A black tie dress code captured the extra special atmosphere of Dawn Myers and Steven Kerr's wedding in the magical setting of Alnwick Treehouse in Northumberland
How did you meet?
We met in April 2009, but we did not have our first date until the following September. Nobody can accuse us of rushing into things.
Tell us about the proposal.
Steven had booked a weekend in York at our favourite hotel, Hotel du Vin. We had stayed at that hotel when he came back from a six-month military tour and also when he retired from the Army. He told me that it was a belated birthday treat for me. My birthday had been the month before but we hadn’t managed to get anything booked.
Our room wasn’t ready as we had arrived early and so when we returned to the hotel after a lovely day in York, he said he would go to find the room and he sat me in the bar with a drink. This wasn’t unusual but he was away for what seemed ages. He came back and we finished our drinks and then he showed me to the suite he’d booked. He had spent the time arranging lovely surprises for me and when he got down on one knee I couldn’t wait to say yes. The ring he had chosen was perfect too.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
We didn’t have a theme as such, but the colours were predominantly berry and gold. I love rich colours but I was careful not to have any red in the flower arrangements etc., as I did not want our guests to think it was like a Christmas wedding.
Steven’s son, Michael, determined the black tie dress code. He had seen his dad wearing a bow tie for military functions and he said he wanted to be the same plus he didn’t want his tie to fall in his food. We included details of the dress code in our save the dates and said that if our guests wanted to dress to impress, it was all about the tux and the cocktail dress. Our guests were thrilled to have a reason to get dressed up.
What venue did you choose and did you choose it?
We were having an intimate wedding and we knew that we did not want to get married in a hotel conference room. We wanted somewhere with the wow factor and The Alnwick Treehouse Restaurant provides that in abundance. It is a stunning venue all year round but we knew that an evening ceremony in the winter would be amazing as the treehouse is lit with hundreds of fairy lights and it has a roaring fire. We hired additional up-lighting for the decking area and for some of the trees and it really made for a wonderful ambience.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I had gone dress shopping with my mam and tried on four or five fitted dresses. I had worn evening dresses many times for military functions so I knew what suited me, but every dress felt exactly like what I’d worn before and I didn’t feel like a bride. I was very disheartened. I then arranged to visit a wedding fair with friends and as we browsed the dresses there, I again picked out a fitted dress with a cut-out back and crystal details.
I then caught sight of a satin A-line dress with a V-neckline and crystal detail on the back and around the waist. My friends loved it and so did I but I was reluctant to try it as I’m petite and I thought it would be too much for me. After the fitted dress did not give me ‘that feeling’, I reluctantly stepped into the A-line dress. As soon as I saw myself in the mirror I cried because I actually felt like a bride. Plus it had pockets... who doesn’t love a dress with pockets?
I then felt overwhelmed because my mam was ill and wasn’t with me and my maid of honour was at work. I thought that they should be with me when I found my dress. I paid a deposit and made a couple of calls to explain that I thought I’d found the one. I visited the store later that week with my mam and maid of honour; luckily, they both loved the dress. I had to have the dress altered to enable me to move in it; it was so heavy so I had three layers of underskirt removed. The dress was Maribella and the designer was Morilee and I absolutely fell in love with it.
What did the bridesmaids wear?
My maid of honour wore a berry-coloured evening dress from Honor Gold. It was one-shoulder, very slinky and had a fishtail skirt. We didn’t want the usual bridesmaid dress, as they didn’t fit in with the black tie dress code and being of a certain age they were often too young.
Where did you find your suits?
Steven bought his dinner suit from House of Fraser. He had a dinner suit in the wardrobe but he wanted to upgrade to a better one and have something new to wear. He obviously didn’t want to feel outdone. We almost had a fall out in the store though over the buttons on the shirt he had chosen because I didn’t like them. The sales assistant was very amused by it and in the end Steven bought a different shirt. He also bought a lovely pair of shoes from his favourite shoe designer, Loake.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
A family friend made the bouquets and flower arrangements for me. We had several meetings where we discussed colours and types of flowers that I liked and we had two early morning trips to the flower market. It was important to me to have an unstructured look to the flowers. We were getting married in a treehouse surrounded by Northumberland countryside so formal arrangements would not fit well. It was also imperative that there was no red or berries (Christmas theme). I specifically asked for freesia to be included as it was my grandma’s favourite flower. I was also conscious that I didn’t want to be just a bouquet walking down the aisle, so my bouquet was made with my petite size in mind.
The tables didn’t allow for huge centrepieces and I wanted our guests to be able to see each other easily, so the centrepieces were low and made in blocks of oasis. The top table had two, three-foot blocks of flowers and tea lights in between. We also hung a wooden heart and decorated it with flowers and gypsophila, either side of the heart; photographs of family weddings and loved ones were hung by ribbons.
The treehouse has a couple of arches made from twigs so gypsophila was woven through the twigs and fairy lights to soften the look. The drinks reception and the disco took place in The Potting Shed, which is a separate room at the treehouse. We hung trellis from the bar and wild flowers were woven through in-keeping with the floral theme.
Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.
- We hired a string quartet to play as the guests arrived; during the ceremony and the drinks reception and they were amazing.
- For each guest, we had their name cut from wood and placed on their napkin. It fitted in with the treehouse setting and is also something that they would want to take away with them.
- Instead of putting favours on the tables, we booked a caricature artist to draw each guest and it was a keepsake for them. This caused much laughter as you can imagine, as the wine had been flowing for a while. Some guests were suitably insulted.
- We also hired two racing car simulators for the kids but it soon became very competitive between the adults when they realised that there was a leader board and trophy at stake.
- There is a viewing platform as you make your way to the restaurant and we knew that it would be the best place to have photographs taken at so we hired 5ft high illuminated LOVE letters as a focal point. They provided a lovely backdrop for some of the photographs.
- We wanted our guests to know what was happening throughout the evening so we had a personalised order of the day hand painted and we also had a 'Pimp Your Prosecco' sign painted to be put on the bar for the drinks reception.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I had been calm all day, which is unusual as I am a very emotional person; that all changed when I stepped into my dress and the occasion hit me. It took a little while for me to start breathing properly again. I took a deep breath before I walked down the aisle to ensure I remained calm. I can’t remember much of the walk other than being worried that my dress had knocked over a lantern... I didn’t know that they were lit by LED candles and I was anxious about setting the treehouse or myself on fire.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
We asked my son, Jack, and Steven’s niece, Charlotte, to read He Never Leaves the Seat Up as we can relate to a lot of it. It generated a lot of laughter.
What was your most memorable moment?
I think our most memorable moment would be the ceremony. Steven was looking at the registrar as though he couldn’t understand what she was saying to him so she had to repeat everything she said. Then after he said his vows, she turned to me and said “and Dawn” and I said “I do”. To this, she started to laugh and said, “You really do. I haven’t asked you yet”. The photographer captured the laughter from this perfectly.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
The most challenging part of the planning was the seating plan. As the treehouse is a restaurant, there is no uniformity to the number of seats at each table. Then we had some guests cancel the week before the wedding because of work commitments and that put me in a spin over the seating. Fortunately, the wedding team at the treehouse were fantastic and quickly provided a solution.
What was the most important investment for you?
For us, the food and the drink were the most important investment. The food at the treehouse is always fantastic so that was never in doubt. The guests also had the choice of three dishes for each course and that is not always offered at other wedding venues. There was more than enough drink for everyone.
For the drinks reception we had 'Pimp your Prosecco' with liqueurs and fruit to be added and a wheelbarrow filled with ice and a choice of local Alnwick ales and lagers. There was the usual fizz for the toast and wine to accompany the meal. As we were married on Armistice Day and Steven is a veteran and we had serving soldiers in attendance, we had a glass of port so that Steven could do the traditional military toast to absent friends.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
We chose Alicia Keys - If I Don’t Have You. We both like her as an artist and the lyrics meant a lot.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
We hired a DJ for the evening and he asked for our top 20 songs. He was brilliant and kept everyone dancing all night. He took photographs and a video that really reflect the fun party atmosphere.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
Our main cake was a three-tier sponge cake. The bottom tier was chocolate and covered in gold leaf and the other tiers were Victoria sponge, semi-naked with butter cream icing. The cake was decorated with fresh flowers.
Unfortunately due to food intolerances, neither of us could eat that cake and so we had a chocolate orange torte celebration cake made by a local deli that produces ‘clean’ food. For that cake, I had a personalised clay cake topper made as a surprise for Steven. We both do Crossfit so I was lifting him above my head and he was holding a dumbbell; the attention to detail was brilliant. The artist copied my dress, hairstyle and what Steven looked like in his dinner suit.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything about the day. It actually exceeded my expectations and I think that was partly to do with our amazing family and friends having such an amazing time with us.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
The only slight glitch was that we didn’t have a drink for the toast. All the guests had theirs but our glasses hadn’t been filled. The wedding co-ordinator couldn’t apologise enough and gave us two complimentary bottles of champagne. As I told her, it wasn’t a big issue as long as the guests had their drinks.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
Due to work commitments and having to get two teenage boys looked after, we didn’t have much time for a honeymoon. We went to Vienna on the Tuesday after the wedding for four days. We had a wonderful time in the beautiful city and took in all the sights and did all the touristy things like a horse and carriage ride and a classical concert in a palace.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
My advice is to start your planning early. You may feel like you have all the time in the world but the months pass quickly and then before you know it, you are only weeks away from your wedding day and you are trying to finalise all of the finer details. I also had a wedding planning book and wrote everything down. It really helped especially when you are asking for quotes for different services or supplies.
Steal their style:
Venue: The Alnwick Treehouse Restaurant, https://alnwickgarden.com/visit-the-alnwick-garden/the-treehouse/the-treehouse-restaurant/
Photography: David Webb North East Wedding Photographer, www.davidwebbweddingphotographer.co.uk
Dress: Exclusively Yours by Tara, http://exclusivelyyoursuk.co.uk
Rings: Rox, https://rox.co.uk/
Flowers: Timeless Flowers and Treats
Disco: Disco Couture, www.discocouture.co.uk
Caricaturist: Barrie James Art, www.barriejamesart.co.uk
String quartet: Arco String Quartet, www.arcostringquartet.co.uk
Wedding cake: Ice ‘n’ Easy Cakes, http://iceneasycakes.com/
Bride and groom's cake: The Naked Deli, www.thenakeddeli.co.uk
Photo booth: Crazy-pix Ltd, http://crazy-pix.co.uk/
Stationery: Eaton Stationery, www.eatonstationery.co.uk
Make-up: Melanie Hedley MUA, www.melaniehedley.co.uk
Hair: Meia Hair Salon Morpeth Northumberland
Decor: VM Bespoke https://vmbespoke.com/
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