Happy Valley Wedding // Tessa & Ben
I love a Happy Valley wedding. Beautiful woodland, adventurous couples who aren’t afraid to create their own awesome wedding and inevitably a massive party! Do scroll down for the party shots…
I have a soft spot for Tessa & Ben. I went from just someone they found on Google to good mates who now regularly meet up at gigs. Their wedding was everything I love about weddings – fun, friends and family. They’ve kindly answered a few questions about their big day so I’ll let them tell their wedding story…
How did you meet and how long have you been together?
Ben and I originally met at university but didn’t get together until some years later when he moved to Norwich. We’ve been together 10.5 years.
How did he pop the question?
Ben suggested we go to get fish and chips and go for a swim the Friday evening of the May bank holiday in 2017 as it was so lovely and warm. I had absolutely no idea what he was planning but as I got out of the sea he was on the beach on one knee. Fair to say I was completely shocked – speechless even, which doesn’t often happen!
Tell us about the wedding planning
We booked the venue and the band first before we did anything else. Though the engagement was a surprise, we knew quickly what we wanted. We booked Happy Valley which is just down the road from us and is a beautiful, magical place – exactly the kind of laid back setting we wanted. Our band, Duck and Covers are not only amazingly talented and one of the best you’ll see but also friends from school so made it even more special.
The third thing we booked was the food. Again, not a typical ‘sit-down’ meal for us! We used Norfolk Thai and they brought their van and served from there. Some of the best Thai food we have had outside of Thailand and Nidi couldn’t have been more accommodating. The only sad thing for me is that I didn’t have enough of it!
After this we booked our photographer. As soon as we saw Winston’s site we hoped we would be able to book him. I think we first met him in January and knew then we definitely wanted him – couldn’t recommend him more. So important for the day to have someone that puts all your guests at ease.
We also booked a string trio – I didn’t want to walk down the aisle to a church organ. We booked them for the church and then they came to the venue – again, they needed to be booked in advance to make sure they were free and could play what we wanted. I walked down the aisle to Feeling Good by Nine Simone – perfect!
Other than the day itself, one of the best days we had was the day before when we got to set the barn up exactly as we had imagined it. We had friends and family helping and it was such a happy, fun day – we stayed stress-free, relatively. There were, of course, a couple of things that had to be ironed out on the day but nothing that couldn’t be resolved.
Did you have a theme? If so, how did you work it into the day?
We didn’t have a theme; we just knew what we liked. We wanted it to be laid-back, beautiful and fun for us and our guests. We love being outdoors, music, food, festivals and being with our friends and family so this is what we planned it around. We originally were going to have a marquee at Happy Valley but once we saw the barn, we knew that’s what we wanted. Something a little different.
Tell us about the dress
The dress was the second one I tried on! I did go to try more in various places but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and came back to it. I got it from Unique in Castle Rising and the ladies there couldn’t have been more helpful.
Like the day itself, I wanted something that I felt special in but also like me. I didn’t know what I was looking for before I found it but once I saw it I knew. It was ‘simple’ but to me elegant and beautiful and I knew I would feel good in it all day and night – I didn’t want something that I would have to change from, feel uncomfortable in or be afraid to be in!
By the end of the night my dress was muddy and tied up with ribbons from the flowers. This might not be for some people but it was a lasting memory and to all that know us – so apt! Wouldn’t have had it any other way – no point worrying about your dress all day!
Do you have any anecdotes about things that happened in the wedding planning process?
It was one of the warmest, sunniest summers we have had for some time – apart from our wedding day!! To say the heavens opened was an understatement – we had put down a dance floor that I thought would look fab for the photos, we had to end up lifting it as it got too slippery! That just gave us another great memory and also reminds you what’s important on the day – and it’s not a floor! Through our planning though, we had always made provisions for this (it is the UK after all!!), and we wouldn’t change a thing about it. It broke the ice with some of our guests and kept everyone together inside. Better for the photos too!
The wedding rehearsal was funny too. Ben and I (mainly my fault!) got the giggles so badly it set everyone else off! Our vicar (Judith Pollard) was fantastic though and despite laughing along with us, got us through it and put us at ease.
Do you have any wedding planning tips?
Some advice that we were given by a good friend was to work out what matters most to you on the day and focus on those bits. We knew what we wanted – Happy Valley, The Duck and Covers, Norfolk Thai and Winston Sanders. All the other stuff we did as much ourselves as we could our way – we didn’t do masses of wedding fairs.
Weddings can be expensive but you don’t have to buy into everything you are offered or do it other people’s way!
Comfy shoes! I wore sparkly Kate Spade trainers for the day – why go for a change of shoes later and be uncomfortable at all! Also, we were hoping to be fairly outside based!
Ben and I got through this without any major stresses and no bridezilla moments. What we kept bringing our day back to is that all we needed was us and 2 witnesses – everything else is a lovely bonus but not worth upset. We wanted us and our friends and family to have the best day ever and we are pretty sure we did that – and a ribbon, flower or tie won’t change that.
Take us through the day
The day was designed to maximise being with friends and family as well as time on the dancefloor. I stayed at the venue the night before so was able to get ready having a relatively relaxed morning. Ben did some running about making sure the rain version of our day was going to work, mainly putting umbrellas where they needed to be. He then met Winston at the church for some pre-service pics with his Groomsmen, who then came over to get some shots of the bridal party in the final throws of hair and make-up.
The church service was at 2.30pm and we were all at the venue by 3.45pm, thankfully getting the only break in rain for the photos, canapes and fizz reception. We chose to have the speeches first so everybody could relax for the meal and the rest of the day. The speeches had everything, and I think everyone learned at least one thing new about us both!
The food, being served from a trailer ended up being a free-for-all which actually gave the two of us the time we needed to reflect on the previous few hours as well as allowing everyone to mingle and stretch their legs instead of being restrained by the seating plan.
It was then on to the dancing. We had spent the previous months saving songs to playlists for different times of the day, saving our favourite sing and dance along songs for after the meal. The dancefloor was full from about 7pm until the last stragglers (us) went to bed after 3am. The Duck and Covers also created a 2-set playlist of some absolute classics as well as our first dance songs and a special request which went down better than we could have imagined.
The evening guests arrived at around 9pm and an evening buffet of local cheeses and pork pie was put on for all to graze on. Carriages were at 12.30am but because Happy Valley offers glamping/camping we had a good number of guests stay on and join us in some slightly more upbeat dancing into the early hours.
We stayed onsite in a newly built “treehouse” which was self-contained so were able to come to in the middle of the beautiful Norfolk countryside before clearing the day away and treating those who helped to a hog roast in the sunshine.
Tell us about your favourite moments!
Tess: Walking down the aisle to Nina Simone ‘Feeling Good’, having a singer and song I’ve loved for years being played by strings was particularly special; Arriving at the barn seeing everyone there and it being set up exactly how we had pictured; Dancing all night!
Ben: Seeing my bride in her dress for the first time and hearing the song she chose to walk down the aisle, perfection; making my speech, I’m not a public speaker but loved every minute of it; taking the time to reflect on the day about 8pm seeing everybody dancing, drinking and laughing together… all for, and because of us was a special couple of minutes
We can both agree that whilst our first songs were a special moment for us our favourite song was a special request that the band apologised to the mother of the bride before playing. Luckily it was so loud she couldn’t make out the lyrics to Killing In The Name Of by Rage Against The Machine. The dancefloor absolutely erupted!
Were there any surprises?
Because we planned the day to exactly what the two of us wanted there wasn’t really any room for surprises… the only one of note was that the groom didn’t cry at any point!
Any tips for the big day itself?
Get people to feed and water you, or you may miss out on bits… people don’t say no to you on your wedding day! Take time to sit back and take it all in, everyone is there for you and it is a very special feeling that hopefully you’ll never feel again!!
Who were your wedding suppliers?
VENUE: Happy Valley, Grimston
DRESS: Unique, Castle Rising
Bridesmaids dresses from Azalea Bridal in Wymondham
JEWELLERY: I borrowed my necklace from my mum and bought earrings from Accessorize
CAKE: My mum! A 3 tiered naked cake – a layer each of carrot, coconut and lemon
FLOWERS: Paul Chapman, Flower stall Fakenham market – Orchard End Nursery
FOOD: Norfolk Thai for the main meal, pork pie from E.H. Prior in Dersingham, Cheese from the Cheese Man in Norwich Market – can be found on Facebook. We supplied all other food from supermarkets
We did a hog roast the next day from Van Pelts butchers and hog roast – Norfolk Street (can also be found on Facebook)
ENTERTAINMENT: Kavolini – strings for the church and to begin with at the venue. Duck and Covers band for the evening.
DECORATIONS: We made our own drapes for the barn, the extra flowers we hung around the barn and a couple of bits from Happy Valley. The electrician they used put in all the lights for us which was just perfect and exactly what we were after – thanks Tim. Chalkboards that we made and my friend wrote up.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Winston Sanders Photography (of course!)
HAIR: Jenny from No. 4 King’s Lynn – can be found on Facebook
MAKE UP: A lesson on the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Jarrolds in Norwich, then I did it on the day
GROOMSWEAR: Goddards in King’s Lynn
FAVOURS: We donated to Cancer Research and everyone had a badge on their name card
STATIONERY: We did our own. We got stamps made from The English Stamp Company
TRANSPORT: My uncle drove us in his car – a beautiful red convertible VW Beetle
Lots of little bits and bobs from various shops and internet sites – don’t always search weddings!
Thanks so much Tessa and Ben!!
I’m a Norfolk Wedding Photographer who travels all over the country and beyond capturing beautiful weddings. If you’d like a Happy Valley Wedding Photographer, or a wedding photographer for anywhere in the UK or further afield, please do get in touch!