It's all about location, location, location..
... when it comes to choosing your wedding venue.
You may remember from 'Our Engagement Story' that Simon and I have been together a long time now and although we'd discussed getting married on a few occasions during that time, neither of us had really thought about the specifics of what our wedding day would be like.
Don't get me wrong, I've had a whole Pinterest board dedicated to wedding ideas but it's not very refined as of yet - more a guide to what might be nice and things I like.
After we got engaged, we obviously started discussing when and what we'd both like for our big day. It's hard not to get engrossed in idea generating/planning - we didn't want to rush things but equally we are getting on in life and we want to start a family whilst we both have grandparents here, so we sort of need to get cracking.
We both agreed a good venue is one of our top four priorities - the others being food, music/entertainment and the dress. I'll go through the other three in a bit more detail in later posts.
Having been to a few friends weddings, we sort of knew what we didn't want but were still unsure on what our ideal venue would be so we started by considering the location. We wanted to keep our search in the North as most our family lives there namely between Carlisle and Newcastle. We however, now live in Bristol but we're originally from Carlisle and both our parents and siblings still live there.
That said, we were pretty sure from the outset that it wasn't going to be where we chose to get married. We did however consider the Lake District as it's gorgeous and it's pretty close to our families but quickly realised that whilst there are some lovely venues they weren't quite 'us'.
So keeping the search in the North, we moved across to the North East and started looking at venues in Newcastle, Durham and Northumberland. There seemed to be a lot more that we liked here and we'd quickly created a long-list of interesting and varied options.
Before we could start creating our short-list of venues to go and look at, we knew we should write our guest list so that we could secure the right size venue as we're looking at approximately 100 guests. This immediately ruled some venues out as they just couldn't hold the numbers.
Together, we then started refining this list further based on look, decor, accommodation and price. All of this was done through online research and reviews and we knew pictures on websites can be made to look fab but until you actually go and view the venue in person, you'll never really get a sense of what it's like - a bit like buying a house really - it can come down to the 'feel' of the place.
With our short-list created - we now had 3 venues - we booked in some viewings. Our short-list consisted of Newton Hall, Seaham Hall and Doxford Barns. Newton Hall was actually having a wedding Open Day in late July, so we based all our viewings around that and headed up North. We both wanted our families involved in the venue picking so we made them aware of our choices and they actually made a few more suggestions including Matfen Hall, Slaley Hall and we found another one we liked the look of called Ellingham Hall. These last few venues weren't actually booked in so we just went along in the hope they'd be able to show us around and they did.
With work commitments, we had quite a tight schedule to stick too so we actually saw all 6 venues in 2 days. This was pretty intense and wouldn't be my recommended way of doing it but it's not impossible. With that in mind, I'm just going to give you a quick overview of the points we liked/disliked about each of the venues we visited.
Starting with Slaley Hall:
- Nice driveway - good way to make an entrance and ample parking
- Girl who showed us round was nice and despite not having a viewing booked in, she was very thorough and accommodating
- Lovely location/grounds - Si's family would love being able to play golf
- Venue itself feels dark, there's a lot of dark wood panelling and although normally we'd like that; it's not the look we want on our wedding day
- Room to hold ceremony isn't big enough plus there are pillars in the middle which could obstruct peoples view
- Bedrooms are adequate but some feel dated
- Outside space nice but not exclusive - the outdoor restaurant guests and golfers would share it with you
- Main reception room has no windows, is far too big and had a horrible carpet pattern that we just didn't like. I never knew carpets would be such a bone of contention but they really are.
In the end, there were too many things we didn't like so we ruled it out.
- Lovely lady showed us round - we didn't have a viewing booked in here either but again, she was very accommodating and showed us all the important areas in the time she had before her next appointment
- Really interesting venue with various rooms to utilise – vaults and cloisters
- Lovely grounds including gardens and again a golf course
- Didn’t particularly like one of the main reception rooms – it had dirty windows and dead flies on the window sills. I appreciate these things could be easily sorted but having worked in the industry in the past; it does put me off. There was also another horrible carpet in this room.
- Hall is nice but not sure it’s us - I don't like the idea of walking down a load of stairs in a wedding dress, I can be clumsy at the best of times.. never mind in a big ball gown style dress
- Nearby chapel - nice to have option of a religious ceremony which I was still quite keen on at the beginning of our search
- Didn’t get to see accommodation so not sure what would be available for us and our guests
Contender - family had been to a few events here and loved it and said the accommodation was nice. Plus the lady who showed us around was excellent and built a really good rapport.
- Girl that showed us round was very rehearsed in her manner
- Lovely entrance, grounds and hotel - lots of lovely areas for pictures
- Felt too modern and lacked atmosphere
- Bedrooms very nice and confident guests would like them as well
- Near the sea so possibility of having some beach photos - I have always wanted a beach wedding but know I wouldn't be able to have all my nearest and dearest there so this would make up for it
- Nice carpets
- Room to hold ceremony again, not big enough. Guests may have to go on the mezzanine level - don't want our guests split across levels. Although airy and well lit with natural light from the skylights, feels like a hallway. The bedroom doors are off this area, seemed like an after thought to use this space
- Out of our price bracket
Definite no - nice venue but just not for us.
- Driving on to the estate felt like we were driving in to a very secluded glen which could make people question whether they were in the right place - would need to make sure it was clearly sign posted.
- Lady who showed us round was lovely - they were actually in between weddings so the house was undergoing maintenance but we could see what a great home it was
- Traditional stately home/house
- Lots of interesting rooms and nice outdoor spaces
- All guests could stay in the house - Feel it could be too much to have everyone in one place
- Although accommodation would be reasonable; it’s too isolated and food and drink would bring costs up quite significantly
Too isolated and not enough local alternative accommodation options if people didn't want to stay with us at the house.
- Again, very isolated - it's literally amongst some fields in the middle of the countryside
- Nice girl showed us round
- Lovely rustic barn
- Very rural – very pretty and lots of lovely outdoor spots for photos
- Nice outdoor spaces but if weather was bad – could be a challenge getting out and about
- Accommodation options limited in close proximity
- Would require transportation which would add additional costs
Loved the venue but the blank canvas, its remoteness and lack of accommodation options put us off.
- Nice team of staff to welcome us and help show us round – wedding fair showed venue ‘as it could be’ - nice for ideas for what we would like on our day including sample cocktails, canapés etc
- Stunning grounds – lots of photo opportunities
- Lovely ceremony rooms including outdoor and indoor options - good internal flow through and areas for photos even if the weather is bad
- Bringing outdoors in with lots of windows
- Great bedrooms, all different and will add another conversation topic
- Reception room is lovely and liked the tables and chairs and the view across the fields in the background is a nice touch
- Local area has alternative accommodation options to suit varying budgets - we'll have guests travelling from all over the UK and from abroad so this was big bonus point
Absolute favourite venue, ticked a lot of boxes and felt like 'our venue'. So excited to have our day there!
And thats that - six venues in two days!
It was a lot to take in and it was useful to have family there as they helped by asking questions we hadn't thought about asking and considered things we hadn't thought about. That said; only take a couple of them with you as too many people can confuse your judgement and make you think about their opinions before your own.
When we got back to Bristol, Si and I went through all the information we had been sent and of course all the quotes and then made our decision. You have to take stock together and go with what you and your partner want - at the end of the day it's your day so have it the way you want!