We’ve really been enjoying small weddings recently. All the feels in a shorter timespan can work so well with good planning. Here’s Charlotte and Jon’s Norwich Castle wedding in their own words.
Charlotte’s 29 and Jon’s 32, we live in Watton, Norfolk with our 5 year old German Shepherd cross, Taz. Both of us work from home, and we love dog-walking and nature trails as well as gaming and fantasy novels. Our small wedding was in Norwich in March ’23.
Charlotte: Jon turned up in my university flat, a few weeks into our first year, as we were getting ready for a night out. He was a literal tall dark handsome stranger. He had a smart, sarcastic sense of humour, and he caught my eye immediately. I haven’t looked away since.
Jon: Charlotte and I met at university, back in 2011, and she was slightly inebriated during the first meeting.
I’ve been very careful to ensure she remains at the same level of drunk ever since, ever fearful in case she sobers up. It’s worked out pretty well so far.
Jon, showing a talent for deception normally found among MI5 agents, managed to book us a long weekend break in the Welsh seaside town where we met for our 11 year anniversary without raising my suspicions at all. He’d somehow had the ring secretly delivered and snuck it along in his bag and then into his jacket pocket unnoticed. After breakfast, we strolled along the prom down to the very end of the pier. We sat on a bench and snuggled up against the wind and waves, and he asked me, sweetly and simply, if I’d marry him.
Later that day, we found an art gallery selling a canvas of the exact spot where we got engaged. We bought it and it’s hanging in our living room.
It was about five minutes after we’d finished calling and telling our parents that we looked at each other and realised that we had no idea what we were going to do. Elopement was seriously on the table. Did you know that there’s a company in Norway who arrange for the bride to arrive at the ceremony on a Viking longship! But we decided that it was important to us to have our core family there with us. After that decision was made, the next decision came easy – it’s going to be short and sweet and soon.
We got engaged on 1st November ‘22 and took a few days to settle down, then started planning. We actually got married 126 days later on 7th March ‘23, but the big structural things all got settled within the first few weeks.
We did the boring sensible thing! We sat down and decided our budget first, then our priorities, and went from there. Ceremony venue first. Kind of key to actually getting married, that, plus you need to know your date for booking everything else. Then honeymoon and photographer in quick succession. After making sure that was in place, we got the reception booked and hotel rooms for travelling family. Then it was invites, attire and transport. Wanting to keep things simple meant that we did strip out a lot. We had no flowers, for example, and we didn’t stay apart the night before or go out dancing or have a Big Wedding Cake moment.
Wedding dress was fun. I’d got it into my head that I was going to have a dip-dyed skirt and white bodice, and I was going to DIY it. My aunt and uncle came over to help with the dyeing process which took two hours, a lot of faff and the permanent discolouration of our kitchen ceiling. Two days later, my ‘just in case’ backup dress arrived. I put it on and loved it instantly and had to tell my poor aunt and uncle the dyeing had been a total waste of time!
The trickiest decision was less ‘wedding’ and more ‘marriage’ – what to do with our names. It was really difficult finding a solution that felt right to both of us for the rest of our lives. There were practical and emotional considerations to negotiate, and it took a fair bit of time. We love where we landed, though – we both took Jon’s surname, and then took Charlotte’s maiden name as an extra middle name.
We’d decided to get a minibus into the city, picking up about half our guests on the way. Cue horror when 8 days before the wedding, the company we’d hired called to say that the vehicle we’d booked had been in an accident and they had no replacements for us. After some panic, we booked with someone else and breathed a sigh of relief. At least until they called us a day later and said there’d been a system glitch and they’d have to cancel us too!
Moral of the story is there’s always a solution. After an hour of ringing around, we’d booked our two-way journey between two companies, which actually saved a bucket load of money.
It was the oddest sensation, being horribly nervous about standing up in front of people and doing a Big Important Thing. At the same time utterly full of joy and confidence. We chose to walk in together, rather than one at a time or being given away. There’s a beautiful photo of us right as the doors open, looking at one another to say ‘well, this is it; shall we?’
We both welled up a little as we said our vows and exchanged rings. It was solemn, but it was also down to earth and humorous. After the ‘if anyone knows of any reason why this couple cannot be lawfully married’ speech and following silence, the registrar paused. She looked around at all our guests, and said “well, you were all very well-behaved!” We all burst out laughing. (There’s also a great photo of a particularly boisterous uncle taken just at this moment, being stared at meaningfully by both aunt and cousin.)
We genuinely can’t choose, unless ‘the whole thing’ is an option. We didn’t want a videographer as such, but my little brother took charge of filming the whole ceremony just for us. We’ve watched the video back several times and still couldn’t pick one moment. Maybe the rings; maybe the “I do’s”. Maybe the moment after the ceremony. Lisa whisked us off pre-confetti so we could take a quiet breath together and say “You’re my husband; you’re my wife”.
Lisa and Neil got us to walk through the city centre together. We stopped here and there for the perfect couple’s photos. We could not stop giggling. So many artfully photographed kisses where if you look at the photo a bit closer, we’re actually just sniggering at being draped and moved and rearranged over one another.
Charlotte: Photo -174 It’s so hard to choose, but Neil’s right – you can’t beat a confetti photo. Movement and colour and we’ve got such cute smiles on.
Jon: Photo -256. This is a beautifully framed photograph with the castle sneaking in the background, showing us in a minimalist and yet still intimate pose. Hopefully the Post Office don’t expect royalties for the letter box being in shot.
Runner-up: Photo -41. Lisa, the camera ninja, managed to snap the exact second where Charlotte is inexplicably looking down her own dress. She cannot remember why on earth she was doing that.
The only thing we might do differently is switch up the reception. We had a classic Afternoon Tea arrangement. It which was delicious and a cracking idea – eat as much or as little of each thing as you like. However, it was set around a big formal oval table, which wasn’t the best for mingling and chatting afterwards. A more casual setup with sofas or little tables would have suited our little ensemble of thirteen people better.
Other than that, it was everything we wanted. We had snow first thing in the morning, then beautiful sunshine for the rest of the day. Gatecrashing the top floor of the Castle Mall for coffees was such a chill way to start. The registrars were amazing and the ceremony went so smoothly it was dreamlike. Lisa and Neil bobbed around throughout getting their shots and herding our guests. We got bombarded with confetti on the castle bridge, then got to mess around taking photos throughout the city centre. Never again will so many strangers congratulate us out of the blue! We had a gorgeous Afternoon Tea at the lovely Assembly House. After all that was said and done we got to go home, put on sweatpants, cuddle with the dog and reflect on our first day as husband and wife.
A big thank you to Charlotte and Jon, for having us at their small but perfectly formed wedding and for sharing their thoughts here too.
Credit to The Assembly House – Norwich for a gorgeous reception venue.