The wonderful world of Suffolk weddings

PUBLISHED: 14:36 18 February 2014 | UPDATED: 14:36 18 February 2014

penny and anthony's wedding

penny and anthony's wedding


We invited Charlotte Smith-Jarvis, editor of Archant’s Pure Weddings magazine, to give us her pick of what makes a wedding in the county extra special

clare from silk rose coutureclare from silk rose couture

People travel from all over the country – the world even – to get married in Suffolk. I’ve encountered brides who’ve returned to their ancestral homes from as far as Australia and America to plan their big days in the East Anglian countryside. And why not? The county has it all. Lush landscapes, venues that include stately homes and rustic barns, and a plethora of excellent suppliers make Suffolk a truly special wedding destination.

Here are some favourite local wedding businesses I’ve discovered, each offering something a touch different.

Woodbridge-based Clare Perkins, of Silk Rose, has been designing bespoke dresses for more than 40 years, so she really knows how to rock a wedding frock.

bespoke by the crown - rebeccabespoke by the crown - rebecca

Having studied at the London School of Fashion in the 1960s, a highlight of her career was being invited to join eminent fashion designer Sir Norman Hartnell, working on creations for the Queen and Queen Mother.

Clare steers away from trends – apparently Vera Wang’s collection for 2014 is heavy on pink – preferring to create gowns using her “gut feeling” and traditional fabrics, such as Nottingham and French chantilly lace and the finest silk.

Her latest project is a series of two-in-one, convertible wedding dresses which can be transformed into evening gowns in a flash.

“I’m very conscious of the cost of a wedding dress for the family. With these, in one swift movement you can take off the sleeves and lace back and hook it up at the back,” she says.

Phoebe dress by Clare PerkinsPhoebe dress by Clare Perkins

“As an older person I remember having to get changed into a going away outfit. People don’t seem to do that anymore.

“I’m always thinking about how I can make things a bit different – I’ve been doing changes like this for brides for a while so I thought I’d make it more available.”

The Pheobe wedding dress, which turns into a long evening gown, is available to order at

Having outside caterers look after your marquee reception at home, or in a local stately home, is very much the fashionable way of individualising your wedding celebrations. Event director Rebecca Mackenzie, of Bespoke By The Crown, which is known for its wedding catering, reveals a few tips of the trade.


One of the easiest ways to make your wedding memorable is to seek out something unusual as a building block. It might be cuisine from a particular part of the world, or a type of cooking such as spit-roasting or a seafood grill. We’ve even been asked for a sushi train where the food goes round by conveyor belt. Alternatively, it might be an informal mingling event rather than the usual sit-down affair – one of our clients had a gourmet picnic with guests seated on the grass with blankets, followed by an ice cream van and fairground. The only limit is what your imagination can accommodate. A couple of events come to mind – a Portuguese tapas style party on horseback and a colourful West Indian barbecue.

Longer receptions and stand-up events

Tradition has always dictated a Champagne and canapé reception, but now brides and grooms are wanting to take time to chat and meet everyone. By foregoing the more usual starter and having more substantial ‘two bite’ canapés, as well as moving on from a welcome glass of fizz to Tom Cruise style cocktails, the whole welcome becomes a separate party. We are sometimes asked to do stand-up ‘bowl food’ for the whole event, guests mingling and grazing ‘on the hoof’ on a globe-trotting food adventure – far from the ubiquitous starter, main course and dessert.

Mixed cultures

Lots of our wedding couples now come from different backgrounds, perhaps having met in the city lights or on globe-trotting holidays, and it is always fun pleasing their varied tastes and culinary heritages, mixing up different styles of cooking. We never do ‘fusion food’, always striving to be authentic, but we might have an Indian starter followed by a French main course for example – all made with our great local Suffolk ingredients.


The other way to mix things up is to go for a more unusual venue for your reception. We’ve done a paddle-steamer wedding on the Broads and another in a vast baronial castle, with candelabra, antlers and Hogwarts style tables. Not forgetting the Harley motorbike rally and the beach pop-up in a marquee. A very personal and intimate reception can be had anywhere, from an old barn to a period village hall. They can all be adapted relatively easily and imaginatively. A rustic River Cottage style wedding is ideal for a home-hosted summer wedding. Imagine flower garlands galore and straw bales to sit on. Elderflower champagne and cider in flagons, iced seafood, sizzling steaks griddled over red hot coals and strawberries with clotted cream. What could be more perfect?

A sharing occasion

Weddings are social affairs and feasting together on communal dishes is a distinct trend. Rather than having each dish plated, the whole table dines ‘en famille’ from big deli-style platters and bowls of dressed salads in the centre to start, often continuing with a shared main course. At parties for our farming clients, we often cook big joints of home-reared rare breed beef or pork, taking them out to be carved by the guests themselves, alongside buttered seasonal vegetables and warm loaves of crusty bread. Another alternative as a centrepiece is the classic pastry-covered wellington, either traditional fillet of Suffolk red poll beef or perhaps Blythburgh free range pork.

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