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The Secret Garden-themed wedding of Charlotte Kearney and Alex Clemie

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Young love blossomed for HELLO! Online readers Charlotte Cassie Kearney and Alex Clemie who met during the first week of university in Manchester. After eight years together, the happy couple finally tied the knot over the summer in a spectacular ceremony that was just as romantic as the proposal.

Alex had booked a surprise holiday to Mexico, and hadn't told Charlotte where they were going until they reached the airport. The lovebirds stayed in a fantastic five-star hotel and on the third day, Alex arranged for a private dinner on the beach. 

"As we walked past all the restaurants, I started to wonder where we were going," said Charlotte. 

"When we arrived at the pier, the waiters were ready and waiting with my favourite cocktail, and the table was dressed beautifully with rose petals."

"One of the waiters walked down the pier with what I thought was the first course, but as he set the plate in front of me I saw it had a red rose and a ring box on it," said Charlotte. "Alex got down on one knee and proposed. I couldn't believe it and I called my mum straight away."

The bride

As a part-time model, Charlotte had tried on hundreds of wedding dresses when she worked at bridal shows, and feared she wouldn't have the same excitement of putting on a wedding gown for the first time, as other brides do.

After a year of dress hunting, Charlotte found "the one" from a small shop in Northern Ireland that, as a young girl, she had frequently driven past and had loved looking at the display. "The dress was a 'Hollywood Dreams' design and as soon as I tried it on I cried," said Charlotte. "I knew it was 'the one'. It made me feel very special. It was huge, but I thought you only get one chance to wear the big dress so I didn't want to miss out."

The bride wore her blonde, wavy hair down and had a waterfall plait weaved in. "Ever since I was a little girl I wanted my bridesmaids to look like 'mini brides' as traditionally they are supposed to look like the bride so evil spirits can't cast spells on the bride," said Charlotte. 

"My bridesmaids wore ivory dresses too, but they had their hair up and I had mine down so there was some difference. "Charlotte kept her make-up natural for the day and hired a separate make-up artist for herself, one for her mother and another for her bridesmaids so she didn't feel rushed on the day. "I would advise any bride to get ready super early — you can never start too early," she said.

Alex presented his bride with diamond earrings and a diamond necklace on the morning of their wedding. "I'm not a big jewellery wearer so he chose perfectly for me as the set was simple and matched my dress perfectly," said Charlotte.

She had also prepared a sparkly evening dress for the reception which she dazzled in, but changed back into her wedding gown after an hour as she missed wearing it.

The ceremony

Although Charlotte would have loved to have their wedding in her native Northern Ireland, the couple chose Harewood House in Leeds as the venue, which was close to Alex's family home and more accessible for their friends living in Manchester where the couple live and work. "It was the perfect location as it was close to the airport for my guests coming from Ireland," said Charlotte. "We were married in a 14th century church on the site, and had the reception in a huge marquee overlooking Harewood House. "The venue also fit perfectly with the couple's "Enchanted Garden" theme, echoing Charlotte's favourite childhood movie, The Secret Garden.

"Harewood House set the scene for our theme with such beautiful gardens," she said. "I wanted lots of flowers featuring throughout the day. We had a huge flower chandelier hanging from the roof of the marquee, flowers and ivy as centre pieces, and ivy in the bridesmaid hair. "Reverend Rachel Wilson married Charlotte and Alex in front of 160 guests, who arrived at the church by a vintage bus that the couple had arranged for. Charlotte's bridesmaids took a vintage Rolls Royce, while she and her father drove up in a horse and carriage.

Before the ceremony, guests could read the order of service which Charlotte arranged like a programme.

"The order of service introduced the bridal party, told of how me and Alex met, and how me and my bridesmaids met," she said. "The groomsmen also wrote their best memories of the groom. I felt this worked well — for people who didn't know everyone in the bridal party, it gave a quick introduction. "A string quartet played during the ceremony and Charlotte's close friend Victoria Nolan sang an Irish song before the bride walked down the aisle. Readings were said by Alex's brother Jack, and Charlotte's close friend Kate Neil who introduced the couple on the night they met.

The reception

After the church service, the married couple and their guests headed straight to the marquee where they enjoyed canapés and a champagne reception, and were joined by another 100 guests. "It was one of the best parts of the day," said Charlotte. "I loved getting to see everyone."

All the traditional speeches were made and the bride gave an impromptu one too after the best man, to toast her grandparents who had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a few weeks before.

As guests flocked in, they left messages on a painting that an Irish artist had done of Charlotte and Alex's intertwined hands.

After the cutting of the cake, Charlotte and Alex had their first dance to Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, sung by the bride's father and his band. The second song was to the Glee version of Don't Stop Believing when the couple was joined by the rest of their friends and family.

Charlotte and her bridesmaids then broke into a surprise dance, a medley of pop songs which delighted her guests and Alex, and ended the routine with some Irish dancers joining them on the dance floor.

The guests then indulged in a hog roast and barbeque, followed by nibbles from the sweet cart, cupcake stand and chocolate fountain. They were also given flip flops so they wouldn't get sore feet and had no reason not to dance the night away.

"My advice to any bride would be to close your eyes throughout the day, and open them again to take every moment in," said Charlotte. "So many brides say the day flies by, but I felt by doing this throughout the day I could appreciate the moment. "I also spent a lot of time with my husband so we could enjoy everything together. It was the most magical day — such a whirlwind of a memory but I still look back on it every day."

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