Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Charlotte Balbier's wedding diary: the venue search

I always thought that when I got engaged and started planning a wedding, I would know exactly what I wanted. As a little girl I dreamt of a Cinderella-style happy ending (glass slippers, Prince Charming, the works!) but after only days of being engaged, I soon realised that what you think you want and what you actually want are very different. And that’s when it became clear that planning our wedding was going to be a little harder than I had imagined.
I decided to practise what I preach and take the advice I often give to brides – finding the venue is the best place to start and then fingers and toes crossed everything else will fall into place. The kind of venue you choose really does influence all of your other decisions so it made sense to make it number one on our to-do list. But little did I know that 20 was going to become my new lucky number!
My first venue love affair was with Claridges, right in the heart of London’s Mayfair. It had me hooked from the start after I stayed there several years ago and I’m enchanted by the Art Deco interior, glamorous yet elegant d├ęcor and of course the impeccable five-star service. I vividly remember sipping champagne there with my mum, bridal designer Amanda Wyatt, declaring that one day “I’m going to get married here”.
I giggle to this day as I remember mum agreeing that the luxury we were surrounded by was the ideal setting for a wedding, yet I know she was secretly a little anxious about her daughter’s expensive taste!
Iscoyd Park
The red brick manor house at Iscoyd Park.
It was love at first sight. Yet the logistics of getting the majority of my guests from Cheshire to London proved a problem. With our more elderly guests being some of the most important to me, I didn’t want the hustle and bustle of the city to be a worry for them. With this in mind, in rolled Plan B... but slight problem there. Plan B? There never was a Plan B!
After a bit of a panic, my first port of call was to look at all the wedding venues that my brides had chosen for their own gorgeous weddings. With over 1000 pictures from Charlotte Balbier brides posted on my Facebook page or emailed to me, I had a fantastic archive to be inspired by. I found the You & Your Wedding website so useful, spending hours online with Teddy, narrowing down our search.
We started with a list of 10 but actually viewed 20 potential venues in the end! Three stood out to us as strong possibilities, so we had some tough choices to make.
Styal Lodge, situated in the heart of Cheshire, was one of the chosen final few. As a purpose-built eco-friendly lodge, this family-run business is young, fresh and extremely pretty, set within the National Trust village of Styal. I loved the lodge so much I actually launched my Romantic Decadence collection there in May, so know first hand what an amazing service they provide.
Another close contender for the Balbier/Bedford wedding was The Ashes, a family-run business set in the beautiful countryside of Staffordshire. Husband and wife team Ben and Sarah (with a little help from their adorable three daughters) have restored the two glorious barns to an exceptionally high standard, and the 50 acre grounds are wedding-photo perfect, resting on the foothills of the Peak District National Park.
Iscoyd Park interior
Room with a view at Iscoyd Park.
So with 19 venues viewed, two potential front-runners and a 10-month search under our belts, we set off to venue number 20, Iscoyd Park. After a recommendation from a fashion photographer friend (who affirmed the venue was “so Charlotte”) we pulled into the grounds. Without even looking at Teddy I knew it was ‘the one’.
The Godsal family home since the 1800s, the recently restored house is a dream. It's warm, welcoming and has a feel to it that puts everyone at ease. Everywhere you turn, your eye catches a beautiful antique or some exquisite soft furnishings, it really is simply divine. The work of very talented interior designer Suzy Hoodless (who I really admire), it’s easy to see why past clients Gucci, Selfridges and The Soho House Group love her work too.
Sealing the deal was Iscoyd’s owner, Phil. He made Teddy and I feel so welcome from the moment we arrived and nothing was too much trouble for him. I know I can trust Phil with all my dreams and wishes for our special day, and that everything will be executed to the highest of standards. To say I cannot wait is the biggest understatement!
Love Charlotte xx
So that’s the venue booked, now time to move on to the 101 other things on Charlotte's to-do list! Next time don’t miss ‘Civil or church service

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