Yorkshire wedding designers ‘make it special’ tips for small marriage ceremonies

As new guidance for weddings allows small marriage ceremonies from today, Stephanie Smith finds out what Yorkshire special occasion designers have up their sleeves for guests going to late summer and autumn nuptial events.

Olvi’s Lace Oriental dress, £799, from Snooty frox in Harrogate

A big wedding is not for everyone. For those who want to marry but hate the prospect of hundreds of guests and masses of fuss, the new focus on smaller weddings offers an ideal solution with a perfect excuse.

From this weekend, weddings of up to 30 people are allowed to take place in England, having been banned under almost all circumstances since lockdown began on March 23.

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Smaller need not mean less special and some couples and guests are thankful for a more intimate and less daunting gathering. Special occasion designers are on-hand with ideas and suggestions to make sure the day is still a very stylish affair.

Alandra Halterneck dipped hem maxi dress, £255, by Kevan Jon at KevanJon.com.

“I think this is great news for those wishing to still have their ceremony, even though small,” said Halifax-based red carpet and special occasion fashion designer Kevan Jon. “Couples may take a more relaxed approach in what they wear and so, rather than the big church wedding with the big frock, a bride might choose to wear something a little more contemporary.”

But he believes many style lovers will be glad of the opportunity to dress up, should they be lucky enough to receive a wedding invitation. “After the time we have spent in lockdown and lounge wear, I think people will relish in the idea of popping on a frock and heels – even though we’ll have to learn to walk in them again. As a close lady friend said as she slipped her Jimmy Choos on, it’s nice to have you back and it’s like riding a bike – a bit of a wobble at first, then you’re off.”

He added that his stockist retailers are already reporting decent sales, adding: “Next year we are hoping for a bumper year, wedding and event-wise. People will want to celebrate and party after the first part of 2020.”

Jillian Welch, a bespoke special occasion designer based in Harrogate, said weddings are going to be smaller and more intimate gatherings at least for the next six to nine months. “Partly from necessity re Government dictates and social distancing, but also I think there will be a long tail effect to the pandemic, with people being inhibited about group events, possibly for quite a long time, regardless of the actual threat. People may not want to travel to weddings, even domestically, and a lot of people may have money worries.”

Hannah Fraser and Sharon Fraser, wearing a dress by Jillian Welch.

Many of her clients, especially mothers of the bride and groom, are looking for something special but appropriate. “Posh but relaxed,” she said, adding: “There has been a trend for weddings held in beautiful estates and castles and venues that provide accommodation, so I have already seen mothers wanting a fab dress and a more comfortable one too, while not letting the side down on glamour.

“This effect is also being seen in millinery, with hats being smaller and more playful or vintage-looking, and the cool headbands that we have been seeing a lot of.”

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Harrogate milliner Jenny Roberts said that the majority of her clients who had been planning larger weddings have postponed until next year although a few are going ahead with a small wedding now and a party next year. “This means two occasions to dress up in the same outfit, which is lovely,” she said. “Many mothers of the bride and groom have been in touch and we have enjoyed our video consultations where they dress up in their outfit, which gives us an idea of their silhouette, face shape and general style to enable us to select a shortlist of hats which we arrange for them to come in and try on a one-to-one basis, adhering to all the social distance and hygiene rules.

James Steward Stone maxi dress in pink, £185

“The mothers of the bride and groom attending their children’s intimate ceremonies want to make their outfit extra-special and go all out with their millinery,” she said. “A hat really adds a sense of occasion to a wedding and I believe dressing up makes the day even more special.”

No matter how small the wedding is, dressing down is not an option for many, says Hilary Haresign of Snooty Frox occasion wear store in Harrogate. “Feedback from mothers of the bride/groom in waiting is that they are desperate to get their weddings back in their diaries, even though they will be on a smaller scale,” she said. “Ladies still want to look beautiful, glamorous and special. If the venue is more relaxed, ladies might choose a less structured style so choice is usually determined by venue rather than number of guests.

“When times return to normal and 
large weddings are back, choosing the outfit will still be one of the most important and enjoyable parts of wedding planning and the size of the event will always play second to dressing up and looking amazing.”


Asymmetric Aqua Sofia Scarf dress, £240, by Kevan Jon at KevanJon.com.

The government has published new guidance on weddings in England, allowing ceremonies of up to 30 people but advising against receptions.

- Wedding and civil partnerships can go ahead but with only 30 people including the couple, staff such as a photographer and witnesses.

- People should socially distance, singing should not take place and hands must be washed before exchanging rings.

- Receptions should be small, with only two households able to meet indoors.

- Ceremonies should be kept “as short as reasonably possible” and limited as much as possible to just the parts that are legally binding

- Everyone should follow the 2m rule if possible, or 1m with extra safety measures

Gaye Fillary at her son's wedding wearing a beautiful outfit created by Jillian Welch Design in Harrogate.

- No food and drink should be consumed as part of the event

- Hands should be washed before and after the exchanging of rings, and the rings should be handled by as few people as possible

- Singing, shouting or playing music at a volume that means people have to raise their voice should all be avoided. Instead of singing, recordings are suggested

- Speaking during the ceremony - for example saying the responses to the vows - should not be in a raised voice

- Playing instruments that are blown into should be avoided

- When singing or chanting is required, only one person is allowed to and the couple or venue should consider installing a clear screen

- Venues frequently used for weddings should mark the floor with tape or paint to help people maintain social distance.

- The government advice also suggests changing traditional wedding layouts to avoid face-to-face seating, improving ventilation or using face masks.

- The requirement to follow the 2m rule - or 1m with extra precautions - might rule out the tradition of a father walking his daughter down the aisle, unless they live in the same household.

- Remember, the maximum number of 30 people includes everybody at the ceremony - including the couple, witnesses, officiants, guests and suppliers such as photographers and caterers.

* Stephanie Smith Instagram @yorkshirestyleQ

* For more stories from the YP Magazine and The Yorkshire Post features team, visit our Facebook page.

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Hazel Elliott wears floral maxi dress and hat by Jenny Roberts Millinery in Harrogate.
Milliner Jenny Roberts wears her own hat.
Ripon racehorse owner Hazel Elliott wears a Jenny Roberts hat.
Yellow one shoulder dress by James Steward.