Summer love turned into forever after for Alex and Charlie. They met when they were both 19 while working as waiting staff during the summer holidays in the restaurant at Norfolk's Dunston Hall Hotel. "We had lots in common and it felt like our paths should have crossed may times before," says Alex.
It was meant to be and after nine years together Charlie asked her to marry him at the same place where they shared their first kiss. "He popped the question during a weekend visit home. It was on Winterton Bay Beach in Norfolk where we first went camping with our work friends and had our first kiss," remembers Alex. "It was a complete surprise, although not to my parents. He'd asked them seven months prior to the proposal and they almost thought he had changed his mind because he took so long!" They set the date for 10th July this year and opted for a relaxed country theme with a subtle colour scheme of soft mauve, sage and pastel shades.
It was always going to be Norfolk when it came to choosing where to wed and from the moment they first saw Hales Hale with its magnificent barn and glorious gardens, they knew they'd found their perfect venue. Surrounded by picturesque countryside and wild meadows, it ticked all the boxes for their dream wedding. Alex explains, "We could picture our long-haired sausage dog running around the grounds, the barn is stunning even without decorations and we were able to hire the venue from Friday to Monday to prolong the celebrations. There's luxury accommodation available on site too and you can put your own stamp on things as there's no restrictions on suppliers and caterers."
Alex looked stunning on the day in a shimmery Rowland by Sottero and Midgley A-line wedding gown. "It was a total wildcard picked for me by Pure Brides," she reveals. "Helen Martin made my bespoke veil which was incredible and had Swarovski crystals dotted all over it to catch the light."
Charlie and the groomsmen wore light coloured suits to fit with the cool, relaxed feel of the day. Not forgetting the important four-legged wedding guests who sported smart green, rubber-duck print bow ties. The bridesmaids complemented the colour scheme in long dresses in two different styles and a range of burgundy and mauve tones.
The ceremony was particularly moving for them both. "We were on cloud nine," recalls Alex. "After almost 10 years together and a year-and-a-half of COVID and lockdowns, to be surrounded by our friends and family celebrating such a happy event was an incredible high.
We had been so busy organising everything that when it came down to standing in front of each other and exchanging our vows it was really emotional." As an extra sentimental touch Alex had her grandmother's ring reset especially for her. Even her beloved pet got a bit overwhelmed. "My sausage dog whined during the service because he wanted to be at the front with his pawrents!" she laughs.
Afterwards he hitched a ride outside on the back of the train on her wedding dress, much to everyone's amusement. The Great British weather was as unpredictable as ever which meant everyone was outside with umbrellas for the drinks reception.
"It didn't ruin the celebration though," adds Alex. They dodged the showers and made the most of the magnificent grounds for standout just-wed shots and garden games.
The flowers were a major focal point of the day with an abundance of beautiful country-style blooms. "They were really important to us and we went full out," says Alex. "We hired trees and had two large urns filled with flowers and boxes with trailing greenery. For the reception we had jam jars filled with pastel-coloured wildflowers down the middle of the long tables. They were arranged ombre-style in shades of blue, mauve, pink and peach with a mauve silk runner ruffled up around them."
"Niche Flowers was absolutely outstanding. I've never seen such beautiful flowers and they also came up with loads of ideas to really make the venue pop!" – Alex
Due to COVID and all the last-minute changes to the guest list, they made their own table plan. "We bought a huge chalkboard, some chalk pens and voila!" adds Alex. "We love the personal touches so the table names were handmade as well and we asked a sibling to put their calligraphy skills to good use."
The favours were personalised pick 'n' mix bags of sweets and as neither of them are great cake lovers, they opted for delicious desserts instead. Other decorative details included a homemade welcome sign, light-up initials and a postcard guestbook. "We collected postcards from our travels together and our guests picked one with some significance to them and wrote their well wishes on the back," explains Alec.
The catering was another highlight of the day. "The food was incredible," raves Alex. The menu featured canapés representing different parts of their lives including sticky sausages and mini roast beef Yorkshires, Middle Eastern dishes for the main course followed by white chocolate cheesecake and brownies.
The fun began from the get-go with family, bridesmaids and groomsmen joining them at the venue for the whole weekend. After setting up on the Friday and checking into their rooms, they had time to relax, unwind and enjoy a pizza-fest. "Luca Pizza was just incredible they accommodated all our requirements and it was wonderful sitting around with the pizzas flowing," recalls Alex. "My bridesmaids also got me a night-before-the-wedding box with facemasks, sleeping spray for my pillow, lip balm and garters of course!"
On the day, due to COVID restrictions, the bridesmaids organised a quiz at the tables to keep everyone amused and they had a slideshow of funny photos and video messages from loved ones who couldn't travel from abroad to be there. They also had a live act that performed an acoustic set and full band session.
The following day they held a second mini-celebration and set everything up outside using the leftover flowers and decorations. They also had ice cream from Dann's Farm in Dereham with various flavours and lollies for their guests to enjoy and tucked into fish and chips before watching the Euro cup football final.
With their official honeymoon still to come, they went on a buddymoon with the best man and his fiancé immediately after the wedding and spent a few days in Norfolk relaxing and catching up. "We stayed at Cley Windmill which was really special!" adds Alex.
Hair and make-up
Light up initials