Diane Shortland

Freelance Writer

Feature Writing

Customs and Choices

Ever wondered why the groom stands on the right of the bride? It derives from the days of swords; should any man challenge the right to his bride, the groom was free to draw sword with his right hand whilst protecting his bride with the left. There’s a reason engagement rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand too. The ancient Egyptians thought the ‘vein of love’ ran from this finger directly to the heart.

The business of weddings is fascinating stuff but has such traditional practice been outgrown? Not according to recent figures that reveal the decline in marriages seen over the last forty years has come to an end with a 3.7% increase in couples tying the knot in 2012. Mind you, in 2009, the year with the lowest number of recorded marriages since the Victorian age, there were still 4148 ceremonies in Norfolk alone. It does have more churches per square mile than anywhere in Western Europe after all.

Over two thirds of couples now opt for a civil ceremony though; a 64% increase than a decade ago. Much of this trend could well be down to a desire to marry in one of the many breathtaking venues available to the public across Norfolk and Suffolk. Holkham Estate’s Marble Hall, for instance, is perhaps the most dramatic entrance a bride could wish for. Or maybe the opulent splendour of a Regency playhouse? The Theatre Royal in Bury St. Edmunds can make such a dream reality. If you’re looking for a more intimate affair The Black Lion in Long Melford allows you to hire the entire hotel to ensure privacy. If small scale is your brief, then Cley windmill caters for 22 guests in its round sitting room, or maybe you fantasise about a Christmas wedding with roaring log fires and fairy mantel lights? Hintlesham Hall has it covered. You can even swap the classic car for a sleigh and huskies!

Approval for licensing is still unlikely to be given for open air venues, though, but many places offer ‘duo’ weddings where the bare minimum takes place inside and the rest outside. Ravenwood Hall in Rougham, for instance, can marry you in their beautiful Edwardian Pavilion amidst seven acres of lawns and English gardens.

If you dream of a beach wedding but don’t want to go abroad, The White Lion in Aldeburgh offers beach-themed ceremonies overlooking the shingle beach. Le Strange Arms in Old Hunstanton boast some fantastic photo opportunities with their sweeping sea view lawns that curve down to dunes and the sea shore. The Victoria hotel allows for wedding pictures to be taken on the famous Holkham Bay beach. With miles of rugged coastline and the magical waterways of the Norfolk Broads, we’re only limited by our imaginations. Sleepy villages, old market towns and the elegance of Victorian seaside resorts; if you want something unusual our counties more than deliver.

I’m not just talking venues here; take the wedding cake, for example. Forget fruit cake or sponge, More Than Memorable in Ipswich offer a selection of whole artisan cheeses to form a tiered wedding cake. It would certainly provide a talking point. Cherrytree Chocolates in Hunstanton can make up wedding favour boxes with off the wall flavours such as chilli. I kid you not. There are endless ways to make your wedding unique. Up to half of all ceremonies are a remarriage for one or both partners and this usually means the presence of children too. Enter Little Guests Wedding Crèche in Hadliegh. Their 27 years of mobile crèche experience provides an alternative to the ‘no kids’ rule. Facilities include doodle spaces during dinner, cosy corners for the evening and creative craft tables during the day ensuring children are amused and adults can celebrate in peace.

Weddings have progressed since the days of tradition and this allows for personalisation in many ways. Back in the 1500s, most people were forced to marry in June because they took their yearly bath in May and they hoped to still smell mildly attractive. Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. However you dream your wedding will be thank heavens we’ve moved on from that!