When Kate and Tom Wood decided to tie the knot, they quickly decided on Portstewart – despite living in England!
“We chose to marry where we did because Portstewart is so special to us and our family, it is our second home. It was therefore important that Portstewart became the theme – Irish traditions, nautical decorations and blue for the skies and the sea.”I’m originally from Preston in Lancashire but my father’s family are all from Northern Ireland. And Tom’s mother is from Belfast and his parents now have a home in Portstewart.” With an obvious venue and theme taking shape, Kate put together a day filled with special touches, that had their 120 guests falling in love with Northern Ireland!
The pair met at university, and were together for nearly nine years when they wed. “I’d been trying to talk about marriage for six of those years. When Tom eventually started to come around to the idea, there was more of a mutual agreement to get married, rather than a proposal. Tom’s first words on the subject weren’t, “Shall I get the ring then?” they were, “Shall we tell our parents then?” It was only when we arrived at Tom’s parents to celebrate that I put the ring on. “My mum had given me the engagement ring that my dad had proposed with. It is a diamond, surrounded by sapphires – Princess Diana definitely influenced ring designs of the 80’s! It fitted perfectly and I didn’t want to change the design so I was able to start wearing it from the moment we had our ‘mutual proposal’.”
A year later, Kate walked down the aisle in a fabulous vintage dress that she fell in love with the minute she spotted it. “I’d originally thought I’d have a vintage 1920’s style dress to go with my pixie cut hair. I scrolled through websites and Ebay but they all seemed too risky – how would I know if it would fit or be in good enough condition? “I approached my mum’s friend who makes dresses, but when I heard how much fabric was, before we’d even started, I knew it was out of my budget. I decided to try charity shops, in the hope that we’d at least have the fabric and we could tailor it. “There’s a series of wedding dress Oxfam shops across the UK where all their dresses are £200. My nearest was in Heswall, Wirrall. I booked an appointment with my mum, but I missed my train and my mum got lost so by the time we got up there, we’d missed most of our timeslot. I didn’t have much hope that we would find anything anyway and with so little time left, I was convinced it was pointless but I grabbed a dress that looked ok and gave it a go. “I fell in love with it. It was so ridiculous, my mum and I spent the rest of the time trying to convince ourselves that we couldn’t have found THE dress in less than 5 minutes. I couldn’t leave without it so we spent the rest of the day shopping for my mum’s Mother of the Bride outfit. “It was a great experience, shopping with women from Merseyside is a hoot – they’re so kind and always make you feel like a queen. All the dresses were either new or as good as, thanks to a professional clean. There were a few tiny pulls but with such a long train, that was to be expected. The dress had been badly altered for the previous person so I needed to have it undone and re-stitched on the waist, which wasn’t too big of a job.”
The theme then took up most of Kate’s time, as she stamped their personalities across the day with some lovely touches. The couple had chosen to get married at The Bann Gallery, in the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Coleraine Office with their reception at The Crannagh so Kate decided, “There was a nautical influence as both venues were on the River Bann, just before it goes out to sea at the Barmouth. I also wanted the day to be authentically Irish so where possible.” Some of the touches she added included, “I painted a boat for the invitations and painted Portstewart Strand for the order of the day. We also collected pebbles from Portballintrae for wedding favours and painted on each guest’s name. “For the centre pieces, I minimally decorated jars of all shapes and sizes with bits of lace and twine, then clustered them on sliced logs, scattered with shells from Downhill, Benone Beach. Each table was named after a local beach: Benone, Portstewart Strand, White Rocks and Downhill. “Sky blue Bombay Sapphire gin bottles full of daisies tied it all together. My florist, Mark, helped me source 16 bottles – to the relief of my friends and family who couldn’t drink it fast enough!
“I wanted Irish flowers where possible, some of which I grew myself. My florist, Mark, was fantastic, he found new suppliers and raided his own garden to make sure it was right!
“Tom and I also took a boat ride from the ceremony to the reception venue – and we dragged a few close friends on board to help share our champagne and take photographs. I was so grateful for that boat trip after the ceremony, as it gave us some time to calm down and take it in. It may seem strange to leave your guests for 40 minutes, but it was peaceful and fun.” On the day itself, “I struggled to stop crying happy tears. It was so overwhelming to be surrounded by so many people that you love, whilst making the biggest declaration of love to your favourite person in the world. “Tom hates having his photo taken so we didn’t have a formal photographer and tried to keep everything as candid as we could.
“I love to cook and believe guests at any party should be well fed – that was certainly the case on our day – the food didn’t stop coming!
“My dad and his wife, Sally, live in Munich and Tom’s twin brother and girlfriend, Jane, live in Berlin; so we had a German drinks reception with Pretzels and weissbier. We had to have the pretzels made in Belfast at Aunty Anne’s Pretzels – they were kindly couriered up by the lovely Aunt Pat.”We also had three cakes! My Aunty Ursula made a 9-layer fresh cream and strawberry naked cake; my Aunty Jennifer decorated a 2-tier fruitcake with handmade individual icing flowers and ivy; and there was a 5-tier tower of cheese. I’m really into making preserves so the cheese was served with 5 different jams, chutneys and chillis that I had made.”
Despite so many personal touches the couple also managed to keep within their budget. “We did so much ourselves, there wasn’t too much opportunity for accidental splurges!”
Looking back, would they do anything differently? “I had flown out to Portstewart a week before the wedding to prepare and add the final touches to my homemade wedding. Most of my family and my closest friends were due to fly out and join me four days before the wedding – I hadn’t anticipated the struggle between wanting to spend quality time with loved ones and wanting to get things done.
“I also would have gone to bed earlier the night before! And I was dancing so much I didn’t get to try the cheese.”
Kate also has great advice for other couples planning their day, “Plan in time in the day for just you and your husband to have a moment to appreciate what is going on around you.”
As for married life, “We haven’t had a honeymoon yet but we did go to Donegal with the family the week after the wedding. I didn’t think we would feel different after so many years together, but it does! We feel more solid and closer than ever.”
Reception location: The Crannagh
Groomswear: Slater Menswear
Make-up: Friend of the bride, Rosie Peploe
Hair: OH! Hairdressing
Flowers: Ma Fleur
Room Décor: The bride
Photography by: Johanna Hooson and Chris Wood