How to transform an unusual and quirky space into a stunning wedding venue for a ceremony and evening reception
Here at Sunninghill Weddings HQ we are super excited to be spending the week ahead video filming and photographing part of the transformation of Sunninghill Prep School into a stunning wedding venue for the perfect wedding ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening reception party space.
'Good Bones' to work with: A Grade II Victorian Gothic Villa
At Sunninghill Weddings venue in Dorchester we are fortunate that all the rooms used by wedding couples and their guests are south facing and overlook the main lawn area. The building also has a regular scheduled maintenance programme to ensure it remains in tip top condition which includes things such as regular cutting of the grass through to larger tasks such as painting the window frames. In 2017 for example the Drawing Room Verandah and Garden Rom Conservatory were painted together will all first and second floor rooms, followed by the west face main entrance. This year the north side of the main house will also be clad in scaffolding for its scheduled 'face lift' but thankfully this doesn't impact on any of our planned weddings. Most important of all however, is that the house and grounds have a warm and welcoming feel for wedding couples and their guests who are free to use (and often admire) the arts and crafts furniture and decor of the main house..
Creating the Old Music Room Bar
Quirky and unusual wedding venues are the latest trend in wedding couples online search for their perfect wedding venue. Once found, finding a venue stylist to transform your wedding vision into a reality is a whole new ball game. Unusual venues require more than chair covers and sashes; yes furniture hire is an integral part of making the space useable for your wedding, in addition however it is most likely you will also need to address some fundamental structural issues such as hiding ugly areas or functional items for example fluorescent tube lighting. A venue stylist with access to a team of skilled crafts folk becomes quite important as you may find your unusual and quirky wedding venue requires an element of bespoke dressing. At Sunninghill Weddings venue in Dorchester we work with a number of different stylists to create different styes, look and wedding themes. Built in the late 1800s Sunninghill architectural style is described as Victorian Gothic and many rooms in the house lend themselves to be decorated in the eternally popular vintage style. Year on year the Sunninghill Weddings Team work hard to keep on top of wedding trends to add a modern twist to the venue decor to keep the venue fresh.
Unusual Wedding Venues Often Include Venue Styling As Part Of Their Venue Hire Fee
Creating bespoke wedding decor for a venue is an expensive commitment for either the wedding couple or the wedding venue. As bespoke decor is unlikely to be able to be used directly in another location (an element of modification is often required e.g. re-size), unusual and quirky wedding venues such as Sunninghill Weddings venue in Dorchester will include the venue decor as part of the venue hire fee. In our own case we have to remove all the school furniture in order to hire in more appropriate items and, because these items are on hire we are able to offer our wedding couples a high degree of customisation for example, in choice of chair style, table shape and wedding venue decor props. Having a venue dressed in this way might appear to cost a little more up front but in the long run often proves to be a great saving in both money, time and tears!
Team Magic at Sunninghill Weddings
The first transformation to be filmed at Sunninghill Weddings unusual and quirky wedding venue is the Old Music Room. Currently used as the staff room this will become an evening bar area for wedding guests. We look forward to sharing the post production images needless to say it requires much muscle-power to remove the commercial furniture from the room!
We are video filming with:Dave from Hedgehog Video @HedgehogVideo
Stills Photography by Mark of Cornwell Photography @CornwellPhotography
Bar Services provided by Luke at Perfect Day Wedding Services @PerfectDayWeddingServices
Venue Styling and Prop Hire from Christine and Dawn at Winterborne Vintage @winterbornevintage
Lighting from James at Basement Hire @BasementHire
Common mistakes wedding couples make as seen through the eyes of the wedding venue
Since opening the doors of Sunninghill as a licensed wedding venue we have noticed a number of common mistakes that can lead to problems both leading up to the wedding itself and on the day. These mistakes are common across different wedding themes, types of wedding couples (the uber organised and the laid back) and weddings that are planned for different seasons. These top 10 common mistakes made by wedding couples were identified in discussion held earlier this year by the Sunninghill Weddings Team as we debriefed last season and planned ahead for a successful 2018 wedding programme.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.1: The Wedding Breakfast Guest List
,Next to the venue hire fee the cost of the wedding breakfast catering is a substantial amount of the couple's wedding budget. When couples first set pen to paper (or digits to tablet) to compile the wedding guest list there seems to be a great difficulty in deciding who should attend the full day and which guests are best suited to an evening invitation. At Sunninghill we can cater for up to 200 people, however the maximum number we suggest for a wedding breakfast in the main house is 70 guests. Many couples are able to reduce their daytime guest list which saves money that can be better spent in other areas. We are not sure how the daytime guest list has increased over time to sometimes well in excess of 100 people; we suspect it might have something to do with wedding venues imposing a minimum number of guests for the wedding breakfast. Our advice is don't be intimidated by this, the trend is moving towards fewer and fewer day guests (checkout micro weddings) - keep your wedding breakfast for close family and friends and invite everyone else to the evening bash.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.2: Friends Acting As Your Wedding Photographer
During the early years of Sunninghill Weddings as a licensed wedding venue we held a number of weddings where either a family member or close friend took the wedding photographs. Chatting with our wedding couples after their big day there is a growing sense that some of our couples were disappointed at their wedding photographs, one couple actually decided to return to the venue to retake certain shots. It's not that the nominated photographer on the day wasn't good at taking photographs far from it, they were simply inexperienced when it came to wedding etiquette and protocol. Is it amusing when you see the photographer sitting in the seats allocated for the wedding couple so they can get 'the shot' or a priceless sensitive moment go un-captured because the amateur photographer wasn't prepared; the answer is a resounding no. We advise all our wedding couples to think carefully about their wedding photographer and to choose someone who can professionally and unobtrusively capture their happiness and joy throughout the day and evening.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.3: Doing Your Own Bridal Hair and Make Up
I can already hear Brides-to-Be saying that they are perfectly capable of doing their own wedding make up, they do it everyday so why do they need a professional? Apart from the obvious treat of having someone else put on your bridal make-up, on a more serious note, MUA (Make Up Artists) are specially trained for the job and they use the professional products to support their trade. It's little things such as the type of powder used that bounces light off your face or the use of products to emphasise your eyes for those important wedding photographs. Below is a video link to Jacky Walker, the Sunninghill Wedding's Event Manager, having a professional make-over from the talented and award winning Caroline Swaffield of Amazing Faces Bridal Hair and Make Up. This is a very natural live video feed to the Sunninghill Weddings Facebook page, totally unscripted - You can start watching the video Now
.Wedding Couple Mistake No.4: The Best Man Will Act As the M.C
Fine at the beginning of the day but over the course of the ceremony and celebrations quite often the duties associated with organising your wedding guests and making announcements, etc. tend to fade after the Best Man's speech - need we say more....
Consider using a professional toast master or enquire if your DJ can provide this service as part of their package.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.5: How Will You Get Home or to Your Hotel?
It isn't uncommon to find the wedding couple have been so engrossed in making sure their guests' needs are taken care of that they forget about themselves. Wherever you choose to stay on your wedding night, do you know how you will get there? Do you really want to be competing for a taxi late at night? This isn't an issue so much if you have hired wedding cars; often, for an additional fee, they can stay with you for your final departure from the venue.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.6: Coordinating Your Own Wedding On The Day
You have heard that old saying 'the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry' - it doesn't matter how well you plan your wedding day it is highly possible that something will not go according to plan on the day. Do you want to be hassled with minor hiccups? If your wedding venue doesn't offer on the day coordination (Sunninghill Weddings venue do as part of the venue hire fee) it is recommended you budget for a third party professional to do this for you - maybe the budget can come from the savings made on your wedding breakfast guest list.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.7: Returning To the Venue The Next Morning
Couples can return to their wedding venue the following day for a number of reasons. It might be to collect items left overnight e.g. the bride's suitcase if she has used a bridal changing area or perhaps you have agreed to leave your wedding gifts and cards overnight. You might even have stayed overnight at the venue. Returning the morning after the night before to the location of your wedding celebration should be avoided if at all possible; enlisting the help of family friends being much preferable. This is a little trickier for wedding couples who wish to decorate their wedding venue themselves, for example, as part of the increasingly popular DIY Wedding Option. Generally the arrangement is that you have to remove all items the following day. Using a venue stylist is one solution as they usually offer a take down service however this will be reflected in their price (some stylists even go back to your venue in the early hours of the morning to pack everything away!) If this isn't possible, we advise you try and arrange a close family member or group of friends to take down the decorations on your behalf.
There is much to be said about seating arrangements which generally fall within the following three categories: firstly, inappropriate seating e.g. your granny sitting on a hay bale; secondly, lack of seating e.g. guests can just mingle which is fine until they have been standing for hours and are desperate to put their feet up! Both these issues can be solved by hiring furniture, be it folding chairs as in the picture above or outdoor tables and chairs. At Sunninghill Weddings we use Rochesters Event Hire who have an online price list so you can see how much additional items might cost. Lastly, whilst it might be unpopular to some readers, the lack of table planning (usually associated with couples who want a relaxed atmosphere to their wedding) can be problematic. Assigning seats to individuals ensures family groupings are kept together (or apart as the case may be). It also avoids a rush to get to the table first which can leave the important guests well away from the top table/wedding couple. It's also a nightmare for the caterers particularly where guests have been given a choice of menu or have dietary requirements. Try instead to make your catering less formal (if that is your vibe) through the choice of food offered, the type of table linen used and the glassware and crockery. Actually we find people quite like being told where to go and when, especially at an unfamiliar event such as a wedding, as it can help them feel more secure and therefore more able to enjoy the big day.
Wedding Couple Mistake No.9: Time for Wedding Speeches
Yes you don't want to have many speeches - a few words and that's it, however, bet you a penny that whatever time you allocate for speeches will take longer than anticipated! There are two main implications of this: firstly it might affect the quality of your catering as some food once cooked just can't wait too long before it has to be served and secondly, your evening guests start to arrive before your wedding breakfast has concluded. Do either of these sound familiar? You can mitigate this some way by the choice of food you serve and also by pre-planning a separate space for your evening guests to enjoy a welcome drink just in case you run over time. Ask your wedding venue what they suggest. Just a little thought can go a long, long way......
Wedding Couple Mistake No.10: Musical Entertainment
Your taste in music is not what has the potential to be a mistake (don't tell my mother that who was tortured apparently during my youth by the sweet tones of Joni Mitchell at full blast), where couples often go wrong is assuming that a standard speaker and an iPod or equivalent will be sufficient during the wedding breakfast and post ceremony drinks. Outrage you might be saying, perfectly fine what does this person mean - well, if you use a standard blue tooth speaker to amplify your music this has the potential to be unheard by some guests and cause ear blasting deafness for others depending on the location of the speaker. You might want to consider asking your DJ if appropriate to channel music during the wedding breakfast or alternatively, consider using live performers whilst your guests eat and drink.
Do you agree?
The Spring 2018 Wedding Exhibition Season Is Well Under Way
Exhibiting at wedding shows is a core part of any wedding professional's marketing toolkit. Showcasing your product or service at an exhibition involves a huge commitment both in terms of financial outlay and also the time away from family and friends. Most shows are on a Sunday which impacts upon your Saturday night plans: most exhibitions will require you to drive to the venue (having packed your vehicle the night before) and to be onsite and set up a minimum of 30 minutes before the show opens, usually by 10.30am.
The pressure to create more visually appealing exhibition stands
(see our page)'There has been a growing trend for wedding show stands to become more visually appealing and eye catching. This has been driven by a number of factors: the rise of Pinterest and its influence on wedding themes and styles; the introduction by wedding show organisers of the 'Best Stand' award, often accompanied by a winner's graphic for use in social media and, most importantly I argue, the increase in the acceptability of a DIY Wedding option (see January post). As more couples look to hire and transform standard spaces this has fuelled an increase in the number of Venue Stylists who in turn have raised the bar for what a typical exhibition stand looks like by introducing show attendees to many of the Pinterest-inspired themes 'in the flesh' so to speak.
How to attract visitors to your wedding exhibition stand: standing out from the rest
Sunninghill is a wedding venue: the venue can't be transported to the show so we are still reliant on large images that clearly identify who we are and what we do - the roller banner has to stay. Beyond this, it is as tricky for us as it is for all wedding suppliers to stand out and attract show visitors to share their wedding plans with us. For the 2018 wedding show season we have taken the brave decision to break the mould somewhat and feature an eye catching table set up adorned with fernery that marries with our Garden Room conservatory ceremony room. Our aim is to build on the eternally popular 'greenery-theme' with the introduction of a contemporary twist - see pics below for some of the component parts. The final result is put together by our venue florist on the day, the very talented Oonagh, also known as The English Florist.
Our last wedding exhibition of the Spring 2018 wedding show season is currently The East Dorset Wedding Show on the 18th March 2018 whilst we await the rescheduling of the Weymouth Riviera Hotel Wedding Fair which was postponed due to the 'Beast from the East' snowy weather conditions.
Sunninghill Weddings Plan Over The Next Few Months
Week commencing 26th March 2018 Sunninghill Weddings are holding a photoshoot to capture the new room layout of the Old Music Room Bar - more to follow about this. Our wedding season at the school starts in the May half term holiday and will remain so throughout the Summer before we start the Autumn Wedding Shows in October - such a busy life!
The Sunninghill Weddings Team