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. 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!

To book or not to book…??

Lots of thoughts going round in my head about wedding venues over the last few days.  There seem to be a lot of places offering last-minute deals on dates left for this year, which I was surprised at.  6 months still left to plan a wedding in late August/early September seems relatively do-able, especially with the money you could save on hiring the venue.. could easily then be spent on other things to get them done in a short space of time.

So the thought on my mind most is.. to book or not to book?!  Do we look at venues now, then wait until this time next year and keep our fingers crossed there will be a deal for what we want, and possibly save ourselves a whole heap of money, or book now, and know we have the date we want, at the venue we want, and know for sure that bit is out of the way.

But in the meantime, here’s some more pretty inspiration I’ve found today.

I definitely want a ‘leaf tree’ style guest book for our wedding, what a wonderful way to have something a little bit personal from all of the guests, as something you can frame and hang on the wall.  A beautiful idea, and so cost effective and simple.  I must admit, I’ve done similar things for work, with children using either hand-prints of cut-outs of their hands for leaves on a tree, but never thought of bringing the idea to a wedding!

All of these images have been *ahem* borrowed from the amazing wedding inspiration / blog site that is Rock My Wedding.  Click on the pictures to go to the original pages ❤