dream My wed­ding

Grace Crad­dock mar­ried her own Prince Charm­ing at Sude­ley Cas­tle – the fairy­tale cas­tle that had charmed her when she was a lit­tle girl

Cotswold Life - - COTSWOLD WEDDINGS - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: BELLER-JONES PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Grace Crad­dock has happy child­hood mem­o­ries of Sude­ley Cas­tle; fam­ily pic­nics in the grounds, the tur­rets on the minia­ture fort that she climbed in and out of, days of fun sum­mer af­ter sum­mer. Hav­ing her wed­ding re­cep­tion at the fairy­tale cas­tle that had charmed her when she was a lit­tle girl was a dream come true.

There was just one thing miss­ing – her fa­ther.

Ed­ward Ot­tridge, 26, had planned to pro­pose to the girl who stole his heart at uni­ver­sity in De­cem­ber but when her dad, Robin Crad­dock, be­came se­ri­ously ill he brought it for­ward. The cou­ple hoped by ar­rang­ing their wed­ding for Fe­bru­ary, just a few months away, he would be able to be there. He died in Novem­ber, aged 51, leav­ing the fam­ily dev­as­tated.

Robin, founder of Lakes Bath­rooms and a man well-known for his pas­sion for horse rac­ing, in­sisted the wed­ding should go ahead. And so it did, in grand style.

Grace’s mum, Ju­lia Martin-jones, was de­ter­mined the day would be a cel­e­bra­tion for Grace and Ed­ward. A po­lice sergeant, she went in to full or­gan­i­sa­tion mode and pulled off a jaw-drop­pingly beau­ti­ful day.

Ju­lia says: “Robin loved the idea that Grace was get­ting mar­ried at Sude­ley Cas­tle, I told him all about the plans so he could imag­ine it.

“He would smile when we talked about it; he was prob­a­bly bro­ken­hearted but he didn’t show it.

“We’ve had a roller­coaster three years and I just wanted them both to have a won­der­ful day - and it was. Al­though there was sad­ness, it was all about Grace and Ed.”

Grace, 25, who works in child pro­tec­tion, and Ed­ward, 26, an ac­count man­ager, met when they were both study­ing crim­i­nol­ogy at Lough­bor­ough Uni­ver­sity in 2009. Ed­ward had al­ready com­pleted a year when Grace started. They met two weeks later. Hav­ing had a brief in­tro­duc­tion, Grace saw him a few days later and, quite lit­er­ally, grabbed the op­por­tu­nity to make him part of her life.

“I saw Ed walk­ing across the Stu­dent Union and I knew that if I didn’t grab his hand I might never see him again. We were in­sep­a­ra­ble for two years af­ter that.”

Grace had pic­tured her­self in a lacy wed­ding dress with long sleeves but when she tried on an el­e­gant ivory gown her mum had spot­ted ev­ery­one knew it was the one.

“I felt like a princess in it,” Grace says, “es­pe­cially at Sude­ley Cas­tle. I re­mem­ber so much of my child­hood be­ing up there so it was per­fect for the wed­ding.”

She paired her dress with her mother’s tiara and a pair of trea­sured shoes which were hand­made for her mum’s own wed­ding day to Robin 24 years ago – her ‘some­thing bor­rowed’. Sadly she didn’t give them back in quite the same state as half way

through the night the sole fell off.

With mock out­rage, Ju­lia says: “She ru­ined them!”

The cou­ple mar­ried at St Mary’s Church, in Prest­bury, where Robin and Ju­lia were also mar­ried and Robin was buried. The girls got ready at Ju­lia’s par­ents’ house nearby.

“It was lovely hear­ing the church bells and peek­ing out of the win­dow to see the guests ar­riv­ing,” Ju­lia says.

With sis­ter Con­nie as her chief brides­maid and her younger brother El­liot step­ping up to the re­spon­si­bil­ity of walk­ing her down the aisle, Grace set off to get mar­ried.

“El­liot did a great job – he just nailed it and he was so proud,” she says. “Some thought­ful friends gave us a video as a wed­ding pre­sent and it was lovely to be able to see El­liot’s face as he walked me down the aisle on that be­cause I didn’t look at him at the time. And Con­nie kept me so calm, I couldn’t have done it with­out her.”

Sude­ley Cas­tle hosted 130 day guests and 120 more in the evening. They were treated to a cham­pagne re­cep­tion in the Winch­combe cas­tle’s Long Gallery and food from the award-win­ning Wes­ley House restau­rant; ten­der roast beef and sticky tof­fee pud­ding. Ju­lia says ev­ery de­tail was lifted off their shoul­ders by the cas­tle and restau­rant’s wed­ding teams on the day, leav­ing her free to not worry about a thing.

“Sude­ley Cas­tle was a won­der­ful venue for the re­cep­tion,” Ju­lia says. “I have mem­o­ries of the chil­dren play­ing in the grounds when they were lit­tle and it’s in­cred­i­ble to think of the his­tory there. It looked stun­ning on the day.”

Many of Robin and Ju­lia’s friends from the rac­ing world at­tended, and Grace and Ed also in­vited friends from across the years.

“We had a lot of guests but they were all peo­ple we re­ally wanted there, peo­ple we care about and who care about us,” Grace says. “When we walked in the room we were sur­rounded by so much love.”

Mem­o­ries of Grace’s fa­ther were threaded through the day with the ta­bles named af­ter race­horses he had owned and peo­ple who loved him gath­ered around them.

“Know­ing that Dad knew who I was go­ing to marry made me happy,” Grace says. “He was fond of Ed. Dad was re­ally in to his race­horses and we were taken all over the coun­try in rac­ing sea­son and Ed was fond of the horses so they re­ally got on. Dad was just as im­pa­tient as me, wait­ing for Ed to pro­pose. He was just as ex­cited when he did. We so wanted him to be at the wed­ding.

“At one point I was in pieces and I said I couldn’t go through with it with­out him. When Dad asked what was wrong and we told him his face was like thun­der. He said: ‘Don’t you dare say that. You will go ahead with this wed­ding.’ He wanted it so badly and that’s what got me through it.

“The day be­fore the wed­ding I took Ed’s par­ents up to Sude­ley and a robin was fol­low­ing me around the whole time. I couldn’t be­lieve it. It felt like Dad was with me.”

Grace’s mum said her job was to make sure her daugh­ter and new son-in-law had the best day of their lives, de­spite their dev­as­ta­tion.

“It was my mis­sion,” Ju­lia says. “There was sad­ness that Robin wasn’t there - he was re­mem­bered in lots of ways and the day af­ter the wed­ding we cov­ered his grave with the flow­ers - but we had to make the best of it and it was a happy day. Grace was beam­ing from ear to ear; that’s ex­actly what we wanted.”

“My mum is ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble,” Grace says. “Her or­gan­i­sa­tion was on an­other level and it was lovely to be able to do that to­gether af­ter what hap­pened with my Dad. She did an in­cred­i­ble job. The wed­ding kept ev­ery­one go­ing. Dad said he was so happy that we had it to look for­ward to.

“Ed’s par­ents have been so gen­er­ous too and al­though Ed’s mum is in Winch­ester, she re­ally helped by do­ing lots of re­search for us. She also ar­ranged for a birth­day cake to come out af­ter mid­night for Ed’s birth­day, which was lovely. His fam­ily are amaz­ing.”

The flow­ers, by Copelands Flower Com­pany, were show­stop­pers and, for Ju­lia, an im­por­tant part of turn­ing Sude­ley Cas­tle in to an even more mag­i­cal set­ting.

Ju­lia gasps when she thinks of the hy­drangeas, lilies, and white roses which tum­bled out of tow­er­ing vases, the rows of white tulips and pur­ple hy­acinths, and the gyp­sophila in­ter­twined with

eu­ca­lyp­tus and twin­kling can­dles that cre­ated an arch be­tween the cas­tle’s mar­quee and the ban­quet­ing hall.

“As soon as I saw Saman­tha Copeland’s work I knew we had to have her,” Ju­lia says. “The flow­ers were phe­nom­e­nal, I’ll re­mem­ber them for­ever.”

Grace adds: “You got hit by this amaz­ing smell when you walked in to the room and the arch­way was in­cred­i­ble with dozens of can­dles hang­ing from it. With all the fairy­lights and can­dles it was like a win­ter won­der­land.”

The wed­ding break­fast was fol­lowed by ‘a mas­sive party’ with Glouces­ter­shire band The Chip Shop Boys pack­ing out the dance floor.

At one point Grace re­alised she sim­ply wasn’t go­ing to get round to speak to all the guests so she hitched her dress up and danced un­til the end of the night – blam­ing this for the fate of her mother’s hand­made shoes.

“Ed was next to me the whole time, it was just re­ally good fun,” she says.

With the fam­ily hav­ing had more than their fair share of heartache – Grace bat­tled breast can­cer at 22, her mother was also di­ag­nosed with it last year – friends ral­lied to make sure the new­ly­weds and their fam­i­lies had the best pos­si­ble day.

It was Robin’s best friend Steve Jones and his wife Linda who or­gan­ised for a videog­ra­pher to cap­ture the day as a gift but they also lent the cou­ple their new As­ton Martin so they could ar­rive at their re­cep­tion in style – some­thing of a step-up from Grace’s small Fiat and the cherry on the cake for Ed.

An­other cou­ple – Peter and Carol Odle - treated the new­ly­weds to a stay in the pent­house suite of their own Man­gobay Ho­tel in Bar­ba­dos. Ed’s best man gifted them a scuba div­ing ex­pe­ri­ence there so they could en­joy the turquoise wa­ters.

“The ho­tel staff were just in­cred­i­ble – they made us feel like we were the only peo­ple there,” Grace says. “We had a huge four-poster bed, a hot tub, a pool, cock­tails on the bal­cony, and a fan­tas­tic ocean view. It was ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing. I’ve never seen any­thing like it in my life.”

Now they have happy mem­o­ries and beau­ti­ful pho­to­graphs to look back on, cour­tesy of Ju­lia’s brother Matthew and his part­ner Carolyn who run Beller-jones pho­tog­ra­phy.

“The pho­to­graphs are ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble,” Grace says. “Matthew and Carolyn were so or­gan­ised and worked so hard - they took 9,000 pic­tures and spent days and days edit­ing them. Good pho­to­graphs are so im­por­tant, they’re such nice mem­o­ries to have.

“It was a beau­ti­ful day, ab­so­lutely per­fect ex­cept for Dad not be­ing there. He was a real fam­ily man and he would have loved to be there with us all. I can imag­ine him there with me.

“Ed and me wanted a tra­di­tional, big wed­ding, we wanted it to be re­ally spe­cial and it was. I’m a typ­i­cal lit­tle girl who wanted the white wed­ding and the cas­tle and a beau­ti­ful dress so it was a dream come true.”

De­spite all the life-chang­ing trau­mas the fam­ily has en­dured over the last three years, Grace re­peat­edly counts her bless­ings and says how for­tune she is.

“We were so spoilt, we feel blessed to have peo­ple that love us so much and we’re eter­nally grate­ful. Some peo­ple have no-one to care about them and it just blows me away to see how kind peo­ple have been. We’re the luck­i­est cou­ple in the world.”

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