North East Connected

Wilderness Wedding to Redcar Reception

Redcar & Cleveland College has made the grade after playing host to its first ever wedding reception.

Newlyweds Steve and Jan Hutchinson chose the non-traditional venue after their Matron of Honour, Julie Thorpe, who works in the college’s restaurant, suggested to the team who look after the Higher Education Conference Centre – which is normally used as a lecture theatre – of the potential for the college to host receptions for larger celebratory parties.

The couple, who are both in their early sixties, officially tied the knot overlooking the Indian Ocean on dunes in Wilderness, South Africa on September 7 but returned to the region to celebrate their marriage, alongside 70 members of their friends and family, on the college campus.

Spurred on by the fact that her wedding reception would be the first of its kind at the college, Jan said: “We were looking for a venue to celebrate with all of our friends and family but nothing seemed to fit the bill or was unique enough for us. I’d never heard of anybody celebrating their marriage at a college before, but when we first had a look around the lecture theatre, we could see its potential as being a ‘blank canvas’ and we almost instantly knew it was right for us.”

Steve has dual British and South African citizenship and emigrated to South Africa in 1980 as part of an exchange programme with ICI’s sister company in Johannesburg. He initially spent 19 years in South Africa and has maintained a strong connection with it ever since.

Steve said: “It was fantastic to be able to take Jan to South Africa to show her where so many of my memories came from. We tied the knot in an idyllic setting, just the two of us, with a backdrop of dolphins breaching the waves, and that really rounded our big day off in a spectacular manner.”

“We had always planned to come back to celebrate with a church blessing with our loved ones, and even though we knew South Africa was also going to be hard act to follow, the local ceremony and subsequent wedding reception was absolutely perfect.”

Guests were treated to a hog roast supper and a mobile bar, while Steve’s son, David, sang for Jan and Steve’s first dance as the newly-blessed couple.

Graeme Wood, project and development manager at Redcar & Cleveland College, helped to make the couple’s dream a reality by helping to facilitate the first event of its kind at the college.

He said: “The lecture theatre has previously only been used to cater for college-related events, business meetings, seminars and open days so it was certainly an unusual request, but one that we were really happy to help accommodate.

“Jan and Steve are a lovely couple and I’m delighted we were able to help them celebrate their wedding reception with a twist.”

Jan added: “The day was absolutely perfect from start to finish and the college were so helpful in helping us set up and making sure everything went smoothly.”

For further information on Redcar & Cleveland College, please call 01642 473 132 or visit

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