By late March, we knew that we wanted to get married in Suffolk near Jon's parents' house. We also knew we wanted to have a civil ceremony rather than a church wedding, so we needed to find a licensed venue that suited our aesthetic. (The UK is very strict about where and when you can legally get married; for instance, you can't hold ceremonies outside or after 6pm.) Because I didn't have a clue what was available, I turned to my best friend on the interwebs: Google.
Once you've removed all of the religious options for wedding venues, the only possibilities remaining in the area are hotels and stately homes. We decided that we wanted the latter and that we preferred a venue that wasn't in or near a big town.
view of the back of the house from the far side of the trout pond
I narrowed us down to three gorgeous options after an exhaustive search - which basically means that I spent a few days looking at pretty pictures online - and talked them through with Jon. Each venue had something different to recommend it and we were excited about checking out all three.
We were able to schedule our first visit for Easter weekend, when Jon and I were supposed to be in Suffolk anyway, and spent Good Friday morning being shown around Bruisyard Hall. We were blown away by the beauty of the venue - even Jon and his mother, who are jaded and immune to the magic of centuries-old houses, were impressed. The house was in the midst of a major redevelopment project and we could see the difference between the "before" and "after" pieces of the estate, but the house was gorgeous regardless and we could tell that the modernization would only enhance the charm of the ancient hall. Paul, the manager, was fantastic; his love for the property and excitement about its potential were so clear and contagious. We were smitten.
the bridal suite
However, we recognized that it wasn't practical to sign with the first venue we saw, so we headed back to Suffolk the following weekend to visit the other two options. Well, in theory, anyway...
The second place we were supposed to see cancelled our appointment the day before. Yes, you read that correctly: they cancelled on us the day before. We had scheduled the visit two weeks earlier; the manager assured us that her assistant would be more than able to answer our questions even though she herself wouldn't be on the property to show us around. The day before our appointment, when I called to confirm the time, we were informed that the assistant was no longer available and that we'd have to reschedule. I was stunned. Not only had they not extended us the courtesy of letting us know in good time that things had changed, but also the manager I spoke to seemed unbelievably blasé about it all. I was so unimpressed by my experience that, even though the venue was beautiful and sounded like a good fit for us, we decided not to reschedule the appointment.
The third venue - or second, I guess, depending on how you count - that we were interested in was more of a success. It was lovely and intimate, with a beautiful garden and a church-like feel to the architecture that we liked. Bruisyard Hall had the advantage of a beautiful day when we visited, but the dark sky enhanced the mood of the last venue - and, honestly, we basically have an 80% chance of getting married on a cloudy or rainy day anyway given that, you know, it's England - so it was good to get an idea of what bad weather might look like. However, while the manager of the third property was very friendly, we felt like we kept hearing "no" whenever we asked questions. Every time we explored our options with her or brought up possibilities that she hadn't specifically included in the package, she either told us that it wasn't possible or that we'd have to pay extra. We felt a bit limited - whereas Paul had made us feel like Bruisyard Hall would be ours to enjoy to the fullest for our wedding weekend, the manager of this venue made us feel like we were imposing.
the Banqueting Hall in the barn
all images are of Bruisyard Hall and are taken from their website