It’s not unusual these days for the groom to make initial contact to inquire about a wedding ceremony. So, when I received Ben’s email telling me that he and his girlfriend were having a Christmas wedding in Manchester and wanting to know more about my services I sent the usual information. Chatting over email he told me that she is an actor and our meeting would depend on her schedule. No problem, I offer a very flexible service and prefer to work around people’s needs as much as I can.
So, on a gorgeously sunny day I tipped up on their doorstep and was greeted by Ben and his fiancé who I immediately recognised as Corrie star Julia Goulding who plays Shona Ramsey in the soap. To be greeted by one of Coronation Streets’ favourite actors was surreal, I knew Ben’s fiancé was an actor, but it didn’t occur to me that she would be so well known and in a soap opera that I had grown up with and love! I was acutely aware that this meeting was about them as a couple and, not wanting to overshadow that, I quickly suppressed my excitement and the million and one questions that I had, to concentrated on them. What a great couple they are, it was a boiling hot day and Julia was wearing a simple shift dress with no make-up and looking cool and beautiful, they are a very beautiful couple, inside and out. I was made to feel very much at home. I still wonder about the impression I made, I’m sure they must have thought I was slightly bonkers as I was ‘all of a dither’ and it must have showed!
Love laid bare
Right from the beginning it was obvious that they both knew what they wanted and how they would like to celebrate their relationship, and as we sat and chatted, with the help of Marcel the cat, we began to plan the beginnings of a beautiful ceremony. Both were relaxed and happy and it was obvious they are very much in love, the way they look at each other speaks volumes. Family and friends are important to Julia and Ben and you could tell this by the important roles and prominent position given to them. Julia loves being on stage and always wanted to have her wedding ceremony on one, and Ben was happy as he would have loved to play on a stage that big when he was in a band in his younger years, mission accomplished as Manchester’s Albert Hall was the prefect venue and Christmas is one of my favourite times to have a wedding, it is just magical. The venue looked gorgeous and very seasonal with twinkly lights and their woodland themed decorations, Ben’s mum made the table dressings and it was just perfect, there was a lovely excited buzz about the place as we waited for Julia’s arrival. As Ben waited nervously for his bride to arrive their ushers and their friend Taron Egerton who was toastmaster for the wedding were chatting to the guests, making everyone feel welcome and relaxed. Ben was a mixture excited and emotional, his brothers and friends kept him calm… until he set eyes on Julia… and there were tears! It was such an emotionally charged moment that even I had to take a deep breath!
‘The soul comes joyful to the eye’
Their families were seated on the stage as the bridal party entered, Julia’s bridesmaids were chosen because they have all been with her at different stages of her life, school days, family times growing up and in different parts of her adult life, she says she couldn’t have got through any of those stages without them. Ben chose his best man and ushers for the same reason, they grew up, together, rebelled together, made friends and stayed friends, and stood by him when he needed them. Julia and Ben followed them in to the strains of the beautifully atmospheric Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto, and in a break from tradition walked in together. Their joined hands, a clear and visible representation of their deep love and friendship. They were celebrating their union as they intended to carry on, side by side, holding hands and in the warm glow of each other’s love. Julia’s family are not traditional, and it wouldn’t have felt right for her to be given away; she was brought up to know that she is her own person and it wouldn’t have felt right for Ben either.
Ben looked gorgeous in a hand-made burgundy suit and Julia was breath-takingly beautiful in an ivory silk and satin gown, her veil was sheer and edged with silver sparkles, I had serious veil envy! Ben’s teary eyes and Julia’s big grin as she turned and looked at me spoke volumes; they were both just so happy to be having this wedding celebration. The ceremony began surrounded by those closest to them, the guests, who included Julia’s Coronation Street co-stars Daniel Brocklebank, Sue Cleaver, Jack P Shepherd, Nicola Thorp, Lucy Fallon, Sair Khan and Tina O’Brien, were seated on the mezzanine which was decorated with Ivy and fairy lights with string lights hanging between the balconies. Following my welcoming speech Ben’s brother Josh opened by reading Alan Ginsberg’s ‘Song’ after which I shared Ben and Julia’s story.
You’re my cup of tea
When Julia was at RADA she was set the task of mentoring Ben’s brother Josh, over time they sparked up a friendship and Josh said ‘if you ever met my big brother you’d fall in love with him’ Julia’s response was ‘Give over’, well they did meet and there it was, that spark, two worlds had collided and Josh wasn’t wrong!They got to know each other over time and began dating, Julia planned the whole of their first date, she took him to the Tate Modern to see Picasso’s Weeping Woman, his favourite painting and then they went to see her favourite which is Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, all very cultural… and then they went for a burger in a pub! That was on the 13th Feb 2016.
Just over two years later Ben proposed on a snowy walk under a beautiful tree which was no mean feat as we were in the grip of the ‘beast from the east at the time, Julia squeaked a big fat, ‘Yes’! They were celebrating Ben’s 30th birthday so it came as a complete surprise to Julia. Clever planning on Ben’s part, three bottles of champagne later they told their families who were over the moon for the couple, they are so well matched. Julia is lively, vivacious and fiery, and Ben is calm and laid back, a beautiful soul. They are both quite funny and their banter is lovely, he says she is the most beautiful person ever and she agrees! She says he makes her a better person; and he is easy on the eye and of course, she is never wrong, so when he challenges her and he is right, it really annoys her. He loves their banter and the way they are open and honest with each other. They are two halves of a perfect whole and have so much fun together, every day brings them something to smile about… Following their story their friend Alex read WH Auden’s ‘Foxtrot’ which was fitting as Julia loves a nice brew.
Vows and promises
It was time for the most meaningful part of the ceremony, where they made their vows which were traditional and beautiful in their simplicity, Adam and Nicola carried their rings over and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as they sealed their bond with a kiss at which point the whole room just erupted and they were given the longest round of applause I have ever heard. Julia and Ben were emotional throughout the ceremony, it was a truly beautiful occasion, He says it was the best day of his life and, I hope, a day they will look back on fondly for the rest if their lives, for me, it was the beginning of a perfect Christmas and I’m still smiling at the memory of it.
Credits to the team
The warm and welcoming team at Albert Hall who kept everything running smoothly, fabulour job, thank you.
Photography by Joseph Scanlon
Ben’s suit by Ismail Kocak from Fix2fit
Julia’s gown by Zaynep Kartal
Julia’s Make up – by Sally Row – Poppy Nicholson and Laura Harrison for bridesmaids make up.
Julia’s Hair – by Jennifer Kennedy and The Hair Lounge, Norden for the bridesmaids hair.
Liz Thompson is a Family Celebrant based in Manchester in the UK and working across the North West of England, Liz creates unique and personal ceremonies and services for life events such as Weddings, Civil Partnerships, Baby naming, Vow Renewal and many more.