Now there's no stopping us (I have to keep reminding myself that it's John and Alex's wedding) going into full wedding planning mode.
After looking at all of those wedding sites which give guidance on budgets it's going to be what they want rather than whatever the 'wedding planners' say it should be.
The first things on their list was to get the wedding and venue sorted out. Getting the church organised was very easy and they had a lovely meeting with the vicar on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Now onto the reception venue. Not so easy. There are so many choices but Alex and John were determined that one thing they didn't want to change on their wish list was to have a barn with as much freedom to do things their way as possible. They wanted somewhere which would be suitable for a reception for about 80 with about 120 in the evening. Their other requirement was to be able to provide an informal meal rather than a traditional 3 course wedding breakfast and to have a desert table provided by themselves and some friends and relations.
Alex's favourite venue when first looking at the internet was The Clock Barn, Whitchurch but the cost of that ruled it out. Another favourite venue locally is Bury Court Barn, Bentley. A&J decided not to look at this because they took weeks to reply to their enquiry and by then they knew this was a venue which didn't give you access the day before to decorate unless there was no wedding booked for that day.
A list of possible venues, including barns which would be their ideal and a range of venues which didn't instantly appeal but may be suitable were visited. I was lucky enough to be able to tag along as the driver.
The 1st visit was to The Long Barn, Newton Valence. This has a beautiful setting and is lovely, but perhaps a little too large for A&J. Also the only option for catering was 1 supplier who wasn't flexible about any food supplied by others.
Then it was off to The Tithe Barn near Petersfield. This is an amazing space, almost like a cathedral rather than a normal barn but it's a true business set up rather than a personal space. There's no guarantee of having access to the barn the day before or after so it is expected that you pay your florists to decorate in the morning and that you tidy everything away in the evening to collect early the next morning. Not the relaxed ideal A&J wanted.
There was also a visit to Bonhams Barn, Holybourne which is very local and has one event per weekend. But A&J didn't know if it was right for them as if they hired this it was towards the top end of their budget so it needed to be perfect. They didn't know why but knew they needed to look at more places.
The last barn to look at was Pitt Hall Barn near Basingstoke. They both loved this venue and found it very easy to talk to the owner who was very open to their suggestions. It's a family business and so is flexible in the approach to what the bride and groom require. They also only do one wedding each weekend so you have full access the day before and after.
A&J felt Pitt Hall was a real contender and the owner couldn't have been more helpful with trying to make the cost fit their budget but they were both worried that if they booked either Pitt Hall or Bonhams that they would use up too much of their budget. So we researched other venues which were not the first to crop up on google searches.
Two locations which may be possibilities were found and contacted. Details of requirements were sent and eventually a reply was received from Mellow Farm which felt as though it is set out in the wilds of nowhere, but wasn't really. It was smaller than the other venues looked at and slightly less 'posh' but could be very lovely. But when A&J were talking about access the day before, ie Thursday as they wanted to have their wedding on a Friday the owner told them he didn't have weddings on Fridays. It would have been useful if this had been put in his reply to A&J's original email which had said they wanted a Friday wedding as they had waited 2 weeks to visit. That may not seem long, but in this wedding planning business 2 weeks can easily be the difference between getting the venue and date you want and having to change things.
They had also tried hard to contact Gilbert White's House, Selbourne but hadn't heard anything. We decided to just drop in and it transpired the event organiser had been on holiday for the last few weeks which is why they hadn't heard anything. The staff were lovely and gave us free access to the museum and gardens so we could wander up to the barn, although they couldn't see inside because they only open it for 'viewing' days. They were also shown the wedding albums and met with the events organiser who was just back from her holiday and obviously very busy. It's a lovely setting and the gardens are beautiful but it is in Selbourne so there seemed there would be restrictions and rules which didn't fit with the atmosphere they wanted to create. If you live in this area you may realise that Selbourne is beautiful but it has the feel of a place which likes its rules and regulations.
Finally a decision was made and Bonhams Barn has been booked, deposit paid and date set for August 2014.
Now what happens next, oh well I'm sure Alex has an app to organise her.