Real Weddings – Julie & Simon | Living North

Real Weddings – Julie & Simon

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© Burns Rowatt Photography
As part of our series on inspiring real weddings, we chatted to Julie Lee about her special day
'What made my wedding so special (apart from the groom!) was the fact that every single person involved was someone I knew well and loved. Claire from Burns Rowatt Photography is one of my closest friends and it was an honour to have her photograph my wedding'
© Burns Rowatt Photography
© Burns Rowatt Photography

What are your full names and occupations?
Julie Lee (née Leadbitter), Personal Assistant at Gateshead NHS Trust, and Simon Lee, Interior Designer for Monument Design and Restoration.  

How did you meet?
At a spinning class in my local gym! 

How did he propose?
I had arranged an evening at the fabulous Samling Hotel in the Lake District. We went for a walk by Ambleside Lake in the afternoon and had a coffee on the pier, then Simon suggested we go on a boat trip on the evening. I was so against this idea as the boats are usually huge with hundreds of people crammed onto them. Anyway, he disappeared and returned to say he had booked the tickets. He told me to get ready and that the taxi would pick us up at 7pm to take us down to the pier. Then he disappeared again claiming he had a headache and needed to go into the town for some tablets. He returned at exactly the same time as the taxi! 

I have to say that on the evening there was one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen and we had a lovely ride down to the harbour, even though I was rather gutted that I was going on a boat ride with a lot of people when I just wanted some quiet time on our own. It was our first night away on our own since having our little girl Ava two years earlier. 

We arrived at the harbour to be introduced by a very smart man in a suit, who informed us that unfortunately the boat trip had been cancelled, saying we were the only people they couldn’t get in touch with. With a huge smile on my face, I started heading in the direction of the garden of the Wateredge Inn. He stopped me and said that because we were there already, he was free and was happy to take us out on his own! I looked at Simon’s face and he looked so excited, so said ok. To be honest I was so worried about walking down to the pier without breaking my neck (I'm very small and am known for wearing skyscraper heels wherever I go) that I didn’t notice much around me.  

We headed in the direction of an extremely large boat only to be told to get in a very small and beautiful antique teak boat. Still unaware of what was going on, I climbed over into the boat to notice a large bouquet of roses and lillies with a bottle of champagne, glasses and tea lights hanging all over the boat. 

The trip was beautiful and lasted around 30 minutes. With about five minutes to spare at the end, Simon pointed out the Samling Hotel in the distance, and when I glanced up to it and looked back he was on his knee with a blue box (just in time for the sunset). It probably wouldn’t be polite to publish my response! I’m unsure what I was more shocked at – the fact he had proposed or the fact it was a Tiffany Solitaire ring! 

I couldn’t have asked for a more stunning setting or a more stunning evening, and I very emotionally said yes. We drank the champagne and on our return I finally got my glass of wine in the Wateredge garden. From there I rang my family and friends, then we went for a fabulous meal at the beautiful Drunken Duck Inn in Ambleside, where the locals celebrated with us and bought us drinks! A genuinely memorable evening.   

Where was the wedding gown from? And the bridesmaids' dresses?
I purchased my dress from Wendy at Bridal Wish in Blagdon. She is so lovely and we have  actually become friends – I couldn’t have wished for a better service. My dress was Silaba by Manuel Mota (Pronovias). Because I am small I had the train removed so it looked more like an evening gown, which which made me feel so comfortable I could dance all night without any worries.

I don’t like a lot of fuss and because I have a lot of close friends and I didn’t want to offend anyone, I decided just to have my beautiful little girl Ava as the only bridesmaid. I bought her dress from Debenhams. 

Where were the suits from? 
The no-fuss theme continues I'm afraid. Simon purchased a very smart black suit from Paul Smith and wore it with an Alexander McQueen white shirt and black tie. His two brothers were best men and simply wore suits of their own choice. 

Where did you source the flowers?
I came across a wonderful girl called Helen at Bels Flowers, who initially wasn’t available. But various things happened and I had this weird gut instinct that she was meant to do my wedding. In the run up to the wedding, Helen randomly contacted me to say she felt the same and would like to do my wedding. I have to say that the flowers were the most amazing thing we spent our money on. She did a truly stunning job and I couldn’t rate her any higher – again, I made a friend in Helen. She is super talented. I didn’t have a particular theme in mind, but my daughter Ava loves the colour pink, so everything was pink and vintage. That was down to Ava.

What about the cake?
I decided from the start that I didn’t want or need a wedding cake. However, about four weeks beforehand my dad decided he really wanted me to have a cake as he wanted to see a photo of us cutting the cake like he and my mum had. We went for a coffee at a gorgeous vintage tearoom on Newcastle’s Quayside called The Great British Cupcakery, where I met a lovely girl and her mum. They offered to do the cake at such short notice, which dad insisting on paying for. I just showed them a picture of my dress and didn’t see the cake until my actual wedding day. And it looked so beautiful! I didn’t want a traditional fruit cake, so we went for two tiers: one chocolate orange and the other white chocolate and raspberry. The Great British Cupcakery were so sweet and invited us for a cake tasting a few weeks before the wedding, which also happened to be Ava’s birthday. They gave us complimentary cupcakes and coffee, and even put a candle in one cake for Ava.   That in itself was a lovely memorable experience,for which I am very grateful. Their design was beautiful too – they made the outside of the cake look identical to the vintage lace on my dress, and even piped some of the beading onto the cake with gorgeous vintage pink roses on the top.

What did you eat?
Simon and I travelled around world for six months the year before we had Ava, and we ate in so many places. We both agreed that we didn’t want a formal wedding meal – we love antipasto and therefore decided to have an antipasto sharing platter for the starter, which included olives, breads, mozzarella, rocket salad and all different types of meats, like parma ham and chorizo. It was served with rosé prosecco. Prior to the wedding we gave our guests a choice of a main course, and the options were 12-hour slow cooked pork with mustard grain mash, green beans and cider gravy, slow cooked Toulouse pasta bolognese (my favourite), Northumbrian fish and chips with all the trimmings, or Thai green curry. 

We often eat at a restaurant called As You Like It in Jesmond. They're part of the Apartment Group, who also own Newton Hall, so the chefs let us choose from their main menu rather than have a standard wedding meal. For dessert we asked if we could bring in our own. Luca, a friend from a fabulous café in Jesmond called Arlo, provided hundreds of cakes to share, such as Malteser tiffins, brownies, lemon drizzle cake, Victoria sponge, carrot cake, and cupcakes dressed with berries. They were served on tiered afternoon tea stands along with optional ice cream, custard or chocolate sauce. We received very enjoyable feedback from the food and I think everyone loved the relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Did you use a wedding planner? If so, who?
My very good friend Helena Ganley is a wedding planner for Newton Hall in Northumberland, and my wedding wouldn’t have been what it was without her. She went above and beyond for us and made our day unforgettable – she even arranged a free meal tasting with drinks at As You Like It before the wedding. She also stayed with me at Newton Hall the evening before and arranged a wonderful meal and drinks at the fabulous  Joiner’s Arms.  

Where was the service? And the reception?
Everything was held at Newton Hall. I hate being the centre of attention and just wanted it very relaxed and in one place. We decided also for this reason to get married later in the day and go straight into one reception (rather than a separate day and evening reception). I wanted everyone that was there with us to celebrate all day. The weather on the day before the wedding was horrendous, but as if someone was watching over us, I woke to a spectacular sunrise (with a slight hangover after a few of us sat on the landing drinking red wine the night before!).  

The whole day was so relaxed. I had breakfast with my friends downstairs at Newton in my PJs, then enjoyed a very relaxed morning followed by my good friend Irene doing an amazing job on my makeup (I needed it). We managed to have our wedding outside in the garden due to the weather. I remember everyone shouting up at the window at how amazing the terrace looked and how unreal the flowers were (I hadn’t seen them). I had jam jars with beautiful flowers hanging from the chairs and lace, and the fire was on. I remember standing with my back to the fire and feeling the heat on my back, and the heat from the sun on my face, and thinking: 'This is crazy. It’s the 26th September!'  

We wrote our own vows, which I was shocked to see had pretty much the whole place in tears (even the men!) and then we went on to have the best meal and party of my life. My brother Paul, who DJs all over Newcastle, played at our wedding, along with his friend Si on the sax and his girlfriend Karen Harding singing. Even Jo, the co-ordinator at the time and whom I only met minutes before my vows, came back to our wedding after she finished and partied with us until 4am! You know there are weddings at Newton Hall pretty much every day but they truly do make you feel like you are the only bride to ever get married there.

I also used Charlotte from the Finishing Touch Company in Newcastle, where I hired various bird cages, jam jars and lace. She and Helen made the venue look truly breathtaking.

During the planning of the wedding I looked for various things but couldn’t find them. As such, my husband Simon decided to make a lot of the items, such as the invitations. He made a Mr & Mrs Lee sign, which was placed on the fire place and covered with roses and candles, and also etched the readings onto oak. Due to the amazing feedback we received since the wedding, we have recently set up a small business called Forever Detail to offer this service to others.

What made my wedding so special (apart from the groom!) was the fact that every single person involved was someone I knew well and loved. Claire from Burns Rowatt Photography is one of my closest friends and it was an honour to have her photograph my wedding. I’m not a fan of looking at pictures of myself but she truly did make me feel amazing – her talent is boundless and I felt so proud and grateful to have her there. She also stayed with me the evening before and never stopped from first thing until the evening. Having your best friend do something so personal made me feel so at ease and I think that's reflected in the photographs. 

Published in: May 2014

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