Gemma and Laurens met at a Salvation Army summer camp in the Netherlands. "Laurens had attended every summer for years, while I was there for the first time as a volunteer," remembers Gemma.

"We sat next to each other at breakfast and chatted about our mutual appreciation for Geordie Shore – despite Laurens' broken English! We became friends, and over the next 12 months, Laurens WhatsApped his way into my heart. After a year as a long-distance couple, he moved to the North East to be with me."

Unbeknown to Gemma, Laurens had asked for her dad's blessing to marry her back in 2019. "It was right before we moved to Canada for a year for my work," continues the bride. "Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, all the jewellery shops closed, and Laurens' proposal was put on hold. With plenty of time to chat thanks to the stay-at-home rules, we discussed our future and Laurens revealed his thwarted proposal plans. When things started to reopen, we went to a jewellers in Ottawa and designed my diamond and sapphire engagement ring together. However, the proposal itself was a surprise; Laurens got down on one knee at a secluded spot overlooking Maligne Lake during a trip to the Canadian Rockies. It was eight years to the day since we first got together."

The couple set their wedding for the 16th October, 2021, choosing St Peter's Church in Croft-on-Tees for the ceremony, followed by a reception at Rockliffe Hall. Here, Gemma tells us more about their amazing nuptials...

Bride in church archway It was important for the couple to reflect their British and Dutch cultures throughout the big day. "The colour scheme was blue, white and touches of red, in line with the flags of both our countries," says Gemma. "We also included a lot of Delfts Blauw pottery or designs inspired by the style, and my aunt created matching illustrations which featured in our stationery." The favours were also Dutch-inspired, with each guest gifted a box in the shape of a canal house. "They were filled with mini stroopwafels, chocolate and drop, which is Dutch liquorice. My mam and I spent hours assembling and filling the boxes together!"

Bridesmaids adjust bride's dress
Order of service

Couple stood at altar The North East and Dutch elements didn't end there, with the wedding cake also merging the two together. "The cake had one layer of fruit cake and another layer of vanilla sponge with a twist – it was coloured bright Dutch orange inside!" continues the bride. "Decorated with Delfts Blauw designs, edible pearls and sugar roses, it was finished with a Delft kissing couple cake topper. We also had an additional cheese stack, with three varieties to represent different locations. There was a wheel of Cuddy's Cave from Northumberland, a wheel of Wensleydale – our mini-moon destination – and a slice of Reypenaer-aged Gouda from the Netherlands. Both the cake and cheese were delicious!"

Bride and bridesmaids Having lived in Spain for a year while studying, Gemma also knew exactly what type of wedding dress she wanted to wear. "I'd always admired the Pronovias store in Madrid whenever I was in the city," she explains. "When I got engaged, I visited Victoria Robson Bridal, my local Pronovias stockist, and Victoria immediately understood my vision.

Their Pickford dress was a firm favourite from the start. A lacy fitted, mermaid-style gown with illusion sleeves, it was perfect for an autumnal wedding. It was also extra-special as the hand-sewn embellishments reminded me of the many sequins my mam spent hours sewing on my costumes when I was a young dancer. The look was accessorised with a bespoke overskirt and cathedral veil, blue sapphire and diamond earrings – a gift from my dad, and also my 'something blue' – and embellished stilettos."

Family Laurens, his best man and groomsman also looked the part, opting for three-piece racing green tweed-style check suits. "They were accessorised with red ties, cognac-brown shoes and belts," says Gemma. "Then there were my stunning bridesmaids, who wore dark blue Adrianna Pappell full-length gowns with long sleeves. Fully embellished with sequins and beading with floral designs to echo my dress, I loved seeing them glammed up and looking incredible."

Dutch cheese
Afternoon tea stands

When it came to catering Gemma and Laurens wanted to treat their wedding party to the very best British cuisine. “Upon arrival at Rockliffe Hall our guests were served peach bellini and passionfruit/mango mix mocktails, with tomato and shallot bruschetta, mini baked potatoes with smoked salmon and lamb kofta canapés,” continues Gemma. “Both Laurens and I are huge fans of afternoon tea, so our wedding breakfast was just that – a traditional combination of finger sandwiches, sausage rolls, cakes and scones, just as we’d enjoyed on our first visit to the venue years ago. We also served typical British fare for our evening food – classic fish and chips, plus chicken parmo, which was a real eye-opener for our Dutch guests!”


Entertainment was also important for the couple, who wanted a vibe that was chilled but also lots of fun. “We started with wedding speeches from the father of the bride, groom, best man, and then myself, before my mam hosted an informal pub quiz,” says Gemma. “We then opened up the full suite to reveal the dancefloor and DJ for the evening. Our photobooth was fantastic and well-used throughout the night, and we also hired mini golf and casino tables, which were a big hit.”

Bride's hair
Couple walk outside church

Couple pose infront of car The couple were in awe of their North East photographer when it came to both her skills and help throughout the day. “Vanessa was invaluable,” says the bride. “She captured some amazing shots and went well beyond the call of duty, trimming loose threads from the bottom of my dress and even removing twigs from my train after we arrived from the church,” says the bride. “Our vicar, Reverend Stewart Ridley, was also fantastic, and led a very personal ceremony for us. My godmother read the poem, A Vow, by Wendy Cope, and Laurens’ mum delivered a Bible reading in Dutch. Our friend even sang Ed Sheeran’s Tenerife Sea as we signed our marriage documents under the Salvation Army flag, which sounded beautiful in the church.”

Couple walk through confetti However, there was one person who really stood out for the newlyweds when it came to helping in the run-up to their big day. "We couldn't have done it without my wonderful mam. She was involved with so much of the preparation, and it was lovely to see all her hard work pay off as she enjoyed the day. Mam, we love you!"

Couple under tree However, there was one person who really stood out for the newlyweds when it came to helping in the run-up to their big day. "We couldn't have done it without my wonderful mam. She was involved with so much of the preparation, and it was lovely to see all her hard work pay off as she enjoyed the day. Mam, we love you!"

Gemma and Lauren's contact book


Cheese stack

The Cheese & Wine Shop


Darlington Chair Cover Hire


Magnum Entertainment


First for Flowers

Gemma's dress

Victoria Robson Bridal

Gemma's hair

Gemma's make-up

Laurens' suit

Mini golf and casino tables


Studio Social North


Vanessa Adams


Urban Thompson
Tel: 07950 761838,


Elite Wedding Cars


Rockliffe Hall


Adam Chetter Wedding Films
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