Wedding day rescued by family working through the night

Mother-of-the-bride Bridget Syms was looking forward to a relaxing wedding day morning with her daughter, sipping champagne and being pampered in the build up to the ceremony and reception.

But she ended up working in her vegetable plot at 5am digging up lettuces by torchlight as family and friends rallied round and worked feverishly to rescue the day after the caterers let them down.

The bride was in tears and groom shocked after nine months of painstaking planning for their plush wedding near Holt were left in tatters - just hours ahead of people flying in from across the world.

But family and friends were determined the show would go on and launched an 11th hour rescue with the help of local businesses.

The - eventually - happy couple, London lawyer Simon Collis and Mrs Syms' daughter Jessica Summerfield, an HR manager in another London law firm, both 32, are currently jetting to Honolulu on honeymoon, having known each other for three years and got engaged last Boxing Day.

All year they have been planning a wedding for 120 guests at the stunning Arts and Crafts house Voewood at High Kelling, using south Norfolk-based caterers Just Foods - and all seemed well until just before the big day.

Mrs Syms, a ceramic restorer from Holt, said: 'We approached the catering firm in February because they had a good website, 30 years experience and some good reviews.

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'But at 3pm on Friday, the day before the wedding, the cold food trailer did not turn up. There were no replies on the phone, and when we looked at the website it said they had ceased trading due to ill health.

'We could not believe it. We knew we had a massive problem but that we had to deal with it. After a few minutes we started hitting the phones looking for a plan B - otherwise the reception would have been us having champagne and packets of crisps, with no chairs to sit on,' she explained.

It was Friday afternoon and the hours ticking were away to the wedding day - with guests flying in from as far afield as Bermuda and South Korea.

Award-winning farm shop Back to the Garden at Letheringsett was able to help at short notice, working late to stitch a butchery-bound pig back together for a hog roast with organic vegetables and an organic rhubarb and custard sweet for the daytime meal.

Pulham Market-based Banquetting Hire Services were shut when the plea for help was picked up, and reopened to gather and deliver tables, chairs, cutlery and linen by 7.30pm, while a family friend Karen found a six-strong team of staff.

'We phoned Tesco at Dereham and they had a buffet for 120 people ready by 8pm that night which we collected,' said Mrs Syms.

An army of 40 people helped prepare the rescued event, working through to 2am.

'The bachelors cut short their party at Voewood to help, and our family party was reduced to fish and chips,' she added.

Any hopes of a lie-in to recover were scotched however, and Bridget - after just two hours sleep - was back up at the break of dawn, pulling on her wellies and heading to her vegetable plot.

'At 5am I was picking lettuces in the dark using a torch,' she added.

With the salad done by 10am there was a chance for a couple of hours of hair and make up before dashing back home with 10 minutes to change before going to the church - which was in stark contrast to her plans for a 'relaxing morning of champagne and facials.'

The team had worked wonders, and 'some people did not even know what had happened until the speeches' she added.

'I really want to thank the people who helped - because the wedding could not have gone ahead without the kindness of strangers,' said Miss Syms.

Banquetting Hire Services spokesman David Robinson and Peter Bone from Back to the Garden both said they normally got a lot more notice of wedding events but were happy to react quickly to resolve the family's nightmare.

Just Foods director Darrell Bethell confirmed the business had ceased trading due to ill health and bereavement within the family which led to liquidity problems at the two year old firm because they could not complete jobs. He had collapsed at an earlier event, and e-mailed customers to alert them of the problems, but the one to the Voewood wedding had failed to get through. He accepted he could have phoned, but said he was 'not thinking straight.'

Friday was memorable for Miss Syms not just because of the wedding rescue but because it was also her birthday - and among her cards was one which ironically urged her to 'chill out, relax and have fun.' She saw the funny side, afterwards.