There are a lot new and interesting things happening on the blog at the moment, and I’m going to add to the excitement further this afternoon by introducing Shirley, another of our Real Brides. Shirley is our brand spanking new Contemporary Cool bride-to-be. I think we may have to keep an eye on her though, she is already making digs at me…
Hello lovely ladies! (and Adam but let’s face it, he’s an honorary lady anyway)
I’m very excited about my first post on RMW and I’ve changed my mind LOADS about what I should choose as my first topic but in the end I’ve decided to start with my most emotive topic to date…
When we were first engaged we were in the middle of some fairly hefty house renovations and with the builders about to move in for the second time since September 2010, I was on a mission to tick major things off my ‘to-do’ list before I got bogged down with the technical details of underpinning and steel beams. When I say ‘on a mission’ … I wasn’t joking! Armed with a recent past life as a project manager, I set about ticking off my 3 top priorities – finding a venue, photographer and videographer who were all available sometime in April next year, ideally the 14th. The photographer and videographer stories are for another day, but the venue was definitely the trickiest of the three.
You see, when we got engaged, we’d both been married and divorced before and therefore had some pretty clear ideas about where we were willing to spend money and where we definitely didn’t want to shell out more than necessary. After some discussion (quite a short one actually!), we agreed that we were only going to spend money on things for *us* (ie stuff we could keep afterwards like photography etc) and everything else including the venue would be done reasonably cheaply. Rog would probably interject here and say that I don’t actually know how to do things cheaply, but I do honestly try! Anyway, I digress slightly. What I really really wanted in terms of venue was a bijou contemporary ‘Mr&Mrs’ style hotel … I now know these practically don’t exist outside the M25. What *does* exist around here are lots of country house hotels which wasn’t what I was looking for at all. Undeterred, I emailed about 20 or 30 fairly local venues ranging from individually run family hotels to big chains, and everything in between. And the brochures and emails starting rolling back. Undoubtedly there were some beautiful venues, but holy moly there were also some prices that made your eyes water. They ranged from £3000 up to a mammoth £35,000 EXCLUDING FOOD! £6000-12,000 seemed to be the norm but that was still a LOT of money, and in all honesty was way more than we were prepared to spend on a pretty building for a day especially as we’d spend most of the day inside rather than outside admiring the architecture. I should add that I didn’t actually go and see any of these venues because it seemed pointless at those kind of prices – I didn’t want to waste their time or mine.
Thinking Outside The Box.
So, it was back to the drawing board. Now, we are very fortunate to live in a pretty village and our village monstrosity (umm village hall) was knocked down and rebuilt recently. In fact, the new one only opened a year ago. And they do weddings – you can get married there and everything. So, we decide to go check it out.
Burnham Park is no stately home, but it *is* modern and is a hundred times better than most other village halls in the UK. Its bright, fresh, modern, has clean new shiny toilets and, importantly, wooden flooring to dance on. After a quick chat on the phone with the venue manager, I booked an appointment for us both to go down and look at it in detail. As we hadn’t actually gone to see anything else, we had … well …. nothing …… to compare it to. Possibly this was a mistake but it was ticking all our boxes:
- Local – check (in fact so local that we could walk there in 2 mins)
- Modern – check
- Amenities – check (clean toilets, a bar & professional kitchen, licensed for weddings etc …)
- Cost Effective – major check.
In fact, Burnham Park could be exclusively ours for the whole day, which included a ceremony room, a large reception room, a staffed bar, a professional kitchen, chef and waiting staff, all for a princely sum of £450 (plus food/drink). SOLD! We signed up and paid our deposit the next day to ensure the date we wanted could be booked. Then we ran off and proceeded to book the photographer, the videographer and the registrar. Check, check, checkity check. Now I was feeling very smug and pleased with myself.
3 months later and I emerge from our “house of dust” with worries. Did we rush into booking the venue? Should we have gone and looked at other options before making a decision? What if we can’t decorate the inside of it sufficiently well to make it look cosy and welcoming rather than an enormous school gym/art gallery?
Ceremony Room where we will be married
Reception Room which is huge and white and bare!
So I decided to go back and have another look, plus I had a few questions about the details now that I’d started thinking about how I wanted the day to look and run. I came out of the meeting with an awful lot more information that I’d bargained for. In our rush to book the hall, we didn’t ask many questions other than ‘Is it available?’ and reading the hire contract terms. It was only when I began to discuss how our day was going to come together, that I found out there were conditions (and lots of them) that I didn’t know about. For instance, we couldn’t throw confetti, we couldn’t have table gems or anything which could scratch the wooden floor, guests weren’t allowed to go outside after 10pm, the doors couldn’t be opened if music is playing, the bar shuts at 11pm and the music has to stop at 11.30pm even though we’d hired the venue until midnight. None of these are insurmountable issues, and mostly they are licence conditions laid down by the council because the hall is in a residential area, but I wish I’d known about them in advance. Another more difficult area has been regarding access before and after the wedding to set up and take down any decorations – the contracted time simply isn’t adequate to set up the kind of decoration I had in mind to transform the room from school gym to wedding reception and we can’t get access to the main room until the day of the wedding.
After quite a bit of discussion with the venue manager, we are now beginning to make progress – we can have confetti as long as it’s biodegradable and isn’t thrown in or near the entrance to the venue. We have negotiated access to the venue 2 hours earlier than the contracted time. In addition, the venue have been very amenable regarding bespoke menu plans to cater for my dietary requirements – no gluten, nuts or fish. This isn’t impossible but it does require considerable thinking-outside-the-box on their part to ensure they can provide a 3 course meal and an evening buffet that is free of these ingredients.
We had considered cancelling our booking and finding another venue, but every time we thought about that option we came back to the fact that on so many levels the venue meets our requirements (modern, local, cheap, amenities). I just *wish* that we had asked more detailed questions and had known what the council imposed limitations were before booking. It’s unlikely to have changed our decision but then at least I wouldn’t feel just a bit frustrated and disappointed because I’d have known what I was getting into from the start. I’m sure in the end it will be fine but it has definitely been a rollercoaster ride of emotions getting it sorted out.
My Lovely Lot.
Just before I go, I wanted to introduce my gorgeous rabble to you as you’ll be seeing a lot of them over the coming months. I have 2 step children: Vicky (21) and Ryan (19) plus 2 of my own: Ella (12) and Ben (7). I’m lucky that my step kids are fabulous young people and are happy and supportive of me getting married to their dad. I’m also lucky that all 4 kids get on pretty well despite the age differences. As I mentioned in my original entry, our top priority is making sure that our children are involved in our wedding and feel as much a part of the day as we do. So it was an easy decision to ask Vicky and Ella to be my bridesmaids, Ryan to be best man, and Ben wanted to be page boy / ring bearer. That’s our wedding party sorted then! It’s also taken away the ‘who do I ask to be a bridesmaid’ issues without offending anyone as everyone understands and/or expected us to only have the girls as bridesmaids.
All images below by Ben Tomlin at Touch Photography
Back in May, Ben Tomlin from Touch Photography (who is our fabulous wedding photographer) did a family photoshoot for us as a surprise for Rog’s 50th birthday, so I thought I’d show you all some pictures of our motley crew aka the bridal party, and also give you a feel for the photos Ben will be producing for us next year.
See you next time!