North East wedding planner with celebrity clients lifts the lid on current trends for 2024

Another outdoor wedding which Donna has worked on
-Credit: (Image: Danny Birrell Photography)

Meet Donna Hartley-Redfearn - the North East wedding planner with a host of celebrity and aristocratic clients.

The 49-year-old has ran her own business - North East Wedding Planners - since 2009 and has worked on weddings with budgets exceeding a million pounds.

The mother-of-two, who lives in Durham, said she signed more non-disclosure agreements during 2019 than the number of posts she placed on social media.

Donna Hartley-Redfearn
Donna Hartley-Redfearn -Credit:Chronicle Live

Donna, who operates between Scotland and Yorkshire, has also won more than fifty international wedding industry awards. She is now is working between her home in the North East and the Canary Islands.

She said: "I'm now in a very, very fortunate place where a lot of my clientele is through reputation. I don't think I've done a wedding fair in 10 years plus. But I also know the lack of sleep I had have from it - I have had to put the hard slog in to get it. There's a lot of work to do behind the scenes.

"My clientele is wonderfully diverse, ranging from local farmers and entrepreneurs to members of the English aristocracy, high-profile personalities, and couples seeking to elevate their wedding experience to unparalleled heights. Each client, regardless of their background, recognises and values the necessity of entrusting a professional to meticulously orchestrate their special day.

"The connection between myself, the couples and the suppliers, with whom I collaborate, is a priority for me. After such a long time in the industry, I love the phrase a bride said to me – 'There will be no explanation only reputation'."

One of the weddings which Donna Hartley-Redfearn has worked on
One of the weddings which Donna Hartley-Redfearn has worked on -Credit:John Alexander Photography Instagram: jeaphotography_weddings

Donna, who has two sons aged 20 and 18, previously enjoyed working as a project manager.

When she had her children, her priorities changed and she decided to take a change of direction. She initially began a wedding car business with her husband Mark Redfearn and that led to her becoming a wedding planner.

She said she approached a business advisor in 2009 with a plan for a luxury wedding management service in the North East and she was told that it was "unachievable" and "it won't work in the North East".

However the response only made Donna more determined to succeed. She said: "Mark has been the backbone of my support. He is actually the one who named the company not me!"

She secured her first international client, a Canadian art director, in 2010 and organised a Sex and the City style wedding at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle.

In 2015, she become the first wedding planner to build a luxury wedding on Harry Potter's Quidditch lawn.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, she used the opportunity to train to be a wedding celebrant and she can now host weddings as well as organise them. She runs this as a second business - North East Wedding Celebrant.

Another outdoor wedding which Donna has worked on
Another outdoor wedding which Donna has worked on -Credit:Danny Birrell Photography

Donna has now shared her expertise with ChronicleLive and has revealed about what is on trend in 2024. These include celebrant weddings, invitations infused with seeds and bright colours.

She said celebrant weddings - where couples say their legal vows on a different day - are hugely popular now. She said: "They might get married in a registry office on the Friday and then on the Saturday they do the normal structure but it means they don't have to say the legal vows. They can write their own vows and it can be completely personal. You also get to know who's marrying you."

Donna, who operates as a freelance consultant, said there appears to be two main trends this year - bringing nature indoors and bright colours.

She said: "We went through this phase from early 2012 to around 2016 where it was bird cages and shabby chic. Then we went to the classic and elegant phase with a lot of white and green.

"Now it's about bringing nature indoors - huge trees and moss and bringing the woodland in. You get a lot of people who have grown up with sustainability and are very eco aware. Whereas the older generation are not as passionate about that element of it.

"One thing which is super popular is having invitations or on the day stationary infused with seeds. You can plant it and it will grow in the garden.

"The other trend is completely different - it's bright pinks mixed with other colours - orange, blue and green. The brightest colours you can get, hanging streamers and disco balls.

"People are very much influenced by Pinterest, Instagram and social media. It's where they get their influence from."

Donna said that another trend which is popular now is having a wedding website.

She said: "The couple can put on their backstory and they can set what the wedding attire is. The couple can ask their guests if they need transport, do they need a nanny, dietary requirements etc.

"People can do their RSVP on there. Gone are the days of sending out 100 invitations by post! For me it makes life so much easier. It stops you having to pick up the phone and having to chase anybody whose invitation has got stuck behind the bread bin in the kitchen."

Donna often has to get around by golf buggy due to the scale of some of the wedding sites
Donna often has to get around by golf buggy due to the scale of some of the wedding sites -Credit:Chronicle Live

Donna said that brides are now choosing to sell their wedding dresses after use rather than keep them.

She said: "A lot of people are buying their dresses and selling them on where as they before they wanted to keep it. A lot of is is to do with wanting the money back, it's not about passing it down to the third and fourth generations - that's gone."

Donna said that a lot more people are also choosing to get married on a weekday or in the winter. She said: "It does tend to be more budget-friendly. You do pay a premium if you request to get married between May and October."

Donna said that the average price of a wedding, following the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit, is now around £30,000. She said wedding flowers now cost between £2,000 and £7,000.

She said: "Even in the last three months the prices have changed again and the prices of flowers are now through the roof because you're shipping from aboard.

"A lot of people, who were going to get married in Covid, went down the basic route and had 15 people because they wanted to get married on the day they set, or they decided not to get married and had children. So their priorities have changed. Their money is now going towards family and they're going to have a much smaller wedding."

Donna said she gives couples, who may be heading straight on their honeymoon, the chance to donate their flowers. She said they can be made into large bunches and given to hospices and care homes.

Donna said there tends to be three main type of venues which couples in the North East tend to choose - converted barns, purpose-built venues such as Le Petit Chateau and Newton Hall or accommodation where they can spent the entire weekend such as Woodhill Hall.

She said that the most on trend venue at the moment is the new Garden Room, a botanical wedding venue based in the Biscuit Factory. She added: "It's a big trend which has come across from the US. That will be the venue to try and get booked into!"