Finding the perfect spot for your dream wedding is hard enough, but finding a venue that can adapt to the age of corona’s ever-changing rules – and its heartbroken couples’ expectations for their shape- shifting celebrations? Well, that’s priceless, as the credit card ads say.
Fortunately for lovers Sarah and Will, Northumberland estate Brinkburn came through in spades, providing movie-ending-perfect vows in the priory before an intimate reception undercover in the ground’s beautifully bohemian tipi.
Speaking about the build up to her late September big day, bride Sarah says: “Not to get all Boris about it, but the ‘unprecedented times’ tagline rang very true for us as we dealt with constantly changing timelines and goalposts.
The uncertainty resulted in us moving the date three times, and ultimately coming to the realisation that we’d have to trim our guest list by over two-thirds, change the ceremony and condense the reception to an almost unrecognisable degree!”
However, the little issue of a party of less than 30 wasn’t going to stop this pair tying the knot: “we took the view that the most important thing was to make that commitment to one another, irrespective of whether that was in front of five people or 500 people.
Any celebration, party and ornamentation, whilst incredibly fun and great to share with friends, is extraneous to that and can be postponed to another time.”
And naturally, a perfect excuse to throw a big, socially-undistanced bash when regulations are lifted. We’ll be there with bells on…
A Whole Lotta History
A swipe-right success story, this lasting romance was sealed in Cambridge, Will’s hometown. After taking Sarah on a tour of St Johns College, her Mr Right dropped down on one knee outside St Johns New Court.
Perhaps the university’s most famous building, it’s also aptly known as ‘the Wedding Cake’ because of its ornate 19th architecture. “Cambridge is a meaningful place for us, so it was the perfect place to get engaged,” Sarah recalls.
And as our bride has a taste for magical heritage settings, it’s hardly surprising that she and Will were lovestruck by the glorious venue on our #guestlist, Brinkburn, at first sight.
Set within a secluded wooded ravine on the banks of the Coquet River, the venue boasts a 12th century monastery, a chicly unrestored neo-gothic manor house and a rich past that takes in the iron age, ancient Roman occupation, dark age settlements and Tudor royalty.
It’s also beyond stunning: Think aged yet pristine stonework, dramatic proportions and walls of breathtakingly exquisite stained-glass windows. Needless to say, our Disney-loving bride was sold on the spot.
“It’s like a fairytale film set. There’s a history and tranquillity to Brinkburn that’s unmatched and the beauty of the setting, church and manor is overwhelming. We were both set on a church wedding and the Priory gave us chills – and not just because of the temperature!”
Offering an array of wedding spaces, from the 120-capacity priory to the contemporary-rustic décor of the White Room (which holds 80 guests), the versatile venue was the ideal spot for the couple’s vision of a wedding day full of countrified elegance.
“So much of your big day is built on intuition, and we just knew upon visiting Brinkburn that we couldn’t imagine marrying anywhere else,” Sarah explains.
Fit for a Princess
When your big-day backdrop is centuries of dramatic grandeur, how do you stop it from stealing the show? Well, Sarah could give a masterclass after bringing sophisticated glamour to the atmospheric priory’s altar in a form-fitting, off-the-shoulder David’s Bridal gown.
With its statement train, mermaid silhouette and luminous silk glow, the structured dress perfectly complemented the bride’s hourglass figure and gave proceedings a regal feel.
She complemented the look with a simple pearl drop necklace, an angel-cut, lace-trimmed veil and naturally, a pearl-dappled tiara.
And with hair styled in soft, loose waves, bronze eye makeup and serious lashes, this bride was more than ready for her close up.
Third Time’s a Charm
In spite of multiple reschedules, there’s no denying that, on the day, these lovebirds executed their dream wedding full of natural touches, greenery and pared-back elegance. “We wanted to keep it simple, as trust me, Brinkburn Priory needs no further ornamentation!” Sarah laughs.
The only decorative details were potted trees tied with filmy white organza and candlelit lanterns lining the aisle.
After their heartfelt vows, the couple were able to enjoy the traditional shower of confetti en route to their intimate tipi reception.
The cosy space was styled with plenty of lush foliage, flowers, logs and flickering candles for an intimate ambience with carefully spaced tables.
Joined by their shortlisted family and friends – including Sarah’s three bridesmaids, looking the part in ethereal sea foam gowns – the couple toasted their love with a delicious wedding breakfast prepared by in-house caterer, Neil Wilkins, who our couple singles out for a special mention:
“He is a consummate professional, and handled the last-minute changes with ease, while being very supportive in the run-up to the day. And the food was superb – we were literally in heaven.”
All the Feels
To fill their wedding album with plenty of candid, swoon-worthy shots, the couple enlisted the talents of Andy Turner.
From spectacularly illuminated ceremony scenes to delighted family members stepping out into the sunlight, he has managed to capture the big love that brought this wedding together in the most difficult of times.
We’re simply obsessed with how photogenic Brinkburn is – I mean, you can see for yourself here.
Just-marrieds are spoilt when it comes to camera-friendly couples’ portraits spots, from the priory’s chiaroscuro lighting to the sweeping verdant grounds. Don’t even get us started on the manor house’s floor-to-ceiling gothic revival windows…
Words from the Bride
When asked whether she’d recommend a lockdown wedding to other brides-to-be, Sarah’s answer is a big fat YES. “On the day you’ll feel so happy and full of love that ‘what could have been’ won’t even cross your mind.
You’ll be so grateful for the celebration and the fact that you’re married at all.” She adds: “we had less than 30 guests and everyone said that it was one of their favourite weddings, because they felt honoured to be there and lucky to be celebrating love after such an awful year.
It was refreshing to have an intimate atmosphere and be able to spend quality time with everyone that attended.”
So, there you go, Bo Jo: love can’t – and won’t – be cancelled.
For more inspirational nuptials, head to our dedicated Real Weddings page!