Experts share tips for planning your romantic Norfolk wedding
After two years largely on pause, weddings have returned in romantic style.
Couples have had even more time to consider what they truly want from their big day and how they can express their love through their ceremony and reception.
From fantastical themes to fabulous floristry, vintage to drag queen entertainment, floor filling disco classics to sugar flowers, we talk to wedding suppliers, wedding planners and expert to look at trends for the next 12 months.
Caroline Sayer: La Belle Flowers
Few weddings are without flowers: from bouquets to buttonholes, flower petal confetti to table centrepieces, floral creations often set the tone for a celebration.
Caroline Sayer founded La Belle Flowers in 2014 and has picked up awards and plaudits since for her bespoke floral business which offers flowers for weddings and events, for funeral tributes, hand-tied bouquets for private clients and floral workshops.
There is also a sister business, La Belle Styling, which offers a full event styling service.
Business had been booming until March 2020.
“Having to close was awful – not just for us as a business, but for the couples whose weddings were put on hold. And then we kept seeing couples whose hopes were raised only to fall again when restrictions kept changing,” said Caroline, who is based east of Norwich.
“It was heart-breaking to see so many of my clients have to rearrange their wedding once, twice, three or even four times when dates were cancelled,” said Caroline.
“Obviously we all know those cancellations were for a good reason, but a wedding is such an important day and so much goes into each one, it was just awful to know that brides and grooms were so upset.
“What we have seen, though, is a real feeling of joy with the weddings that are going ahead because people have spent so long apart from their friends and family that when they do celebrate, they do it in style.”
Mid-week slots may be easier to book – and brides are booking up to three years in advance to secure Caroline’s services.
Advance bookings mean that some clients trying to reschedule 2020 and 2021 weddings were unable to be accommodated by Caroline as many of her dates had been snapped up pre-pandemic by super-efficient couples booking in advance.
“It’s hard, because you’ve worked so hard with people to bring their dreams to life and suddenly you can’t help them because the date they’ve rescheduled for has already been booked. It’s been a tough few years,” said Caroline.
After a painfully quiet beginning of 2021, the lifting of restrictions last year meant a flood of floral business for both rescheduled and long-planned weddings.
“It went from nothing to full-on in a matter of days!” said Caroline, “and we noticed that a lot of people were increasing their budget having had longer to save up for their big day.
“It feels like many people are going bigger and bolder with their flowers and opting for statement designs, flowers which will create a real visual impact.
“People also looked at different ways to have their flowers, so perhaps larger displays rather than 10 smaller ones – it suited me down to the ground because I love a challenge!”
Caroline added that mixed bright ‘country-style’ floral arrangements in addition to more classic neutral palettes of whites, creams and luscious green foliage or similarly soft tones, such as blush, have been popular choices.
“Wedding flowers are so incredibly personal so we work with couples to make sure we can provide something they’ll remember forever,” said Caroline, “it’s a privilege to be part of someone’s big day. labelleflowers.co.uk
Joe Ringer: The JRB
Great wedding entertainment can make the difference between guests looking for an excuse to leave early and calls for an encore from a dance floor that doesn’t want the night to end.
Norfolk-based wedding, corporate and party band The JRB boasts an all-star line-up of musicians and vocalists and has just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Singer Joe Ringer explained the band offers line-ups to suit all needs, from solo piano and jazz bands to an 18-piece ‘supergroup’ having grown from buskers in the city centre in 2012 to becoming one of the region’s biggest function bands.
“Bookings are looking good!” said Joe, “after a really difficult two years, weddings have come back in a big way.
“Due to lots of postponements from 2020, we were rushed off our feet trying to fit two years’ worth of weddings into a six-month period.
“This has had a knock-on effect and the future looks bright; with bookings for 2022 and also 2023 looking as healthy as ever.”
During the pandemic, the band diversified by producing lockdown music videos with musicians recording in their own homes and produced some Covid-safe events such as a Monster Club Halloween show.
“It was a really difficult time for all musicians and creatives, as live performance was one of the last things to return,” said Joe.
“We really missed being part of people’s weddings. It’s a real honour to play a small part in the most special day of people’s lives and it’s not something we ever take for granted.
“To be surrounded by their friends and family having the time of their lives is such an amazing experience.”
Joe said that people booking entertainment for their wedding should do their research by watching promotional videos, watching performances on social media and speaking to the band or band leader about what they can offer.
He also recommends a band that has a dedicated sound engineer who can monitor the quality of the set as it happens and not rushing any decisions.
“Make sure you leave lots of time and get your main suppliers booked in nice and early as the best people tend to get booked up far in advance,” he said.
“We give our couples the opportunity to personalise their wedding playlist to suit their taste – from 80s and rock to indie and disco.
“We’re also always happy to learn a first dance to help them create a really special memory. We have a huge repertoire which we are constantly updating – adding both old and new songs which really fit with our style.”
Popular first dance songs include Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Perfect, dancefloor fillers include the Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire or The Killers’ Mr Brightside while songs by George Ezra, Dua Lipa and Jess Glynne are also currently popular.
“We’ve been lucky enough to be able to sing some amazing songs, and I personally love the challenge of doing a unique, yet faithful take on a classic tune which will make a couple’s day extra special,” said Joe, adding, “any classic soul or 90s bangers are my personal favourite.”
Amber Briggs: Love Wedding Cakes
She creates tiers of joy for couples which can incorporate their favourite flavours and flowers and tie together their colour scheme and theme.
Amber Briggs gave up her job as a corporate estate agent after the birth of her second child and was looking for something to do which could fit around parenthood.
A keen cake baker, she set out with a mission: to cover the cash she’d previously made – within three months, she had doubled it.
Dereham-based Love Wedding Cakes began life as Little A’s Cakery and took on its new name in 2018 after Amber won Best Wedding Cake Maker at the Eastern Daily Press’ Bride Wedding Awards.
Amber’s passion is creating incredibly lifelike sugar flowers.
“I can spend hours and hours making flowers and I love it so much that it doesn’t even feel like work,” she laughed, “I also love the design process – talking to couples about colours, flavours and favourite flowers, working with florists.”
Ahead of the wedding cake consultations Amber has with couples, she offers a taster sample box which is delivered to the door and includes a choice of flavours.
You can choose from Victoria, lemon and raspberry, coconut and lime, chocolate fudge, carrot and orange, salted caramel, traditional fruit cake and Amber’s favourite, cherry bakewell in addition to seasonal flavours such as toffee apple or spiced pumpkin.
Pre-pandemic, Amber was averaging around three weddings per week during high season but rescheduled weddings meant that she had been making up to five.
“It’s been quite hectic! Each cake has to be absolutely perfect so it has been a lot of work but I am so grateful to be back and so delighted to see my clients getting married.
“Every single cake is one-of-a-kind and designed for the couple and it’s a privilege to be part of such an important day. I love hearing about what couples have planned.”
In addition to wedding and celebration cakes, Amber also offers the option of luxury wedding dessert tables, which offer sweet grazing opportunities for guests.
Think macarons, soft chocolate and hazelnut brownies with gold leaf, flower-topped cake pops, cupcakes, iced cookies, meringue kisses or freshly-iced doughnut.
“Dessert tables look absolutely beautiful and are an instant talking point,” said Amber.
When the shutters came down on the wedding industry in 2020 and early 2021, Amber reverted to Little A’s Cakery, making celebration cakes and treat boxes, and was blown away by the support of her pre-booked wedding couples, some of whom insisted on paying her ahead of their big day.
“They contacted me in the first week of lockdown to say ‘we’ll pay everything now. We want you to know how much we want you to be part of our day, whenever we have it’. It was so lovely,” she said.
Amber said that sugar dahlias and chrysanthemums were particularly popular at the moment and that a current trend was for couples to choose their favourite flavour for the top tier and then hold back that cake for themselves.
“I did a dream job for a couple who married at The Grove in North London who had a five-tier cake with the most stunning cascade of flowers,” said Amber.
“I also made a lovely cake for a couple who got married at Thursford and who had a cake decorated with flowers and carousel horses to echo the venue’s famous merry-go-round.”
Amber’s advice for couples shopping for their wedding cake is to do their research and find the right baker that suits their aesthetic and their budget. Her cakes cost from around £650.
She suggests booking your cake up to 18 months in advance for summer weddings and six months for out-of-season weddings.
Does she find it hard to know that the cakes she spends so many hours designing, crafting and delivering will be crumbs by the end of a wedding day?
“It is a bit difficult to accept, yes,” she laughs, “but I’d be even more worried if they weren’t eaten at all!”
Finding a venue…
Softley Events is a luxury weddings, party planning and event management company, set up more than 15 years ago to organise prestigious weddings and corporate events.
Sarah Softley presents four of the Norfolk venues she loves.
1. Classic elegance
If it is an elegant wedding venue you’re after then what could be more splendid than a Georgian house? Norwich’s Assembly House has been at the heart of the city in its current guise since the 1750s.
As a wedding venue it makes a big impression with its glittering chandeliers, high-ceilinged rooms and big windows (all great for photographs) and can be an intimate space or somewhere with room for hundreds of guests.
2. Old meets new
Heacham Manor, on Norfolk’s fabulous coastline at Hunstanton, offers a brilliant mix of the old and the new for couples looking for that perfect venue.
The Grade II listed manor house is a charming and tranquil spot which can easily cater for 100 plus guests for the ceremony, reception and bedroom accommodation. Throw in the boutique spa, 18-hole golf course and the Mulberry Restaurant and you have all the boxes ticked.
3. Boutique style
The beautifully stylish Titchwell Manor, a short step away from the area’s famous sandy beaches, has been a wedding favourite for years, with a super choice of options.
For around 80 guests the Conservatory is a really tempting; light, bright and airy. Having more people? The Walled Garden can seat over 150 guests – and the pretty church in Titchwell village is just a five-minute walk away. And if that’s not enough, you can take the whole place over!
4. Make a statement
One of the most stunning houses in Norfolk, Voewood is the perfect place for a statement wedding. What that statement is, is entirely up to you.
Voewood’s Arts and Crafts style mixes elegance with rock and roll. You can keep it classical with a fine country house vibe, or head out to the left field and swank it up as much as you like.
There’s plenty of space to spread out – 11 acres – and as the house is fully licensed you can marry wherever you please. You can keep it intimate with your closest people or go large; the venue will take 150 for the ceremony and 300 for a reception.
Wedding trends for 2022 according to industry experts
Rented wedding dresses: Carrie Johnson tied the knot in a rented ivory tulle and silk gown by Christos Costarellos which cost £45 to hire against its retail price of £2,870 and more brides are opting to save cash and resources by doing the same.
Something blue: following the UK’s Bridgerton obsession, Regency blue is one of the biggest emerging colours for wedding mood boards.
Natural palettes: traditional whites and pastels are being edged out by earthy colours and textures or bright splashes of floral colour.
Two-piece wedding dresses are gaining momentum: minimalist styles are becoming more popular.
Zero-waste weddings: Good planning can help to minimise waste and donating leftover food, drink and flowers to causes in the community are becoming a big trend in addition to charitable donation instead of wedding gifts.
Smaller…and bigger weddings: Micro weddings were the only way to get hitched during periods in the pandemic and they’ve remained popular. Equally, some couples have had more of a chance to save and are going all out for even bigger weddings than originally planned.
Curious cake flavours: many couples are now selecting specific cake flavours that remind them of a special memory or a destination that means something to them.
Wedding creches: more popular than ever, younger guests now often take centre stage at weddings.
Drag Queen entertainment: Sashaying into a marquee near you soon (unusual entertainment is a big, showy deal in 2022 and nothing is too extreme – think axe throwing and circus performers).
Vegan wedding food: No longer a tacked-on extra, catering for guests’ dietary requirements is now big business and vitally important. The rise of all-vegan or vegetarian wedding menus is also increasing year-on-year.
Wild and dried flowers: Whether homegrown or grown by a wild flower expert (check out Natalie Boon’s beautiful flowers grown in Shotesham All Saints http://www.thewildfolkflorist.co.uk).
Weekday weddings: With so many weddings cancelled in 2020 and 2021, many couples are opting for weekday weddings to avoid waiting even longer to get married. The bonus? They’re often cheaper, and after such a long period without big celebrations, friends and family are less likely to complain about taking a few days off.
Nods to nostalgia: Think ‘something old’ applied to elements of an entire wedding, from vintage furniture at receptions to period piece wedding attire, beautiful antique wedding rings to vintage bar carts.
Wedding dessert tables or afternoon tea: Patisserie is big and offers couples the chance to design a buffet of sweet treats which can be served instead of – or as well as – cake.
Inside-out wedding venues: Want the convenience of a town or city-based wedding but also love outdoor weddings? Bring the outside in with trees, secret (but small!) courtyard gardens and lots of plants indoors.