Well hello, 2019. I hope you’ve all had the best time over Christmas and New Year, with chance to rest and relax, and just be. If you are newly-engaged, then congratulations.
I have a feeling that today’s wedding is going to capture your heart. Not only is it beautifully festive, the bride actually knitted (yes, knitted!) her own Art Deco-inspired gown using pure silk. I’m not sure I really appreciated just how fine and delicate silk knitting can be but my eyes have been opened. I can’t wait to see more from this very talented bride, who has just launched her own bridal couture range. Interest piqued? Let’s get started to find out more about this festive wedding with sustainability at its heart.
Photography McGivern Photogaphy
Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire was the splendid country house venue for Gracie and John’s wedding on 22 December 2017. Inspired by their love of Christmas, the couple worked hard to create a day that was full of warm festive vibes and beautifully-crafted personal touches using lots of ivy and accents of gold. John works in consultancy and Gracie has just launched her bridal couture label, CoopCouture, and they first met on holiday in Scotland.
Kirtlington Park is close to Gracie’s mum’s house, and the couple fell for its classic feel and the flexible approach of its owners to allow them to create such a personal, unique day.
“We wanted a venue that felt traditional but also allowed us the freedom to make it our own. My mum lives in this little village in Oxfordshire with a beautiful, private country house. When John and I got engaged I just checked to see if they might hire it out and it turned out they do a handful of weddings each year.”
“I loved the fact it wasn’t a wedding ‘factory’ and we weren’t constrained by the venue’s suppliers. The best thing about them not churning out weddings was that we were allowed to set everything up the day before, which was amazing given how much DIY there was.”
John and Gracie put together the results of their handicraft the day before the wedding to dress up the mansion to a state of festive beauty. Gracie styled the foliage herself, sourcing ivy and leaves from her family and friends. The wreath motif which adorned the stationery was also designed by her.
“Overall we wanted a really festive feel with lots of personal touches. We also felt it was really important to make it as sustainable as possible – that’s why we didn’t have any flowers. Instead we asked family friends to hold fire on cutting back their ivy until December so we could use it.”
“We gave it a light spray of gold to make it even more Christmassy, and arranged it all over the house. We also spent the year collecting glass jars for candles, and loo rolls for the 140 handmade crackers!”
“As well as being huge Christmas fans, we’re also both really sporty so I designed our invitations based on cricket tickets, our table plan was a map of Scotland with all our favourite golf courses, the button holes had miniature hockey sticks in them, and we left our ceremony under an arch of vintage sports equipment.”
Gracie has a background in marketing but has always been crafty and did her degree in fashion textiles. I can’t tell you how much I adore this pure silk gown, which has such a fine knit and looks so luxurious. The gold beading really lifts the design from beautiful to even more beautiful; such a clever touch.
I love the frothy tulle skirt and statement bow too. I’m fascinated by the process behind the design and creation of Gracie’s dress, so was thrilled to get a glimpse into how she created this piece and discovered how to knit with silk.
“I’d always imagined I’d make my own dress. I’ve been making clothes for years and studied fashion textiles so I knew what I was doing. I wanted something completely unique – something that was quite traditional and would keep me warm during the day – but became something more unconventional and contemporary, and allowed me to spend the entire evening on the dance-floor.”
“It sounds bonkers but I knitted it. It’s 100% silk (not wool).”
“I started knitting with silk more than ten years ago – when I studied fashion textiles at uni and specialised in knitwear. I spent years experimenting with yarns and techniques – finding ways to make knitwear elegant. I always loved using silk – it’s beautiful to work with and makes dresses so soft you’d want to sleep in them.”
“It’s also incredibly breathable – it has this amazing ability to keep you warm when it’s cool, and keep you cool when it’s warm. So, when I got engaged and started to think about my dress, it was always going to be knitted with silk.”
“I wanted to make a dress that was very unusual, super sexy and beautifully elegant – often not the easiest of combinations! I shaped the dress so it was really figure-hugging which made it very sexy, while the high neck and (during the day) long sleeves, made it very elegant. The embroidered pattern helped on both fronts.”
“I designed it to accentuate certain areas, but the balance of gold and white and the pattern itself had a very old-school glamour about it. The last piece of the puzzle was the silk over-skirt – which made it super traditional during the day but, as soon as it came off, I was ready for the dancefloor.”
“With its natural stretch and Bodycon style, it’s kind of like a winter version of the lacy/stretch wedding dresses everyone seems to love these days. I made the long sleeves and silk tulle skirt removable so it turned into more of a party dress for the evening.”
“I’d always wanted a dress with an Art Deco vibe so I then designed a pattern and hand embroidered thousands of beads onto the dress. I’m also a big advocate of conscious couture and didn’t want to make a dress I’d only wear once. I thought I might dye it after the wedding but I actually wore it, as is, to a black tie event over the summer and I’ll definitely be wearing it again.”
“I love anything Art Deco so I knew I wanted my wedding dress to have an Art Deco vibe, but in a very contemporary way. I spent ages sourcing images of Art Deco jewellery, furniture, architecture etc. as inspiration. Then I took the elements I loved and started playing with them on a drawing of a body. Once I nailed down my perfect design, I then pinned the pattern onto my dress, before starting the embroidery. It took me months to make but I absolutely loved every minute!”
“My dress didn’t really need any accessories. I just wore my mum’s small gold earrings with a little pearl as they perfectly matched the beading on the dress.”
Gold Carvela shoes and a twist of gold-sprayed ivy in her hair were the perfect complement to her gown. Her elegant up-do and polished makeup were done by Laureen Walsh, and the ivy is just the perfect finishing touch; so simple but so classically beautiful.
“I had to work very hard to get John to fancy me. I first spotted him on holiday in Scotland and was hooked. Unfortunately he didn’t feel the same way and so ensued an 18 month chase before he gave in.”
“The clincher was a ski trip I’d all but invited myself, thinking that if he spent a full week with me, he’d have to fall for me! John proposed in December 2016, seven years after we first met. We’d made an advent calendar with little stockings that we put a gift in each day… and on the 9th there was a beautiful engagement ring inside my stocking.”
“I’d always wanted to get married just before Christmas so we had almost exactly 12 months to plan – and get making!”
The ceremony was held in one of the mansion’s state rooms, and Gracie entered with her father to a piano version of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, composed and played by a friend. Gracie has shared more details about this lovely, personal civil ceremony.
“One of our best friends conducted the ceremony. It was so lovely to have someone we knew so well standing there with us – it made the whole thing even more personal and unique. We wrote our own vows which were fairly traditional apart from one line in John’s which made everyone laugh: “I will help you when you need help and make space for you to be yourself – especially on the dancefloor.”
“Our first reading was ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Billy Joel – a song and artist I’ve adored for years.”
I’m so happy to read that Nikki Stark Jewellery, a jeweller whose elegant, clean designs we well and truly adore here at Love My Dress, made the couple’s rose gold wedding bands. Please do visit her Little Book listing here to find out more.
“We both wanted something quite simple in rose gold. One of our friend’s has a sister who’s a jewellery designer with a beautifully simple style, so we worked with her to make them.”
Oliver McGivern Photography is the talent behind these photographs. From the majesty of the mansion in the Oxfordshire countryside to the warmth of the interiors, as well as the happiness of the couple, I love each and every one of the feelings captured in his photographs.
“We absolutely love our photos. Ollie captured the fun and festive mood of the day so perfectly and aside from a couple of shots when I was in my dress, he didn’t ask me to pose at all which I really appreciated; it’s not my forte!”
For Gracie, the ceremony was her favourite part of the day.
“It was pretty unusual and just so much fun. I’ve never been to a wedding where people have laughed so much during a ceremony. I walked down the aisle to ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ (which most people were probably dreading I’d sing along to). Our rendition of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ where different groups sang different verses was hilarious, and we finished with ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens – complete with a bridesmaid and groomsmen band.”
“Just to add a Caribbean twist to our Christmas extravaganza, we left the ceremony, under an arch of vintage sporting equipment, to ‘Soul Limbo’, the theme tune to ‘Test Match Special’. It just set the tone for the rest of the day perfectly.”
“The main décor was all the golden ivy we arranged around the house, which in itself is beautiful so didn’t need much adding to it), as well as fairy lights and candles.”
“We also made an advent calendar of sorts – we dotted card stockings around the house which were numbered 1 to 24 (also the age we met) with a picture of each of us at that age. It was all very simple and low cost, yet helped make the venue even more beautiful and personal to us.”
The hand-made crackers made for properly festive favours.
“I hand-made crackers using gold wrapping paper and old loo rolls we’d been collecting all year. Inside was a gold hat, a pack of Peppersmith mints and a personalised note. Aside from my dress they definitely took the most work.”
Passion for Food catered the wedding breakfast and the bride’s auntie made this divine-looking chocolate confection.
“My auntie used to make my birthday cakes when I was little so I thought it’d be lovely if she made our wedding cake too. It had to be chocolate and she incorporated our painted gold and ivy theme. The little mice are a nod to my childhood obsession with white mice.”
As the evening party and dancing got underway, Gracie transformed her gown by removing its sleeves and tulle skirt. Djing from Visually Sound was book-ended by the newly-weds’ first and last dances.
“We chose ‘Happy Hearts’ by Andy Williams. It has beautiful lyrics and a perfect balance of slow and speedy sections. More important was our last song. We ended up doing a very (impromptu and unrehearsed!) interpretive dance to ‘Let It Go’ from ‘Frozen’.”
“We extended our wedding into the next day as well when we played a Brides vs Groom hockey match followed by a pub lunch. Unfortunately I took a hockey ball to my face so was very glad it was the day after the wedding, not before!”
Words of Wedded Wisdom
Gracie has some great inspiring words for brides considering making their own gown.
“I find it amazing how many people spend so much money on a dress that’s off-the-shelf. Wearing something that’s totally unique to you feels absolutely incredible.”
Just wow, Gracie. From the first moment I saw your knitted silk gown I was absolutely hooked. I’m in absolute awe of your talent, and send the biggest congratulations to you and John, as well as all the luck in your world for your step into bridal couture. Thank you so much for sharing your festive wedding with us today.
Of course, sending so many thanks to Ollie McGivern too for these timeless, beautiful photographs. For more Christmas wedding inspiration please enjoy these weddings here, and you can get more DIY inspo from these Love My Dress brides.