Real Life Bride: Danielle’s Venue Search
This morning our gorgeous b.loved bride Danielle is back sharing the next step on her wedding planning journey – the venue search. I’m sure you can all relate to her story. It’s a bit like Goldilocks; you have to keep searching until you find the one that’s ‘just right’.
Before even starting the venue search, we first had the more tricky decision of whether the wedding would be in England or South Africa! This was difficult for us as we knew wherever we chose to have it, one side of our family would have to travel – and not just a few hours – it would involve expensive long haul flights. While growing up I was never one of those little girls forever dreaming and planning my wedding day; I had a fairly open mind, but at the same time I had never envisaged a wedding anywhere other than England. We spent time looking at our options and I soon realised my dream venue was a country house in the English country side. So we decided to have the wedding in England and have a celebration in South Africa when we return.
I began with looking for the English venue; I had a fairly specific venue in mind and I just didn’t know if it existed. My dream was to find a venue that retained it’s country house feeling but had a ‘modern’ interior. By the word modern I didn’t mean ultra modern décor, more the opposite of traditional. I didn’t want dark rooms, heavy carpets, antiques and gloomy portraits. I was hoping to find a house with wooden floors, light and airy, a neutral colour palette and stunning grounds with a wow factor. As well as the look and feel we had set our sights on the West Country where I grew up, and wanted a venue which could offer accommodation for our friends and family to stay together.
In a lot of instances it was much easier to rule out venues which just didn’t seem to tick all the boxes. For example Holne Park, Devon is a stunning venue. From the outside it had the look I wanted, but the traditional interior wasn’t for us. During the many hours searching online my Mum, who regularly travels on business across the West County, mentioned that for years she had driven past a wedding venue called Coombe Lodge but that from the road you can only see the sign. So one evening on a whim she drove up the sweeping driveway to see what it was like. When I first looked at the website I thought “this is what I have been looking for”, but my very practical head thought it couldn’t be as easy as Mum just ‘stumbling’ upon the venue, so I carried on looking until I had narrowed down my search to three venues, Coombe Lodge, St Audries and Shilstone House.
Shilstone House is a beautiful Georgian house in the Devon countryside with a balance of traditional and contemporary, but on further research we found with our number of guests we would have had to use the marquee for the reception which I wasn’t so keen on. Sadly we ruled it out, leaving two venues on the shortlist!
Not being based in the UK, we sent my parents, my Dad armed with his tablet for recording videos and my Mum with hundreds of questions to ask, to St Audries and Coombe Lodge. It certainly wasn’t the most conventional venue viewing! They sent feedback and videos, and in fact refused to say which they preferred as they didn’t want to influence our decision.
What grabbed me the most about St Audries was the beautiful Victorian Orangery where the ceremony is held; it is so bright and airy. There is also an impressive grand hall for the evening celebrations and offers 22 bedrooms where all the family could stay. But somehow St Audries didn’t hit the spot; the interior and accommodation is very traditional, grand and almost castle like.
Coombe Lodge on the other hand ticked all the boxes, I think I secretly knew this would be our wedding venue from the moment I saw it! Coombe Lodge to me is a contemporary venue which has kept all the charm and elegance of the past. Inside it is light and airy with oak panelling and original features. There are several options for the ceremony, this can either be held in one of 3 rooms or weather permitting outside. The reception is held in the stunning music room which has wooden floors and a neutral decor which lends itself perfectly to what I had in mind. It also offers 12 beautifully decorated bedrooms and there is additional accommodation within the grounds. Some thought we were a little mad as we paid our deposit before visiting ourselves! But when we went to visit at Christmas we knew we had made the right decision. I think my words were “WOW am I really getting married here”! To say I am a little excited about Coombe Lodge is an understatement!
Once we knew Coombe Lodge was the venue we then needed to sort out the date. As it is a popular venue most of the weekends and school holidays were already booked which lead us to considering a mid-week date, Monday to Thursday. Compared to the weekend rates, is a lot cheaper in terms of venue hire and we had more choice in terms of availability. It also means that you might get to work with suppliers who are fully booked at the weekends. To begin with I found choosing a date during the working week a little daunting as it places expectation on your guests to take leave from work. Having spoken to most of our friends and family they all agreed that the alternative – a wedding in South Africa – would mean either not being able to attend, or having to take even more leave! Surprisingly most people understood our situation and were more than happy to take a few days off work.
Once the venue in England was sorted we could then focus on our plans in South Africa. We decided we wanted to have a celebration with our friends and family in SA who would not be able to travel to England. We plan to go on honeymoon after the wedding so decided to have the celebration once we are back at the beginning of July. July is the middle of winter in SA so we wanted to find a venue where everyone could have a relaxing lunch next to a roaring open fire. Living In Cape Town we are pretty spoilt for choice, there are so many gorgeous wine farms with sweeping views of the vineyards. We looked around the different locations and loved Steenberg Estate. We have visited the estate quite often so it felt right to have it there. Added to this the restaurant Catherina’s has recently been redecorated with a lovely contemporary feel. We also found The Stone Chapel in Tokai which a cute little chapel just down the road from Steenberg, and this is where we will have our blessing.
When I set out on the venue search I thought finding a venue in a different country was going quite scary and nearly impossible. How would I know if it was right us? What if it didn’t look like the photos? How would I plan all the details from afar? But it can done; don’t be shy to ask family to go and view places for you – they probably have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for. Also don’t be afraid to ask the venue to send you photos. Coombe Lodge have been wonderful at answering all my random questions about details which I might have missed, or confirming parts of the layout I couldn’t remember. In fact, I haven’t found the distance to be a problem and its actually been a lot of fun!