A DIY rose-themed wedding in Cambridgeshire

22 Mar 2022

Bride Chantelle Hewitt got creative ahead of her wedding to Mark Reader, crafting various elements of the day, from the flowers to the cake

How did you meet?

We met on Tinder.

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Tell us about the proposal

I was anticipating a proposal at Christmas, new year, Valentine's Day, then my birthday, before I finally stopped thinking about when Mark was going to propose. It happened on a random Saturday in November and we’d just ordered a takeaway, so imagine my surprise as Mark got down on one knee in our kitchen and popped the question.

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What was your theme for the day? 

I’ve always loved red roses and anything romantic. Mark bought me a single red rose when we met, so I decided on a theme of red roses, with swans as extra touches. The swans were a tribute to my nan, who’s no longer with us, as we both adored the Swan Lake ballet.

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Why did you choose your venue?

We chose Orton Hall in Peterborough. Its history was what attracted us; one of the original owners, Charles, built the great hall as a wedding present to his wife, Marie. The fact that they have the same initials as Mark and I carved into the fireplace sealed the deal. We were also amazed at the gorgeous conservatory and the light that streamed through it.

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How did you find your dress? 

I love upcycling and customising things, I’m always making new things from old. I designed and made both my sisters' wedding dresses from pieces of vintage dresses, however I didn’t want to do that for my own.

I knew I wanted ruched satin in an oyster shade and used Pinterest for my inspiration. I found the dress I wanted online but unfortunately, after lots of enquiries, I discovered that this particular Maggie Sottero dress was discontinued some time ago.

So I searched on all the pre-loved dress forums and finally found it in my size in America. It was perfect, no alterations were needed and I got to indulge my love for pre-loved dresses.

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What did the bridesmaids wear?

I originally wasn't going to have any bridesmaids apart from my step-daughter, but my sisters said they didn’t know what to wear, so asked if they could be bridesmaids instead. It spiralled from there, and I had eight bridesmaids in the end. 

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What did your mum wear?

My mum wanted to match the theme, so she had a dress custom-made in burgundy lace with matching roses in her hair.

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Tell us about the details of the day

I had a picture in my mind of the details, but as I created each part it kept changing. I would have been a nightmare client, so I decided to do all the flowers and decoration myself.

I chose red rose garlands to hang around the candelabras, deep red velvet roses and berries in all the bouquets, and roses in our hair.

I tried to make a willow arch but it looked too rustic, so I opted for twisted willow stems pushed into sand and decorated with rose garlands. I made lemon shortbread cookies decorated with guests' names in white chocolate, and for the favours I found deep pink white chocolate rose petals.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I felt absolutely wonderful. Every bad thought I’d had (you should’ve lost weight, you’re too old for that dress, red lipstick is a bad idea, etc) just vanished. We had an amazing harpist to lead us in to the ceremony, and she played the traditional Wedding March and the Bridal March.

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What was the highlight of the day?

For me, it was seeing Mark look at me for the first time as I walked down the aisle.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

Me trying to do too much, while running a business and trying to move house. Constant alterations to the bridesmaids' dresses almost sent me over the edge. 

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What was the most important investment for you? 

Mark and I didn’t agree on this one, as I wanted a very scaled back wedding with a fabulous honeymoon to Hawaii. However, as he had never been married before, he had visions of a perfect wedding day with all our friends and family. We invited 28 guests to the day, and a further eight to the evening party. 

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What song did you choose for your first dance? 

Mark chose our first dance song, Bryan Adams' (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, and he said to me as we were dancing that every word is true. 

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Did you have any entertainment? 

We had a disco that the hotel recommended and they were fantastic. I love country music, although no one else really likes it, and the DJ found a song called Chicken Fried that only country fans would know. Everyone else was cringing, but I loved it.

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Tell us about your wedding cake

I bought red velvet and lemon sponge tiers, which I decorated with frosting and white chocolate feathers. The topper was a pair of swans.

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If you could go back and change anything, what would it be? 

I wouldn't change a thing, but if I was able to wish for something it would have been that Mark's mum and dad had been able to attend.

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Was there anything you wish you'd known before? 

I under-estimated how long things took to make.

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Where did you go on honeymoon? 

We had a mini-moon the day after the wedding at Barton Court hotel in Herefordshire; it's a gorgeous manor house with an amazing bridal suite and the most delicious breakfasts. We’ve postponed our main honeymoon to Hawaii for later in the year.

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Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?

Definitely don’t try to move house while planning a wedding. It was doubly stressful, we couldn’t find a house to move to that we liked, and so ended up losing our buyer. Also, if you are going to DIY everything, like me, start early and actually finish things before starting another project.

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Steal their style:

Venue: Orton Hall Hotel 
Photography: Steve Davis at Classic Photography 
DJ : Strobe Disco 
Harpist: Rebecca Barnes of All Things Harp
Wedding rings & jewellery: Crystelle Belle Jewellers 
Cake: Windsor Cakes 
Flowers: Village Green
Willow: MSC Wood Products via Ebay

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