Today on the English Wedding Blog we’re all about family owned country houses: those dreamy estates where you can dine in luxury but with more of a relaxed atmosphere and generally more control over your day than you would in a ‘venue’ whose only purpose is to cater for weddings and events. Lovely Danielle from Penton Park has some great questions you should ask if you’re considering hiring someone’s luxury home for your wedding.
I love the idea of being welcomed into a magnificent home for your wedding – instantly you feel more relaxed and less constrained by rules and things you ‘should’ be doing a certain way!
Many years ago the country house was a private family home, a grand space created for the owner to host, entertain and generally enjoy the wealth the family had accumulated – fast forward to the 21st century and they are a mixed bag of private residences, wedding venues and hotels.
Like many others Penton Park opened our doors to weddings and events. Our pretty large homes were designed to host these grand events and you can almost hear the ghosts of parties past reminiscing in the wings as the house comes back to life. As my husband Guy often says, “the house was made for this” and we absolutely love being a part of such a special day! When I’ve misplaced Guy, which happens frequently, he’s usually pouring guests a pint of his home brewed ale, or discussing the history of the house with an interested guest.
But what should you, the bride and groom, be considering when viewing these beautiful properties for your own wedding day? What questions should you have in mind to make sure you have exactly the day you dream of in your perfect venue?!
Having hosted more weddings than we can count, here’s my top 10 questions you should ask when considering your chosen country house homes:
1. What kind of access is available?
Remembering there might be three generations living in the house, is flexible access ok? Can you come in beforehand to decorate and dress the house, and who exactly will be there to meet you?
2. Who provides the catering?
I’ve found that often catering in private homes is through preferred suppliers as we home owners would much rather have caterers we know looking after our guests, not least because a poor meal reflects badly on us all and our overall service.
3. Can you stay in the house?
If so, who is on hand to help in the case of any problems? Are there any rules for overnight stays that you need to be conscious of?
4. Is there nearby accommodation?
If you can’t stay overnight (which can often be the case when we still live in our homes), then what are the accommodation options and when can you return to collect your belongings? As much as I have a fab rapport with our couples I’m sure they don’t want to see me in my onesie on the Sunday morning!
5. Any pets?!
Do they join in the fun, or can they be shut away? We have two cats who love a wedding. Blossom is frequently found in a photobooth with inebriated guests and Ratcliffe, who’s black, loves to hide curled up on a dark chair, but if you want us to we can shut them out for the day. Duke, our huge, overfriendly and ever so handsome Irish wolfhound is always kept away unless specifically requested by our couple!
6. What about antiques and valuables?
Those gorgeous antiques you can see dotted around, do you need to be worried about them getting broken?! Chances are the family have put the valuable items well out of the way, but always best to ask and double check.
7. How child friendly is the home?
Some may have more precious antiquities and family possessions than others, and if you have boisterous young children this might not mix well. If that’s the case ask the venue how you can entertain the little people, thus relieving stress for yourself or their parents – try a children’s tent from someone like JoJo bell tents (www.jojobelltents.co.uk) for the ultimate in children distraction!
8. Will family life affect your celebrations?
If you are viewing a home where the family live in then do ask how the day to day logistics work – let’s be honest no one wants a Waitrose delivery van in the bride arrival shots!!
9. Can you decorate as you would like?
For example, can any of the family pictures be moved and replaced with your own, can you add decorations around the rooms you are using. This has plus points if it’s a no, as it means less work for you decorating, but it does mean less flexibility. Some venues, us included, really don’t mind, let us know and we take the pictures away for you to pop up your own.
10. Are the owners used to welcoming weddings?
Finally find out about the home you are looking at, how many events do they do, how involved are the family and how do they feel about the weddings?! We love hosting at our home and we only hold 20 a year, so we’re often seen handing out drinks, meeting and greeting and generally taking a hands-on approach to making sure every single one of your guests is having the best time possible.
Last of all, and not strictly wedding related… ask the questions you are dying to ask! The best ones I’ve had yet are: do you dress for dinner, are you related to the Royal Family, and where do you watch X-Factor! I shan’t give away the answers as I wouldn’t want to ruin the intrigue!
For finding your perfect private home to host your wedding day in style then do try visiting www.hha.org.uk. You’ll find lots of houses, some like us, some smaller, lots bigger; and many with amazing histories and timeless backdrops to frame your perfect day, not to mention welcoming families looking forward to being a part of your wedding journey.
Images are by Az at Lemontree Photography. Danielle told me “Az is one of those photographers who puts you completely at ease, he brings with him experience, charm and an air of peace which instantly relaxes his subjects, meaning he can capture totally honest, natural and stunning shots which really reflect the moment of the day.”