A Magical Winter Wedding
A sudden winter wonderland wedding was on the cards for these two love birds who rather impressively got engaged in the December and married at Tower Hill Barns the very next March! With a DIY setup and a mix of warm winter colours, the snow fell on this stunning winter day making it a truly white wedding of magical delight.
Hope and Graham, who live in Connah’s Quay (Flintshire), were married with us in the Old Barn at Tower Hill Barns on March 2, 2018.
December 30, 2017 – a mountain by Llyn Crafnant, in Llanrwst.
It was the days between Christmas and New Year, when you end up spending all your time inside eating Christmas leftovers and too many chocolates whilst watching cheesy films. So going a bit stir crazy, Graham suggested we get out for a walk and we ended up in the sleepy village of Llanrwst.
Being from Australia, I’d spent the entire drive excitedly pointing at the snow all over the mountains and saying how pretty it was. We parked by the lake at Llyn Crafnant and chose one of the relatively easy paths to walk. As we came to the top of the climb, there was a log bench overlooking the lake below with views across to more snow-capped mountains, so we stopped for a little bit. Whilst I was busy taking pictures and trying to work out which of the peaks was the one we’d hiked a week earlier, Graham was busy fiddling with his jacket. I thought he was just clumsily trying to get his phone out of his pocket with his gloves still on, but then all of a sudden he was on one knee with a ring box in his hand.
It was such a special moment, and I was completely shocked. After a few tears from the both of us, I of course said yes! A real bonus was that we didn’t have any phone service so we were able to stay in our excited very private bubble for the rest of the walk as we made our way back down and around the lake. Then on the way home we stopped at The Stables in Betws y Coed to celebrate with a glass of bubbles.
We took a week or so to enjoy the engagement and be in the moment, but we had a few important (and potentially difficult) decisions to make. Because my visa was due to expire, we needed to decide what we were going to do, and quickly! But after tossing around a few options, including us moving to Australia, relocating to Europe, me going back to Australia and a long distance engagement, and even an elopement, we both felt that the reason we were engaged was because we wanted to be together. So we made the only decision that felt right and that was to get married ASAP, like in less than six weeks.
At first Graham wasn’t convinced it would work (and we definitely had some hurdles with visa appointments, paperwork and processing times that had things down to the wire) but having studied Hospitality and Event Management in a previous life, I knew we could pull it off! And then, when we saw Tower Hill Barns, it all fell into place, as we just knew our wedding dreams could quickly come true.
Why Tower Hill Barns
Growing up in Australia, I’d always dreamed of an outdoor wedding – on a summer beach or in a country garden. So in accepting that wasn’t going to happen in March in the UK during an exceptionally cold winter, the one thing I knew I didn’t want was a manor house type affair, and neither of us wanted a church wedding or a simple registry office ceremony.
We both said we liked barn style venues and after visiting a couple, we arrived at Tower Hill Barns and immediately knew it was the one! In my mind I could picture it all coming together just like I’d imagined in my secret Wedding Pinterest board, and when we saw the Old Barn and Graham saw the bar area, we were sold. We also loved the adjoining Cottage which meant we could enjoy breakfast with our immediate family the next morning, and the beautiful grounds meant we wouldn’t have to go anywhere else for our photos. Viewing it and getting married in the winter, I really felt a connection to the setting and to our engagement as well.
The Big Day & The Ceremony
We held our ceremony in the Old Barn, with an aisle lined with tea lights and rose petals and decorated with loads of flower posies. When it came time to walk down the aisle, I wasn’t that nervous, although Graham told me afterwards that he was close to pulling a Prince Harry and ‘bricking it’! I hadn’t realised but apparently I was running quite late, as I’d had to Face Time with my friend back in Australia who’d wanted to see the dress and wish me luck.
Our gorgeous nephew was the first down the aisle, accompanied by his mum, as he was our special ring bearer. Leading up to the day, there’d been some concern about whether he’d hand over the rings at the end of the aisle (as being 18 months at the time he wasn’t a huge fan of sharing) but his Dad was also the best-man so luckily everything went to plan when he arrived front and centre stage!
Our ceremony was a beautiful but casual and relaxed affair, with the celebrant causing our guests to break out in laughter on many occasions, and our nephew and my bridesmaids’ 6-month-old daughter keeping everyone entertained. At one point even Graham and I ‘lost it’ as when it came time to put on the rings, I couldn’t easily get Graham’s ring to fit on his finger and he had to force it on.
The Wedding Breakfast: food, speeches, live entertainment
We served canapés and bubbles straight after the ceremony, which we loved because it allowed us to mingle with our guests and be “in the moment” for a while before the formalities commenced. The feeling as we walked out of the Old Barn as husband and wife and joined our guests was so special.
Actually, the first person to greet us right after we’d walked out of the ceremony together and into the foyer area, was a Tower Hill Barns team member who was waiting with two glasses of prosecco for us. I’ll never forget her face, because I’m sure her smile was as big as mine, and it was such a touching moment. Once we’d paused for a second to take it all in, it was lovely to be able to have a celebratory drink and say hello to everyone as we floated together on cloud nine.
Our speeches kicked off our wedding breakfast, and it was an honour to have my mother give a “father of the bride / mother of the bride speech,” and also have Graham’s dad say some special few fatherly words.
Being foodies, it was really important to us that we weren’t limited to a boring, set-menu. We chose to do alternate drop, serving two different starters (grilled tiger prawns with ham and melon, and a chicken liver parfait) and two different mains (a roasted rump of lamb with thyme fondant potatoes and a corn fed chicken with pancetta wrapped green beans) so that our guests could swap and share between them.
For the evening, we had a grazing table filled with salads and tapas style foods, as well as an amazing cheese board and sweets table that our guests still talk about!
The “evening do” was a tricky one for us to agree on at first. I was adamant I didn’t want a dj, or tacky disco lighting, and Graham really wanted something to liven up the party!
Luckily, we’d been celebrating our engagement in a bar in Chester on New Years Eve and we’d both really enjoyed dancing to a band that was playing. A few weeks later I did some expert Google stalking and managed to track them down and book them for our wedding!
The Myers (band) did a paired-back acoustic version of Dakota by the Stereophonics for our first dance (one of our all time faves), and then got the dance floor positively moving with a good mix of indie and classic tunes.
Because we had a smaller, intimate wedding, we loved being able to get our boogie happening on the dance floor, whilst also being able to quickly pop and say hellos and thank you to our evening guests as they arrived in the bar. The venue layout gave it such an inclusive, warm and welcoming feel.
Although technically, and not too many people know this, our first dance actually happened outside, just the two of us as we’d slipped away with our photographer to the outside bar to steal a few quiet moments. The Tower Hill Barns music was playing in the ski bar and we just kind of went with it and had a cheeky first dance privately all to ourselves. It was definitely a highlight and now some of our favourite wedding pictures, even though neither of us can remember what music was playing!
We went on honeymoon in the summer, splitting time between Réunion and Mauritius. On Réunion we had a few days of adventure, seeing the Deep South by 4X4’s, and a breath-taking helicopter tour of the volcanoes, followed by a luxurious week on the south of Mauritius at Lux Le Morne lounging by the pool.
The Winter Wedding Suppliers
If I’m honest, we seem to wear a lot of navy and burgundy, so our winter wedding theme was a natural extension of that! It was really important to me that both of our cultures were represented in the wedding, and that it showed who we were as a couple. I really wanted a soft, natural feel in keeping with the barn venue, and with lots of nature and botanicals to tie in with our love of the outdoors.
I did a lot of the styling myself, incorporating eucalyptus (an Australian homage) and gypsophila into the theme and venue decorations. I designed and printed everything from the wedding invitations to the place cards, signs, and wedding favours, even arranging the bridesmaids’ bouquets and table dressings having ordered flowers wholesale.
We were truly spoilt to have one of my bridesmaids help with a lot of the wedding planning, and she was the creative designer and master-baker behind our stunning sweets table. She even created custom chocolates, wrapped with our signature-wedding stamp that I’d designed.
Thankfully, we were also successful in sourcing some amazing local North Wales wedding suppliers last minute. As although I’d wanted to do as much as I could myself, we knew there were some things we’d be better off outsourcing!
Ivy Pip & Rose made my asymmetrical bouquet and floral headpiece, the boys’ buttonholes, and the stunning hanging arch garland to frame the mirror in the barn.
Instead of having a traditional dessert course, we decided to serve the wedding cake for dessert with fresh cream and berries, and we got so many compliments from our guests. We went for a semi-naked sponge cake with a jam centre and white chocolate icing, made by Sally at Tab Nab Cakes. I only wish we’d had another tier on the cake so that we’d have more leftovers in the freezer now!
Lyndsey from LSP Hair worked her magic with our hair, weaving in my flower crown (and about 100 pins for my bridal updo that made for an unexpected buzzkill later that night as Graham and I stood plucking them from my hair for what felt like hours). And Kirsty from Makeup by Kirsty Badrock did the bridal party’s makeup. I’d never felt more beautiful and it was such a fun morning getting pampered all together in the hair and makeup studio at Tower Hill Barns.
The bridesmaids wore navy floor length strapless dresses from Debenhams, my maid-of-honour (who came from Australia for the wedding) found a stunning floaty, navy dress in Sydney, and the boys wore navy suits hired from Moss Bros with burgundy ties.
Because we planned our wedding in less than 6 weeks, I’d been really worried about finding a dress in time (as most boutiques told me there’d be a minimum 4 month waiting period). I knew I wanted something with lace that was fitted, so I was thrilled when I walked into Elizabeth Louise Bridal in Chester and the lovely girls had my dream wedding dress just waiting for me. It needed some alterations and a lot of length taken off the skirt (even though I’d planned to wear heels), but Hannah at ELB assured me their seamstress could have it done in time with only a couple fittings. In the end it was perfect and I was able to use the lace off-cuts from my dress to wrap around my bouquet.
Usually preferring to be the one behind the camera rather than in front, I was really nervous about our wedding photos. I wanted them to be perfect and for us to treasure them forever, but we also wanted something more candid than staged – as the idea of spending three hours taking posed photographs whilst our guests drank all the bubbly impatiently checking their watches for our return sounded like my kind of hell.
We booked Sally from Sally Joanne Photography to capture our special day, and looking back on our photos they are absolutely amazing. People can hardly believe we were brave enough to have our wedding photos outside during blizzard-like conditions. But our bridal party were troopers and even though we were so cold and in almost every photo at least one person has their eyes shut from falling snow, they look magical. At one point the groomsmen even broke out into a spontaneous rendition of “Let It Snow” during group shots which had us all laughing and forgetting the cold for a moment.
Funny Stories From The Big Day
I’d always kind of joked about how romantic a white wedding would be, but no one was more shocked than me when a few days before the wedding we woke up to a blanketing of snow (thanks to Storm Emma and the Beast from the East)!
From collecting my wedding dress, to ensuring the wedding cake could be delivered, to our guests arriving on time, the snow made things rather challenging. The night before the wedding everyone was at panic stations, we were fielding texts from guests asking if it was still going ahead, and Graham and I were seriously wondering if we’d be able to make it to Tower Hill Barns in the morning, joking that we might need to find a friend with a helicopter!
Luckily everyone rallied on the day, and we both managed to get there safely, as did almost all of our guests. And although the snow continued to fall all day (much to the dismay of my Australian family who were convinced we were in fact in Antarctica), inside you’d have never known it was a full whiteout, as it was cosy and warm with under floor heating and the twinkly lighting really gave it an intimate feel. Plus, the snow made for some truly magical moments and absolutely stunning wedding photos.
Top tips for other couples
- Make the day last as long as you can, it goes so quickly (no really, it does)!
- Give yourself as much time as possible to plan and save (even though we pulled off a wedding in less than 6 weeks, it was stressful and we couldn’t have done it without the team at Tower Hill Barns who were always ready to give advice, help with planning, and quick to send us reminders whenever we’d forgotten anything).
- Don’t get caught up in too many details, your day will be special and memorable no matter what. Because in hindsight, although I’m so pleased that everything looked amazing and the food was delicious, my favourite memories are of the ceremony and dancing with my husband.
Our wedding suppliers
With thanks to Elizabeth Louise Bridal Boutique, bouquets and button holes by Ivy Pip & Rose, photography by Sally Joanne Photography, cake by Tab Nab Cakes, hair by LSP Hair, make up by Make Up by Kirsty Badrock, and The Myers (band).