Real Life Weddings: Fiona and Gareth Malcolm
Fiona and Gareth Malcolm, who have just celebrated their first anniversary, were a brilliant couple to work with on their wedding reception! Their creative ideas were both exciting and ambitious, each one revealing lovely sentimentality as well as an enormous sense of fun. Here, in the second of our ‘Real Life Weddings’ posts, Fiona shares their journey in planning their lanterns-inspired wedding reception…
Two days into our engagement, and while I was still gazing at my engagement ring, my extremely organised and tech-savvy now-husband Gareth, had completed a colour-coded, multi-worksheet Excel spreadsheet which detailed the budget, suppliers, guest list and timings for our wedding day. Very happy to let him take the lead on planning, I got acquainted with Pinterest and ideas began to take shape.
CastleGate was an easy venue choice for us because our church meets there on a Sunday morning. It meant a lot to us to be able to have our special day there. Even aside from this, it would have been an easy sell! The Blank Canvas package gives you the ability to make the Turbine Hall’s vast space completely your own, and it was important to us that our wedding day reflected us, our personalities and our priorities. Having free rein to be as creative as we liked meant that we could have things just as we wanted them.
The second aspect of our day to fall in to place was our choice of first dance music, and this rather unusually then determined the theme for our entire wedding: lanterns. We are both unashamed Disney fans, especially the film Tangled. It had taken Gareth two years to convince me to go out with him, during which time he suffered two rejections, so the line “At last I see the light” from the film’s love song seemed rather fitting! That scene involves a cascade of hundreds of floating lanterns. Aware that re-creating this spectacle would be considered an unacceptable fire hazard by CastleGate, we decided to get creative with ways to run with the lantern theme that didn’t involve flimsy paper and flames. The spectacularly high ceiling of the Turbine Hall inspired Gareth’s ambitious idea of stringing up dozens of hanging paper lanterns (lit with bulbs, all sourced online), to break up the space as well as provide soft lighting for the evening.
The hanging lanterns were a mixture of white and the colours from our colour scheme. Deep Cadbury’s purple is my favourite colour, so I dressed my beautiful bridesmaids in it, and had splashes of it in my bouquet and elsewhere. Blue is Gareth’s favourite colour, so we chose a pale shade of it for his cravat and pocket-square to balance out the richness of the purple, as well as for the chair bows (sourced online). We completed our palette with sage green.
The table centrepieces were decorative standing lanterns with flower arrangements attached to the top with magnets. We bought these online and then gave them as gifts to members of the bridal party afterwards, keeping a few to decorate our home. We decided that suspending strings of battery-powered LED lights inside each lantern would look better than candles (a fiddly job I started to question the necessity of by the time I got to the fifteenth lantern). Each lantern stood on a large round mirror, hired from our florist, with silk rose petals scattered around them. Our table names were titles of films we had seen together during our relationship. Slips of paper with romantic/comedic quotes illustrating the relationships in those films were also scattered on tables to act as talking points during the meal (e.g. “My density has popped me to you” on the top table, Back to the Future). These became a hilarious series of photos in our wedding album as we asked our photographer to capture each table group posing as a scene from their allocated film.
The design of the invitations, orders of service and table names also incorporated hanging lanterns. These were designed by our best man, who is a graphic designer, and printed by Bang On Print company. A final touch in the lantern theme was that my gifts to my bridesmaids were dangly lantern earrings from Etsy.
We hired bunting from Emma Bunting, who was recommended for her wide range of colour schemes (with the option of bespoke personalised bunting) and flexibility at adapting to different locations. We hired alternating lengths of purple and blue bunting to string along the long side walls of the Turbine Hall. Emma knew the hall well from previous events and set it up herself the day before the wedding.
Of course, our decorations also featured flowers. These were provided by Secret Garden, an absolute gem of a find thanks to a friend’s recommendation. The team, headed by Nicola, were really helpful and open to adapting to our ideas and preferences. I chose a waterfall bouquet of white roses, calla lilies and purple and white lizianthus. My bridesmaids had simple hand-tied bouquets of roses and lizianthus in white to contrast with the deep purple of their dresses. I asked for blue ribbons to tie each bouquet (efficiently sticking to the colour scheme while also ticking my “something blue” box). Gareth preferred something a bit different for his own buttonhole so he chose a calla lily. The team produced a magnificent ‘long and low’ display to adorn the top table and also produced the elegant little posies for the centrepieces. The most impressive touch was the beautifully decorated floral archway at the entrance to the main hall, which had been Gareth’s idea but which we ourselves had had no idea how to achieve. The Secret Garden team were very organised and instilled so much confidence in their experience at getting each component where it needed to be, when it needed to be there.
Having described the appearance of the hall itself, I shouldn’t neglect to describe the outfits and finishing touches of the key players in the day! I fell in love with my wedding dress at the very first shop I visited – Truly Madly Deeply in Monkseaton. They provided friendly, personal service, including ironing the lovely but rather crumpled veil which was my “something borrowed” from a friend! The same friend recommended the mobile hairdresser Gillian Radcliffe for my hair and make-up. I was more than happy with the trial hair-do she did for me a few months beforehand, resulting in me looking oddly glamorous for my shift on the hospital ward that afternoon! I loved the idea of having simple fresh flowers in my hair, and Gillian secured a line of small white roses from Secret Garden above my veil, and found ways to incorporate flowers into each of my maids’ hair-dos as well to match. I chose bridal jewellery from Swarovski and a bracelet from Ernest Jones, and my mum bought these for me as a wedding gift. I looked online for bridesmaids’ dresses and found them in a perfect shade of deep purple from Coast, whose exchange policy we were very grateful for – my maids being scattered from Newcastle to Australia made it less than straightforward to arrange try-ons immediately after purchase! The groom, groomsmen and father of the bride hired suits from Burton, along with cravats and pocket-squares. Gareth’s gifts to his groomsmen completed their look – elegant pocket-watches and colourful socks.
Returning to the running of the day itself, the gap before the reception meal, when the bridal party are off doing official photos, can sometimes be a challenge to keep guests occupied. Gareth and I decided a fun, low-cost activity would be to provide a ‘Decorate your own cupcake’ stall, which was run by one of my good friends. Another DIY sweet treat was our idea for favours. Each guest’s place setting had a small jam jar personalised with our names and wedding date, with a label saying “Fill me up with sweets” tied round the neck. We threw together a sweet stall at the back of the hall with an assortment of sweets (bought in bulk from Costco) in mismatched borrowed glass bowls and jars. This went down really well and I know of several friends who got round the jam jars’ limited capacity by eating their first helping during the evening!
The food for our reception was provided by Jacob and Tori Caterers. They do a range of packages, from which we chose a very affordable but good quality three-course menu. They delivered generous samples of our chosen courses to Gareth’s flat a few months before the wedding, providing us with a very low-maintenance dinner date! They provided their own staff, cutlery and crockery and were very flexible with kids’ meals and dietary requirements and the frequent adjustments to these numbers as RSVPs came in. We bought red and white wine for each table and Prosecco for the toasts from Majestic Wine (and red and white Shloer for the non-drinkers). They loaned out chiller bins and glasses free of charge, and there was the option to return our few leftover bottles of wine for a partial refund.
One of the countless plus points about the CastleGate was that the size of the Turbine Hall meant we didn’t need to move the tables and chairs from their positions for the sit-down meal, as there was still plenty of room for a sizeable dancefloor in front of the stage. This meant that our guests had lots of seating and space available to take a break from the dancing. We hired the band Funk Conspiracy for the party. Gareth had thoroughly enjoyed them at a friend’s wedding at the CastleGate and I had loved hearing them play at a local bar, As You Like It. They do fantastic covers of well-known favourites, ranging from retro to recent hits. We had rave feedback from our guests, who filled the dance-floor from the second they started playing and kept people dancing to the end of the night, creating exactly the kind of fun atmosphere we had wanted. I put together a Spotify playlist of my own cheesey pop favoruites for the gap in between the band’s sets, and we were allowed to play this through their sound system.
Other features of the evening party were a hog roast provided by Jackson’s catering (Jacob and Tori’s sister company), which provided good dancing fuel, a mobile bar also provided by our caterers, and a photobooth. This was a huge hit, and came with multiple fancy dress props for endless amusement and a photo album where guests could stick the duplicate copies of their photos accompanied by increasingly silly messages for us to have an extra memento of our day. We also asked our friends to tweet using the hashtag #introducingthemalcolms all day, and we were able to project their tweeted pictures and comments onto the big screen above the stage.
Our wedding cake was created by our friend Naomi Longfield, a professional chocolatier and pastry chef. She did a beautiful job of a three-tiered cake of lemon, chocolate and caramel sponge (the top tier of which is in our freezer), with very skilled detailed piping work and a gorgeous cascade of purple flowers.
The wonderful photographer who captured all of these details and the overall essence of our day was Andy Barker, a friend of a friend who came highly recommended and was a much-appreciated familiar face behind the camera. It was important to us that our wedding photos captured the parts of the day which were most meaningful to us. Andy took the time to meet us well before the wedding to discuss our wishes and priorities. We went to the Quayside for our group shots as it is a very short walk from the CastleGate for stunning iconic views of Newcastle and Gateshead. We chose Jesmond Dene for our couple shoot as we have enjoyed many strolls there together and it is a short journey by (wedding) car, providing a whole range of possibilities for beautiful backdrops. We didn’t relish the prospect of posing awkwardly for formal pictures, and were very relieved that Andy’s favoured approach to this was to just let us enjoy some precious breathing space together and to capture some very relaxed, natural shots. If the weather had not held out, our back-up photo plan was Hotel Du Vin’s classy interior as it was where we would be staying on our wedding night and was again very near the CastleGate.
When Gareth and I were finally ready to leave our wedding, we were cheered out of the doors of the CastleGate in a cloud of unusual home-made confetti, which was the product of my brainwave about what to do with my growing pile of several years’ worth of British Medical Journals. As we walked to our hotel, we reflected on how our day had surpassed even our very high expectations in terms of joy, fun and celebration. Having it at the CastleGate allowed us to make our day entirely our own, and the wonderfully helpful staff went out of their way to take all unnecessary hassle and work out of the preparations for us. Everyone afterwards commented how much the day reflected us as a couple and felt like such a personal, relaxed atmosphere. We know that a big part of that was our venue and everything it had to offer, and we are so very grateful.
Featured photography by Andy Barker and CastleGate