Wedding Tales from the Essex Countryside

Way back in January this year we met Mary, Simon and Ed, the German Pointer, who we house sat for in Aldeburgh. We kept in touch over the following months and were asked if we would like to be an “extra pair of hands” at their son, Tom’s, wedding at their home in White Colne. Set in the picturesque Colne Valley, White Colne is a village and parish in Essex. It is a not so well known part of the county and long may it remain that way. It was to be a traditional church wedding in the local village and was to be followed by a reception for around 130 guests in a marquee in their large garden.

Marquee Makover

Straight away we were made to feel very welcome by the whole family. A lap around the property, gardens and wedding supplies followed. The marquee sat perfectly in between an avenue of trees in their garden and the bride, Alison, and a whole team of family members and friends were dressing tables and interior. It had a very natural rustic and autumnal theme with beautiful pink roses being the link to colouring of delicate buttonholes, bouquets and ties. Subtle and stunning.

Prep Prep Prep

A quick hello and goodbye to the georgous Ed before he went on his doggie holiday to join some other four legged friends for the weekend. A wise move with so much going on in and around the house. It was then time to start being those “extra pair of hands”. The male contingent including Jon marked out a car park perimeter in a field opposite the house, positioned numerous tea lights around a woodland trail, prepared fire pits, moved a variety of drinks from A to B (and sometimes back to A!). In the meantime, I tackled inside things like glass washing, table setting for the groomsmen’s dinner and the best “job” of all keeping an eye on the grandchildren, Isabelle 2 years old and Ruben, 8 months, who were a pure delight. Jonno practiced his hand clapping, face pulling and peek-a-boo skills at every opportunity.

Lunch was “on the hoof” as everyone was so busy transforming the gardens and marquee but we were introduced to muntjac. Muntjac is a small sort of deer which is very common in the Suffolk/Norfolk/Essex area and we had heard stories of them reaping havoc with many a crop and vegetable garden but this was the first time we had eaten the meat. We always love a JWalking first.

After the family headed off to the wedding rehearsal at the church late afternoon, we took a 10 minute walk down the lane to Catley’s Barn where B&B accommodation had kindly been arranged for us with neighbours. There we met Kate, Paul and Solo, the young cocker spaniel who was a lively little lady.

Wedding Day

By the time we arrived back to Simon and Mary’s the next day the groom’s party had already headed off for a quick 9 holes on the golf course. The rest of the family were super relaxed. A few more last minute lantern jobs for Jon and the name of the day for me was chopping (more of that later). Departure time to the church was 1.30pm and that came around all too soon. So with wedding oufits on, shoes polished, nails painted and hats positioned, it was time to get gone. It was at this point that someone mentioned the word “rings” and with a few shrieks of horror it became apparent that they had been left in one of the bedrooms. A race down the lane on one of the push bikes for us or the best man breaking the speed limit to head back and get them had been thankfully avoided.

We did manage to get a glimpse of the newly weds when they arrived back in a little Austin 7 and when they had photographs in the garden. They looked so happy and relaxed and were obviously having the day that they and dreamed of.

The house suddenly felt very quiet but I cranked up the hoover to spoil Jon’s quiet 5 minutes in a chair. During the reception, we kept ourselves out of the way but were on stand-by if needed. Feeding the band and photographers was the only “must do” thing. Mary was ahead of the game as usual and had left a huge pasta dish to be heated up for them to all eat in the house while the wedding breakfast took place in the marquee. This all went according to plan, apart from the photographers not being able to sit still. It must be an occupational hazard. They were aware that they might be missing something that needed photographing so constantly headed back to the marquee at every opportunity. I am 100% sure that my accidentally putting salt in his tea rather than sugar had absolutely nothing to do with it.

On Jon’s regular trips out to stock up the fire pits, we could tell that the party was in full swing with lots of music and happy voices echoing through the marquee and beyond.

Paella in the Woods

Evidently it has become a bit of a family tradition to have a huge paella cooked on an open fire in the woodland part of their garden. So the day after the wedding Mary and Simon had invited around 60 neighbours and friends to join them. So after a few more quick wine calculations and moving them from A to B (and, yes you got it, back to A again!) and a lot of garlic, chorizo, pepper, tomato and onion chopping, another party was ready to start. Tom and Alison were rightly the centre of attention when they joined the gathering. Olives? Tapanard? Canapes? Dips? Cheese? Red, white or sparkling? and so the food and wine flowed once again.

By around 6pm, most of the guests had departed and that left just immediate family and us. Much to our embarrassment, we received a hearty thank you. The only way to overcome this was to help out with dispersal of some of the wine, beer and cheese. It was the least we could do! There was a general reluctance amongst us to leave the marquee. It was as if it was symbolic of the celebrations drawing to a close. We were the first to take our leave and left the newly joined families to savour their own wedding memories together. One final torchlight walk back to Catley’s Barn with the owls giving us musical accompaniment and we were ready to put our feet up.

We love this unspoilt part of Essex and will, hopefully, one day return to explore a little more. This visit, however, was all about helping out at a very happy family occasion to celebrate the marriage of Tom and Alison and we wish them everything they wish for themselves. Apart from the salt in tea incident, I do also need to apologise for Jon’s greeting on your jigsaw puzzle pieces. Will we always be known as Molly and Frank now? I think I am more of a Molly than he is a Frank.

26/10 – 30/10/2017

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