As if 2021 wasn’t busy enough for us both as wedding photographers and it hadn’t thrown enough curveballs our way, Rhys and I managed to squeeze in some time to go and get married ourselves! Our suppliers blew us away and we felt they were all deserving of as many shout outs as possible but since we broke the news we’ve been inundated with questions about the day, from what it even means to elope and how budget friendly it is to elope, to planning a Lake District elopement. I recently asked my Instagram followers what they’d like to know, so Rhys and I have put together our definitive guide to planning your wedding or elopement in the Lake District. 

What does it mean to elope?

Historically, eloping tended to mean people running off to get married in secret, quickly; until recently I always thought of Gretna Green as the ultimate elopement destination, the first stop on your way out of England where you could get married without your parents’ permission under the age of 21 by a Priest Blacksmith (hence the significance of the anvil!) Of course, it’s not possible to get married super quickly anymore, you have to give 28 days notice (or have your banns read in church three times).

To us, the modern day elopement doesn’t have the connotations of 1800’s England; while we chose to keep it a secret and disappear quietly with only six guests (four of whom were under ten) in attendance, eloping was simply a choice for a low stress wedding with our choices at the heart of it and not having to sacrifice or compromise on the things we really wanted our day to be. 

Some people may still choose to do their legal bit quickly in a registry office (A statutory marriage ceremony, literally just the two of you and two witnesses) and then have a celebrant led ceremony in order to be able to choose a particular location to hold the ceremony, however we were very lucky to find a venue that had the perfect location for us and was licensed for weddings. Had the forecast looked better, under temporary changes to marriage laws we could have had the ceremony outside. The usual process of giving notice in the district where you live applies; we gave notice in North Northamptonshire and once the 28 days had passed they let the team at Cumbria Registration Service know we were good to go.

How long does it take to plan an elopement?

We planned our elopement in just a few months; we wanted to get married in 2021 because we knew that between us our diaries probably wouldn’t allow us the opportunity until at least October 2022. Working in the industry and having contacts really helped speed up the process but that’s not to say a non-industry couple couldn’t do it in less time either. Like most weddings, if you want specific suppliers or sentimental dates you might have to wait longer or be prepared to plan around them, its a balancing act. Remember that you have to give at least 29 days notice to marry in a civil ceremony – even at Gretna! – so the quickest you could plan for would be a month later assuming good availability but getting appointments with registrars is still quite tricky in the aftermath of all the moving around due the pandemic.

Why elope in the Lake District?

Rhys and I spent the early days of our relationship up mountains and while I was on holiday with the kids in the Lakes he ended up joining us for some of the trip, and it was probably those days that really cemented our relationship. However, both working in the industry ourselves it didn’t take long for comments like “imagine how extra your wedding would be with all your contacts” to start (baring in mind we never really announced our engagement, it was quite presumptuous!!) and I’d have found it very hard to pick suppliers from my hoards of friends locally here in the midlands. Marrying elsewhere let us pick the epitome of incredible locations with carefully selected suppliers (some of whom were friends, some of whom were recommended) without feeling the same level of pressure and expectation. This wasn’t the only reason for planning a Lake District elopement, however. Other reasons included

  • It wasn’t my first wedding and it wasn’t Rhys’ first time wedding planning and neither of us wanted a big wedding and to be the centre of attention
  • We wanted to plan an experience for us as a family as well as for us as a couple, so getting away for the week meant we could spend time with the kids
  • Eloping meant we could spend on the things that really mattered to us and we weren’t having to compromise to consider other people 
  • Shooting tiny intimate weddings ourselves during the pandemic really made us realise just how incredibly lovely little weddings were and wanted the same experience for ourselves

Where to elope in the Lake District

Cumbria boasts well over 150 weddings venues, so the choice of venues for your elopement is vast, however not all those venues cater for intimate weddings. On our search we did find a fairly good number of venues that offered short day packages, and “just the two of you” packages and some really lovely accommodation. Our shortlist included The Lingholme Estate, Askham Hall, Low Hall, The Hidden River Cabins and Hause Hall Farm, which is part of the Rowley Estates (perhaps better known for Blencowe Castle). For us there was a juggle to be had surrounding our own availability when we didn’t have weddings, school holidays and the availability of our chosen photographer, Tiree.

When we really thought about what we wanted, our number of guests excluded us from some of the really tiny packages, and we really liked the idea of having a base where we could do everything, and that was what swung our decision to book Hause Hall. Rhys worked as an outdoor instructor in Martindale in his previous career, so the location on Ullswater nestled on Hallin Fell really had meaning for him, and I had walked there while away with the kids exactly 365 days prior to what ended up being our wedding date, so it just felt like the stars aligned. Hause Hall is licensed for civil ceremonies and provides accommodation for up to ten guests (more if you have the Cruick Barn and the Stables) and we really loved the laid back, hands off approach to running our day. We were able to choose our own suppliers, meet and greet them and run on our own timeline, rather than fitting a pre prescribed timeline provided by the venue.

Things to think about when considering where to elope in the Lake District include

  • Can you stay on site? If not is it easy to get transport back to where you’re staying?
  • Are they able to accommodate your guest numbers in their smaller packages?
  • Do you want someone to organise all your suppliers for you or do you want to be able to organise them yourselves? Do they have provision for that?
  • Is there indoor provision for photographs given the very wet nature of the Lake District?
  • Are they licensed for civil ceremonies, or is there a registry office/church/other religious building where you can marry nearby?
  • Are you willing to consider a weekday wedding? Some venues and suppliers will only take larger full day bookings at weekends, for example.

How much does it cost to elope in the Lake District?

I think if you wanted to elope on a tiny budget it would be absolutely doable; there are costs associated with your civil ceremony which will be set buy the registration service; if you don’t live in Cumbria you’ll also have fees to give your local registration service in order to give notice. Of course if you chose a statutory ceremony and then a celebrant led ceremony you’d need to factor their fee into the budget too.

However, elopements tend to be just the couple or incredibly intimate weddings with just a few guests (the term micro wedding which emerged during the pandemic tends to describe smaller intimate weddings that aren’t planned in secret) so there are a number of cost saving factors for example

  • less mouths to feed
  • accommodation costs for fewer guests
  • no need to sent out wedding invites or produce lots of wedding stationery
  • less pressure to conform to “traditional wedding aesthetic” such as large wedding parties, big white dresses, expensive wedding favours and large spaces to decorate

However, just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean it’s to save money! It gives you more money to spend on things that are really important to you. Rhys is a real foodie and we were lucky enough to find Alex Beard, who trained at The Waterside to cook a five course tasting menu for us that was completely bespoke and included local lakeland produce and encompassed all the things we really love to eat. I’m a musician by trade and I really wanted an element of live music, so when left to my devices one day I ended up booking Heavy Beat Brass Band who I had worked with before at Jo and AJ’s wedding to play for our ceremony, drinks reception and then to follow us out of Martindale when we went for portraits. They were a real highlight of our day; they’d arranged some music especially for us and they brought a real energy to a tiny party and when we arrived at the foot of Hallin Fell for portraits the side of the hill was covered in walkers who’d sat down to listen to the music in the afternoon sun. It was really surreal and completely magical.

Something that was really important to both of us was to make our wedding really family centric; it was a big milestone for my daughters officially gaining a step dad and planning a tiny day meant that we were able to make it a whole week away for us all, to share some of it with friends and treat ourselves to things like hot tub hire to make the week away really memorable.

What’s the best time of year for planning a Lake District elopement?

It’s a well known documented fact that the Lake District is incredibly wet! On average there are 200 wet days a year and 20 snow days, however the weather can be incredibly unpredictable and the forecast can change quickly. On our wedding day we were forecast heavy rain for most of the day, however Mother Nature saved the wild card for us and the sky broke during the ceremony and we were treated to the most incredible light of the year at sunset.

For us, the Lakes are at their best in Autumn. The colours of the ferns as they turn to rusty orange and is one of the things we love most and the slightly shorter days lend themselves to smaller weddings – we could get married mid afternoon and we weren’t having to hang around for hours waiting for golden hour and sunset. Of course this meant that the second the sun dropped the temperature dropped too and we’d advise taking appropriate clothing if you head out for portraits later in the day. Rhys’ suit from Menswearr was woollen and naturally warm. I purchased an oversized scarf from The Tartan Blanket Company to wear out and it really kept me cosy on the way back down Hallin Fell.

 

Top five tips for getting the best Lake District Wedding Photographs

Plan your day carefully around your photography

This means considering sunrise/sunset times as well as thinking about how much sooner you’ll lose the light as it falls behind the hills. Consider the time it’ll take to get to your chosen locations; we dedicated almost two hours of our day to climb Hallin Fell. While this might seem excessive you should consider that you’ll be stopping regularly for photos, your outfits might not be the most practical for getting out and about in and don’t forget your wedding photographer and videographer are likely carrying gear with them too.

If you’re planning on heading off out into the fells it’s vital that you’ve provided your guests with ample activities to occupy themselves. If you have children, who will look after them? If your day isn’t based at one venue then your transit time might be a good time to fit in your photos. Talk to your photographer and ensure they’re happy to venture out with you and come appropriately dressed.

Consider your outfits and footwear

Large dresses, silk that sucks up water, long trains and veils that get caught in the wind and slim fit trousers might make your portrait dreams a portrait nightmare. Consider outfits you can move in or consider carrying your outfits and changing (and of course, allow time!). Appropriate footwear is essential; even on dry days crags and hills can be slippy and muddy and your safety is important. Take warm stuff to wear, these can easily be hidden in the ferns or behind rocks but you absolutely don’t want to kick off married life with pneumonia because you forgot something to keep you warm and dry. 

Scope out locations and be prepared to travel

If long hikes for photos are not your bag or your day doesn’t allowed the time required, there are always equally lovely and more easily accessible options. The shores of the lakes themselves offer dramatic vistas with mountainous backdrops and may protect you from a lot of the elements. We started our day having a coffee at Sandwick Bay – we had the beach to ourselves, the trees provided some shelter and the photos are still quintessentially Lakeland. 

There are lots of viewpoints and outcrops just a short walk from parking spots if you take the time to look for them. Be prepared to hop in the car and lofty views and rugged crags are likely still very obtainable without the Strava mileage. 

Have a wet weather plan

Does your venue offer inside space for your photos in the event of it being incredibly wet or cold? Are there outdoor locations nearby that offer shelter? I always recommend my couples have wet weather backups such as a change of shoes, aesthetically pleasing brollies, shawls or cardigans to make heading outside as comfortable as possible but if going out really isn’t an option it’s good to have thought about what you’ll do.

Embrace the weather

They say wet knots are harder to untie but ultimately the weather is part of the narrative of your day. Windswept hair and walking boots are just as romantic as glorious sunsets and ultimately if you chose to get married in an area renowned for it’s changeable and pretty soggy weather, you have to accept that the forecast is the great unknown. I really believe in living in the moment, so dance in the rain, snuggle up in the snow or bask in the glow of the last of the light.

Wedding and elopement portrait locations near Hause Hall Farm

Hallin Fell is easily accessible from the garden at Hause Hall Farm and there is a well trodden path. It’s about 1.5 miles out and back but allow at least 90 minutes. The summit catches the evening light over Helvellyn as well as incredible views over Ullswater.

Sandwick Bay, a short drive and small walk away is a sheltered bay looking over Ullswater towards the western shoreline. There’s a public footpath along the back but good tree coverage and even a picnic bench if you fancy a picnic wedding breakfast. There is a very steep path through the woodland to ascend Hallin Fell but the woodland is ancient and mesmerising.

I am told the old church in Martindale further down the Hause is never locked. In the event of bad weather the windows give gorgeous little pockets of light, but of course please leave it as you find it and be respectful of the space and other visitors. Consider leaving a donation.

Above the hair pin bends as you ascend to Hause Hall Farm there is a rocky outcrop to the left marked The Coombs on OS Maps. Park safely and courteously at the top of the pins for views over Ullswater without the hike.

There is access to the lake at Howtown with very limited parking where the steamer comes in. The views are lovely but be prepared to compete for space with walkers, paddle boarders and children attending outdoor education courses.

How long do I need to book a photographer or videographer for our elopement?

There are so many variables that might effect this, from the number of guests you plan to invite, if you’d like any photos of prep, to how long you want to dedicate to portraits. It’s a good conversation to have with your photographer when you chat about your vision for your day but it’s unlikely you’ll need a full 10+ hour day for a very tiny wedding (unless maybe you’re planning a very long hike up a very tall mountain!)

We booked six hours coverage with Tiree and Jono and our day looked something like this:

8am get up to tidy the house and finish prepping ceremony room, eat breakfast

11am photo and video coverage starts – meet at Sandwick bay for coffee

12pm return to Hause Hall Farm, hair and make up to start

12:30-1pm Florist and cake delivery

2:15pm Registrars on site

2:45pm Meet with registrars

3pm Ceremony

3:15pm – 3:45 drinks, cake, dancing, group photos

3:45pm Leave for portraits with brass band

We got back a little later than planned around 5:30pm.

While we were out doing portraits the kids had dinner and were looked after by my best friend and her husband. We ate at around 7pm (in our pjs!) and were all in bed by 10:30pm!!

https://vimeo.com/657084681

So there you have it, our day in a nutshell! How to tell your friends and family is probably a whole other blog post, but luckily for us our news was 99.9% well received and our family and friends totally understood why we’d decided to do what we did have the day we both really wanted. We are both such huge advocates of your day your way and it’s important to practice what you preach! My only regret was having one too many glasses of prosecco the night before and not getting out for a walk first thing on my own, but that’s pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of the day, there’s absolutely nothing about the day I’d change were we to do it again and I absolutely adore looking back on a day that was so perfectly and authentically ‘us’.

 

The definitive supplier list

Photography Tiree DawsonVideography Jono SymondsFlowers The Floralistas / Cake Sally Cooper

HMUA Nala & Knot / Bride Halfpenny London, ASOS, Meadowsweet Bridal, Viviembellish Bridal / Groom Menswearr, ASOS / Flowergirls Mango / Confetti Shropshire Petals

Venue Hause Hall Farm / Banner Daydreamer Creative Studio / Food Private Chef Alex BeardJewellery Sarah Brown / Band Heavy Beat Brass Band