We might have nowhere to go right now, this being lockdown 3.0. But we can look back to a day when shopping in a face mask was for armed robbers and when there were nightclubs and crowds and handshakes - a time when we did get all dressed up to pose elegantly on the doorstep looking wistful and dreaming of big, beautiful wedding celebrations. Back at the start of 2020, we were almost ready to reveal our lovely newly decorated function rooms, and setting up to offer them for private dinners, corporate events, workshops, small family functions and weddings. And though we still haven't hosted a real wedding, we did enjoy getting dressed up for one.
Moreton is a grade-II listed Georgian stately home on the outskirts of Bideford, near the stunning North Devon coast. We, the owners, have been here for five years now, working away at reinstating a little grandeur and charm to the building after a rather institutional half-century as a boarding school.
By this time last year, we had completed an accommodation wing with seven beautiful bedroom suites as well as the first couple of function rooms. The outside was painted and the scaffolding had recently been struck from the grand Jacobean style stairwell lying just behind the main entrance hall, revealing the glorious chandelier and oval glass cupola lantern above.
We still had work to do, as we were just starting to tackle our Morning room (the bar and party room) and posh loos, but we felt it was time to give future guests a bit of an idea of who we were. We had managed a bit of a Christmas party (remember them - it was 2019?) but no one had taken even a half-presentable photo. So the idea of a photoshoot began with the lovely Katie, from Best Day Ever!, event stylist, wedding planner and general source of creativity, who seemed to know everyone. She pulled together a group of local wedding suppliers to help dress our newly decorated function rooms and showcase their potential.
One of the main features of Moreton House as an event venue is that we have a number of different rooms that can all be set up before the day - with no need to be moving furniture or decorations during the event. It's possible to move from ceremony space to welcome drinks to meal, and onwards for dancing, drinking and nightcaps without having to move so much as a chair. And with seven luxurious bedroom suites on site, plus private dining and lounge spaces, there is plenty of room for the bridal party, groomsmen and close family to get ready right here on site - and sleep it all off afterwards. There's plenty of opportunity for getting ready photos, visits from hair sylists and makeup artists, and to have a few pre-wedding toasts.
The house provides a very natural colour palate with lots of wood, high ceilings and bright light from the large Georgian windows, allowing a backdrop that would set off any kind of theme or style.
Katie's vision was to create a number of different looks that would highlight the flexibility of our function rooms to give an idea of how these big empty spaces can be transformed in many different ways into intimate romantic settings that suit the different parts of a wedding celebration.
Our florist, Heather from Church Park Flowers, was just on the point of opening her beautiful new shop in Bideford when she joined us for the shoot. Using as many British and locally grown flowers as possible, Heather creates seasonal and beautifully textured displays, preferring to work with foliage cut from the garden, a mix of dried and fresh flowers, and without plastic or foam wherever possible.
Being early in the season for British flowers, she used a blend of winter stems, berries and seedheads blended with fresh early spring blooms in shades of ivory, pale peach and delicate rust, set off against olive green and silver grey foliage to create a delicate yet sculptural hand tied bridal bouquet.
A collection of antique glass bud vases and jars of dainty spring narcissus continued the theme to the table.
While on the stairs, long winter stems and dried flower elements matching the bouquet created a very natural look, softening the formality of the traditional woodwork and showing how these large scale spaces can be dressed very effectively with a modest budget.
The same long stems were used to create a striking arch to frame our bride for the day, the lovely Gabrielle, pictured here modelling hair by Zan Stacey of Steven and Laurent in Bideford and beautifully natural makeup by skin care specialist Claire Bowring, before changing into her bridal gown.
Our gowns were kindly provided by Frilly Frocks bridal boutique in Barnstaple, offering bridal and mother of the bride collections. The first gown was a vintage inspired design by Maggie Sottero, with beaded bodice embellished with crystals, dainty spaghetti straps and a tulle skirt, perfectly captured here by wet plate photography artist Stephen Raff.
This amazing historical technique was demonstrated right in front of us, using a box camera and a portable developing booth that can travel to any indoor or outdoor setting - a fascinating and unique addition to any function or wedding day.
The second dress, which seemed almost made to drape our stairs is by Martina Liana. Its romantic sculptured shape with 3-dimensional floral, beaded and sequinned elements positively shimmers. Both gowns were set off with delicate jewelry by Wanderlust life.
The stairs at Moreton provide a fantastic photo opportunity, and these dramatic angles were captured perfectly from the balcony by Anthony Lyons of Special Day Wedding Photos. His quiet and relaxed manner put everyone at ease, allowing him to capture the day with great subtlety, achieving a very natural documentary style.
The dining room was our most recently restored space, transformed from dusty classroom to a bright and elegant dining space for up to 70 guests. At the time of the shoot to room was entirely without embellishment, save for a huge chandelier and decorative plaster ceiling, however we have since furnished it.
A simple dark floor and ivory walls allowed Katie to demonstate two completely different colour schemes, both complementing the florals perfectly. The first used soft blue oversized table cloths with a delicate muslin table runner and natural rattan mats set against the delicate peach glasses and and ivory flowers, colours which Katie echoed in her natural dried petal confetti wrapped into cones of vintage sheet music.
Simple white candles and a mix of different vases and tea-lights, with hand drawn watercoloured name cards create a beautifully soft and romantic spring look.
The second look picked up more of the rustic tones of the dried flowers and seed heads, teamed with rustic coloured glasswear and eathernware candlesticks. Natural hand-died peach napkins, gold cutlery and hand written agate name labels complete the look.
And just to show how versatile is the backdrop, our dark wood and large windows frame a striking peacock, pink and copper table display, set against charcoal linens and natural handmade recycled wood place labels, part of a new sustainable wedding collection by Emma Cains of CherOceanSkyes.
Our cake, created by local baker Emma Smudger of Mrs Smudger's kitchen, was three-tiered and covered with buttercream icing, dressed with ivory flowers and foliage to match the bouquet.
Katie loves to dress the areas that provide those important focal points and photo opportunities on a wedding day such as the cake display, and did so here in a way befitting an old master painting. Our Club Room already oozes character with its elaborate plaster mouldings, original parquet floor and huge polished mahogany doors, marble fireplace and antique furniture. These were set off splendidly with vintage items, textured lace and a display of fruit.
A final treat for the day was a visit from Neil of Best Day Ever! Quirky and British Classic Car Hire, with his gorgeous silver Jaguar Mark 2 S-type, which looked utterly at home parked by our front portico.
We hope this brings a few smiles and ideas to couples whose plans have been put on hold and those who might like to know a little bit more about Moreton House and our plans for the future. If any of us can be of any help, please don't hestitate to get in touch. And here's to the end of lockdown and to getting up close and all dressed up again very soon.
The Suppliers. So many thanks to you all x
Photographer – specialdayweddingphotos.co.uk
Stylist – bestdayeverdevon.co.uk
Venue – www.moretonhousedevon.com
Model - Gabrielle www.bigmustard.co.uk/models/gabrielle-l
Dress designers – www.maggiesottero.com and www.essensedesigns.com/martina-liana/wedding-dresses/
both supplied by frillyfrocks.co.uk
Hair stylist – www.stevenandlaurent.co.uk/zan-senior-stylist
Florist – www.churchparkflowers.co.uk
Makeup & skincare specialist –clairebowring.co.uk
Cake – www.mrssmudgerskitchen.co.uk
Jewellery – linktr.ee/wanderlustlifejewellery
Vintage car hire – www.bestdayeverdevon.co.uk/car-hire-and-tours
Wet-plate photographer – www.stephenraffphotography.co.uk/
Wooden decor - www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CherOceanSkyes