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!

Potential Venue No. 2..

… was massively disappointing.  So much so, that I didn’t even bother taking any pictures, not even to show how disappointing it was.  The venue was Uplands House Hotel near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.  They were holding a wedding fair, run by ‘Guides for Brides‘, and it was possibly the emptiest wedding fair I’ve ever seen, and when I say empty, I mean of suppliers.  About 5 minutes and we were done!

So here we go..

First impressions as we drove up were quite good, nice grounds at the front of the old bit of the hotel, and a lovely view over the valley, lots of fields and greenery.   The car park then goes all the way round to the left of the venue, and there’s a lot of car park!  The newer parts of the hotel are the majority of what you see.  They aren’t in themselves ugly or particularly out of step with the rest of the venue, apart from one thing – they’ve all got bright blue window frames.  Plastic window frames.  And door frames.  And it just looks odd.  Really odd.

From where we parked the car, in the second bit of car park, although there was a sign to the wedding fair and reception, it wasn’t actually all that clear where we were heading.  And the way we arrived at the marquee was through what could only be described as the ‘trades man’s entrance’, but what lead directly into the marquee.  The kitchen was on the right hand side, so imagine mid-morning kitchen smells, and through the window, the kitchen didn’t look particularly .. erm.. appetising!!  The marquee itself is a permenant fixture, and is situated in a courtyard of the newer building, with all of the hotel rooms looking onto it.  There’s no nice areas for photos outside the marquee, and the whole area just looked like the back-end of a hotel.  Not like a dream wedding locations.

However the marquee itself is lovely on the inside.  It’s all white panelled with the white draped ceiling, and is suprisingly big.  There’s hard, carpetted floors throughout, and then a wooden style dance floor, with a black ceiling with twinkly lights.  There’s a bar at one end, and the whole thing looked very nice, a total blank canvas for us to put our stamp on.

At one end, there were double doors which led through to the outside, a pretty wall with gravelled steps going up, leading to the back gardens of the hotel.  However when you get to the top of the steps, the first thing you see is a very run down, manky looking basketball / tennis court on the right hand side.  Ignore that, and look to the left, and there’s a very cute little band-stand type structure in amongst landscaped gardens and gentle rolling slopes.  But what’s that in the background, framing the band-stand in any pictures?  Yes, that’s right, it’s the car-park.  Stand in the car park to take the pictures, and you’ve got the basketball court in the background.  Really disappointing.

So overall, we weren’t very impressed.  The marquee was lovely, and the venue is very competitively priced.  But there’s quite obviously a reason for that.  The fact that they were holding a wedding fair today didn’t seem to have encouraged the venue to brush up at all, the whole place looked like it needed a very thorough tidy up and spruce up.  And, they didn’t have the ceremony room open for people to look at either, so we couldn’t even go a nosy inside the house to get an idea if there would be a nicer space for pictures in there.

I think I can safely say, that Uplands House is off the list of potential venues.  Lets hope the next few are much better!!

Dresses

Let’s just say, today I went to The Wedding Centre in Marlow, Buckinghamshire with my three, lovely bridesmaids.

All I’m saying for now, is there were big dresses, small dresses, big ‘trails’, small ‘trails’, sparkly bits, ribbons, veils and tiaras.

And tears.  Of  joy. From me.

And that’s all I’m saying for now!

Potential Venue No. 1

We’ve just got back from viewing our first wedding venue… Missenden Abbey.  Lots of plus points, but some minuses too..

Here’s the low-down, in picture format..

The pluses: it’s a beautiful venue, with stunning scenery and fantastic picture opportunities.  It’s an ideal location, both for us to travel to from where we live, and also it’s only about 20 minutes (if that) from the Church where we plan to tie the knot.  The venue make the most of the outdoor space by proving outdoor games such as croquet, pitch and putt, and you can also add extras like a bouncy castle, giant chess etc.  They also allow candles and fireworks, which a lot of venues won’t.  Not saying we’ve got a budget for fireworks, but it means we can keep our options open!  So here’s what it looks like from the outside:

It’s quite spacious inside, and for the venue hire cost, we would get exclusivity of the whole venue and grounds.  So some pictures of the inside:

The entrance corridor…

Some of the original Abbey walls inside the building…

The bar (which they informed us is all at pub prices!)…

And another plus… as well as 6 posh bedrooms in the actual Abbey building, there is a residential block about 150m away, with around 50 double rooms, all looking out over this lovely pond… (and very reasonably priced)

But unfortunately, there are some negatives, two in particular.  The first, is the dining area.  Or rather areas.  The dining area is split into three separate rooms, although all conjoined in the middle by an archway and a set of double doors.  The carpet is also a bit of a funny colour.  The tables are rectangular, and are quite narrow, so there’s not much room for centre-pieces.  But the real deal-breaker is that they’re three different rooms, so we wouldn’t be able to see everyone at once.  One of the rooms at the end is also very dark, with little natural lighting.

This is the room in the middle, which has a three-storey sky light, which makes the room feel incredibly light and airy, which you can’t really get from this photo:

This is the smallest of all the dining rooms.  The doors you can see on the left of the picture lead to the middle-sized dining room, which is also where the evening buffet would be served.  As you can see, the tables are quite narrow, once there’s glasses and cuttlery on the table, there’s not much room for much else.  I can’t actually even imagine room for side plates!!

The arch on the right of the photo is to the largest room, which is also the one which is very dark… (as seen here through the arch from the middle room.. and it’s not just bad lighting in the photo, it really is that dark!!)

The venue people suggest that the top table is placed in this room, with our backs to the patio, so we can look through the two arches and into both dining rooms.  They also had the creative idea of the bride and groom eating a different course in each room, so they can mingle with all the guests.  It’s a nice idea as a work-around, but it’s not ideal, and really lets the venue down for me.  So then they suggest that rather than doing speeches in the dining room (as not everyone would be able to see / hear), they suggest holding them on this staircase.. (obviously the tea table would be moved out of the way)

The Mr immediately didn’t like this idea of towering over people whilst delivering a speech.  There’s nowhere to sit, and the room is long and narrow, so people delivering a speech would be turning left to right to try and address everyone.  This area is also where the venue suggest the dance floor is.  And when you see it from another angle, I’m just not sure how it would work…

So that’s the staircase on the left, and the edge of the tea table.  They suggest the DJ / band sets up infront of the window in the middle, as the two either side are the doors out into the garden (which are also fire-escapes, so can’t be blocked).  Immediately to the left, is the archway through to the bar.  So in my opinion, this area would become a thoroughfare from the garden into the bar, or from the dining area into the garden.  I can’t imagine much dancing going on, which is a shame.  Also, the dancrfloor is so seperate to the dining area, (guests would have to walk back through the main corridor to get from one to another).

So for me, I guess I would sum it up as beautiful venue, shame about the floor plan.  The other alternative, is that we pay the extra cost to have a marquee put up in the grounds.  Which seems like a real shame, to pay for such a gorgeous venue, and then spend time in a tent.  But, it would solve the issue of the floor plan – everyone would be in the same place.  But it would add a lot onto the cost of the venue.

But this is only the first venue we’ve looked at, there’s plenty more to come!  And Venue No. 2 is on the cards for tomorrow, so see you again soon!!

more flowers!!

OMG I just found some more amazing flower designs (again, my thoughts are just all over the place at the moment, so they’re quite different, but here we go!)

These are all from Twisted Willow designs:

And the more I look, the more I think I’m being able to come to a conclusion about what I like, and what I don’t.

I think for me, there’s a fine line between what looks pretty, and what looks messy.  And I definitely want pretty over messy..

Case in point – some of the ‘flower balls’ I’ve seen look lovely (which is what I’m currently considering for my bridesmaids), and when they’re symmetrical and even (and not messy!), they look great.  Others look like someone has tried to squash in as many flowers as possible to make it look full, and it just doesn’t work.  Here’s a ‘yes’ (ok the colour isn’t my thing, and the feathers.. well, but you get the impression):

And here’s a no.. it just looks all higgledy-piggledy…

So I think for me, as the bride, I’ll be going for a long bouquet, rather than a round one, something like either of these:

Aaah, aren’t they lovely!  Ok I’m going to stop looking now, otherwise I could go on forever!

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