to my dad beforehand too, so it wasn’t long before we were inundated with congratulatory phone calls from the family!
What made you choose Wynyard Hall?
I was keen to get married in the North East as I still think of it as home. We looked at a few venues in the area which were lovely, but didn’t leave us with the same breathlessness as Wynyard Hall did. It’s such an imposing and opulent place, and we felt its traditional grandeur really matched the occasion and what we wanted from the day.
What is your favourite function space and why?
It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I think the Chapel has special significance to us now. From the beautiful Italian marble to the stained glass windows, we felt very fortunate to have such a beautiful venue for the ceremony. Other particular favourites would be the ceiling in the mirror room and the views of the lake from the conservatory. The whole venue was absolutely beautiful.
What colour scheme, theme or flowers did you choose?
The wedding as a whole was quite traditional with a few personal touches. Our colour scheme was dusky pink, peach and sage green which felt very natural and summery. I wore a crown of flowers that matched my hand tied bouquet. Our florist Valerie Rose, was so creative that I couldn’t have been happier with how it all came together and we received so many compliments on the decoration too.
What wedding menus did you choose? What was special about the food/service?
We chose Ham Hock Terrine to start, with Cheese and Sun-Blushed Tomato Soufflés for vegetarians. Then Leg of Gressingham Duck (Henry’s favourite) and Cauliflower and Cumin Risotto for the vegetarian main. Dessert was Chocolate Fondant with Pistachio Ice Cream, and huge Knickerbocker Glories for Henry’s nephews which went down a treat. We really liked how attentive and polished the service was – nobody had to ask for a top up and everything was timed to perfection.
We also had canapés for the drinks reception which were fantastic! We had two cakes – a traditional sweet cake with four flavoured tiers (salted caramel, chocolate, banana and ginger) and a cheese cake with 9 types of cheese. I’m a huge fan of cheese, so this had special significance (we even used cheeses for the table names).
My parents had also sourced thousands of sweets for a sweet table which was a big hit with all the guests – there was nothing at all left at the end of the night! Mum put an amazing amount of effort into some of the finishing touches like this, which really made the day feel special.
How many guests did you have?
We had just fewer than 140 guests for the day and a further 20 or so for the evening reception. We had friends fly in from Canada, New York and even Hong Kong to celebrate with us.
What was your Wedding Coordinator like to work with? Were there any staff who particularly stood out on the day?
Ingrid was fantastic to work with, very approachable and we felt she took a genuine interest in our ideas and vision for the day. We also felt that Richard was fantastic – especially with some of the older, less mobile guests who needed assistance on the day. Special thanks should go to Annie our MC, she was so professional and unobtrusive yet firm with timings, and sticking to our schedule and ensuring everything ran smoothly. No small feat for a wedding of that size!
What did you do the on day or night before your Wedding?
The night before the wedding I stayed in Wynyard Hall’s Woodlands Cottage with my bridesmaids, we spent some time in the hot tub with champagne and then watched the film “Bridesmaids” before having an early night. Henry and the groomsmen stayed next door in the Elmswood cottage.
In the early evening we had a family dinner in the Londonderry room, which was lovely as some members of our families had never met and it was nice to all catch up before the big day.
Tell us about the dress… What style was it? Where was it from? What did your bridesmaids wear?
My dress was an a-line gown from Essense of Australia. It had a champagne coloured satin under-layer with an ivory lace over-layer and a full chapel train. I loved it from the moment I saw it. Even though it was so big that it was hard to hug guests on the day it was the most spectacular thing I had ever worn and it felt perfect for the venue too.
The bridesmaids wore sage green full length dresses from Dessy. They chose the styles themselves as I felt it was important they had input and felt comfortable.
What did the groom wear, and where was it from?
Henry and the groomsmen wore morning suits from Moss Bros hire. This consisted of a black morning coat, grey and black pinstriped trousers and a dove grey waistcoat. Henry’s tie and pocket square was from Dessy (in sage to match the bridesmaids) and the other groomsmen wore dusky pink ties in contrast.
Tell us about your wedding photos… which one was your favourite and why?
Focal Point Photography were amazing on the day and took the most spectacular photos. Our absolute favourite is one of us on the top of the bank behind the hall. The sun setting behind gave the most wonderful lighting and the full train of the dress trailing behind gives the photo real impact. It was taken just after the wedding breakfast and speeches had finished and we were both feeling so content with how the day was going- it reminds us of how happy we felt in that moment.
Tell us about your entertainment…
We had a pianist for the drinks reception, Jeremy McMurray was wonderful and added a touch of sophistication to the afternoon.
We also had a magician, Dr Jonathan Pickard, who was a big hit with all the guests but especially Henry’s young nephews who spent the afternoon following him about and the evening practicing their own magic routines!
We had the ultimate wedding DJ for the evening; he played a playlist we had set up as well as guest requests. The DJ was fantastic, the music was a perfect mix for all ages and the dancefloor was genuinely never empty from the first dance until the music stopped.
And your honeymoon?
The day after the wedding we flew out to the Seychelles for 11 days followed by a week on Safari in the Serengeti. It was the perfect combination as we had time to relax after a busy few weeks but then had the action-packed safari to look forward to. We were very lucky to see all of the big five – even a baby rhino, and it really felt like the trip of a lifetime.
Was there anything extra special or unusual about your wedding?
Though the wedding was quite traditional in many respects, we added lots of quirky touches such as Jager wedding favours as its Henry’s favourite tipple, and I did a lot of extra decorations (menu boards, jars of lights etc) as I’m quite creative and love to draw – even drawing the chapel for the front of the order of service!
Quite unusually we had two of the bridesmaids give a speech, as I felt it was important to have a female presence in the speeches. They wrote it together (even though one of them lives in Singapore) and though it was mostly at my expense it was hilarious – many people commented on how memorable it was.
My Mum’s involvement in organising the wedding was exceptional. She went above and beyond what we could have hoped for with the whole day, helping with suppliers and ensuring nothing was forgotten. Her wedding folder was the size of a small child by the end, and she was so pivotal in making the whole day extra special for everyone.
Do you have any wedding planning tips?
Sit down early and discuss what you both want the day to be like. Once you can agree on what you like and dislike you can start to pull it all together. Organisation is key and whilst it may feel overwhelming at points it really is worth it in the end.
Would you recommend Wynyard Hall to other couples?
In a heartbeat. Our day was perfect and we owe a lot of that to Wynyard Hall.
Name: Focal Point Photography