The Venue Hunt was hard. Ok not as hard as, say, a degree in Biophysics, but a lot harder than I ever imagined it would be. It took us a total of 6 weeks and 6 site visits to find The One, which I don’t think is particularly long or exhaustive in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like a lifetime when you just want to set a date and crack open one of your many bottles of engagement bubbly. (We received none, but you get the idea.)
The criteria (mainly set by me) was as follows:
- It had to be a rustic setting.
- It had to feel exclusive and unique- I really, really didn’t want a ‘wedding venue’ that churned out five weddings a week.
- It had to allow BYOB, with minimal (preferably zero) corkage fee.
- It had to have a reception space that would allow me to ‘do my thang’ stylistically and creatively. (As a fledgling wedding planner, this was THE most important aspect!)
- We really, really wanted it to be in Kent.
I had actually been ‘venue hunting’ for many many months (read: at least a year) before Paul proposed. This was semi-hidden in the form of research for Utterly Wow, but I’m sure he could see right through me. I’d fallen in love with many venues already, and despaired when the brochures landed on the porch floor and I realised how much they were. So there were quite a few on the list already when I became ‘officially allowed to look’.
Leading the way was a venue that wasn’t actually a venue, but a holiday home. I had stumbled across Great Higham Farm when drooling over this wedding courtesy of the uber-talented Shell de Mar.
Yes, an actual hot tub in the woods
Great Higham Farm is a private barn and cottage conversion in Kent with beds for up to 38, a tennis court, a swimming pool and a hot tub. In the woods. I had visions of a relaxed, house-party style reception, with fairy lights in the trees, people mingling in and out the house, and late-night dancing on the sofas. On a cold and grey Friday in January I went to view the farm with my Mum and she completely fell in love too. On the Sunday we went back again, this time with Paul and his mum and step-dad in tow, and I showed them round with all the giddy excitement of a bride-to-be who’d just found her dream venue.
The open plan kitchen/living area with mezzanine level above
Except they weren’t convinced. And started to tentatively point out the flaws that I had been ignoring. Like the fact that it didn’t have a marriage licence so we would have to find (and fund) a ceremony elsewhere. And that the main house wasn’t really big enough for 120 people so a marquee extension would definitely be needed. And that if we did have a marquee extension, wouldn’t the people sat in the marquee feel inferior to the people sat round the long tables inside the house? So in actual fact we would really need to hire a marquee big enough to seat everyone. And then all of a sudden it had become a marquee wedding, not the house-party I had envisaged and I wanted out. So with a heavy heart (and a promise to return for a big party some day) I agreed to take a step back and continue the search.
Thereafter followed a bit of a ‘black week’ where I genuinely believed we weren’t going to find a venue in Kent that a) ticked all the boxes or b) we could afford. Paul and I ventured out one Sunday to The Ferry House Inn
on the Isle of Sheppey, but to be honest it was a no-goer from the off. It had a lovely barn-style room for the ceremony and reception and beautiful views over the Estuary, but with our large number of guests we would, again, have to utilize the attached marquee, which, on our viewing day was only half erected, -10 degrees and stank of rotten fish. Not to mention the fact that the main pub/restaurant would remain open to the public for the day. And that Paul’s beloved car was scratched whilst attempting to make room for a passing car on the 3-mile ‘off-road’ track which led down to the Inn. Not ideal.
There were three more venues to visit before we found The One, involving a road trip of epic proportions, my first experience of potted crab, and the ceremony room to end all ceremony rooms. But, dear reader (if I have a dear reader), you will have to wait a day or two to hear about the second half of The Venue Hunt as it is 10.35pm on a Friday night, I am full of KFC and wine, and I have work tomorrow. Boo.
I shall leave you with an image from the wedding
that started this whole little journey. If you haven’t seen it already, go take a look and enjoy; it’s simply beautiful.
image by Shell de Mar