Behind the Scenes of James and Helen’s Wedding

Wedding bells were ringing in All Creatures Great and Small‘s Season 3 premiere as James and Helen said their long-awaited “I do”s in a ceremony both heartfelt and hilarious, replete with dogs and wellies and tender vows. Celebrate the happy couple’s union when you go behind the scenes with Nicholas Ralph (James Herriot), Rachel Shenton (Helen Alderson) and some of the others who brought the big day to life. You’ll learn about a couple of very special guests, the design behind Helen’s wedding dress, the cake, and much more!

  1. 1.

    Nicholas Ralph (James Herriot)

    Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton in All Creatures Great and Small as seen on MASTERPIECE on PBS

    I remember getting the script and I was just smiling like a Cheshire cat the whole way, reading it from page one to the end. And what we did when we got it was message each other. “Have you read that bit yet?” “Have you got to that bit yet?” “Have you seen this?” Because it was just brilliant. It was touching in moments, it was poignant, and there was drama, but at the same time it was laugh-out-loud funny. Some of the stuff between Siegfried and Tristan, losing the ring, some brilliant moments.

    And then cut to filming it, it was just the same—it was wonderful. The church was stunning. The dress that they made for Rachel was incredible. And on the day, Alf White—James Herriot is his pen name—Alf White’s kids, Jim and Rosie, were there. Alf’s son and daughter came to see their fictional parents be married! It was so lovely. Rosie shed a tear, we had a picture taken, it was wonderful. And whenever I see her, she always starts with saying to me, “Hello, Dad.”

    I think it was just special. And off the back of Season 2, with the engagement and everything, it felt like something we’ve been waiting for. Certainly my character’s been waiting for. It felt like a crescendo. It felt like fireworks, a celebration. I loved it.

  2. 2.

    Rachel Shenton (Helen Herriot)

    Jim and Rosie Wight and Nicholas Ralph and Rachel Shenton in All Creatures Great and Small as seen on MASTERPIECE on PBS

    It was a little bit chilly because we filmed that quite early on in the series. I think it was around March, but the sun came out. What’s really nice about those scenes is everybody’s in them. So, you have Tony [Pitts] and Imogen [Clawson] who play my dad and my sister Jenny, and then you have James’ parents and all the Skeldale gang, and everybody’s there together. That’s a rare thing really, because usually you’re kind of off in your own pockets doing various bits. So being together, that’s always a good laugh.

    Alf Wight’s children, Rosie and Jim, were there. That was a bit surreal. It must have been surreal for them too, as we are playing their parents so they’re basically watching their parents get married! It’s kind of crazy. They came over and we spoke to them a bit ahead of the scene and they watched the scene play out. They are ever so supportive and complimentary of our versions of their parents. That was very special, and we felt very fortunate that they were there.

  3. 3.

    Costume Designer Ros Little on Helen's Wedding Dress & A New Dress for Mrs. Hall

    All Creatures Great and Small costume design sketches by Ros Little as seen on MASTERPIECE on PBS
    Ros Little's costume design sketches of Helen's wedding dress and Mrs. Hall's dress, with a fabric swatch of the wedding dress' lace and a close-up of the print on Mrs. Hall's dress

    I knew that they were wanting this to be something that they would love. Helen had had another almost wedding before [to Hugh Hulton], and I already knew that eventually she’d marry James, so for the first wedding, we found a very typically 1930s wedding dress to hire from [period costume supplier] Cosprop. It was along the lines of the sort of fashions that Wallis Simpson would wear, a slim sort of thing, and that was very nice. So then the one for James had to be almost the opposite. But the main thing was that it would suit Rachel, because she is very petite, so she can’t be festooned in too much fabric.

    We found this absolutely gorgeous, fabulous Italian lace. Luckily Melissa Gallant, the executive producer, said, “I wonder what it might be in the way of lace?” and I was like, “Well there’s this…because I’ve already found it.” So we looked at a few laces, this was of course the most expensive lace in the shop, but it’s bound to be. We dyed the silk [of the dress] a little bit darker than the lace so that the pattern would definitely show—it would be no good putting it against white and then it would just disappear. It’d be a terrible waste.

    I’d found something that was sort of along the lines of what I thought might work in terms of a fashion plate. It was this idea of a nice, fitted bodice, and a skirt that would be full but not from the waist—it would be bias cut. And then we tried things. We’d think, “Well, we love that neck line”—we hadn’t actually expected to go with the original neckline of the dress, but we did. “But we don’t want a sleeve like that, we want this.” We needed long sleeves, because was filming in March. Plus, I think it’s more modest for a bride to have long sleeves anyway.

    So we worked with looking for shapes that flatter [Rachel]. It doesn’t particularly matter about the period per se, with a wedding dress—it could be anything. It had to work with her figure, and she had to feel very happy in it, because apart from the scenes, it was going to attract more attention than her ordinary clothes, which people are interested in anyway. But that was the big thing, finding something that worked.

    We also got Mrs. Hall in a lovely rich colored dress I had made for her for Helen’s wedding. Actually, it’s a copy of an original dress that looked really nice on her. It was green, but I had found a company who do reproduction fabrics, and they can do them in all sorts of colors. They could show me all the prints they could do, then I could choose what color I wanted. But you can also choose the scale, so this might have been bigger, but we scaled it down to this size. It’s just a simple, elegant dress.

  4. 4.

    Food Stylist/Home Economist Bethany Heald on the Wedding Cake

    For the wedding cake, we did lots of research into cakes of the era. I’ve got a whole storyboard of different cakes from that era. We wanted it to be quite decadent and we thought Mrs. Hall would’ve pushed her boat out and really made an extra-special effort, so I made these little cameos with icing. I used a modern silicon cameo mold, but I matched the modern one to an antique one that we found—it’s so beautiful. That was a really lovely detail that you might not notice, but you’ve got to look closely at the really pretty cameos!

    I had to make two matching wedding cakes, which was quite a challenge because we filmed the eating of the cake two weeks before we filmed Mrs. Hall finishing preparing the cake. So that one that went down well with me—I was like, “No, not two!” So there were two matching cakes, and a very clever lady in the art department made the top with plaster, and we sourced a very beautiful vintage bride and groom that sat on the top. I love that cake. It’s really, really fab.


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