The Shankskills Tied the Knot
David proposed on Christmas Day 2012 and we were in agreement that we did not want a long engagement. September is my favourite month, and also fitted in well with work commitments – so when we discovered that our dream venue was available for the first weekend in September, we snapped it up! Neither of us liked the idea of a hotel wedding – we wanted something more unusual. The King’s Hall & Winter Garden in Ilkley was perfect – an old theatre with two very different rooms for a light, sunny welcoming reception and a rich, dramatic evening party. The accommodating staff were brilliantly enthusiastic – it was a joy to work with them.
My thoughts turned to the look of the day immediately. David and I both have very definite ideas about decor which, fortunately, converge more often than not. He occasionally has to rein me in when my ideas become a little too vintage or floral, but we didn’t come to blows too many times! The only thing that really caused disagreements was my tendency to race ahead and try to plan too many things at once – David takes a more measured, calm approach to planning than I do…
We were definitely on the same page when it came to the colour scheme. Neither of us wanted a very pretty, pastel affair; we wanted bold colours. My starting point was a beautiful teal silk evening dress that David bought me for my 27th birthday, and the bold colours and simple silhouettes of Mad Men, our favourite programme. I knew that red had to be in the mix, because my bridesmaid Genevieve suits it so well. Regal purple and autumnal pumpkin with accents of gold were brought in, too.
I was determined that my bridesmaids choose dresses that they loved, that suited them, and that they would enjoy wearing again. By chance, I found the teal evening dress that David had bought me in a dress agency, in Karen’s size; I snapped it up for her immediately, and fortunately, it fitted perfectly! Genevieve wore red in a gorgeous off-the-shoulder style; and Kate wore elegant royal purple.
David and I were in agreement on the style of the men’s outfits. David has such a classical face and slim build – I had a vision of him in evening tails, and it stuck. He loved it. My father was somewhat sceptical, but was won over when he saw how elegant it looked. And given the bold colours the bridesmaids were wearing, to have the men in simple black and white was the perfect balance. I was inspired by the elegance of a Viennese ball.
We really liked the idea of a formal, elegant wedding – but with some Shankskill character. When I told my stepmother that we were aiming for quirky elegance, she said the two just didn’t go together; but I think we proved her wrong!
Choosing my wedding gown was always going to be a major event. Although I did try on several dresses in bridal boutiques, I liked the idea of having a dress tailor made for me, here in England. On the recommendation of my colleague’s wife, I went to a wonderful local dressmaker. We worked together to create the perfect gown in ivory silk duchesse with a demure bateau neckline, slightly dropped waist and full skirt which fell into a train. It was a simple gown with minimal detailing – just a scattering of delicate pearls and crystals, and a bow on the back – which made quite an impact with its decidedly vintage silhouette. My gown was echoed in the flower girls’ dresses, which were also ivory and full skirted with a bow at the back.
My veil was a triumph. I was determined that my mum and I should make it ourselves; I couldn’t find the full, classic style that I wanted, and all the veils in stores seemed so expensive! My mum bought some inexpensive ivory tulle and we worked together to make it just right. It took three attempts in the end, but the end result was exactly what we had both envisaged, and I’m so grateful to my mother for her hard work! A classic pearl hairband was the perfect finishing touch. A tip for brides who want to craft their own veils; we read that it was not a task to do at the last minute, so we made a start six weeks before the wedding. It really is a time consuming task, and to get it right, you definitely need to allow plenty of time for trial and error! Even allowing for three attempts, the total cost of the tulle was less than £25.
Although my dress was utterly classic, I branched out with my shoes: I chose red silk peep toes with a jewelled clasp, and they were gorgeous. My mum was surprised, but red shoes are something of a trademark for me; I loved wearing them.
In keeping with the classic look of my dress and veil, I went for utterly classic makeup. I used Benefit Porefessional primer beneath Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua foundation for a flawless finish – and it really did stay put all day, and all night. I emphasised my brows with Suqqu’s eyebrow pen in Moss and applied a little Chanel cream blush for a rosy glow. I tend to be quite shiny, so a light dusting of T. LeClerc powder ensured a matt finish. I avoided panda eyes by having eyelash extensions ahead of the wedding, and used the Timeless Beige eyeshadow palette from L’Oreal.Finally, I applied my favourite red lipstick by Rimmel: its staying power is magnificent, and it’s really a true red.
I chose ribbon-tied bouquets in cream to unite the bridesmaids with their different dresses. We carried bouquets of wonderfully scented roses and Lily of the Valley, and the gentlemen had buttonholes of Lily of the Valley too. In the King’s Hall, we had beautiful, contemporary arrangements of bright red carnations tied with teal ribbon. Our close family friend and gifted florist Joy created them, along with the bouquets, buttonholes and corsages; they were all glorious. My mum and I made the hydrangea centrepieces in the Winter Garden using fabulous silk flowers and vintage-style glass jars from a wholesaler called Lavenders in West London. They were inexpensive and gorgeous!
I suspect that my bridesmaids and mother thought I had lost the plot when I announced that I would be baking cookies as favours for each of our 130 guests. It was a little bit tiring the day before the wedding, but quite good fun – and they looked so nice in old fashioned gold and white striped paper bags, sealed with a custom sticker to commemorate the day. And who doesn’t like a homemade chocolate chip cookie? We also gave our guests mini sparklers in a customised sleeve.
The Finishing Touches
The artwork for our wedding was a major undertaking by David and his brilliant best man, Alex. They are both gifted architects and artists, and they put their skills to good use. The invitation came about by chance; Alex made us a lovely engagement card with the balloon motif which we liked so much, we asked if we could use it. The motif stuck, and we used it again for the thank you notes, the order of service, a fabulous photo backdrop, the posters around the venue and the beautiful wedding cake, which also featured intricate Japanese architectural figures. The table names, which were all locations in the Pacific Northwest where we were honeymooning, were laser cut from acrylic and suspended from huge white helium-filled balloons. And finally, lustrous black-and-gold posters decorated the interior and exterior of the hall.
It was very important to me that our wedding ceremony be in a church – and not just any church. St Thomas’ is not only beautiful, but very familiar and the site of my late sister’s funeral back in 2011. It was important to me and my family that such a joyous event be held there, and it was a wonderful thing to see so many people we love reunited under happier circumstances. To be married by the vicar we have known for many years was lovely, and he guided us through the process. We chose hymns that we love: Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, Love Divine and the less well known but equally lovely Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God. And alongside a religious reading, Corinthians 13:4, we chose a quirky but appropriate passage entitled You’re On Your Way! by Dr Seuss, which our American friend Thomas performed brilliantly. It injected a little humour and character into the otherwise solemn proceedings.
We arrived at the King’s Hall and Winter Garden in 1930s Rolls Royce, and the journey over the Yorkshire Moors as newlyweds was marvellous. We walked up the red carpet and entered the Winter Garden to find the Gershwin Gang swinging out and our friends and family mingling, enjoying canapes and quaffing champagne. It all looked beautiful in the September sunlight, and it was wonderful to see people posing for photographs in front of the backdrop.
After I had tossed my bouquet, we all entered the magical King’s Hall which the boys had decorated so beautifully. Festoon lighting twinkled; a black and white chequered dance floor provided an eye-catching centrepiece; red flowers on snowy white tablecloths were timeless and chic; and the cake looked stunning. I couldn’t have been happier. After dinner, I had a quick costume change into a little sequinned dancing number before the Gershwin Gang struck up to the tune of I Wanne Be Like You from The Jungle Book, to which David and I performed our first dance, a Charleston. It was all such fun – our guests danced the night away to the band, and then to our brilliant DJs Sally and Andy, good friends who have a radio show up in Glasgow. They kept the dancefloor busy all night with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and much more.
For David and I, the party ended at 11.30pm with a sparkler send off. It was a fitting end to such a sparkling day. We’re so grateful to all the people who made it possible.
Our photographer was Howard Barlow and he was superb. He is based in Cheshire, and we highly recommend his services. He is such a professional, and such a lovely person to have involved in your big day. We feel that we had made new friends in Howard and his wife Kerry.