I’m a serial crier. Anyone who knows me knows this. I only have to see someone else crying and that’s it, I’m off. I cry at reasonable and not so reasonable things (having ‘nothing to wear’). I never, however, expected to visit a wedding venue and leave in tears. People tell you you’ll cry when you find THE dress … my unexpected tears definitely told me we’d found THE venue…
There’s a secret board on my Pinterest (not so secret now) filled with hay stacks, mason jars and baby’s breath, always imagining I’d get married in a rustic, shabby chic barn filled with bunting, hessian and wood. I think I was channeling my love of country music.
Ryan and I aren’t religious so we didn’t discuss a church wedding as an option. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted, courtesy of Pinterest, but we wanted to check hotels out too. Because its such a big expense we wanted to be sensible and make sure we were getting the best for our pennies! Ryan always liked the idea of a hotel where everything is in one place; the ceremony, the breakfast, the reception, available rooms for guests to spend the night – all very practical, typical of Ryan! I, on the other hand, was worried about a lack of light, random 18th century style paintings and most importantly … dodgy carpets!
6 days after our engagement we visited our first 2 venues – 2 hotels. I tried to put the carpet fear behind me.
The drive through the gardens surrounding the first hotel was pretty and quaint – I was excited, the long driveway had a regal feel. We parked up, and as we walked to the entrance saw a family all setting up for their wedding. They were so excited and told us gleefully that they “couldn’t recommend it highly enough, great staff, do anything to help” – a good start! We met our host and she took us on our tour after a brief chat. Our first stop was the bar where the guests would gather before and after the ceremony. The views were nice but it felt cramped and a little small – it was just a bit bland. As I looked around, I struggled to see past the dark paintings of chubby old men with curly white hair and the aged green and brown carpet described as neutral . An indoor ceremony would be held in a traditional room with a lovely fireplace, chandelier and floor to ceiling bay windows overlooking the grounds. Standing in the room with Ryan, I couldn’t imagine walking down the aisle, saying my vows and out the corner of my eye seeing more curly haired men (I think this may have accidentally shown on my face). An outdoors ceremony would be held in their Folly, “a beautiful ornate structure made of stone in our landscaped gardens”. Although it was very beautiful, there was a house in the background and the grass sloped significantly to the left – I instantly had an image of chairs toppling over with a domino effect. As we left, I felt underwhelmed. Ryan felt positive but I think this had more to do with the price and the packages available! That said, even now he says he would have been happy to get married at hotel 1.
When we arranged to visit the second hotel, The Elvetham Hotel, we did so expecting it to be out of our price range but thought it would be nice to get a comparison – I also wanted to be a bit nosy as I’d never been there! We turned the corner and drove up to a white wooden gate that opened on approach, a nice little touch. The drive to the hotel was stunning – a single road lined with Willow Trees, Wellingtonias and Magnolia Soulangiana shimmering in the sun, reflecting up from the stream. It was picture perfect and with every tree we passed, my surprise and concern at how much I’d like it grew.
Spinning around in wonder at the perfectly kept grounds, we headed up to the main entrance and waited eagerly for our Wedding Specialist in the lobby. The furniture was dark, there were paintings of the white curly haired men again and the carpet was questionable… but it felt different – it felt authentic. As we waited we flicked through a Wedding Album, marveled at the gorgeous pictures, and raised an eye brow questioningly at the likely cost – one picture was of a helicopter landing!
Our tour started in the Drawing Room bar where our guests would be taken before and after the ceremony – the main feature being that the bar leads out to the incredibly beautiful garden. An indoor ceremony is held in the Oak Room where, thankfully, there isn’t a carpet in sight – hallelujah! It is a large, light room and instantly I imagined walking down the aisle to meet Ryan! An outdoor ceremony would be held in their intimate, peaceful ‘summer house’ at the bottom of the garden (see below). I’m not really sure why its called a house as isn’t a house at all, you are literally in the open, in the garden. The wedding taking place that day was an outdoor ceremony and it was dreamy, absolutely stunning. The sun was shining and the flowers were in full bloom – all I could imagine was being here, surrounded by our loved ones, saying our vows.
The walk from the summer house back to the main house is breathtaking and suddenly, without even seeing the rest of the house, I was in love. We didn’t even need to say anything, it was clear from the look on both of our faces we were blown away. I giggled like a child as we wandered around the gardens, discussing fireworks and idyllic spots for photos.
A Wedding Breakfast could be held in either the Library or Conservatory. Both were equally impressive but in vastly different ways. The Library was warm, homely and cosy – ideal for a romantic winter wedding. The Conservatory overlooks the main of feature of The Elvetham, the perfectly manicured gardens – the perfect backdrop for a summer wedding. With the sunshine beaming in through the windows and the fairy lights skimming the ceiling, I had the dreaded feeling this was going to be impossible to beat.
Our last stop was the Morning Room, essentially the party room. This was the only room that I had any concerns over – it felt quite small and after all of the previous grandeur, I was a little disappointed. It just wasn’t at all what I imagined – my preference would be to have the evening celebration in the Conservatory, a much bigger space, but we were advised, logistically, that can be a bit of a nightmare.
We left The Elvetham, quote in hand with a feeling of utter bewilderment – we knew this was what we wanted and couldn’t see how it would be beaten. We sat in the car on our way home and excitedly discussed the last 30 minutes, everything that was so perfect about this venue, how surprised I was at just how much I loved it and how quickly my Pinterest plans were sidelined. Without even realising it I’d just walked through my perfect wedding day – it was nothing like I’d thought but somehow was so much better. No matter where I looked I saw a moment that we’d live out on our wedding day and it felt so special and wonderful. I was in no way prepared for how emotional it would be. Ryan must have questioned asking me to marry him as I started crying in the car, sobbing ‘we just won’t find anywhere like this‘.
I guess the important thing to remember about planning a wedding is to be open minded, not just when dress shopping, but throughout the whole process. I would never have visited The Elvetham if it wasn’t for Ryan’s suggestion – I would have stuck to the ideas on my Pinterest board and we would have missed out on somewhere truly special.
358 days, 20 hours and 11 minutes to go 🙂