Welcome back to part deux of The Venue Hunt. If you haven’t read part one, it’s here– go catch up!
So we were two venues down, one heart broken already and zero celebratory we’ve-found-our-venue high fives in. One of the most frustrating aspects of venue-hunting, as I’m sure those of you who’ve done it well know- is the whole week of work to get through before you can get out there again. It’s torture!!! So I decided the only way was to make a day of it- three venues, one road trip. It had to be a Friday (my day off) as one of the venues didn’t do show-rounds on weekends (major error on their part methinks?). My lovely husband-to-be was therefore unable to come with me, but fortunately two super-dooper friends stepped in to accompany me and off we went.
Stop number 1: Pale and Interesting, Romney Marshes, Kent
I knew of Pale and Interesting as the bridal boutique I work at had lent some dresses out for an inspiration shoot done there last year. (This inspiration shoot- it’s a stunner!) The venue consists of an American New-England style barn to hold your ceremony, and a large meadow for you to put a marquee for the reception.
I cannot explain how beautiful the barn is. And my dodgy photos certainly don’t do it justice, so apologies for that…
There's Holly and Louise, trying to be inconspicuous...
The barn is pure white (hence the name Pale and Interesting) and full of quirky props and bits of furniture that the owners have collected. The space is used primarly for photoshoots and location filming, but the potential for weddings is huge. It’s hard to believe from the pictures but it really was- in my mind at least- the ceremony room to end all ceremony rooms. I could picture Paul and I stood in front of those doors with the meadow in the background, light seeping in, tealights in glass jars… Sigh. I’m not religious so we were never going to get married in a church, but I love the drama and romance of churches, and I thought this was just about as close to drama and romance that we were gonna get! (Minus the fussball table of course.)
View from the other end. (Image by me)
The barn from outside. And there's Holly, again.
The marquee space is beyond the trees in the meadow behind... I imagined streamers hanging from the trees and guiding guests from their cars and to the barn.
What's an Airstream, I hear you cry? That's an Airstream. Good for moody, 'just married' photos...
Even on a cold, dreary day I could picture it. The space was beautiful, it was the blank canvas I was after and it was definitely rustic. But it was also a marquee reception (which I was battling against- I’ve nothing against marquees, I just prefer wood), and it was bloody expensive. Too expensive I’d say, considering that, actually, we weren’t made to feel entirely welcome… But it was a definite maybe, and on we went to Rye and stop number 2.
Stop number 2: The Gallivant, Rye, Kent/Sussex
The Gallivant is described as a boutique beach hotel opposite the dunes of Camber and only a mile or so down the road from Rye. It used to be called The Place On The Beach, and was recently relaunched in all its nautical, Mr and Mrs Smith approved glory.
A nautical-themed room. And Holly. Honestly, she gets about that girl...
Compared to all the other venues I had viewed so far it was the most ‘wedding venue-y’. It had a Wedding Coordinator (who was very nice, even when I spilt my complimentary glass of bucks fizz all over the nice, clean floor), a team of chefs ready to cook the cuisine of your choice, a ‘bridal suite’ (aka the biggest bedroom), and a marriage licence. In addition, you got to have the whole hotel exclusively, and with the building fully sound-proofed during the last refurb, there was no time limit meaning we could boogie all night if we wanted to.
I found the service delightful and the potted crab incredibly tasty, but ultimately I didn’t want a nautical-themed wedding, I’ve never wanted to have a nautical-themed wedding, and I’m not entirely sure why we went. Probably because it was so close to the first venue. And it served lunch.
The restaurant-come-bar-come-ceremony room-come-discotheque. (Image by me)
Stop number 3: The House Meadow, Biddenden, Kent
The final destination on our Kentish roadtrip was The House Meadow
, a work-in-progress wedding venue that doesn’t host its first ‘do’ until May this year. It’s essentially a big, beautiful meadow situated on a working farm and livery yard. You hire the meadow and space for the day which includes woodland, lake complete with gazebo (which they were working on when we visited), and a small barn to house a small reception should you not need to hire a marquee.
I wanted to visit The House Meadow because it was so close to my Mum’s house and therefore perfect location-wise. I’m also a massive horse-lover so the thought of having a picture of me in my wedding dress, standing with a horse in the middle of a field (or better still, sitting on it bareback!) excited me greatly. But alas, the barn was too small for our number of guests which meant a marquee reception, and with no marriage licence we would have needed to have had a civil ceremony elsewhere. Suddenly what appeared to be a fantastic bargain had actually become a relatively large expense, and my heart just wasn’t in it.
I can’t fault Clare though; the person running the show at The House Meadow and an all-round lovely, passionate lady. With several years wedding and event coordination experience working at high-profile venues in Kent, she has pushed for her family to turn their farm (which has been in the family for over 100 years!) in to their own wedding business and I know it’s going to be a great success.
Last stop: My mum’s for a cup of tea and a de-brief.
Weary and slightly dejected we headed to my Mum’s to fill her in on the day’s events. My heart had ruled out stops 2 and 3, but there was something pulling me back to stop 1. Something white and beautiful and barn-shaped… But my head was telling me no. Venue hire + marquee hire + furniture hire + £10 (yes £10!!!) corkage fee + everything else = Too many pounds. And I just didn’t get the sense that we were going to be looked after, which is important when you’re spending a small fortune.
Nope, we were back to the drawing board. But I knew that I just wasn’t going to settle for a marquee. I’m sorry, I’d tried, but I wanted wood. I wanted timber, god damnit! Blank canvas, barn-shaped timber that kept people warm and dry if it rained and let you decorate to your heart’s content and didn’t charge a ridiculous corkage fee and provided the rustic backdrop I so desperately wanted. And I remembered a lovely barn that had seemed perfect once upon a time but was ruled out very early on as the date in April we wanted had already been booked. And a lightbulb switched on inside my head and I realised that we could change our date.
And that, dear reader, was what happened the week before we found our venue. Come back tomorrow to find out where it is, and what I’m going to do with it… Yikes!