Monday, 23 June 2014

'Close to Home' - A Styled Bridal Shoot for Fine City Magazine

Your big day needn’t look like everyone else’s – as wedding stylist Abi Gray demonstrates in this stunning shoot. Imogen Lees spoke to Abi about the wealth of creative talent providing chic and unique weddings right here in Norfolk.

A shorter dress and groom’s cravat add a quirky twist to traditional wedding attire, and perfectly complement the indoor bar area at the Keeper and the Dell
Limousine, strapless meringue dress, sashes on the back of chairs, hotel reception... so many weddings seem “same old, same old”, even if the couple spend a fortune on their party. What’s more, couples can get so stressed about seating divorced parents who haven’t spoken since 1996 or whether the DJ is actually going to turn up that they lose sight of what the big day is all about. The bride buys a dress that languishes forgotten under a plastic cover for months; the groom realises he’s spent so much time calming down his mum that he’ll just have to wear whatever suit is left in the hire shop.
But a wedding is a celebration of a couple’s love, and that couple shouldn’t forget to make sure they look beautiful for their big day. A wedding stylist can take a couple’s vision for their ceremony and party and see the “bigger picture”, bringing together the key elements – clothes, flowers, cake etc – into a harmonious, beautiful, creative whole.
And if you’re not quite sure how you want your big day to look, a wedding stylist can inspire and guide you to assemble a look that combines unique style with a reflection of your personalities.
Even your posed wedding pictures don’t have to look awkward and formal; the “Love” signs add both warmth and humour to the photo.
 Adding personal, individual touches to your wedding will immediately lift it out of the ordinary and make it memorable not just for you but for your guests. What’s more, right here in Norfolk you’ll find some of the country’s most original photographers, stunning venues, inspired bakers, clever dressmakers and inventive florists. Norwich-based fashion and wedding stylist Abi Gray decided to bring together a selection of Norfolk’s finest in this shoot, showcasing the talent that’s right here on our doorstep.
 “I had the ‘standard’ wedding, with a strapless meringue and sashes on our hotel chairs,” remembers Abi. “But in my fashion styling work over the past couple of years, I’ve met so many people and suppliers who have opened my eyes to how different a wedding can be, and I’ve developed a love for wedding styling.”
“Obviously my wedding day was wonderful,” laughs Abi, “but now – knowing the people I do – there’s a lot I’d do differently.”
Abi wanted this shoot to show how a beautiful venue, quirky details and vintage, or vintage-inspired, clothes that are neither off the peg nor over the top can truly personalise your wedding. “Dresses don’t have to be huge balls of taffeta,” says Abi. “A comfortable and distinctive frock will make for a happier bride than one who can’t sit down.” Be creative with the man’s suit, too: ditch a tight tie in favour of an eye-catching cravat. Flowers and artistic touches (such as the gorgeous Argent and Sable “Mr & Mrs” sign used here) will catch the eye without being garish, adding elegance while also reflecting the current vogue for all things vintage.
Inspired by the decor of the Savoy Hotel, this dusky pink cake was created by Laura Grix of the Grix Cake Company

This deceptively simple bouquet, inspired by an English garden and supplied by the Little Flower Shop, looks stunning against the Keeper and the Dell’s rustic backdrop (and our model’s legs!)

Your bridesmaids don’t have to match; vintage dresses of a similar style allow your maids of honour to express their own personalities. Argent and Sable’s stunning star lights up the scene.

Abi staged the shoot at The Keeper and the Dell, a fantastic venue nestled below the trees of a woodland estate. It’s near Ringland, only a stone’s throw from Norwich, but it’s wonderfully secluded. This outdoor wedding venue combines a traditional canvas marquee in a pretty woodland dell, an 18th-century gamekeeper’s barn, camping gardens and a little wood cabin – making it the most perfectly romantic of places to host a unique Norfolk wedding.
When you book, you are granted exclusive use of the venue over a weekend, for up to 100 guests. That way, you get the space and time to make the most of this delightful venue to create your own wedding in the style you love – whether simply rustic, bohemian hip or vintage homemade.
Lolly Streek, who owns The Keeper and the Dell, says:As a wedding venue owner with a keen interest in the nostalgic and a love of the outdoors, I adore that our venue, with its amazing history immersed in the countryside around it, has the chance to be a chapter in a couple’s very own love story.”​
The Keeper and the Dell is open for weddings and celebrations from June to September each year and is available for pop-up suppers, photoshoots and location work throughout the year. However, the venue is now fully booked for weddings in 2014 and 2015. Booking for 2016 is now open and there are also midweek spaces for bohemian bridal parties, photoshoots and location work.

Flowers by The Little Flower Shop.

The photographer was Beth Moseley. As well as weddings, Beth shoots events, family and corporate bookings, but as Beth says: “When it came to wedding photography, it was the people who brought me into it. My friends all started to get married and, well, just try being the working photographer in your group and not end up being the one behind the lens! It’s this I’ve loved the most. The interactions with the people I photograph and the moments I get to share with them have made me love what I do.”
Beth’s signature style for weddings is natural, relaxed reportage photography. “I authentically document your day as it unfolds,” she says, “with something that stands out from other wedding photographs – something that I would be proud to have on my wall myself.”
Beth says her favourite clients (whether couples, families or individual shots) have an appetite for something a bit different. “I like to capture beautiful portraits and adorable moments for awesome individuals,” she tells me.
Beth has worked as a photographer since 2010, although her passion for pictures goes back much further. “As a teenager at parties,” she reminisces, “I’d always end up with my old Olympus OM10 and a makeshift backdrop, making my tipsy friends look unfeasibly glamorous.”
She believes a camera can create great moments between people, as well as capturing them. Living and working in New York in 1999, she used to take her Canon 300d camera out into her new city to take portraits of strangers. “I loved these interactions,” she remembers, “and realised photography was my calling.” Beth returned to the UK and gained a first-class degree in photography from Nottingham Trent University before moving to London to teach photography to people with mental health issues and also work as an exhibition curator.
The flowers for our shoot were the brainchild of Samantha Powell, who runs The Little Flower Shop in Norwich. Samantha uses the finest quality flowers to create innovative and beautiful floral designs. Her aim is to make even simple arrangements look effortlessly chic. Samantha is inspired by nature, the seasons and the English garden. “I offer a unique, bespoke floral design,” she says, “filled with passion and flair.”
Abi approached Laura Grix of the Grix Cake Company for the cakes. Based in Norfolk and boasting experience at the Little Venice Cake Company and Claridge’s in London, the Grix Cake Company produces current and contemporary cakes for events, using high-quality organic ingredients. “The cakes were inspired by the intricate baroque design displayed in the interior of London’s Savoy Hotel,” Laura Grix says. “The pink, dusky tones of the cake were kept muted to suit the style and era of the design, with the piping brushed with an antique silver dust to lift and add an edge of royal class.”
Of course, this wouldn’t have been a wedding shoot without some amazing dresses. “I wanted to work with Kathryn Potter of Love Couture,” says Abi, “because she really knows brides, having designed more than 1,000 wedding dresses during her career so far.” Kathryn has also been based in East Anglia for 14 years, proudly proclaiming “Made in Norwich” on her website.
“As you search for your very special outfit,” says Kathryn, “be it couture of off-the-peg, we feel sure Love can guide you through!”  As well as producing gorgeous wedding gowns, Love Couture also offers an alterations service.
The gorgeous models are all Norfolk-based, too: real-life couple Heather and Lee played the bride and groom, and Olivia and Amy were the bridesmaids. The fabulous hair and make-up looks were created by more Norfolk talent: Madeleine White, Freya Wenonah and Ezme Isgate.  
“I was really keen to add an out-of-the-ordinary touch to the shoot,” Abi says, “and I think the vintage-inspired signs from Argent and Sable really fit the bill.” Argent and Sable is a husband-and-wife-run business that draws on the couple’s wealth of expertise and experience in interior design, house renovation and restoration, set design and their respective degrees in the arts.
Argent and Sable make and create all the signs themselves in their Norfolk studio, where they hand- paint, distress and create the signs down to the very last detail. They use reclaimed wood for the signs and beautiful gold flex in order to complete the aesthetic of the sign when it is lit up, whether that’s at a wedding, home, business or event.  This is all the stylish proof you need that the talent to put together a unique, personal Norfolk wedding is right here in our county. “I’m so proud to have worked with all these artists and creatives,” says Abi. If you’d like to talk to Abi about styling your wedding and maybe using some of these fabulous local people and businesses, get in touch with her through her website.

If you’re a bride who wants to make a real statement, consider swapping your veil for a statement hair bow. Our stylist made this one from pale pink tulle.

Let your character shine through your wedding pictures; when our photographer found this rug, she couldn’t resist using it in a photo.

Our bridesmaids, again looking fabulous in dresses of a similar shape that don’t exactly match. And  if flowers aren’t your thing, how about balloons?

Our bride and groom look so comfortable, and Argent and Sable’s handmade “Mr & Mrs” sign sets off the country-style elegance of the Keeper and the Dell.

This glorious, almost fairytale skirt and bodice were made by Norwich-based Love Couture. A ballerina-style cardigan makes the perfect accessory for a chilly evening.

This is all the stylish proof you need that the talent to put together a unique, personal Norfolk wedding is right here in our county. “I’m so proud to have worked with all these artists and creatives,” says Abi. If you’d like to talk to Abi about styling your wedding and maybe using some of these fabulous local people and businesses, get in touch with her through her website.

Photographer: Beth Moseley (
Stylist/organiser: Abi Gray (
Venue: The Keeper and the Dell (
Models: Heather Spanton, Lee Ratcliffe, Amy Beven and Olivia Hart
Hair stylists: Madeleine White and Freya Wenonah (  (
Make-up: Freya Wenonah and Ezme Isgate Makeup Artistry
Brides’ dresses: Love Couture (
Groom’s outfits: model’s own
Pink cardigan, bridesmaids’ dresses, gold sequin shrug and jewellery: stylist’s own
Grey feather cape and groom’s cravat lent by Lolly Streek of The Keeper and the Dell
Flowers: The Little Flower Shop Norwich (
Cakes: Grix Cake Company (
Signs: Argent and Sable (
Abi Gray spoke to Norwich-based writer and editor Imogen Lees (

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