Tags: Norfolk

Wedding of the Week: Joanna Clayton and Oliver Stapleton

22 Jan 2018

Following a romantic proposal in India, Joanna Clayton and Oliver Stapleton tied the knot at Holkham Hall in Norfolk where guests enjoyed stunning floral displays and homemade strawberry vodka favours

How did you meet?

We first met at secondary school, The Knights Templar School in Baldock. I had been at this school from year seven and Oliver joined the school at sixth form for A levels. We were both very good on the trampoline during our P.E. lessons and this was something we both had in common. It took a lot of courage for Oliver to talk to me as he thought that I was out of his league. Eventually Oliver asked me out on a date and we never looked back.



Tell us about the proposal.

The proposal was planned with military precision. Oliver had ‘borrowed’ one of Joanna's rings to get the size of the engagement ring perfect. Oliver had a bespoke engagement ring made at Harriet Kelshall in Weston, Herts. Oliver’s parents had arranged a family holiday to India in April 2015, this would be where the proposal would take place. We flew out a few days before and Oliver had decided to take the ring with him in his hand luggage. Thinking nothing more of putting his bag through the scanner, he walked through only to be asked to consent to a search of his bag. At this point I was stood behind him, watching Oliver carefully opening his bag to the security officer. The officer then began removing items from his bag; Oliver was in panic mode as the ring may well be discovered and all the hard work and planning would all be for nothing. He was then asked to open a zip on the front of the bag, the officers then searched this part of the bag, and to Oliver’s horror, she pulled out a screwdriver. The look of sheer disbelief on everyone’s faces... apparently Oliver had used this bag for work in the past and clearly hadn’t emptied it. Despite all of this, the ring was never discovered and we went on to board the plane.

On Oliver’s birthday (7th April) we had an elephant safari booked in Bandhavgarh National Park - this was when Oliver had planned to pop the question. It was when we stopped for something to eat and drink, Oliver had to sneak the box containing the ring, out of the bag and into his pocket. He approached me, rather nervously, took me by the hand and said: "Seeing as it's my birthday, could you give me the ultimate present?", then proceeded to get on one knee, present the ring, and say "Will you marry me?". In a flood of tears and disbelief, the answer was yes.



What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?

We didn’t really have a dedicated theme for the day, but we would call it elegant. The colour scheme was blush pink and ivory.


What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?

The venue was the Marble Hall in the grounds of Holkham Hall. We chose this venue as both of us have spent a lot of time in Norfolk and the surrounding areas as children. Since meeting, Oliver’s parents have had a holiday home in Norfolk where they have spent a lot of time and have built many memories together. When looking at the many venues Holkham Hall had to offer, we were blown away when we first entered the Marble Hall. We knew instantly that this was where we wanted to get married. 


When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?

I knew as soon as I put on my wedding dress that it was the one. As soon as I stepped out from behind the curtain of the dressing room I looked at my Mum with the biggest smile and we both said: "Yes, this is the one". The designer was David Tutera, for Mon Cheri. I probably tried on around 18 dresses in total.



What did the bridesmaids wear?

Jo had four bridesmaids, all of whom wore the same dress. The dresses were blush pink, strapless, and floor-length with textured rose detailing from the waist upwards.


Where did you find your suits?

Oliver found his suit in Holmes Of Hitchin. Oliver had purchased a number of shirts and jackets from the owner, Chris Holmes, so felt it fitting that his wedding suit would come from there. Chris was extremely helpful in every aspect, from getting the sizes perfect to finding the perfect pair of shoes.


Tell us about your floral arrangements.

We decided to not have many flowers in the Marble Hall where our ceremony took place, as we felt that the Hall spoke for itself. On every other aisle chair we had a small bunch of pink peonies tied with ribbon. Towards the bottom of the stairs leading from the Marble Hall up to the Saloon, we had two large floral arrangements in silver urns. After the ceremony and drinks reception, the urns were taken round to the Lady Elizabeth Wing where they were placed in the entrance either side of the wedding breakfast seating board. We had a large waterfall floral display on the table where we signed the register in the Marble Hall, which, after the ceremony and drinks reception, was also then taken round to the Lady Elizabeth Wing for our wedding breakfast where it was then placed in the centre of our top table.

In the Lady Elizabeth Wing for our wedding breakfast we had a mix between tall and low table floral arrangements. The tall table centrepieces consisted of large candelabras with a wreath of flowers and the low centrepieces were a dome of flowers arranged in a clear glass bowl.

We also hired 12 olive trees and two twisted stem bay trees. We had two of the olive trees outside the entrance to Holkham Hall and the rest inside the Lady Elizabeth Wing for our wedding breakfast. All the trees had fairly lights in too which were really effective come the evening time.



Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.

  • From the planning stages, we knew we wanted to have a personal aspect to our day. We decided to incorporate this into our wedding favours. 
  • Twelve weeks before the wedding, we started brewing our own strawberry vodka. We then decided to present this in miniature shot bottles with personalised tags.
  • We also made heart-shaped biscuits with our first names and the wedding date stamped into the icing. Attempting this was not for the faint hearted. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but ended up to be very time-consuming. Thankfully, the guests loved them so it was worth the effort in the end.
  • I also took on the challenge of making the following; the guest book, guest seating board, post box, place tags and table menus all with a similar design incorporating delicate lace, ribbon, pearls and flowers.




How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?

I was excited that this moment had finally arrived, but I was extremely nervous at the same time. Standing outside of the Marble Hall waiting for the pianist to start playing my processional piece of music was nerve-wracking but it meant it was finally time. My four bridesmaids walked down the aisle first, followed by a little pause before my dad walked me down the aisle. All eyes were on me, as soon as I stepped through the doorway of the Marble Hall, apart from Oliver who stayed facing forwards until I arrived at the end of the aisle. I had to keep telling myself to slow down as I have a habit of power walking everywhere. However it was such an amazing feeling walking down the aisle with my dad; I felt like a true princess.



What was your most memorable moment?

It is impossible to narrow the whole day down to just one moment. From seeing each other for the first time at the end of the aisle, to saying our vows, to putting the rings on, to cutting the cake and to the first dance. Every little moment was memorable and it was a very emotional day for everyone.


What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?

The most challenging aspect of planning the whole wedding by far was the seating plan. The number of hours spent staring blankly trying to figure it out was extremely frustrating. Trying to please everyone was going to be impossible. Oliver always made himself conveniently busy when I started getting out all the paperwork for the seating plan and spreading it out across the floor. However I am not sure how useful he would have been even if he did try and help.




What was the most important investment for you?

We are both very passionate about good food, so this aspect was very important to us. It was very clear from the start who we wanted to do the catering for our wedding. Holkham Hall state that you have to choose one of their four recommended caterers, which actually made our decision a little easier. From looking at the styles, quality of food and sample menus from each of the four caterers, we both knew immediately who we wanted. This was Andy Parle; his food was high-end, elegant and just looked and tasted stunning, therefore this was a very important investment for us.


What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?

Our first dance song was You and Me by Lifehouse. Oliver had chosen this song and it suited our relationship down to the ground, and the lyrics were perfect.


Did you have any evening entertainment?

We had a DJ, Paul Allen, for our evening entertainment who we had several meetings with in order to tailor our music requirements. On our wedding invitations we asked guests to write down one song that would get them on the dancefloor. Paul then made sure these were incorporated throughout the evening entertainment which was great. Paul also arranged for us to play the ‘Mr and Mrs’ game with the pink and blue paddles after we had cut our wedding cake. This was brilliant. It was such fun and all of our guests absolutely loved it. We would highly recommend playing it.


Tell us about your wedding cake.

Our wedding cake was four tiers in total. We wanted the top tier as a fruit cake so that we could keep it. We went for three different flavours for the other three tiers as we were spoilt for choice. These consisted of; a lemon sponge with a lemon curd filling, a strawberry sponge with fresh strawberries and strawberry buttercream filling and lastly a chocolate sponge with a chocolate gnache filling. The detailing on the cake was very specific and personal; on every other tier we had edible lace that matched the lace detailing on my dress. On the other tiers, we had pearl beading which matched my pearl jewellery. In addition we had a waterfall of iced blush pink roses which was in-keeping with our colour scheme and floral arrangements for the day.



If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

We wouldn’t change a thing, everything was perfect and just how we wanted it.


Where did you go on honeymoon? 

We stayed in Norfolk with friends and family for the remainder of the week after our wedding. We are going to the Maldives in September for our honeymoon.



Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?

If you want something specific, book it well in advance. Take your time, there is no rush to set a date - we were engaged for year or so before deciding on a date. Enjoy everything in the run up to the big day, as it is true what they say... it goes in a flash.



Get the look:

Photography: Belle Momenti, www.bellemomenti.com
DJ: Paul Allen, www.djpaullallen-weddingservices.co.uk
Catering: Andy Parle. www.andyparle.co.uk
Floristry: Victoria Arrowsmith, www.victoriaarrowsmith.com
Topiary: Posh Plants, www.poshplants.com
Harpist: Xenia Horne, www.ukharpists.com
Pianist: Archie Bonham
Hair and Make-up: Amanda Steed, www.amandasteedmakeup.co.uk
Horse and carriage: The Ostler, www.theostler.org.uk
Suit hire: HRH Holmes & Son, www.hrhholmes.co.uk
Lantern hire: Sam Race, www.samrace.co.uk
Wedding cake: Select Cakes, www.select-cakes.com  
Toastmaster: John Driscoll, www.norfolk-toastmaster.com

For more real wedding inspiration, pick up the latest edition of Bride magazine

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