Bristol’s Beauty & The Beast

Written by Emma Hla

Arnos Vale is a Victorian Garden Cemetery; a unique, leafy and tranquil setting full of heritage and wonder, hidden in the heart of Bristol. It’s a secret world with 45 acres of discovery.

Perhaps not the obvious choice for a wedding venue, but wait until you discover the magical woodland Underwood Centre and the site’s two architectural delights – the Anglican Chapel and the Spielman Centre. This alternative wedding venue is perfectly suited amongst newly-engaged couples looking for a unique, relaxed venue, full of natural beauty, and boundless options to create a wedding day to remember.

A rather creative team have got together to produce this Beauty & The Beast inspired shoot and it’s all pretty gorgeous. Not one for ‘themes’ myself, I do have a soft spot for a bit of Disney. But following in Emma Watson’s recent footsteps, the Belle in today’s feature isn’t your average Princess…

Notes from Arnos Vale


Arnos Vale was a clear choice for a Beauty and the Beast inspired photo shoot on a frosty morning back in January. This indulgent shoot utilised the grandeur and elegance of the Anglican Chapel and the stunning but simplistic backdrop of the Chapel’s curved apse for Belle to lounge in pure opulence.

Belle then meandered through the woods to the rustic Underwood Centre, for an open-air banquet surrounded by beautiful bird song and rustling branches. As a location often used for wedding ceremonies, it was a fabulous alternative to use the space for a dining experience as the sun set and the fire crackled away into the evening.

This shoot was inspired by the new Beauty and the Beast film, but there wasn’t a yellow dress in sight! We wanted to create something really opulent and full of jewel colours, so we teamed vintage crockery with contemporary florals and super chic bridal-wear.

Rachel from The Rose Shed whipped up some show-stopping pieces for the shoot using dusky pinks, deep purples and muted foliage like eucalyptus leaves. The makeup looks reflected the same palette, with a watercolour-effect pink lip for the scene in the chapel and a darker, moodier look for the wedding breakfast. The bespoke wedding stationery was all about rich and romantic jewel tones with splashes of gold modern calligraphy and ornate flourishes, whilst the rose wax seal was a subtle nod to the fairytale. We used a couple of antique gold mirrors to feature some calligraphy by the very talented Flourish & Lace – large mirrors work so beautifully.

We were lucky to work with three fantastic bridal-wear designers for this shoot. The jaw-dropping tulle and embellished gown in the chapel scene is by Bowen-Dryden and worked so well with the vintage wooden ladder to really showcase the waterfall train. Belle then goes for a wander through the historic grounds in House of Ollichon’s Stevenson outfit before changing into their Kay jumpsuit for the banquet scene. Following dinner, Belle retires to the fireside for a glass of bubbly in Gibson Bespoke’s mouthwateringly sparkly ‘Bacall’ Rose Gold Paillettes Backless gown and calls it a night!

Clifton Rocks stocks beautiful jewellery so we were spoilt for choice when it came to accessories! The amethyst “Claws of Engagement” ring was so dramatic we had to go with that to contrast against House of Ollichon’s simple and chic jumpsuit.

Natalie of Bath Makeup Artist designed three beautiful looks for the shoot, including a wild and wonderful mermaid braid incorporating blush silk ribbons and lots of volume!

Fiona from Riot Balloons worked her magic on the art direction and of course designed several marvellous balloon installations for the shoot. We started off in the Victorian Chapel where Fiona used blush, cream and clear giant balloons to create levels within the scene, tying a collection of them to the ladder from Bristol Vintage. As a nod to our theme, Fiona put real rose petals inside the transparent balloon and gilded the peach coloured one with gold and copper foil, to stunning effect!

Lizzie from Chocolate Delores Cakes came up with two magical cakes for the shoot. Inspired by the castle in Beauty and the Beast, she used white chocolate scrolls and dusted red roses to create two really dramatic and mesmerising cakes. They looked far too good to eat and really worked with the woodland setting!

Rachel at The Rose Shed designed some amazing, overflowing pieces for the windowsills in the chapel and then we used them to frame the banquet table in the wedding breakfast scene. We were keen to include lots of wild foliage so Rachel used ferns and eucalyptus, as well as incorporating stunning David Austin roses, ranunculus and tulips to create a really romantic feel.

There are so many elements from the shoot that could inspire brides for their own wedding days! I personally loved the mix of contemporary fashion and balloon styling with vintage crockery, as it really gave it an edge. Zoe from Bristol Vintage is a brilliant stylist as well as hiring out an impressive range of crockery and props; she got creative with the banquet table and used lots of mismatched colours and patterns along with gold accents to complement the candelabras and gold, damson and maroon candles from St Eval Candle Company.

Fiona’s innovative use of balloons is also a great inspiration – the loose canopy she created above the banquet table brought the whole thing together and it was wonderful to see the balloons bobbing in the breeze of the open-sided Underwood Centre in the woodland area of Arnos Vale Cemetery.

The opulent details like the huge mirror with hand-painted calligraphy table plan also stood out for me and I think this is a really lovely touch as the guests get to interact with it to find their seat as well as just being a great display (and conversation!) piece.

I think brides can take a lot of inspiration from the fashion too; House of Ollichon’s chic separates and jumpsuit are such great alternatives to a more traditional dress and they can be dressed up or down depending on your personal style. We chose to add some drama to their minimalist Kay Jumpsuit by pairing it with Gibson Bespoke’s delicate crystal and chiffon train and we love the final look!


Venue Arnos Vale | Photography Sophie Carefull PhotographyCakes Chocolate Delores Cakes | Florist The Rose Shed | Stationery & Calligraphy Flourish & LaceHair & Makeup Artist Bath Makeup Artist | Vintage Tableware & Prop Hire Bristol Vintage | Balloon Stylist Riot BalloonsBridal Separates & Jumpsuit House of Ollichon | Couture Bridal Gown Bowen-Dryden | Rose Gold Sequin Dress & Beaded Cape (worn with jumpsuit) Gibson BespokeCandles St Eval Candle CompanyJewellery Clifton Rocks | Special thanks to Angelica from Mustard Models.

Lots of love…

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