A harvest wedding: Preparing to tie the knot in October

Hedgerow crops are the bounty of the natural world

Hedgerow crops are the bounty of the natural world - Credit: Archant

Deborah Catchpole takes a monthly look at gardening, flowers, and the outside world in and around Hertfordshire.

Deborah can't wait for her harvest wedding

Deborah can't wait for her harvest wedding - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In just over two weeks’ time, I’m getting married. As a little girl, I had always thought I would have a mid-summer wedding - the church filled with sweetpeas, and blousey roses, and close with the heady scent of summer.

That hasn’t happened - suddenly with the real prospect of getting married, I knew that I didn’t want to wait for another full year to pass before I could marry my best friend, and the love of my life. So all thoughts of summer and the flowers I’d imagined became unimportant.

It’s made me think about the importance of flowers in the major occasions of our lives - flowers to celebrate a happy occasion - a birthday, or a to cheer someone up if they are feeling unwell. We carry flowers at weddings, and I have heard of friends who have spent a huge amount of their whole budget just on the flowers - being considered to be a very important part of the day. Funerals too - on the more sombre side of things, are often marked with floral tributes.

So, when it came to choosing the flowers for our wedding - I didn’t have to think long before coming up with a wonderful alternative to what I had always imagined. Finding the date of the wedding was easy - how soon could we get a wedding planned... and when was the church next free in around six months time? The response came back... “Well, we could do the weekend of Harvest Festival?” - I didn’t need to be asked twice.

Rich harvest: Debroah sourcing ingredients for her next blackberry and apple crumble

Rich harvest: Debroah sourcing ingredients for her next blackberry and apple crumble - Credit: Archant

My lovely future husband didn’t mind when the wedding was, so was happy to go with my decision, and we booked it straight away. Harvest. A harvest wedding - I’m sure that none of my regular readers will need to be reminded that I grew up in the countryside, and went to a rural primary school.

At Harvest Festival every year, we would all bring in gifts from home to be distributed amongst those in need - shoeboxes were carefully covered with wrapping paper, and filled with homegrown beetroot, sweetcorn, runner beans, and potatoes. I always remember feeling really proud of the gifts we took - having always been aware of the value of homegrown vegetables. We would carry our gifts up to the church altar, in a special service, filled with harvest hymns. We would have bread baking at school - where we would all make tiny cottage loaves, and together would watch and help with the creation of the enormous harvest loaf - normally in the shape of a sheaf of wheat, which would then be placed on the altar at church for the service.

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It might have been 20 years since I last attended this service, but as far as I know, these services still take place up and down the country.

It might be that the gifts are more often tins of food, rather than homegrown - but the sentiment is still the same.

People wanting to share the extra that they have, with those who don’t have as much. It is at this time of the year that we really start to see the bounty of the natural world - with hedgerow crops such as blackberries ripening - it’s important to remember when picking from the hedgerow that you know exactly what you are picking, as some berries which look harmless are actually extremely toxic.

I love nothing more than the first apple and blackberry crumble of the year, and I’ve already had one this September, with another one planned for this weekend - I’m passionate about eating seasonal fruit and vegetables, and I love that it’s possible to mark the changing seasons with an ever-changing menu of seasonal fayre.

For me, this time of year is all about the Nordic bundt cakes, spiced with cinnamon and vanilla, and hearty casseroles, filled with lovely tender meat, and packed full of vegetables from the garden.

I haven’t grown vegetables this year, having had a bit of a busy time with wedding planning, so I’m having to rely on my mum and dad’s wonderful vegetable supply. Last week’s visit to their cottage was marked with a supper of fresh corn on the cob - picked straight from the garden, and into the pot of boiling water in less than five minutes. Unless you’ve tried corn this fresh, you’ll never know just how incredibly sweet and juicy it is - there’s really no Michelin-starred restaurant that could produce anything finer!

Thinking of seasonal fruit and vegetables, over the coming weeks, you might notice various events marking the humble apple. It’s at this time of year that we look to celebrate one of our most fabulous fruits. Versatile and used in so many of our dishes, we can be truly proud of one of the few fruits which we still grow on a large scale in this country. If you want to go along and celebrate the apple, you will be able to find local events taking place, one of which being the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Apple Day being held on October 9 between 12 noon to 4.30pm at Tewin Orchard.

By the time I write my next column, I will hopefully be married! I’ll be sure to get plenty of photos of the harvest flowers - the majority of which are being locally grown and sourced, and all of which should be seasonal.

I’m hoping to be able to show that it’s possible to decorate both a church, and a reception venue, with locally grown flowers, which haven’t had to do hundreds of flower miles, and which are supporting local businesses and flower farmers in their sourcing

I want to be able to show other brides and grooms that it’s not necessary to get married in the height of summer to be able to have beautiful flowers and produce to decorate your venue. I’m hugely excited about my bouquet - being gifted to me by a gorgeous florist friend of mine, which will be a surprise until the big day when she delivers it. I secretly believe in the magical powers of bridal bouquets - at the beginning of this year, my best friend threw her bouquet to one of her blushing bridesmaids (me), and a week later, my fiancé proposed... I wonder who will catch mine when I throw it, and whether it will have the same effect!

Whatever you’re doing over the next few weeks, spare a thought for my poor mother, who is up to her eyeballs drying garden flowers and trimming jam jars with lace for the tables at the reception, and make sure you get out into the local open spaces, to enjoy the stunning changing of the trees. The autumn colours will be really starting to come through, and it’s a great chance to get out with your camera to capture the moment.

* For those of you who love your seasonal produce, and homegrown plants, a date for your diaries: the Little Gaddesden Charity Christmas Fayre, November 19 in Little Gaddesden Village Hall, 10am-12.30pm - one of my favourite events of the year, and well worth a visit.