An intimate wedding – Lisa and Mo’s small celebration with a very big heart

Morning everyone! I have a lovely, romantic and heartwarming little tale for you today. Oh! And photographs of a gorgeous English wedding from County Durham. This is beautiful bride Lisa’s wedding – because she’d always wanted an intimate wedding. Her husband Mo wants a spectacular celebration… but we’ll come to that later!

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In a nutshell, today’s bride and groom decided to have two weddings. A little one, and then a massive party a year later. What I love most is that the intimate wedding turned out to be way more than just a formality – it was just about as special as you could ever imagine.

I’ll let wedding photographer Nadine Van Bilijon explain more! This is the email she sent to me a few weeks ago:

“Next year, Mo and Lisa are planning a pretty spectacular wedding at Castello di Modanella in Tuscany with friends and family arriving for a week to celebrate together which is very much what the groom wants.

“His lovely bride, Lisa wanted a smaller, more intimate wedding so they did what all married couples will eventually have to… they compromised… and decided to have both! So exactly one year before ‘the big do’ they tied the knot at Barnard Castle Registry Office in County Durham with a grand total of 8 guests and then moved on to the grounds of Bowes Museum to have some beautiful portraits taken celebrating their newlywed status.

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“Lisa had always jokingly referred to the smaller wedding as ‘the fake wedding’ saying that it might be considered more a formality without any of the anticipation, excitement and nerves of its more lavish, traditional counterparts. I was secretly smiling to myself in the morning when she confessed she was nervous, and laughing out loud along with the rest of the wedding party when she couldn’t speak and shed a few tears exchanging their vows.

“I have no doubt their Tuscan wedding will be resplendent with a fabulous party and lots of gorgeous details to shoot, but this intimate family wedding was a reminder of what really matters – two people so in love and who just want to be together that emotions on the day are the same regardless of their surroundings or their budget. And let’s not forget, getting married is clearly so much fun, why not do it twice?” Nadine Van Biljon

Lisa-Marie and Mo’s simple and intimate family wedding full of love and laughter

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The bride and groom:

Lisa-Marie and Mo

Wedding venue:

Barnard Castle Registry Office, County Durham followed by lunch at Wynyard Hall, Tees Valley.

What was your reaction to seeing your wedding photos for the first time? Were you pleased with your wedding photographer?

We were lucky in that Mo’s sister is a wedding photographer ( so we ‘knew what to expect’ having seen a lot of her previous work and knew they’d be fantastic. However, when she showed us the slideshow of our images they were WAY beyond our expectations. It wasn’t that long after the wedding that we saw them but they really did bring all the emotions flooding back – and now there’s no hiding that I really did cry on my wedding day, much to everyone’s amusement! Of course you’ll think I’m biased but they really were amazing photos and it was great reliving our day from a different viewpoint.

Your wedding style and theme:

We didn’t have a particular theme but I’d say our style was ‘elegantly simple’. As this wasn’t a lavish affair we wanted to just be ourselves without too many distractions. While we wanted it to be relaxed we did want to make a bit of an effort with our outfits – if you can’t dress up on your wedding day, then when can you?

How long did you spend planning your wedding?

For this one, about 2 months all in! We’re planning a big celebration in Tuscany next year for all our friends and family, which will have taken about 18 months with all the travel logistics and accommodation etc. so the opposite end of the spectrum. Unusually, it was Mo who wanted a ‘big do’ while I was favouring more of a low key affair so at fairly short notice we decided to do both, and booked the day exactly one year before, for our intimate little wedding… so now we’re both happy!

Best bit of budget advice?

Spend your money on only the things that are really important to you and look for ways to simplify the rest if you’re on a bit of a budget. I really wanted peonies in my bouquet but they were out of season and were going to cost a fortune to source so my wonderfully helpful florist suggested quietly that she could use silk ones and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference… and she was right! The roses and the rest of my bouquet were all fresh but it only cost me £60, which I thought was a bargain.

Another little tip for those of you also getting married in a Registry Office or somewhere quite ordinary, if you want your photos to have the wow factor of a grand hotel/country house but your budget won’t stretch to getting married there, ask the venue if you can have your photos taken in the grounds. Bowes Museum is the impressive building you see in our photos and with the permission of the venue we paid a modest entrance fee (something like £7 each) to have some photos taken inside the building, but if we just had our photos outside it wouldn’t have cost us anything… it’s worth noting and asking.

Invitations and stationery:

Again, because there were only 8 of us (including Mo and I) we didn’t have invitations or stationery so my invitation was as personal as it comes, by asking everyone individually

Did you fall in love with your wedding dress?

Haha, yes and no! I loved the cut and the overall shape but when I got it home I decided it had too many sequins so I did my own bit of customisation and removed a fair few of them… and then I loved it all over again!

Glitz and sparkle: the bride’s accessories:

I bought my dress over the internet which I know is totally unromantic but we are an internet generation, right? It was a pre-loved gown from Lusan Mandongus and given we were doing this twice I didn’t feel I could justify going all out on a new dress for both occasions! Sentimental? – NO! Practical? -YES! I’m not sure I’d recommend that approach to everybody but I have some dressmaking skills up my sleeve so was confident I’d be able to make any alterations it might need!

My shoes weren’t ‘designer’ (unlike my husband’s!) I wanted them to be plain satin without any embellishments that would catch on the lace of my dress… and I went for a platform so I could be as tall as Mo, just for one day!

My veil I sourced from a vintage supplier on eBay

Our rings were from Thomas Sabo and are a little less conventional than your average wedding band but they suit ‘us’. I must be the only bride that doesn’t actually want a diamond ring but Mo is insisting I have one for next year!

The groom wore:

A jacket from a bespoke suit he had made by Dress2Kill for his sister’s wedding. He mixed it up a little with some smart linen trousers from Holland Esquire for a slightly less formal look. His shoes were by Bottega Veneta… guess who has the larger shoe collection in our house?

Beautiful bridesmaids: what did your best girls wear?

I didn’t have any bridesmaids per se although Mo’s two nieces were the next best thing and certainly thought they were, but they did wear cute little dresses we bought them from ‘No Added Sugar’.

Hair and make-up – did you DIY or hire a professional?

I’ve spent a lot of time around make-up artists and hair stylists so have always been pretty good at doing my own having picked up lots of tips along the way.

Wedding flowers:

Orange and cream roses with silk peonies by Fresca at Star Flowers. Such good customer service – she was so accommodating and helpful at really short notice

The ceremony:

A civil service at Barnard Castle Registry Office, County Durham

Wedding readings?

“If” by Author Unknown read by Mo’s Mum:

If you treat each other kindly with compassion and with trust
And always let your feelings show
If you laugh together often and enjoy the time you share
But give each other space to learn and grow
If you understand your differences, respecting who you are,
And put each other first in all you do-
Your marriage will be wonderful, a reason to feel proud,
And a special source of love, your whole lives through.

General styling – did your venue need much decoration?

We were really lucky in that it was already done for us. Wynyard Hall is a beautiful country house hotel and the Wellington Restaurant, a stately room in itself, is where we had our celebratory lunch and it was already decorated with pretty impressive floral displays. They had put an extra decadent centrepiece on our table, which couldn’t have been nicer if we’d chosen it ourselves.

The wedding cake: traditional or quirky?

We had fabulous desserts instead of wedding cake, otherwise we’d have been eating it for weeks!


An incredibly talented young student of their resident pianist Mr Hall (I can’t remember his first name). Everything she played was a recent hit but with a classical interpretation – I never knew ‘The Killers’ could sound romantic and elegant, so much so, we were compelled to get up and have our first dance as husband and wife in the middle of the restaurant! Such an exceptional talent and she even managed to stay composed when Mo’s niece took it upon herself to join her on the stool for a little duet. People should seek her out and book her – she really was amazing!

On the day tips and advice:

I’m sure everyone says the same thing but do it your way and have the wedding you want… no matter how big or small, or how grand or modest the most important thing is that you relax, have fun and take in the enormity of the occasion, which is marrying the love of your life. I totally underestimated how emotional I’d be at the Registry Office thinking it would feel more like a formality compared to the wedding we’ve planned in Italy but it really hit home as I was about to exchange my vows that THIS was the moment, and yes, I had to reach for the tissues so always have those tucked away somewhere handy too!

Quick supplier list for other brides and grooms:

Facebook links:

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 Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



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