So, last week I told you about the ceremony location and the date of our wedding. This week, the reception venue. As we are having the ceremony in a chapel, the reception by definition had to be elsewhere. Before starting to choose the venue, you have to give thought to the least pleasant aspect of wedding planning: the budget. No good finding the perfect venue for it to be outside even the most stretched budget. So we had to have that talk with my parents. In England it is traditional for the bride’s parents to host and pay for the wedding but in our case, my parents are hosting in a ‘dignitary’ fashion as we are marrying away from my home town. So, after some honest discussions between us, we decided that my parents would put in some money and M and I would pay the rest, partly from our own savings and partly from money his parents had given us as a wedding present.
Budget talking over, we then had to decide which aspects of the reception were most important to us. As our original idea was to marry on a cliff overlooking the sea we decided that we wanted to hold the reception outside (or, as near to passes as outside in England – a marquee). Our next most important criteria was that we wanted to provide our own wine and champagne and that we didn’t want to be tied to a specified caterer. You see, M is a fine wine merchant; he works for a company with one of the best wine lists in the country and wine is his passion. We didn’t want to be limited by what we were able to serve and we wanted to be able to do it through M’s company. Ideally, we wouldn’t have to pay corkage either.
Food wise, while we are both keen on hosting dinner parties and so forth, I am less keen on formal sit down meals which go on for ages. M’s other passion is food and how to cook it, so it was easy to settle on a hog roast as our ideal food, sourced as locally as possible to fit with our proposed eco-friendliness. We then just had to find somewhere we could hold the reception, within easy driving of the chapel. Of course, in an ideal world it would have been walking distance, but you can’t have everything!
We started ringing venues but one by one they were struck off our list – too far away, too expensive, unavailable, tied into caterers and/or wine merchants and so on. Eventually we thought we had found the perfect option: a riverside pub with a beautiful back garden which would offer a hog roast. We could arrive in a boat and we could dance outside. Better, it was at the bottom end of our budget. We set up a meeting but the moment we arrived, we knew there was no way it would work. Far from exclusive hire of the back garden as the manager had suggested, we would be able to use a small area, which he could not guarantee would not be invaded by other pub goers. And worse, despite telling M we could provide our own wine for a corkage fee, he completely reneged on this, saying we would have to serve their house wine. Given that this discussion took place on the hottest day of the summer and the food still tasted terrible, we cut short the meeting and our losses and drove away.
As we drove back towards the city I suddenly remembered an e-mail I had received the week before from a venue which was available. On a whim we decided to drive and see it, and it was there, standing by the gates to the oldest family home in the county (they have inhabited it since the mid 13th century), looking over the quiet and peaceful valley, we realised that we had found our venue.
Of course, we couldn’t visit it that evening as it was closed but we did go back and do our first visit a month or so later after exchanging e-mails with the wedding co-ordinator/estate manager. And even on a slightly damp autumn day the place was beautiful. Even though the sun barely managed to appear from behind the clouds, the countryside was calm, peaceful, serene and absolutely right. And bonus of bonuses, the hog roast man we had chosen turned out to live in the next village, so our food will genuinely be as local as possible.
We decided that we would put the marquee on the tennis court lawn which is just to the right of the sweeping driveway. The view from the lawn goes right across the valley (top right image above) and the lawn itself is bordered by an orchard (see the second image down on the left). The other buildings are outbuildings and the various gardens. There are so many photo opportunities, from the manicured lawns to the darling ‘fox garden’, the pigeon house (second up from bottom right) and even a vine house to sate the wine obsessed M. In short, a gorgeous venue!