- Groom & 9 groomsmen sky-dived into Northumberland wedding at Langley Castle
The largest wedding party skydive ever undertaken, anywhere in the world, took place at iconic Northumberland wedding venue, Langley Castle, on Sunday July 9.
Former British army soldier Chris Parkes (34), who lives in County Durham, skydived into his exclusive-use wedding with fiancée Pippa-Rosy (31) alongside nine groomsmen, some of whom are still serving in the military.
All were suited and booted in black tuxedos for the spectacular wedding drop, which they all undertook independently, rather than in tandem. Once on land, tuxedos were swapped for kilts, for the ceremony.
What happened on the wedding day?
The scene in the sky above Langley Castle was certainly something to behold on the day, as the 10 jumpers made their descent. It was also a real talking point for the 200 wedding guests, some of whom travelled from as far afield as the USA.
Chris has always been a keen sky-diver, first learning the skill in the army and then, several years later, completing an accelerate freefall course and acquiring several licences in a variety of disciplines. He and his groomsmen have undertaken hundreds of skydives, across many drop zones worldwide and some of them actually work in the sport.
How it started with a castle wedding proposal
Co-ordinating this feat took in-depth planning, which started when Chris proposed at a black-tie Christmas dinner at Langley Castle. The couple then realised that Langley, with its incredible ambience and idyllic setting, not to mention its status as England’s most authentic, fortified medieval castle hotel, was also the perfect wedding venue.
It was gazing across the castle’s battlements – accessible to guests on a daily Battlements Tour – that allowed Chris to recognise the possibility of the pre-wedding sky-dive and spectacular arrival on the big day. Doing something different – and having something to laugh about in years to come – greatly appealed. With a clear view right over to Hadrian’s Wall and 10 acres of Langley-owned land as well, the area that could be utilised for a jump was evident.
In fact, much of this was originally part of Langley’s medieval barony originally established by Adam de Tindale, which controlled lands the size of 9848 football pitches.
First-class wedding (and sky-dive) planning
Once the seed of the idea had been sown, brainstorming was undertaken by Chris and his team and lots of reaching out to the sport’s governing body, British Skydiving, followed. Months of preparation and training, to back the decades of cumulative skydiving experience, helped get the plan to the stage where it could be brought to fruition, in a safe and precise manner, on the wedding day.
The plane departed from the group’s local drop zone, Sky-high Skydiving at Shotton, and the wedding ‘team’ had arranged to descended to primary, secondary or tertiary landing areas. These were secured thanks to the kindness and permission of Langley Castle’s neighbours, the Bates family.
As it happened, however, Chris and his groomsmen landed in the field by the castle entrance, where they were brilliantly observed from the castle battlements.
The remarkable castle structure, with these imposing battlements, was easily identified from the air and the jump should take place in pretty decent conditions.
An exquisite Northumberland woodland wedding
Once on the ground, the team left their skydiving rigs behind and celebrated their world-record-breaking achievement with a well-deserved bottle of champagne. After a quick wardrobe switch into their kilts, they joined their guests and bridal party for a ceremony in Langley Castle’s woodland wedding area. This has the stunning castle as a backdrop, through the trees, and was beautifully decorated with flower arrangements and natural displays.
The groom and groomsmen were piped into the woodland glade by talented friend, Stevie Bagpipes and, from there, the wedding was infused with music. An eclectic mix of musicians provided the entertainment, from a harpist and swing jazz quartet to evening ceilidh band.
Langley Castle’s wedding and events manager, Katie Livingstone-Evans Lowes, says: “We were delighted to be chosen as Chris and Pippa-Rosy’s wedding venue and to have them decide our woodland wedding area would be the perfect place for their ceremony. However, when we heard about the sky-dive, we were truly thrilled and amazed to have this plan evolve around the castle.
“This will be something that the castle has never witnessed before in its 673-year history and in its 37 as a wedding venue. We were so happy that the right weather conditions prevailed and all the intricate planning paid off.”
More details of Langley Castle’s wide variety of wedding options, covering woodland, tipi, marquee, traditional indoor castle ceremonies, elopements and weddings for two, civil ceremonies and renewal of vows, can be found at www.langleycastle.co.uk