A Quirky Winter Wedding at Oddfellows, Chester

We love a winter wedding here at The Glorious Wedding Blog, especially when it’s at a gorgeous quirky venue like Oddfellows, Chester. The subtle Christmas DIY details here are perfect, and I just love the warm, family feel. Kate McCarthy Photography‘s creative photography shows off their epic day to perfection too.

Kate says: “This wedding was my last of 2018 and I was SO in love with this couple!! Mel & Steve got married at the end of December in the dreamiest of winter weddings at Oddfellows Chester.  They are so, so in love and the joy radiating off of them all day was infectious – you really got the sense that everyone was completely thrilled to be there celebrating with them – especially Steve’s two children who were so, so pleased to see their dad so happy- it was all incredibly emotional at times.

“These two found each other slightly later in life and so their wedding was such an epic celebration.  They have style for DAYS – Mel rocked up in the most killer wedding cape/flower crown combo and looked like a winter fairy queen whilst Steve was sharply decked out in a perfectly tailored suit.

“Despite Mel working her butt off for the NHS full-time AND studying for her Masters Degree simultaneously she STILL managed to style this wedding to perfection and there were so many DIY details that she painstakingly put together.  This woman seriously is a damn superhero in my eyes!”

Gorgeous bride, Mel, told us a little more about their lovely day.

The Introductions

“Stephen and I met on a blind date in 2016, suggested by a mutual friend, I walked in to the restaurant here in Chester and sensed his nerves from the loud jangling of the coffee cup on the saucer ! He says he can still remember the very moment I flounced in wearing an orange dress. We were both a bit apprehensive, our respective journeys love-wise had been pretty grim, we nattered lots and Stephen drove back to Bristol, I was a little daunted at the prospect of a long distance thing but Stevie was having none of it….. he wooed me with letters, an adopted donkey, dinners, dance-floor grooving and generally being bloody lovely. There was no ‘Tah-Dah moment- it was the loveliest growing of souls and happiness.

“Being apart caused proper pines, heart-hurting absences, then in 2017 Stevie was offered a job as a Solicitor here in Chester, hired a transit and moved in. I was faced with the momentous task of finding space in my wardrobe for his shirts, I even threw away some nice cardigans; I often remind him of that- haha! Moving away from your kids is massive, for Steve who in effect had sole parented Aida and Dom for many years it was really really tough. Aida and Dom have been amazingly supportive, the Wedding was a big day for them too.

“I turned 50 last year and we travelled to L.A. to stay with Steve’s sister and her family, then on to watch Diana Ross in Las Vegas. I remember sitting in our room in the Mandarin Oriental on my birthday, holding hands and looking out at the Vegas strip, feeling happy in my heart, when Steve went down on one knee and proposed. We were both in floods of tears, it was pretty magical!”

The Plans

“Choosing our engagement ring turned out to be a lot easier than we had anticipated. We had planned to travel far and wide, and found the most beautiful ring on our doorstep here in Chester. Kayes is a traditional jeweller, and whilst window-mooching, we spotted my “duet” ring. It has 2 diamonds which sit side-by-side on an undulating platinum band. The staff at Kayes were so professional but also genuinely lovely, I think they liked my giddiness when I tried the ring on, the diamonds zinged and popped it was perfect! We had my wedding ring made to fit around the duet. We spoke about what we both wanted in terms of our wedding and agreed we would like to be married at Christmas and why wait!! We wanted to share our day with much loved people in our lives and to be married locally at Christmas. In terms of the Master-plan, that was it !! No theme, no Llamas, no candy-floss, it’s actually easier sometimes to start of with the “what you don’t want” list. We wanted our day to be elegant, about love and full of music so the planning went from there. It was at that point Stevie morphed in to “Groomzilla” and downloaded a wedding planning app !! Seriously though it was fab that WE discussed and chose. It was our day and I’m grateful for Stevie taking in interest in all the frippery!”

The Venue

Oddfellows is a chic and quirky boutique hotel in Chester. It was our first choice venue and when we called to discuss Christmas availability we had our fingers and toes crossed. We arranged to meet Debbie Catchlove (what a fab name for our Wedding Co-ordinator!!) and were pleased to know we could pretty much bespoke our wedding. We started with a review of their wedding packages and tweeked from there, we liked that the ceremony could be conducted at Oddfellows itself (no guests battling the winter elements from the Service to the “do”) and that we could to and fro from the main room to the bar across the gorgeously furnished landing throughout the day. They have a fab vintage-looking red sideboard on the landing which housed our sweetie selection).

“We were restricted to 63 day guests and a total of 120 at night- but this “restriction” was really quite helpful in keeping our wedding fairly small, something we both wanted. It also helped with keeping us on budget and space limitations meant we didn’t need to consider things like photo-booths which we had seen a other weddings and thought we “should” have.

“We were determined not to get too caught up in the “wedding” extras and fads. Take a peek at Oddfellows- in the main bar there are huge, battling rattan hairs, luxurious and quirky furniture throughout, an outside terrace space and a secret loo. As it was Christmas we needed little venue decoration as the fireplaces were decorated with beautiful festive garlands and there was a Christmas tree in the bar area. In terms of venue decoration we both agreed the “less is more” approach was what we wanted and were glad we weren’t faced with the task of decorating a barn or a bland hotel room.

“We had discussed how easy it must be to get led by images of architectural blooms and venue decor (which is fine if that’s what is important for you and your budget accommodates). In the evening we had a chequered black and white dance-floor for our guests to groove on. The venue quirkiness is complimented by an amazingly professional team and the service leading up to and during our wedding day was second-to-none.

“We were able to sample a range of scrumptious food before meeting with the Chef (Elliot Hill) and settling on what we would eat on the day. The wines were chosen by their Somelier. A “mini-Guinness” was served with the sticky toffee pud and we added a cheese board. Wedding day grub can be a bit run of the mill and we knew that wasn’t the case with Oddfellows.

“We had a suite of rooms in the attic included in our wedding package, including the Lady Mary Suite for ourselves which has an enormous bathroom with two baths stood side-by-side. I stayed at Oddfellows the night before in one of their “Garden Rooms” which had an enormous round bed, so it was only a short stroll through the potting shed and across the garden to the ceremony on the day. In fact, one of my favourite photos is of My Dad and I walking across the garden; my Dad looks so proud and our 3 Bridesmaids are beautiful and super smiley following behind. This also meant we didn’t need any wedding cars. Our guests LOVED our venue as did we!”

The Challenges

“I had under-estimated how much brain time planning a wedding takes up, I had expected time in making and attending appointments but it can be all-consuming, especially with research being mostly conducted online. We tried to be sensible and as decisive as possible but you still need to “think” about things !! We wanted to make sure we were getting value for money and that we stayed on track budget-wise, we agreed on where our budget would be best spent and tried to stay true to that thinking.”

The Outfits

“Stevie decided on a grey suit and managed to bag a Racing Green/ grey tweed 3 piece for himself and his best Man Mark. Buying the suits in the sale online saved a pretty penny. He chose ties from Ted Baker (again in the sale) and socks from Paul Smith to compliment his Paul Smith shoes. Stevie’s son Dominic rocked a grey Ted Baker suit and a pair of black Chelsea boots. We are lucky enough to live close to Cheshire Oaks outlet and Dom’s suit was a bargain purchase from there.

“I bought my shoes first, I wanted something comfortable and a bit different and was thrilled to find a pair of ivory Orla Kiely vintage style shoes with a pale blue band. I started my wedding dress shopping being quite anxious, the blogs and adverts mainly show svelte under 25’s or gorgeously tattooed gals. I could list my “don’t” wants but what was it I wanted ?! I wanted something classy, stylish, definitely bohemian, not too glitzy, not showing too much flesh, something different and quirky (memorable for the right reasons), which wouldn’t break the bank and preferably A-line!

“I made an appointment at Bespoke Brides which is literally 3 miles from our house and for the first time in my life, found myself meandering cluelessly around racks of beautiful wedding dresses. I know the advice is to not be too pre-emptive about the style of dress, to be open minded but I was sticking with my wish list which on reflection was some ask !! I turned and in the corner of the room was the most beautiful bridal cape. It fastened with an antique-style clasp and fell from the shoulders, with delicate floral embroidery and a long heart-shaped train. It was beautifully simple and bohemian and I gasped !

“The second dress I tried on was by Kenneth Winston, it had a plain A-line skirt and an antique beaded bodice with just the right amount of sparkle and beautiful detailing on the shoulders; it complimented the cape perfectly. I had my Mum with me and we both cried. I bought the cape and visited a few more wedding dress shops just to be sure, but returned a couple of weeks later for that dress. I absolutely loved my wedding dress and cape, for me, they were my wish list and very much more.

“We had Stevie’s daughter Aida as my Matron of Honour, Stevie’s niece Josie as our Bridesmaid and my Niece Amelia as our flower girl. I choose silvery grey as a colour scheme but didnt want them in the same dress. Aida’s dress was from ASOS and Josie’s from Next, both silvery-grey in tone with beaded bodices, both wore a silvery grey feathery shrug (Mathew Williamson). Their silver shoes were from Debenhams, both wore jewelled head pieces by Matthew Williamson. Amelia wore an ivory dress from John Rocha with silvery sparkly converse all star pumps, she had an ivory feathery shrug and a vintage style jeweled brooch from Monsoon.”

Hair and Make-Up

Lowri Pope does an amazing job in terms of bridal and prom hair, both bridesmaids wanted to have their hair down on the day and we kept it simple with jewelled head pieces pinned in to their hair. I did quite a bit of research in to Bridal make-up and became quite fearful of how heavy some of the make-up was, each to their own but I wanted something classy, to look like I was wearing make-up but not over do it ! Laura Louise Make Up Artist put all my fears to rest, during my consultation she wanted to know about my dress, my bouquet, the venue, the bridesmaid colour, all of which can have an impact on your choice of make-up. She is the loveliest person and very professional and I was so glad to have her with Me during my bridal prep. I decided on wearing a Chanel coral lipstick which I already owned and went from there!”

The Photography

“I’m a hobby photographer so I knew it was important to choose the right photographer for our Wedding Day. We shortlisted three based on their blogs, websites and general photographic style. We decided on Kate, it was an easier decision than anticipated, we liked her, her enthusiasm is infectious and she “got” us, we wanted arty natural photographs which captured the essence of our day. We had our pre-shoot at Sefton Park Palmhouse in Liverpool and we loved the shots from that day, I felt nervous but Stevie threw himself in to it and that really comes across in those photographs of him.

“On the day Kate was a rock- I could really put my faith in her to steer me through the day. She was amazing, so calm, never intrusive, kind, understanding, during my bridal prep both Kate and my make-up artist Laura-Louise were fabulous, they helped and guided professionally but with absolute loveliness, they understood the enormity of our day for us and our families and they felt like friends, isn’t that the best you can hope for?

“Our Wedding photos are fabulous; we look back at them often and they make tears happen even now, the emotional rollercoaster moments, the love, the tears, the head-back belly cackling, the glances, the quiet moments that really matter.”

The Music

“Music is a must for us, we knew we wanted a band in the evening but didn’t want to break the bank. We found The Hot Jazz Biscuits and liked that they were a funk and soul band. We were able to build the band ourselves (you can have a 4 piece right up to a 10 piece, you choose !) and loved the random range of songs in their playlist. They learned our first dance (“You’re The Best Thing” by Gladys Knight) and I can still remember that moment, gently swirling around the dancefloor and feeling the lyrics in my heart, watching friends and family looking on, teary eyed and happy.

“We had an amazing finale to the night when they sang “You Got The Love” and our friends circled us on the dance floor and we were all singing at the tops of our voices. During the summer we nipped in to Chester one Saturday and in avoiding the crowds descending on the Racecourse, headed for a drink in Alexander’s Jazz Bar. We had been discussing how we wanted music to form part of our actual ceremony but didnt know where to start. That’s when we first heard the melodic folky voice of Ashley Fayth, we booked her on the spot. Ashley sang Songbird by Eva Cassidy as I walked down the aisle, there wasn’t a dry eye. I actually cant listen to that song now without crying, it’s beyond beautiful. She sang “And I Love You So” (Elvis Presley) whilst we signed the register and “Lovely Day” (Bill Withers) as we walked down the aisle together as man and wife and then did a set in the kooky bar much to the delight of our guests.”

The Flowers

“I love flowers. We are never without them in our house. One of Stevie’s colleagues recommended a local florist “Rock and Meadow” and I knew instantly within minutes of meeting Kirstie that she would create a beautiful bouquet for me. I asked for vintage pheasant feathers, cotton pods, succulents, eucalyptus, pussy willows, I wanted greenery, chaotic foliage, not so many flowers. My bouquet was huge and breathtakingly beautiful, I gasped when I first saw it, it was beyond what I had hoped for.

“Aida and Josie had smaller clusters of foliage ivory roses and cotton pods whilst my flower girl, Amelia had a flower wand with an ivory rose. I decided on a flower crown and Kirstie created such a beautiful piece with tiny pheasant feathers, succulents, foliage and ivory roses. If you aren’t able to point to an exact picture of what you want bouquet wise you need to have faith that your florist knows exactly what you want. I met with Kirstie twice, her flowers are absolutely gorgeous ! She also created stunning buttonholes, each with a little name-tag.

“I was unsure as what to do with my bridal bouquet after the wedding (I loved it so much !!) and thankfully remembered seeing a page for Louise Condon, The Ceramic Botanist on Facebook, so messaged Louise a day or so after the wedding, only to find she lives a mile away from us !! Louise creates beautiful pottery imprinted with the flowers from your bouquet, its a stunning way to preserve imprints of your bridal flowers. We also had vases made for our parents and smaller bud vases as gifts for our bridesmaids.”

The Cake

“We had a disastrous experience with a local cake maker (don’t ask!!) then thankfully found Mel’s Amazing Cakes. It was important to us that the cake didn’t just look good it actually tasted good!! Following a consultation with Mel and getting to try her fabulous cakes, we settled on three tiers, semi-naked with a bespoke topper, a smattering of silver leaf, ivory flowers and holly (amaretto and black cherry, lemon and elderflower with prosecco butter-icing and victoria sponge). We also hired a gorgeous vintage cake stand from Mel, it was huge !!! We served up our whole cake on the day and every piece was scoffed!”

Lessons Learned

“I had under-estimated the lead-time for ordering a wedding dress, so allow plenty of time from when you start to look for your dress. Don’t forget to budget for dress alterations as they can add up depending upon complexity. I found the whole dress search quite stressful, I’m a size 14 and few shops had dresses that fitted me; its hard to get a picture of the dress when its fastened by grips at the back or held together by the lady in the shop!! Be prepared to go over budget too- when you find the dress you really love its hard to forget it and look at other dresses even if they are in budget!!
Also when you call to make appointments to view dresses, inquire about the price range they offer (often this information isn’t shown on websites). I attended an appointment only to find 2 dresses within my price range and none in my size.

Before you put a deposit on a cake, ensure you try samples !! Don’t be led down the path of including things on your day just because weddings you have attended have had them or you think it is the current trend (trends soon become fads and those extras cost a lot of money)

“Don’t underestimate the cost of things like invitations, name cards, favours, table decorations- we had planned for the big things but were surprised at how the “little things” added up. I wanted to do my own crafting (seating plan, name cards, order of the day etc) and whereas I loved the end result it took ages and wasn’t much cheaper than had I purchased them ready made!

“Look online for second hand things that you wont be bothered about keeping after the big day (sweetie jars etc) as they are much cheaper. Decide in advance how to portion up your budget, which items you want to spend more on, and keep revisiting that list. Set up a new email account so that you can both see all of the correspondence from suppliers (it also keeps your existing email address free of wedding comms after the big day!)- and finally, remember; Love is all you need!!”