Venue no. 9

So here it is, the venue that is top of our shortlist…

The Tythe Barn at Launton, near Bicester, Oxfordshire.  Which also, slightly to my dismay, was featured on Rock My Wedding today as they are hosting a wedding fair in a couple of weeks time.  No-one go booking up my venue!!

It’s just beautiful, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves (for once!)

Oh. My. Goodness.

LOVE.

Now for the dilemma… it’s an hour’s drive from the Church.  And after much consideration, I don’t think I could bear to give up the idea of getting married in the Church where I grew up (for more details, and other people’s opinions on this dilemma, see my question featured on ‘Ask Jenny‘ over at Rock My Wedding).

So, how far is too far?  We’ve contemplated asking guests to all stay at the same hotel the night before near the venue, and then putting on a coach / bus to the Church, and then back to the reception venue.  But this would be an hour on a bus, each way.  So two hours.  Lots of people have said ‘it’s your day, do what you want’.  And ‘if people want to be there, they will’ and ‘an hour isn’t that far – provide some drinks and nibbles for the journey and it’s a great chance for people to get to know each other’.

But we’re still undecided.  Throw into the mix that this venue is right at the very, very top end of our budget (read over our budget), it’s all a big dilemma.  We can probably scrimp and save over the next 12 months to come up with the extra pennies, in fact we KNOW we will, as this is the venue we want.  But our guest’s comfort is also important to us, and is two hours on a bus just too much to ask??  All those lovely dresses and suits so carefully packed, now getting creased.. oh Lordy, what a mess.

Because here’s a secret.  This has ALWAYS been my number 1 wedding venue.  For like, ever.  Well, since I attended a wedding here a good few years ago (before I even met The Mr, who knew such a time existed!?).  But I refused to look at it, because I knew it would be too far from the Church in Amersham.  And now I have looked at it, I just know how much I want it.  And it makes me feel sad.

So in summary, it’s back to the baked beans on toast student lifestyle for us for the next 12 months!

Please, if you’re reading this, let me know your thoughts on asking guests to travel a two – hour round trip, just so I can have my perfect wedding day.  Am I turning into a Bridezilla?!

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Venue no. 8

I’m telling a bit of a fib.. this one was actually venue no.9, but I wanted to save the best ’til last!!  So this has become venue no. 8.. Notley Tythe Barn, near Thame, Oxfordshire.

The pictures on the website look lovely, we were really looking forward to going to see this place.  The weather was good, and the views as you drive up to the Barn are fantastic, all fields and trees and landscapes.. lovely!  Car park – great amount of space, outside of the barn, lovely.  Here’s a few piccies to get a feel for the place..

Stunning, right?  All the lovely paving, landscape gardens, beautiful.

And then we went inside.  To start with, it didn’t help that the barn is only heated when there is a wedding on.  Which there wasn’t today.  And it was blooming freezing!!  I know, what was I expecting, it’s a barn, right!!  Well, I wouldn’t have been suprised to find cows in this barn!

It was like stepping into a completely different world inside.  It felt dated and gloomy, and in some ways just outright bizarre… I have no idea why there are a pair of skiis (ancient looking, faded, dusty skiis) attached to the ceiling beam above where the civil ceremony would be held.  On other walls I’m sure there were deer heads and antlers.. although that could just be my memory playing tricks on me!

Now, this could have all been because we’d just come from another venue that was just absolutely everything we could have dreamed of, and looked even better than it did in the pictures.  But this place just made me feel sad.  And I hated the fact that the whole place seemed to be on a slope, I just felt disorientated.

 

On the left hand side of the barn, is another barn, attached to the first one.  But it’s not water-tight, so there’s a permanent marquee that’s been put up inside the barn. It looks claustrophobic, it felt claustrophobic.  I felt like the whole ceiling needed to be lifed up by about 6 inches!

To top it all off (and yes, I really am moaning now), the toilets were minging.  And the disabled toilet, that my much loved granny would have to use.. let’s not even go there!!

 

Disappointed is an understatement.  It was such a promising start, it looks AMAZING from the outside, but then the inside just felt like it needed so much work.  It’s still on the shortlist, but I would have to factor in that I would want to do a lot of interior decoration, and possibly rent some porta-potties before I would consider having our big day there.

 

Plus, the best is still yet to come…!

Venue no. 7

Venue no. 7 was going to be the Crown Plaza Hotel at Marlow.  The Mr was already not very keen, as he thought the downstairs restaurant looked like a school canteen (really?? I wish my school canteen had looked like that!!), and that the upstairs room was too ‘corporate’.

In the end, we never ended up going.  We were delayed by the previous venue that morning (Bisham Abbey), and had also driven past the back of the hotel on the way to Bisham.  I hadn’t realised that the lovely lake with water feature at the back of the hotel, is overlooked by the A404.  Like, we could see the patio of the hotel (where our guests would be having their arrival drinks) from the road.

So we just drove straight past on the way back too!

Venue no. 6

Ok, ok, I’ve been slacking, big time!  So here it is, in super quick mode, I’m going to try and do a really quick run-through of all that we’ve seen in the past 2 weeks, starting with Venue number 6… Bisham Abbey, in, erm.. Bisham?

In a very brief summary… lovely, but not right for us.  I mean, totally not right for us.  This really helped to cement for us, that we do not want some big, grand, manor / country house with dark wood panelling and big posh pictures of ancient kings and queens or whatever.  I mean, totally lovely, regal, elegant and grand.. pretty much everything we’re not  – haha!!  So here are just some pictures to sum it up.  One thing I did LOVE was the idea that you could arrive by boat into the back garden of the Abbey! Lush!

Here come the pictures.. view from the front:

Views of the inside of the hall – where the wedding breakfast would be…

Picture-perfect staircase:

Outside patio and garden space at the back of the venue:

And the chill out space / bar area / dance floor:

Finally, the room which would usually be the ceremony room, but which we could use for whatever we wanted:

Lovely, just not lovely for us!

 

Moving on!!

Mambo, I mean venue, no. 5!!

We did not like venue no.5.  But, here’s the shortlist for where it was, and why we didn’t like it (I think we’re becoming more and more fussy the more we look at!)

Venue no. 5 was The Grovefield House Hotel in Burnham, Buckinghamshire.  The pictures look lovely on the website, and one of the schools that I work at have held their year 11 prom there for the last few years and say the staff are great and the food is fantastic.  So it had a lot going for it already!

The entrance is ok, straight into the car park, but that’s not a problem.  Our first impressions weren’t helped by the fact that as we were arriving, there were a large group of noisy, severely overweight, football shirt wearing ‘men’ who were leaving.  They were climbing (or wedging themselves) into their cars, with shouts of ‘Or right mate’ (I may be paraphrasing, but you get the idea) going back and forwards.  Maybe we’re a bit snobby, but it just didn’t spell out ‘wedding venue with class’, and it’s certainly not what we would want greeting us if we were arriving on our wedding day.  The house itself is everything it looks in the pictures, grand, large, but also quite fresh looking, and well kept.  It didn’t look like a stereotypical hotel, which is a good thing.  The gardens were also in good repair, and someone was freshly watering and pruning the flower-beds as we arrived, which again was nice to see!

The reception area was relatively nice, but they were playing awful country music through the internal PA system.  Again, not very classy.  The events manager who met us was a bit ‘faffy’ insisting we sat down whilst she took all our details, despite the fact that they’d already made me fill out a form by email to request the ‘look around’ and send me a brochure.  There are two main function rooms, but only one would be big enough for our numbers.  Which was a shame, as the other one actually looked a lot nicer inside, although all the doors and windows looked out onto the car park.  The main function room was being set up for a wedding this afternoon and it was chaos in there.  It might have just been bad luck, and we’d arrived at the wrong time, but it was the event manager who had suggested this day and time.  I wasn’t filled with confidence.  The room was dark.  She said the lights were dimmed as the were trying to keep the room cool until the wedding party started arriving.  Hang on a minute!!  I’ll admit, today was a nice day, probably temperatures of up to about 18, maybe even 20 degrees, but we were there at 10.30 in the morning!  What would the room be like in the height of summer??  We asked about air conditioning, which we were told there was, but it was noisy so they don’t really have it running during the meal and ceremony.  Wonderful!  Although I guess I’ve got to give them points for honesty!!

The function room has it’s own private patio, which then looks onto the rest of the gardens which wrap around the hotel.  As the events manager was telling us how lovely and peaceful it can be, a noisy group rounded the corner of the house, across the bit of grass and onto the patio, then wandered past us and into the function room.  No-one batted an eyelid, despite the fact they were obviously not part of the wedding being set up (conversations like, “Let’s go and have a nosy at what’s going on in there” were a good indicator of this).  Again, not what I would want; having random strangers possibly interfering with my table set-ups during the morning of the day of my wedding, er, no thanks!

The room décor was old fashioned and not to my taste.  Prints of painting showing hunts hung on the walls, the ceiling was low and oppressive and there were lots of pillars throughout the room, rather breaking it up and spoiling the atmosphere (if there was any to start with!).  The carpet was a dark green with gold swirly patterns, quite probably left over since the 80s.  Yuk.  The wall with the bar was dark wood panelling, and just served to make the whole room feel small and oppressive and dark.

So there must be some pluses, right?!  Well, hotel rooms are on-site (obviously) and seem from the pictures we have seen, to be well appointed and reasonably priced.  We didn’t actually get to see a ‘real’ room as they were all being used / cleaned.  Fair enough, it’s a running hotel.  There are 40 in total, but we were told that even if our guests filled all 40 rooms, we would still have to pay extra for exclusive use – so even if people weren’t staying in the hotel, they wouldn’t be stopped from wandering in and have a look at what was going on.  Which seems really strange seen as the only bar is actually in the function room.  The events manager didn’t know how much extra for exclusive use, and didn’t offer to find out, which was really helpful.  Also, when asked for bar prices, she said they were like pub prices, and when we asked, so what does that actually mean, i.e. how much for a pint, again, she didn’t know.  Maybe she’s just Saturday staff, but again, we weren’t filled with confidence, this was a date and time we had been told to come, and she has the job title of ‘events manager’, although she wasn’t actually the person I’d emailed and spoken to on the phone.

So all in all, not a happy experience.  It was a swift exit, with no pictures taken, this one is OFF the shortlist!!

Venue no. 4

A week on, and two more venues we’ve looked at.  Bit the same as the first week, one lovely, with lots of pictures to show you, the other not so lovely, and not so many (infact, no) pictures.

So, venue no. 4 was Duffield House, in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. Luuurvely!  Both The Mr and I agreed, this is now top of our shortlist!

Doesn’t look much as you come in from the road, infact we almost completely missed it and drove straight past.  The big, spikey black fence and electronic gates don’t look very welcoming, so first impressions weren’t great.

It’s no country mansion or 17th Century barn, that’s for sure.  But it got better and better the further in we went…

The main function room is lovely and spacious, a really big room with lots of natural light and high ceilings.  The room decor is very neutral, the curtains are a dark cream colour, and the floor is a pale grey.  We could easily have tables of 8 (rather than 10, gives everyone a bit more leg room!) and still fit in all our guests without needing to put them on the dance floor and then move things around later.  This is a big plus for us.  The other big plus, is that the venue is exclusively ours for the whole day.  As it’s a conference venue during the week, there’s no wedding on a Friday, which means we could go and set up on the Friday afternoon into evening, knowing that everything is done for the Saturday.  No rooms on site, but this means there’s no noise limiter, and the disco can go on until 1am before they kick us out!  So let’s have a little look inside 🙂

This is the function room.  At the time, they were having a conference there this afternoon, so had only set up one table to look like a wedding table, the other half of the hall was set up for the conference.. here’s the view of both sides:

(what do we think of the two different type of chair covers??? I really like the ‘fitted’ ones, but The Mr liked the looser one.. but I for one can say I’ve got heels caught in the folds before and gone flying!!  Possibly the lycra could be a bit sweaty on a hot day??  Comments please!!)

(so that last one is a little bit dark, but that’s my rubbish camera on my phone, it’s not actually that dark in there!).  The dance floor would go at the end where the flip-chart currently is.  The windows you can see actually look onto a ‘sun room’ type corridor that runs along the back of the room, leading to the toilets and lounge room on the right hand side and connecting to the entrance lobby on the right.  It was a lovely sunny room, with chairs set up along both sides, with the old fashioned paved tile floor, lovely!!

This is the entrance lobby with bar, pub prices we were told (but then we are in a very posh part of Bucks, so imagine somewhere between a pub and a hotel (about £3.50 for a standard pint of lager, £4.00-ish for a glass of wine, mixers and soft drinks £2.00 each – I thought this was pretty reasonable!! Spirits were on the dear side though..)

The doorway you can see on the left leads into the function suite, and the stairs on the right (only three stairs) lead up to further toilets, cloakroom and an additional room which we would also have use of, perhaps for a chill out room, or the ‘xbox room’ which The Mr has decided on!  Here’s a peek inside (set up for a civil ceremony at the moment, but we could have it however we wanted)

This picture doesn’t really do it justice.. the room is actually much bigger!!

Then, the other room we’d have use of is the lounge room, part of the old house and a bit away from the function room.  The venue suggest that the bride and bridal party can get ready here in the morning and have pictures taken, it’s also a safe place to store presents, or to take private pictures of the bride and groom during the day, or if we just want a bit of ‘quiet’ time to spend together.  There are two sets of double doors leading out to the patio, which joins up with the main patio, but is secluded by some trellis with climbing plants.  Again, just lovely, and really thoughtful.  There’s also quite a dramatic staircase just outside the room, again, I’m thinking of the pictures (ok, so the carpet on the staircase isn’t great, but that’s what black and white photos are for!!)

Now, let’s have a look outside, shall we?

This is the view from the grounds, looking back onto the patio that the function room opens out onto.

In the summer, they will provide garden furniture, large wooden tables and chairs, plus parasols.  We can also rent garden games to put in the grounds, or a bouncy castle etc!  So let’s see the grounds..

There’s lots of little nooks and crannies hidden away for cute ‘married couple’ shots…

Just imagine the pond in the height of summer, the fountain going, the water full of beautiful water-lilies and surrounded by wild grasses.. mm… lovely!  And here’s a picture back across the grounds to the house:

So like I said before, it’s no ancient, grand manor house, or 17th century barn, but it’s spacious, well equipped and with lots of chances to take lovely pictures.  The venue are generous with what they include in the set packages, and prices aren’t outrageous!  There’s a dedicated event manager who will be there on the day, and although there aren’t any rooms on site, they have a deal with the nearby Bull Hotel in Gerrards Cross, and a superior room plus chauffeur driven car to the hotel are provided for the bride and groom at the end of the night, as well as discounted rates for wedding guests.

So like I said, this one has become swiftly top of the list!

Venue No. 3

Yesterday, we went to see wedding venue no. 3.  And it was a vast improvement on no1 and no2.  So where were we?  We went to The Pavillion at Lane End, High Wycombe, part of the Lane End Conference Centre.

So here comes the walk through!  First impressions weren’t great, I didn’t take a picture of the entrance gate, so I’ve copied one here from Google street view, and it was obviously taken when the place was in a bit of a better shape, yesterday the white building on the right was looking like it needed a good clean / paint (imagine grey-green moss/mould on the walls) and the garden was over grown.  But if it looked like this, we’d be quite pleased!

However, as you come through the entrance gates and onto the drive, there are a lot of building that look a lot like this (ie not very attractive):

But, carry on walking (round to the right of that big hedge..) and you start to see views like this…

Ok, so it’s no county manor estate, but it’s clean and practical.  And the views of the grounds are lovely (imagine this on a hot, sunny, summers day, rather than a rainy Saturday in March)

How cute is that gazebo??  Just imagine it draped in flower garlands and streamers and fairy lights!!  And the lovely big patio, they said they’ve got loads more garden furniture to put out, and all of the doors from the reception room open out onto the patio, meaning there’s lots of light and air, but all very close by.

So, let’s have a look at the inside..  The lovely lady showing us round, Carolyn, explained that guests would first be served drinks on the patio, then brought through this ‘entry room’, before going down the hall to the reception room (on the right hand side of this corridor).  This ‘lobby’ type area is where further drinks would be served for guests to take through to the reception room, and also where evening guests could be greeted.  I like the organisation of it all 🙂

So, now for a peek into the reception room itself..

The venue say they can easily fit up to 120 seated guests for a wedding breakfast, so our numbers of about 85 would be perfect.  The room itself it lovely and bright and airy, with the high, sloped ceiling and huge windows and French doors looking out onto the patio and gardens.  The room is also air-conditioned, so if its a very hot day, doors and windows can be shut and we can be kept lovely and cool.  The bar is in this main room, and is apparently at ‘pub prices’.  So far, all very nice.  I’m not a massive fan of the gold and blue curtains, but I’m sure that’s something we can work around!  Another bonus for us is that what would usually be used for the ceremony room is also ours to use for the day.  It can be transformed into whatever we want – a children’s room, a games room, an old-people’s room, whatever.  The Mr instantly had the idea of setting up a projector or TV and having the Xbox Kinect going – not only great fun for kids and adults alike, but because it takes pictures as you play, we could end up with some cracking pictures of the guests in all kinds of compromised positions!!  What a fun idea!

So overall, lots of positives.  There is accommodation on site (over 100 on site, 35 in the adjoining building and the rest a bit further away in the main lodge), but these are very small rooms, as they were originally only used for single occupancy for conferences etc.  However they do seem to be priced quite reasonably at £70 for double occupancy, which includes full cooked breakfast the next morning.  Another positive is that the whole venue would be ours for the day, including the golf course.  So there would be no-one else wandering around, no other conferences or weddings.  Breakfast the next morning would be in the more formal dining room in the main lodge, but would only be for guests of the wedding – we’d have the whole place to ourselves.  Guests who are booked to stay can have full use of the facilities such as sports hall, tennis and basketball courts, gym and sauna and the golf course at no extra cost.  And with 26 acres of grounds, we’d be able to get some cracking photos.  I was so impressed when The Mr pointed out that all of the trees in the grounds would work beautifully for being covered in streamers, lanterns etc.  I’d not even told him about that!!!  He came up with that on his own!

On the (slight) down side, it is one of the more expensive venues we’ve looked at, with the basic packages (for our numbers) starting at £100pp and £37.50 for children under 12).  The rooms for staying in are small, and could prove problematic for guests with children – the rooms only have space for the double bed, and there are no twin or family rooms.  They also don’t provide cots, so those with babies would have to bring their own travel cots.  However they did say that children could be put on blow-up beds on the floor, but with the size of the room, that would take up most of the room!!  The rooms really are small.  However, the centre of High Wycombe is probably only 10-15 minutes away in a car / taxi, and there are a wealth of hotels there (including a Holiday Inn), so perhaps the option would be to put guests in mini-busses at the end of the night.  We’d miss out on the breakfast then though, which would be a shame.  Although I’ve just found the Tree Hotel at Cadmore End through a Google search.. and it looks lush…

This one is definitely on the shortlist for now.. but still lots to look at!

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