What Shirley Did… Knowing The Full Story.

Hey there,

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…

The Venue.

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.

Second Thoughts…

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.

A Compromise.

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!

Shirley xx

Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

27 thoughts on “What Shirley Did… Knowing The Full Story.

  1. Awww the family pictures are sooo lovely. I love how natural and relaxed you all look.

    The reception room is not white and bare, it’s just a blank canvas. 🙂 It’ll be stunning once it’s all decorated properly!

    I’m glad the venue issues are slowly getting resolved – hurrah!


  2. Oooh, I know just what you mean. We’ve hired a historic house/castle venue and the small print in the contract is exhausting and depressing! No candles (some – very limited – exceptions), no open fires in their grates, no confetti, no fireworks (oh okay, if you pay us an extra £2,500), no room to get ready (unless you pay extra for a very small, dingy room with no light or mirror!), no discount for getting married in November, extra charge to store the wine etc etc… It takes the gloss off it rather. And they couldn’t do enough for us when we just went to look round and gave us quite another impression.

  3. Great post Shirley seems like us April real brides like a bit of a challenging venue!!!

    And great family shots, I can see why you picked your photographer!!!

    Oh, it is all rather exciting isn’t it!!!!!

  4. We had a village hall reception too and had all the same issues you mentioned, but on the day it was wonderful and we never regretted our decision to go for the cheaper but more work option, I’m sure you won’t either. My one piece of advice for you, assuming you have to have everything off site by midnight like us, is to really spend time thinking about how you’re going to coordinate the tidy up (like you we had bar and catering staff, but I mean removing all the decorations etc). I didn’t really consider this at all and it did add quite a bit of stress to the end of what was otherwise a perfect day. Really looking forward to reading more posts from you!!

  5. @Peridot – I think I went in with loved up blinkers on and just assumed it would all be wonderful – if I’d been more inquisitive then I might have saved some heartache!

    @Emma – more on decor in another post but the hire co will remove all of the stuff we hire at the end of the eve, and the few bits I bring in myself, I’ve already got friends/family lined up to remove! Plus a potential surprise for you lovely lot on this front – ooh I love to tease!

  6. Im so excited to see how this wedding plans out… the pics of your family Shirley are lovely. I get married the same week as you and I too have a challenging venue (restuarant)… can’t wait for the next post! 🙂

  7. Great to see a second time wedding with step children on RMW. My second time wedding was last October and it was magical. Having our children there to officially unite as one family is a moment we will never forget. Our guests loved our children’s speeches (9yr old & 10yr old sons) and there was not a dry eye in the church when the vicar blessed rings which we gave to each others children when we exchanged our rings.

  8. Hi Shirley,
    Love it so far! Totally agree with you and Peridot that the small print takes all the goodwill away from the venue, without which there can be no give and take. I too booked my venue with love-tinted lenses, it was right after our engagement and I was just getting used to everyone being so happy and excited for us, and I stumbled right into a trap. Now they have our deposit and seem to come up with another ridiculous rule by the day. However the day is long, and karma always wins, so we will see how it pans out! We have a contract, and I am a stickler for getting everything in writing so we have some clubs in our bag yet!!
    But great work out of you so far!!

  9. Shirley I’m so excited to read your posts!! We get married on the same day as you and we’ve booked our local village hall as well!! We’ve been very lucky so far, no real small print issues yet which was one of the things which sold it to us, although to be completely honest we didn’t look anywhere else either!! Can’t wait to read more about how you’re going to decorate the hall though!!
    Fiona xx

  10. @Cathy – I’m picturing you clubbing your venue staff *chortle* Never cross a stressed bride!!

    @Teresa – exchanging rings with the kids is a lovely idea

    @Fi – thank you sweetie! Venue decor is a going to be a future post I think, but I need to get my head around putting ALL the pretty ideas to one side and focusing on the few that I can actually incorporate into the day, otherwise our wedding will look like an explosion in RMW HQ!

  11. Awesome first post Shirley, and fabbers to see the venue pictures – I do love a blank canvas (even more so if it has a bar and decent loos!) Can’t wait to read more, and see more photos of your lovely family.

    @Peridot – I feel your pain re: historic venue nightmares. We’re not allowed candles either – gutted!


  12. Really enjoyed your post Shirley.
    MrsA-to-be and Peridot – I once read somewhere that a groom had bought pillar candles and burnt them down for half an hour or so and then filled the wax hole with those fake tea-lights. Apparently no one could tell the difference… x

  13. Hallo Shirley 🙂

    Great first post, I can’t find a venue either…. too expensive and tragic carpet! (and curtains!) much better to have a blank canvas I say. Xx

  14. Hey Shirley,

    Great first post, both really informative and amusing.

    I didn’t quite realise just how a pain in the arse some venues can be with you guys, considering how much some of you spend… you would think they would be really bending over backwards to be truly accommodating.

    I occasionally get the raw end of the stick dependent on which venues your working at, and the person you’re dealing with – and that makes a huge difference… sometimes they are complete jobsworths and other times even if they have rules & stipulations – they are really lovely. I suppose like anything; it’s how you/they approach it & then communicate it.

    Whatever happens the best thing to do is always remain positive about it.

    Look forward to seeing your next post,

    Ben xx

    P.s Thanks for the mention 🙂

  15. Shirley I am loving this post ! Honestly the venue looks great and you’ll get it looking absolutely fabulous! And agree with the other posters so much better a blank canvas than a horrible carpet!

    Looking forward to more posts!
    Rachie xo

  16. Shirley – lovely first post pet. I think this venue is going to look fabulous with all of your ideas and creativity put into practice.

    And ref the hair – I think you’re right, it would look gorgeous a la the Chic in The Cotswold wedding 😉

    Charlotte xxx

  17. @Charlotte – I’m off to the hairdresser next Wednesday (as soon as the kids are dropped off at school) armed with some pictures of Chic in the Cotswolds hair!

  18. Shirley I think you’re going to be such a super ‘official’ stepmum (looks like a role you’ve already stepped into with gusto!) and I also think that the venue you’ve picked lends itself beautifully to the wedding you’re planning. Can’t WAIT to see how it all turns out! x

  19. great post and very similar to the venue problems we had! Ours was really a conference venue but had a very similar modern style and some rather fetching light wooden walls. My tip for decorating and creating warmth is floor spots with coloured gels on them. We had soft pinks and oranges and it made a huge difference to the atmosphere in the room.

    Our venue also changed some of their regulations by the time we had our second meeting with them which left us very deflated (e.g. no more open end, had to finish by 3am) and a couple of months before the wedding I found out it had become a licensed venue so we could have got married there if they had told us this was on the cards…all very frustrating but on the day, everything was just fine.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas you have for decorating the venue.

    Loving the family shots too!

  20. This is exciting! I love reading about the Real Brides at the beginning of their planning – time will go so quickly!
    We also had the venue issue – booked it (and had to pay IN FULL STRAIGHTAWAY as it got booked up so quickly) but got stung with having to pay for loads of extras later on i.e. more evening buffet food because of the number of guests we had, extra for a late license, HUGE corkage fees etc etc (they didn’t tell us any of this beforehand). I wish we had been more thorough in asking questions before we booked but hindsight is wonderful – especially when you are excited and you love the venue!
    Anyway, it all came good in the end and was worth every penny – but for others the best thing is to try to ask as many questions as possible before you hand over a whopping deposit……….

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