If you ever wondered what it's like from the "behind the scenes" we're delighted to share some insight along with tips and advice from an "in-house" wedding and events manager, Claire Nicholl. Claire is based in Holdsworth House, one of our Gay Friendly wedding venues who appear on Pink Wedding Venues.
DON’T LET THE NITTY GRITTY OF YOUR WEDDING CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
When a couple in love makes the decision to dedicate their lives to each other, their happiness is palpable. So discussing the nitty gritty details of the wedding day can sometimes curb your enthusiasm.
Here wedding and events manager Claire Nicholl at Holdsworth House in Yorkshire, a wedding venue featured in Last Tango in Halifax, discusses how to avoid the pitfalls and ensure your wedding day is one to remember for all the right reasons.
“Picking the venue is first on the agenda for most couples as it’s not uncommon for some venues to get booked up two years out.
Many couples want their wedding to be different, to stand out and to give guests something new and memorable to take away with them. Go back fifteen years and I saw everyone having a similar type of wedding: a marriage followed by a traditional wedding breakfast, evening buffet and a DJ. For around 90% of couples this tried and tested itinerary continues to works brilliantly as it still allows for individuality to be tagged on to a proven format. But couples are also getting very creative and some have a vision for their wedding day that warrants a blank canvas, and for some couples the wilder the idea the better!
“Wedding styles tend to follow trends. In recent years I’ve helped lots of different styles of weddings materialise, from vintage afternoon tea weddings to steampunk themes. It’s my job to help facilitate the dream, whatever that may be. That’s one of the reasons I love this job; two weddings are never the same.
“Choosing the type of wedding you want can depend on your circumstances as well as your dreams. What I say to guests is to think carefully about choosing your venue and ask yourself some basic questions:
1)What type of marriage do you want?
Is it a large party or a smaller, intimate, close friends and family celebration? Thinking about how many people who want to invite first will help you decide on what types of venue you should look for.
2)When do you want to tie the knot?
There’s no average time to plan your wedding anymore. Whilst some take up to two years, nine months is pretty commonplace (it’s worth noting that some venues also have last minute offers for around six to nine months lead times).
We’ve had weddings arranged in six weeks and one was even quicker than that when a couple was let down by their original venue. The process we go through at the hotel is exactly the same regardless of the lead-time so as long as we have availability then you can get married at Holdsworth House!
3)How much experience does your venue have?
The wilder your ideas the fewer venues will have the necessary experience. Let your venue worry about the logistics and allow them to advise you on health and safety requirements. Whilst I never want to put a damper on ideas, we have to be practical – hay bales for seats together with hoards of candles are never a good mix (believe me, I’ve been asked). A venue that has a lot of wedding experience will have seen alternative ways and should be able to give you suggestions and even show you pictures of different set ups.
Your venue should be flexible too, allowing some maneuverability in the schedule, menus or anything else you want. If your venue won’t sway to your ideas then they’re too busy focusing on themselves, not on the customer. You’re paying; nothing should be too much trouble! However with vast experience comes wisdom! I often advise my brides and grooms on the most successful timing schedule or room layout for example that will facilitate a fabulous party, with free movement of guests around the hotel and good breaks between meals. So don’t be too stubborn, please listen to sage advice when it’s provided.
4)Who does the catering at your venue?
This sounds a bit daft but of course not all venues do their own catering. The benefit of choosing a venue with on-site catering is that everything is close to hand and we have all the right tools at our disposal for any last minute tweaks.
However there are also a big difference between venues that do have their own catering, especially with large weddings where there might be 120 main courses to serve within a short window. Some venues opt for pre-cooking meals or use frozen ingredients - it really depends on the size of kitchen, number of staff and skills of the chefs. As you can imagine there’s a big taste difference between fresh and reheated meals so if you like great food then check that your venue operates a fresh banqueting service; it might help you narrow down your list further.
Another tip – Some couples try to cut costs by catering for fewer guests in the evening. I always recommend couples cater for 100% of guests as it only leads disappointment if food runs out, which then reflect badly on the wedding couple.
OPERATIONS SHOULD RUN LIKE CLOCKWORK
“A venue’s job essentially is to ensure your day runs like clockwork. The wedding party should breeze through the place, without seeing or hearing about how hard the team is working behind the scenes.
You have to be a whizz at organization in this job and you have to trust the team around you. Everyone has to understand his or her role and how each decision impacts on the next team member – one false move and there can be a knock on effect. With around 125 weddings a year we’ve got the things down to a tee and there’s not much that fazes us anymore. Whilst experience breeds confidence you can never become complacent because then standards slip. What’s wonderful in this business is that every wedding is unique so there’s no chance of getting tired.
The day of the wedding itself should run without hitch. We have one main function sheet that all our team works from and we know where everyone should be at what time – staff and guests! Cooking all meals fresh means that our customer-facing team is acutely aware of the schedule and are always communicating the proceedings with Chef so he knows when to step on the gas. We also work closely with the local registrars, photographers, florists and cake makers giving clear instructions and conducting the whole event so it runs like a well-rehearsed orchestra.
“I love to build a rapport with our wedding couples. Just like a successful marriage, a first-class wedding is built on trust. If you don’t trust your venue to deliver an exceptional day then it probably won’t happen. But when you find a venue that delivers on style, food and a team you can rely on, you’ll know it’s the one.”
Thank-you so much Claire, we had no idea how the "magic" works behind the scenes! So much work is involved on the part of the venue. It's, clearly, important to develop a great relationship with your wedding organiser from the "off".
To find out more about Holdsworth House please click on their "Last Tango in Halifax" image below. Give Claire a call!
We would also like to thank Kyte Photography and credit the above image to them.
Also, thank-you to Liz Howe from Hey Marketing for organising the tips and advice that have been, kindly, provided above.