WEDDINGS

CLASSIC BRIDE’S DIARY: THE VENUE

Hello again B.LOVED readers! I’m really excited to tell you all about my venue hunt – it’s the first part of wedding planning we did and I loved it every minute of it. The same as Gabi, B.LOVED’s ‘Rustic Luxe’ bride, I wanted to enjoy the ‘engagement bubble’ for a while before starting the planning and am amazed that I somehow managed to last about two months (Christmas and my 30th birthday celebrations provided good distractions!) So it was in February of this year that the venue hunt commenced…

Knowing the move to Australia was on the horizon, it was agreed from the outset that we would get married in the UK and luckily Tom was happy to embrace the classic English stately home wedding that I have always dreamed of. As we started our research we had three main criteria:

The venue needed to be located near(ish) to my parents to enable them to arrange things easily on our behalf.  As we aren’t getting married in a church, I wanted to find a venue that was just as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside, rather than a venue with a really modern ceremony room – knowing what the British weather can be like, this would also guarantee a gorgeous backdrop for photos!  We wanted somewhere that whilst being a grand stately home, wasn’t really pretentious, and where once the reception starts, we can all let our hair down, relax and have a good old party!

There was actually a fourth criteria which was that we wanted somewhere with accommodation on-site for all our guests but in the end all our favourite venues had no accommodation at all – so my advice would be to definitely look at some venues that don’t necessarily tick all the boxes as you never know which will end up being ‘the one’.

We focussed our search on Berkshire (where my parents live) and the surrounding counties, and I booked in 12 venue viewings spread over 3 consecutive weekends…whilst my mum and I had a whale of time, I think it’s safe to say that Tom and my dad’s enthusiasm was beginning to wane ever so slightly(!) towards the end. We saw so many lovely venues it’s been hard to pick which ones to talk about on here, so I’ve chosen one from three different counties.

One of the first venues we saw was the beautiful Hedsor House in Buckinghamshire. This is a really pretty Victorian country house but the main reason it unfortunately wouldn’t have worked for us is that the owners made it very clear from the outset that you hire the venue from them and that is the end of their involvement – there is no on-site wedding co-ordinator, no set caterers, etc – for some people it would be an absolute dream to have free reign and a blank canvas to work with, but when you’re planning your wedding from the other side of the world, I think having an on-site co-ordinator is a must-have!

At the end of the second weekend of venue viewing, my favourite was Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire. It is a gorgeous Grade I listed mansion house that is still lived in by the family that owns it which gives it a really lovely, relaxed feel. It has views of the Chilterns and there is also a cute little hotel nearby called The Dashwood just big enough to accommodate your bridal party and a few other guests – I had already started mentally planning all of this when my parents threw a ‘wild card’ into the mix which turned out to be our perfect venue.

My parents are members of the National Trust and had been to look around Clandon Park in Surrey about a year earlier, and having heard me waffle on about our venue criteria, they thought that it might just be a good match. It is a beautiful 18th-century Palladian mansion in West Clandon, just outside Guildford and has been a National Trust property since 1956 (they close it to the public when weddings are taking place though and you have exclusive use of all rooms).

It featured in the film “The Duchess” starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes and it’s easy to see why. Having already been wowed by the exterior of the building and the grounds, when they opened up the main door and took us into the stunning Marble Hall, mine and Tom’s jaws dropped and we looked at each other and knew in that moment that this was going to be our venue. I could see myself walking down the ‘aisle’ through that room and into the Tapestry Room which is used for the ceremony.

After showing us the reception room, which is a much more relaxed room where the partying can take place away from the formal rooms, they sat us down to watch a slide show of photos of other weddings that had taken place there. That was it – I had goose bumps, my eyes were welling up and I knew that none of the other venues had given me the same feeling this one had. With our three main criteria ticked off, it also offers an extra bonus feature which is that there are Australasian touches in pictures on the walls of the Marble Room and also the Maori meeting house in the grounds which was brought over from New Zealand in 1892. All in all, a pretty perfect venue for my ‘Classic Luxe’ wedding, and I can’t wait to plan the rest of our wedding in this lovely location… Katie xx

Louise

After a decade-long career in corporate interior design, I took a giant leap of faith, left the security of an office job, and founded B.LOVED in 2011 as a platform for romantic and beautiful wedding inspiration. Thanks to a whole lot of creativity, hard work and passion, my gamble paid off and B.LOVED became one of the leading wedding blogs in the UK.

I'm also a co-founder at The Brand Studio, where I design and curate beautiful photoshoots for wedding and lifestyle brands, as well as running wedding industry community the B.LOVED Hive where I support and nurture wedding pros building industry leading businesses. Yep, I definitely have the best job in the world.

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