A decade in the making: The wedding

02 Dec 2019

Bringing her blog series to a captivating close, Alicia Dunning shares her wedding to Philip Welbourne

How did you meet?

We’re both from the same small town and went to the same secondary school (although Phil was a year above me) so we knew of each other by name. However, we officially met in a bar in Widnes called the Vue Bar when I was 18. We bumped into each other on a Friday evening and got chatting and Phil drove my friend and I home and we swapped numbers, we never officially dated we just met up everyday after that and have been together ever since.

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Tell us about the proposal.

We went on a two-week holiday to the Dominican Republic and two days before we came home Phil booked a romantic meal for two on the beach and popped the question. I was really surprised as he’d told me it was a pop-up restaurant and not a private meal for two and I’d checked the safe in the room a couple of times (just in case) and there was no ring. After 10 years you start to hope a little bit on every holiday or major event.

When Phil proposed he presented the ring in a ring box that my mum had given him for my 21st birthday as a bit of not-so-subtle encouragement. I hadn’t realised he’s kept hold of it for all those years.

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What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?

The theme was 'autumn rustic', the colour scheme fitted the theme and so was centred around burgundy, burnt orange and navy shades.

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What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?

We chose Stock Farm Wedding Barn, I’d always wanted a rustic barn wedding and Stock was perfect, it had traditional stables and farm house with a newly renovated barn bringing the perfect balance of old and new. The barn itself offers a large open space which gave us the flexibility to plan the wedding our way and make it unique. It’s also set in idyllic countryside surrounds in Ashley, Cheshire.

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How did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?

It only took me one day of wedding dress shopping to find the dress but I visited two bridal shops and tried on more than 15 dresses. I initially went to an exclusive bridal shop specialising in Pronovias and Jesus Peiro, but decided I wanted to branch out so then went to Wife to Be Bridal in Warrington and tried on lots of different styles of dresses.

Babs at Wife to Be was great as she encouraged me to try styles that I normally wouldn’t to make sure I was confident with one particular style of dress. Babs actually picked my dress and I didn’t see it until I had it on and had seen it in the mirror. I knew instantly that it was the one and cried. I didn’t try on any other dresses after that as there was no doubt in my mind about my decision. My dress was 'Robyn' by Ronald Joyce in ivory and champagne.

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Who were your bridesmaids and what did they wear?

I wanted my bridesmaids to be as comfortable as possible so they wore multi-way dresses from Victoria-Lou Bridal. The dresses were Rouge in colour, a deep red/burgundy. I had five bridesmaids: my sister-in-law, a family friend and three close friends. I also had my niece as a flowergirl who wore a white dress with a sash the same colour as the bridesmaids' dresses and my two-year-old nephew as a pageboy who wore a miniature version of the male suits.

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What did the mother of the bride wear?

My mum wore a Michael Kors cream dress with gold stud detail and matching hat and shoes.

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Where did you find your suits?

The groom and groomsmen suits were from the same chain of shops where I bought my wedding dress, as they offered formal suit hire and purchase. We opted for slim-fit blue suits with grey waistcoat and rouge/burgundy tie and pocket handkerchief with oxblood shoes. All of the groomsmen wore plain grey waistcoats while Phil’s was checked so he stood out.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements.

Our floral arrangements were stunning. We hired Precious Things Events and Jacklyn and her team went above and beyond to deliver the perfect flowers and room decoration. My bouquet was a relaxed, boho, hand-tied bouquet of the beautiful flowers and foliage of the day. It was full of autumnal colours with burgundy, red, burnt orange and yellow flowers nestled in between eucalyptus and ivy foliage.

The bridesmaids' bouquets were smaller versions of the bridal bouquet and we had mason jars on the dining tables with the same flowers and foliage.

We also had similar fresh floral arrangements down the aisle and on the head table scattered with foliage, acorns, pine cones and miniature pumpkins in between logs and lanterns filled with fairy lights. It was absolutely magical and exactly how I’d always imagined it. It felt like something out of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.

Phil and I are known for being very fun and sociable and, Phil in particular, for a love of Jägermeister so our favours were a double serving of Jäger in a jar with a tag saying 'Take a shot we tied the knot!' and the best man had everyone shot the Jäger at the end of his speech. Our table names were also all of the comedians that we’ve been to see live as it’s one of our passions and we make sure we go to see at least one live performer every year. 

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We wanted a day that was really fun, energetic and memorable so we focussed a lot of attention on the feel of the day, making sure we had the right music, plenty of drinks and also hired singing waiters to surprise our guests and bring an element of fun to the wedding. The singing waiters were possibly the best investment we made, everyone absolutely loved them and really got involved. Even now, weeks after the wedding, people are still talking about it and mention it to me and how amazing they were. We also had a selfie mirror photobooth. 

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I’m a bit of a Harry Potter nerd so it was also important for me to build that into the day but in a more subtle way. To do this, I made Golden Snitches using Ferrero Rocher and had them as an additional favour for all the guests I knew also liked Harry Potter. The cake stand was the 'Always' symbol from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I had vinyl on the bottom of my wedding shoes which read 'After all this time?' 'Always'.

We tried to add a lot of personal touches wherever we could and have elements of us and our families in all aspects of the day. One particular feature was a wooden ladder which I had upcycled that we used to display photos of loved ones who sadly had passed and couldn’t celebrate with us. We positioned the ladder near the barn door entrance overlooking the aisle.

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

Looking back now, it feels like a blur but at the time it was amazing. I had been really calm all morning, laughing and joking and had a great time, but as we stood waiting outside the barn doors I suddenly became really nervous. My brother walked me down the aisle and just before the bridesmaids began to enter, he asked if I was OK and I burst out crying as it felt crazy that it was actually about to happen.

I remember hearing the music we’d chosen as my entrance music, A Thousand Years by The Piano Guys, and as I turned the corner, I saw Phil look away and start dabbing his eyes. I couldn’t wait to meet him at the top and I’ve been told that it was obvious as apparently my brother and I raced down the aisle at the speed of lightening. 

Phil had been jokingly saying to me for months that all wedding dresses look the same and the first thing he said as I reached him was: “I was wrong, they’re definitely not all the same”. Throughout the whole ceremony we were beaming from ear to ear and it was the best moment of my life.

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you?

We had Phil’s nephew, Adam, do a reading for us. We wanted something light-hearted which fitted our personalities and the theme of the day so we picked a poem called 'He never leaves the seat up'. Adam did fantastic; he was really nervous and, at only 15-years-old, we weren’t sure if it would be too overwhelming for him but he was great and we were so proud.

We also picked all of our ceremony music, again fitting our music tastes and wanting things to be romantic but not too serious. Songs included Together in Electric Dreams by The Human League, Everything by Michael Bublé and we exited the ceremony to (This Will Be) An Everlasting Love by Natalie Cole.

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What was your most memorable moment?

For Phil and I, the ceremony was probably the most memorable and the moment when we first saw each other. I think after being together for 12+ years we felt like we’d waited so long and possibly built it up so much in our minds that it was quite overwhelming, but I wouldn’t change a minute of the entire day... all of it was better than we’d ever imagined.

I think for our guests, however, it was probably the reveal of the singing waiters. It was certainly memorable and a great way to boost the energy levels and atmosphere ready for the evening to begin and for everyone to really let their hair down and enjoy themselves.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

I pretty much planned the entire wedding myself, mostly through choice as I’d had the vision of our wedding in my head for so long that I wanted to make sure it came true. At times the responsibility of that was quite challenging and stressful, particularly as it feels like you’re trying to keep track of 1,001 things while also working full-time, paying your bills, trying to lose weight, keep your skin clear and all the other thousands of things that suddenly become massively important in the run up to the wedding.

We were also quite unlucky in that our original caterer went into liquidation just four weeks before the wedding. So, with all the normal stress of being a month away from the big day, I had the additional task of sourcing new caterers and dealing with the insurance – thank god we were sensible enough to have taken out wedding insurance.

Luckily, the caterer we managed to book for the day was amazing, they were actually our first choice of caterer but when we tried to book them were unavailable. Everything worked out for the best, but those few weeks when I was informed about the liquidation were probably the most stressful of my life.

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What was the most important investment for you? 

There are SO many important investments for a wedding and it’s the combination of them all that really brings it all together. I’d say, because of what happened with the caterer, the wedding insurance was our smartest investment and I would recommend every couple invest in it for peace of mind. 

I’d also say investing in the drinks for the day is quite important. That's not to say that people need free alcohol to enjoy a wedding but it does help with creating a more relaxed atmosphere and people just being able to enjoy the day without having to worry about going to the bar or the price of drinks etc. We booked a drinks package that included welcome drinks for guests for after the ceremony, bottles of wine during the meal and fizz for the toasts. We also had Jäger shots for favours and additional baskets of Jäger shots on either end of the bar for guests to take as and when they pleased.

Having the perfect photographer was also key; we picked Andrea Ellison because her work is beyond amazing but also because of her personality. It’s so important to have a photographer who you trust and who makes you feel comfortable.

Another important investment was definitely the entertainment, I’ve been to a lot of weddings and people do typically pick one element or feature to invest in for the daytime. We debated the options for quite a while before deciding on Your Singing Waiters and it was probably our favourite investment of the day. They really did make the day what it was, they elevated the atmosphere and helped us to bring to our dream wedding to life. Phil and I had always seen the wedding as a celebration and we wanted it to feel like that from start to end and thanks to Your Singing Waiters it did.

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What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?

Our first dance was Drops of Jupiter by Train. Phil loves a bit of karaoke on a night out and is well known for it. When we first started going out, this song was his number one choice to sing and he used to ring me when he was out to listen to him sing it and it became our song. Most of our friends didn’t even know the song before they met Phil, but now it’s a well-known song in our lives and among our friends and family.

Some of my friends actually had bets on what would be our first dance song because Phil’s list of karaoke classics is legendary, but those closest to us knew it would have to be Train. Our follow up song to this was another from the karaoke list - Boyzone's Picture of You.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.

We opted for a naked three-tier wedding cake as it felt the most fitting with the rustic and autumnal theme and setting. The top and bottom layer were Victoria sponge and the middle was lemon. Our florist and venue dresser, Precious Things, then dressed the cake with fresh flowers to match the room decorations.

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

I don’t think I would change anything; the day was perfect and better than I’d hoped. When we look back on the day, we laugh and love every memory and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

I got a lot of advice from people before the wedding saying that they wish they’d have taken some time away from everyone to have a few moments together. Phil and I managed to have a few minutes alone while everyone was being seated for the meal and were able to catch our breath and take it all in, that was nice and something I would pass on to others to try to make sure they consider.

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Did you have a custom hashtag for social media? If so, what was it?

We picked a hashtag for guests to use which was #welbsgetwed although we also had a polite notice asking guests not to post to social media until the evening so that evening guests were able to see the wedding for themselves before seeing it on social media. All of our guests respected our wishes, in fact none of them actually posted to social media until the day after the wedding after Phil and I had posted.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before?

Everyone tells you the day goes really fast and even though I knew that, I don’t think I really expected it to be as fast as they all said. I think if I’d have known with certainty how much people were going to enjoy the day and just generally how happy they were for Phil and I and to be celebrating with us, it would have possibly helped me to be less stressed on the build up to the day. Although in reality, I don’t think there was a lot that anyone could have said in those weeks leading up to the wedding which would have made much difference.

I think the one thing I didn’t expect was how emotional it would make me. On the actual day I cried before I walked up the aisle but then was just beaming with happiness for the rest of the day/evening. Since the wedding, I’ve felt very emotional about it all and it’s quite overwhelming at times. I cried when we got the photos back from the photographer, firstly because of how amazing they were and how happy I was with them. Andrea is an absolute dream photographer, but then also because of all the happy memories we have and how each photo brought back a different part of the day and I felt like I was reliving it.

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Where did you go on honeymoon? 

We had a mini-moon in Malta straight after the wedding for five days but we had limited annual leave left due to the wedding being towards the end of the year and us both having time off for hen/stag parties abroad. We’ll be having our big honeymoon in April and will be going to South Africa to go on safari and cage dive with sharks.

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

While it’s important to think about your guests and wanting to make everyone happy, remember the day is about you two and celebrating your life together. Your guests are going to be happy for you regardless and will enjoy whatever day you plan, so make sure it’s exactly what you want it to be and a day that you will both look back on and cherish forever.

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Steal their style: 

Venue: Stock Farm Wedding and Events Barn
Photography: Andrea Ellison Photography
Venue dressing and floristry: Precious Things Events
Catering: Pink Pepper Catering
Evening catering: Woodland Rover Pizza
Wedding dress and groomsmen suits: Wife to be Bridal
Bridesmaids' dresses: Victoria Lou Bridal
Bridal make-up: Rebecca Greggory
Bridesmaid and mother of the bride make-up: Janice Catherine Make Up
Bridal/bridesmaid hair: Megan Pinnington Hairstylist
Videograpy: Portray Wedding Films
Lighting (including festoon chandelier): Hipswing
Rustic love letters: Love Lights The Way
Selfie mirror photobooth: The Added Extra
Entertainment: Your Singing Waiters
Wedding rings: Steven Stone Jewellers
Registrar: Cheshire East Registrars
Wedding stationery: Hollie Leigh Designs
Cake: Cake Escapes

Read Alicia's full wedding planning blog series and read Alicia's A-Z of wedding planning feature in the 2020 edition of Cheshire Bride magazine, available from mid December. 

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