This is the story as relayed to me by Vanessa outlining her and Daniel’s journey that culminated in Just Big Smiles having the privilege of photographing this special couple’s wedding day at St Giles House Hotel.
Vanessa had been friends since 2001 with Samantha who was Daniel’s older sister and therefore through association also got to know Samantha’s brother. However, it took until 2013 before Daniel and Vanessa started casually talking via Facebook, which coincidentally, was the same year that Facebook launched their Emoticon. At the time Vanessa was living in the ‘big city’ and Daniel was over 100 miles away in sunny Norfolk.
As time passed, the Facebook conversations became more frequent and then came the first date and everything just clicked. Vanessa remembers how hard it was to get back on the train and return to work in London.
2014 was a particularly tough year so Daniel arranged to have a relaxing weekend away for them both in Derbyshire and take time out to visit Vanessa’s grandparents in Chesterfield. She recalls their visit to Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, somewhere that Vanessa used to visit with her grandparents and also a place that was part of her university dissertation on the repair and disrepair of country houses. She remembers that “we were walking around the pond, which has a beautiful fountain and right in front of the house, Daniel stopped, I turned around and there he was on one knee and before Daniel could finish “will you marry me” I just interrupted him and said yes bursting into hysterical tears of happiness.”
1 year, 1 month and 1 day into their relationship and Daniel had proposed to Vanessa somewhere that she had always loved and felt a sense of happiness.
Vanesa’s grandparents were the first to know the good news. As they walked into her grandparent’s house, they had just big smiles on their faces and Vanessa’s hand’s hidden, Vanessa’s Grandmummy just blurted out “your engaged.” How did she know??? Vanessa revealed that “luckily granddaddy was partially deaf and did not hear all of my Grandmummy’s excitement and commotion, allowing Daniel and I to officially tell them together.”
St Giles House Hotel
Vanessa recalls how much fun it was planning the wedding, and how helpful the local wedding suppliers were. First Daniel and Vanessa had to agree on the budget, not an easy task but nevertheless an important one. With the budget set they had to secure the date and book the venue. Vanessa remembers that she and Daniel both wanted the grandeur of a country house, but we did not want to be in the grounds under a marquee. They had friends and family travelling from all over the country and had to consider the unpredictability of the British weather, so if it rained, they wanted photos in the dry and within beautiful architecture that would reflect grandeur.
Just by chance Vanessa and Daniel went for dinner at St Giles House Hotel and they both said “wow what a beautiful place to get married! We were so lucky that evening, we asked the staff if we could have a look around and without hesitation, they gave us a tour. When we walked into the Walnut Room, we knew that this was the venue for us and immediately booked it even though it was 3 years in advance.”
In 2016 they attended the Norfolk Showground Wedding Show and came across Norwich based Aleks Jewellers Ltd. and fell in love with an 18ct gold ring for Vanessa and a 9ct one for Daniel. Another item ticked off the ‘to do’ list.
The next big thing on Vanessa’s list was to find her perfect dress. She knew that she wanted a dress made of satin that would be timeless but was happy to start the search accompanied by her mum, with an open mind and resulted in her trying on many dresses of various designs and styles. They were thinking that maybe they may have to resort to travelling to London to find the ‘perfect dress’ when they attended several appointments one of which at Pure Brides and there it was, ‘THE’ dress. Although Vanessa was sure her search was over, she decided to continue trying alternate designs on before returning to ‘THE’ dress. She said “I just got all emotional as I imagined walking down the aisle to marry the man of my dreams!”
Vanessa wanted the bridesmaids to be just as glamorous, timeless and comfortable so after many hours of searching, they found some gorgeous dresses at WED2B in Norwich. So, 9 months before the wedding she got all the girls together for a trial fitting and with some minor alterations by mum, all the bridesmaids each had a perfectly fitting dress.
The groom’s suits were harder to sort out, as they were going with a country style and wanted tweed, but to obtain the colour and style that they wanted took hours of research. After one year of searching and just 6 months until the wedding, they opted for Master Debonair in Newcastle, so Vanessa, Dan and Vanessa’s parents went to Newcastle for a suit fitting to ensure that the groom was comfortable and happy with the choice. Vanessa’s mum was just brilliant, she made the ties and a special blue tweed waistcoat with Labrador buttons for Daniel so he stood out from the groomsmen.
With the help of her mum and the bridesmaids, the girls made their own buttonhole, bouquets and venue decorations using artificial flowers that were purchased from several shops around Norwich. Vanessa wanted artificial flowers so that she could keep her bouquet without the fear of it discolouring, dying or losing shape.
Time was now marching on and it was now 3 weeks to the wedding and then Vanessa’s mum was taken ill. Her mum was planning to make the cake and there was no way in the world that she was going to be able to do this now, so Vanessa contacted MOO MOO Cakes and Fiona was just fabulous and created a two-tier cake for 150 people without hesitation. This unusual cake had lemon for the top and chocolate for the base and was topped with a buck and doe and dressed with lavender wreaths.
On Friday, May 18th 2018 and after 4 years of planning, everything came together. It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was shining, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was just right. They had the grandeur of a beautiful house and an elegant countryside feel with the bouquet, tweed suits with the shotgun cartridge buttonholes right down to the subtle details of Vanessa drilling hundreds of holes into a block of wood so that she could make their initials made with brass end of the cartridges, and place card holders.
Vanessa recalls that she had had very little sleep the night before the big day and was simply running on highly fuelled adrenaline. At 7:30 am hair and makeup began; Kayleigh from Snippers in North Walsham unleashed her talents on all the girls and made them feel at complete ease. By 8:30 am Jim from Just Big Smiles had arrived and was taking all the prep shots. By 11.00am with her make-up done by Melissa Abel a Norwich based make-up artist who is incredibly talented and made Vanessa feel amazing in her own skin whilst giving her the flawless celebrity finish.
Throughout the morning Jim was receiving updates from Karl the second photographer who was photographing the boys. Karl had arrived at 9:00 am as the boys were just about up out of bed, wandering around in their boxer shorts eating bacon sandwiches!!!
Leading up to the wedding Daniel and his friend had been working late over a number of nights building an Ultima GTR kit car with a V8 engine, this was going to be the car that would take Daniel from his home in North Walsham to St Giles House Norwich. At 10:58 am we heard the rumble of a V8 engine, and Samantha screamed “my little brother has arrived” and at this point, Vanessa’s emotions started to get the better of her.
Vanessa stated that “at 11:30 am my dad saw me in my dress for the first time and his expression melted my heart and my emotions went into overdrive.” At 11:45 am the registrar came and explained everything that would happen and at 12:00 noon the time had come for these two to became one!
After the ceremony, the couple sat down with their family and friends to have the most amazing meal and cut the cake all finished off with a round of ‘Mr and Mrs’.
The Midnight Soul Band with amazing strong vocals and fantastic audience encouragement were great from the time they played their first tune right through to the last song. Daniel wanted the original version of ‘Love’ by Nat King Cole and Sally the lead singer was more than obliging to have the band sing this for us.
On looking back, the couple state that the day went by in a flash and there is so much that happened that they simply cannot remember. This was followed by an incredible 17 days in the Maldives that really was a holiday of a lifetime with a perfect blue sea, swimming with sharks, and beautiful sunshine. They were thrilled to return from their honeymoon in the Maldives to have all their photos ready and waiting for them.
Vanessa and Daniel were pleased to recall that their 4-year wedding journey had come to a beautiful end, but a new journey has now begun. If Vanessa was to offer any advice it would be, “if you want to have all the OCD control and make sure you’ve planned to the ‘enth’ degree that’s fine – that’s what I did, but you must remember the moment you wake up on your wedding day you need to relinquish that control. You have a fully trained and trusted team around you and you chose your bridesmaids for a reason; they will have your back and run around to make sure everything is set up how you want it. You need to just remember to take a step back and go with the flow the morning of your big day and let the day unfold otherwise that time just disappears. You’re suddenly in the day of the wedding and you cannot do anything more so you might as well just enjoy all your hard work. Another important task is to keep a tight eye and grip on the budget and spending as this will soon run out of control if you take your eye off of the ball.”
One year, one month, one day into our relationship we started a new chapter in our lives, on the 18th of May two become one, and another chapter commenced, the start of a long and happy life together that in 50 years time when Vanessa and Dan are celebrating their golden wedding, they will be able to look at their wedding album and think back to the start of our journey and remember it as if it was yesterday.
Photography: Just Big Smiles, https://justbigsmiles.co.uk/
Venue: St Giles House Hotel, https://stgileshousehotel.co.uk/
Registrar: Maria Uragallo and Tabitha Neville
Dress: Pure Brides, www.purebrides.co.uk
Wedding rings: Aleks Jewellers, www.aleksjewellers.co.uk
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Wed2B, wed2b.co.uk
Hair: Snippers, www.snippers-salon.com
Make-up: Melissa Abel, https://melissaabel.co.uk/
Groom’s outfit: Master Debonair, www.masterdebonair.com
Flowers: The bride, bridesmaids and mother of the bride
Cake: Moo Moo Cakes, www.moomoocakes.co.uk
Entertainment: The Midnight Soul Band, https://en-gb.facebook.com/themidnightsoulband/