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A wow factor wedding: peacock feathers, gold dress and a fairytale castle!

I’ve never seen a wedding as creative, colourful, exciting and unique as Rachel and Neil’s. I was amazed and delighted when beautiful bride Rachel got in touch with me a few weeks ago – and I love the very bespoke and personal wedding they created.

Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (1)

It’s very, very difficult to know where to start! Rachel’s gold, bespoke wedding dress by Terry Fox is breathtaking. The theme for the day – peacock feathers and a riot of colour – works beautifully. The attention to detail with everything from invitations to bridesmaids and buttonholes is sheer indulgence and I love every little bit of it. The wedding photographs speak of love – the way Rachel looks at Neil (and vice versa) is so romantic. The wedding venue – round the corner from my very own apartment! – is magnificent and full of character.

Once again I feel I should introduce a glorious and exciting wedding with a ringmaster’s flourish: you will LOVE reading about and seeing Rachel and Neil’s elegant, fun, informal, colourful and quirky wedding. Rachel’s written a brilliant wedding report to share with you – thanks ever so much, Rachel! With thanks also to Steve Hillman for sharing his lovely images of the day with us all today. Enjoy! Claire xxx
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (2)

Rachel and Neil’s vibrant Muncaster Castle wedding

Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (3)

Who proposed, and how?

Neil proposed to me in January 2010 on a trip to New York during a walk through Central Park. It was no secret to our family and friends how much I wanted to get married so I was so happy when Neil asked me after 6 and half years together. I got to choose my own ring which he bought there in New York.

Wedding venue: Muncaster Castle

We chose Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass, Cumbria as our wedding venue. I really wanted a wow factor venue for the ceremony as this is essentially the most important part of the day. I knew I was going to love it before I even walked in and if I’m honest I had actually been looking at venues online for a while before Neil even proposed! I’m so fussy I thought it might save a bit of time if I had an idea of places I’d like see when the time came. I looked at hundreds of venues on line and narrowed it down to 4. Neil was happy to let me have the venue I wanted but I still dragged him round with me!

As neither of us is religious we chose to have a civil ceremony, and because it’s such a beautiful castle I didn’t feel like we were missing out on the beautiful photographs and atmosphere you get from a church wedding because the great hall where we were married was just as special. It has very dramatic rich red and wood panelled walls which date from the medieval age, with pictures of past ancestors adorning the walls in ornate gold frames, with a huge fire place and a beautiful bay window to marry in front of looking into the gardens. Not only is the venue stunning but the staff who work there are amazing especially Sue the wedding coordinator! Everything just ran smoothly from start to finish. I would recommend this as a wedding venue to anybody. The castle is actually home to the Pennington family and we were lucky enough to meet the owner on the day too.

Wedding photographer: Steve Hillman

Steve Hillman, amazing photographer! We both would highly recommended him, Unobtrusive, beautiful wedding photography. Happy to listen to ideas of your own which I had many!! Very reasonably priced and just a really lovely guy.

How would you describe your wedding style?

Elegant, fun, informal, colourful and quirky.

Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (5)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (6)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (7)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (8)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (9)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (10)

What did you wear?

Rachel – My dress was a haute couture bespoke dress made by Terry Fox in Bury St Edmunds, which was a 6 hour drive from where I live but worth all the travelling I did. I knew I wanted a gold dress right from the start and had lots of ideas of what I wanted it to look like so I knew I wouldn’t be able to find one in a normal bridal shop.

I came across an advert in a wedding magazine and as soon as I saw her dresses online I knew Terry was going to be perfect! They were really different and unusual. The whole process of designing my dress was amazing but choosing the shade of gold was really hard from the small swatches as they look so different when there is more of it to see, so I was really nervous when I went to see my dress nearly finished in the shade I’d chosen but it was the perfect shade. It was a 2 piece made from silk and tulle.

The corset was made up of sheer pieces of material and lace layered over each other in different shades with vintage brooches cascading down on an angle, I really wanted a strap added to it so I opted to have this made out of gold lace which Terry added some sparkly embellishment to. I also wanted to have some sort of jewellery draping onto my arm, Terry sourced an amazing necklace to use made with AB crystals which sparkled amazingly. The skirt was made up of layers of tulle at the front and silk skirt to the sides and back with ruching all around the edges and a split train with curved edges and a small bow at the top finished off with a brooch. It was perfect and I felt amazing in it on the day. I would recommend Terry to anybody looking for something a little bit different.

I didn’t want a veil as I thought it would detract from my dress and maybe look a bit too much. I knew what I wanted and searched the internet for months, I came across Magpie Vintage based in Reading who make their own jewellery from genuine vintage brooches. I came across a necklace and thought it would be perfect to wear in my hair so they adapted it for me and it was so beautiful and matched my dress perfectly. It was made up of cream and different shades of small gold pearl, with a large gold flower and a large pearl at the front, they also made me a small necklace to hang at the back of my hair made up of AB crystals. My earrings were a Xmas present from my sister in law. I was so excited when I opened them as they were exactly what I’d been looking for myself and couldn’t find, they were from Chic Unique. I also bought a bracelet from Etsy.

I wore shoes from Schuh by Irregular Choice. They were metallic blue and gold with a gold flower and see through heel with flowers imprinted on them and doubled up as my something blue. I loved them – they were so quirky and went perfectly with my dress. My friend and bridesmaid Cheryl gave me a beautiful garter which she’d had made with Mrs Harris on the front.

Neil and his groomsmen wore 3 piece navy blue morning suits with pinstripe trousers. Neil had a cravat made from the same material as my dress and a gold pocket watch which was a present from me on the morning of the wedding which I’d had engraved. The groomsmen wore cravats made from the same material as the bridesmaids’ dresses. They all wore stripey socks in the same colour as their cravats which they loved.

The bridesmaids all wore knee length, strapless chiffon dresses from Dessy in purple, blue and green to match the peacock feather theme, and a peacock feather clip in their hair which I got from Primark for £2!! I just added a purple feather to them. I had pearl jewellery made in the same colours as the dresses especially for them as a present which I got from Etsy.

About the wedding ceremony:

The ceremony was so much more intimate than I imagined it would be: with our guests surrounding us it was just perfect. We had one reading read by my best friend and bridesmaid Jemma. She read ‘on your wedding day’.

The wedding reception:

After the ceremony we had a drinks reception outside with canapés. We were very lucky with the weather – it was a glorious day so it was lovely to make use of the castle front lawn and gorgeous gardens. We then went onto the speeches and a 3 course sit down meal. The food was amazing and the speeches had us both in stitches. My sister (chief bridesmaid) and best man (Neil’s brother) both did such a good job as did Neil. He was given a crown to wear by his brother during the speech which he barely took off afterwards! I also received an adult sized bib from my sister in law with Mrs Harris printed on the front, I loved it!

What were your wedding highlights?

  • Visiting venues with Neil, it was all so exciting. For me anyway!!
  • Seeing my dress finished, it was the most amazing dress, I loved it so much – it was everything I‘d imagined.
  • Planning all the finer details which made our wedding personal to us.

Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (11)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (12)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (13)

Memorable wedding day moments:

  • Travelling to the ceremony with my mam in the horse and carriage in the sunshine. It was just perfect.
  • Walking down the aisle towards my very handsome looking husband and saying our vows.
  • Putting on some of the props with all our wedding party running down the lawn and acting like kids!
  • Playing in the park in the grounds on the swings and zipwire with my bridesmaids and also the surprise dance we did.
  • Seeing all our family and friends having a great time and enjoying themselves.
  • The best man’s speech: he told some very funny stories, some of them very rude!

Wedding day advice:

  • It isn’t too early to start planning anything, the earlier the better especially any DIY projects – they can be very time consuming as I found out when making my own invitations but it’s very rewarding when you’ve finished and all your guests do appreciate the hard work you put in.
  • A wedding doesn’t have to be serious all day, once the ceremony is over have fun and be yourselves. We’ve had so many people say what a great time they had because it wasn’t too ‘stuffy’ and formal which it could easily have been in a venue like a castle.
  • If there are a lot of people getting ready together in the morning and you have somebody coming to do hair and make up, make an itinerary so everyone knows what they should be having done and when and allow plenty of time. Time goes very fast and today is a day you don’t want to be running late!

Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (14)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (15)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (16)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (17)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (18)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (19)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (20)

Wedding venue styling and details:

I spent a lot of time on the details of the wedding. I had a definite idea in my head of what I wanted it to look like, it all came together perfectly in the end. I loved the idea of having a really vibrant colourful wedding and using peacock feathers tied the look together.

I loved looking at beautifully dressed tables online during the planning so I really wanted our tables to have the wow factor liked the ones I’d seen. I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted it to look like.

I came across some gold charger plates in the range, they were perfect. I then added purple napkins with a peacock feather laid on top it looked really pretty and effective. Each guest had a miniature gold frame with a photo of them instead a place card, which doubled up as their favour too which saved us some money it was very time consuming but worth every second. Everybody loved them and it’s lovely to see them on display afterwards in their homes as a reminder of our day.

I didn’t want to see white anywhere in our wedding other than the table cloths so I hunted down gold chair covers which wasn’t easy. I had them made bespoke in the end, they were tied with a light gold organza bow and embellished with a peacock feather, and looked stunning in the room and really finished off the whole look. For the centrepieces we opted for tall vases filled with bright pink, purple, blue and green flowers and peacock feathers to match the theme with pearls on a wire wrapped around the vase – they looked beautiful. We re-used everything to decorate the function room for the evening do with help from the wedding party.

For our cake we opted for a cupcake tower with a round on top for us to cut. The cupcakes were iced in green, purple and blue butter cream and topped with pearls, glitter and feathers in gold filigree cake wrappers and displayed on a clear stand. The cake round was metallic gold and topped with 2 beautiful peacocks perched on a gold birdcage with a tea light inside with the peacock tail from Etsy cascading down the side of the cakes. It tasted just as good as it looked. We opted for carrot, chocolate, and lemon flavours. I arranged for Neil to have a groom’s cake made too as surprise. He loved it!

The flowers were really important to me and I did a lot of research on them so I knew what I was talking about when I went to see our florist. They were fantastic and really understood the vision I had for the day. My bouquet was made up of bright pink gerberas, purple lisianthus, green chrysanthemums, blue dendrobium orchids and peacock feathers and gold pearls on a wire. They also added some gold brooches. The bridesmaids had smaller versions of mine tied with a ribbon to match their dress. The flowers really stand out in the photographs and the pink really contrasts beautifully with their dresses.

Wedding music and entertainment:

We chose to have a harpist play throughout the whole day. I walked down the aisle to the bridal march, I wouldn’t have chosen anything else and it sounded beautiful played on the harp. My mother and father in law and bridesmaids walked in first to canon in D, and we walked out to the wedding march. During the signing of the register Neil’s cousin Brogan sang ‘A Wonderful World’ along with the harpist. She sounded beautiful and brought a tear to my eye and many of our guests. We also had Everlong by the Foo Fighters played on the harp, which we also had as our first dance but chose the acoustic version, they are our favourite band. I think it’s important to include things you both like as a couple even if it isn’t a traditional thing to have at a wedding.

I really wanted the day to be fun so instead of a traditional guest book I hired digital Polaroid cameras and filled a vintage suitcase with fun props for guests to wear. I had a large sign made, which was a picture of me and Neil dressed up in the props holding a sign with small bullet points of what to do. The cameras printed out sticky backed photos which they stuck in the guest book then left us a message next to it, it went down really well with everybody and it was fun to look through afterwards, especially the ones towards the end when people have a had a few to drink!

We had 2 owls make an appearance during the drinks and canapés which the guests could hold and have pictures with.

A caricaturist entertained the guests from dessert and through the evening party so everyone had a fun souvenir to take away with them. We had a DJ play throughout the night – it was great to see the dance floor full all night. The guests also enjoyed a peacock coloured themed candy buffet and a barbeque.

I also choreographed a dance routine with my bridesmaids to a mix of random songs like Can’t Touch This, Baywatch, Baby Got Back etc. They even wore shorts under their dresses which spelled out Mr and Mrs Harris which they revealed at the end to a big cheer!! We had barely had any practice together but it came off and we had such a laugh doing it and all the guests loved it, it’s been hilarious to watch it back on our wedding video!
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (21)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (22)
Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (23)

Recommended wedding suppliers:

Muncaster wedding Steve Hillman (24)

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in 2011 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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  • It takes an amazing cake and incredible photography for me to share a 'cutting the cake' shot - but oh, wow. Count the tiers! Captured by @damionmowerphotography at @ashdownparkhotel and that cake was made by a family friend! More on www.English-Wedding.com today #brideandgroom ⠀
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  • A favourite wedding - superb styling, gorgeous grooms, a cracking venue - and the fact that these two look just about as in love as it's possible to be. Martin + Paul = unforgettable and perfect! Photo by @mikeplunkettphotography at @westmillvenue Suits by @oscarhunttailors #confetti #purejoy #weddingvenue #thewestmill #equalmarriage #derbywedding #weddingideas #wedding #weddingphotography #weddingphotographer #manchesterweddingphotographer #mikeplunkettphotography #artisticweddingphotography #documentaryweddingphotography #fineartweddingphotography
  • LOVE this beautiful whitewashed barn wedding - gorgeous Emma & Rob on the English Wedding Blog today with @alfredandcophotography at @bashallbarnweddings - dress from @adele38howarth @bashallbarnweddings #lancashirewedding #lancashireweddingphotographer #clitheroewedding #clitheroe #bashallbarn #smile #bashallbarnwedding #brideandgroom #weddingdetails #weddinginspo #weddingdetails #weddingideas #love #wedding
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  • On the blog... Win, dream and be inspired by the English Wedding Bible – it’s FREE! www.english-wedding.com or hit the link in my profile - cover image by @kathrynhopkinsphotography #weddingmagazine #digitalmagazine #weddingedit #ezine #ebook #weddingadvice #weddingplanning #weddingideas #weddingtips #englishweddingbible
  • Inspired by my favourite place in the world... SO in love with this shoot by @oobaloosphotography - styled by me @bymoonandtide with @ailsamunrodressmaker @clarelloydaccessories @brackensofbowness @narrativehire @stefaniegrisdale and previously featured on @lovemydress - It's on www.English-Wedding.com today so don't miss it! #beachbride #weddingideas #weddingstyle #bride #2018bride #alternativebride #relaxedbride #windswept
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