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
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.”