You know as soon as you pick up the phone to someone who works in hospitality. So when they tell you that they're getting married and they want to make it different to anything else that their guests have ever seen, you just know that you're going to work well together... and I learnt a thing or two about why a big top wedding is absolutely the best value for money that anyone can hope for. Here's why...
First, let's look at a traditional marquee wedding. I'm in my mid-thirties now so I've been to my fair share or marquee weddings.
- Night before the wedding - a select few closest family and friends go out for dinner, probably at the hotel restaurant or similar
- Morning of the wedding - everyone gets ready and pretends they're not just a little bit hungover
- Afternoon of the wedding - The Ceremony and a bunch of people turn up for the Wedding Breakfast
- Late afternoon, early evening - 3 course meal, followed by speeches and some drinks
- Evening - More people arrive, drinks are flowing, buffet is out, cake gets cut and the First Dance happens.
Have I got it about right by now? I do hope so...
So for all of that money, time and effort you cram a year or two of planning in to one day and hope that the photographer or videographer have caught enough of it to do it justice, because take it from someone who's been there... you're lucky if you remember half of it. It's an absolute whirlwind.
Now let me tell you how this Bavarian-beer-hall-fairytale flipped that idea upside down, on it's head and around the king pole a time or two.
"We were absolutely blown away with every aspect of your impeccable service."
First off, how did I know that the groom-to-be worked in hospitality? Partly because he knew what he didn't know and didn't mind telling me so.He'd read part of the guide and found it useful enough to call and want to learn more. He had an idea in mind that he wanted some help with and just wanted to chat that idea through with someone who would be willing to take the time to help.
The other giveaway was that he understood that we are offering nothing anyone else in the industry is willing to offer - the insight in to how it's all done. He wanted control over the wedding but he also wanted back-up...and that's where I came in.
"From our initial conversation, your enthusiasm and welcoming personality completely won us over."
But more on that later, let's look for a moment at how his idea taught me the true value of a big top.
First off, he hired a local field owned by a keen and friendly farmer (if you'd like the details or help finding a venue just let me know) who gave them access to the space for a whole week. Forget blowing half your budget on a posh stately home just for one day, when you can have a gorgeous open space with rolling hills in the background, long grass meadows for your wedding shots and the ability to take your time setting up.
Secondly he spread it all out to get the most from the whole weekend - and this is what it looked like:
Friday: Close family and friends arrive to help with final decorations and set up.
BBQ and sit-down dinner for up to 30 in the big top, providing your own drink, pre-wedding speeches and a chance to share the experience with your nearest and dearest, in a close and intimate setting. The excitement building.
Saturday: Everyone gets ready for the ceremony and the big top gets a quick clean, last minute set up (DJ/Band etc) and a few tables re-set from the night before.
After the ceremony everyone returns to the big top for reception drinks and a formal sit-down meal (up t0 100 people in this tent, or more in 60x90 Regal). A band play throughout dinner and silver service is provided by a catering company and waiters.
You can have evening guests turn up later or you can savour every moment with these people in your life, celebrating the vows you just made to one another.
Sunday: Is Carnival Day. Invite everyone. Friends, colleagues, neighbours, old college and school friends, extended family and everyone's children. Use the big top as a hub for entertainment, with lawn games, buffet food, BYOB and most importantly a celebration of the life you are about to start together.
And the best bit is, rather than try to cram all of those people and all of that gratitude in to one day (or worse, one afternoon/evening) - working hard to make your way round everyone and not really feeling like you got to see people - this way you've spent time with half of your guestlist already. So everyone feels valued and a part of your big celebration; because ultimately what matters most to your guests on your wedding day, is to feel like they can spend some time with you and enjoy your day with you.
"Throughout you made us both feel comfortable and reassured, even when hit with a few minor road bumps, your pro-activeness to solve the problems reflects the morals that you and your company showed throughout."
I've been to my fair share of weddings and I must say that this itinerary has completely opened my eyes to how it can be done in both an affordable and people-centric manner. There wasn't any concern over working out how to feed 100 people at £30 per head - a hog roast and salad buffet did the trick.
The traditional aspects of a wedding reception were still there for those who like a wedding to look like a wedding - heels were worn, people drank too much and danced the night away. Several times.
Nobody felt like 'an evening guest'. We've all been there. You get the invite and see that you're heading down at 6pm to hopefully catch the end of the speeches and have a few drinks before getting back for the babysitter. Instead those guests were able to bring the children for a full Sunday of silliness, where families could share in the celebration of a brand new one.
"I truly believe that twinned with the service you provide and the quality of your product, you will go from strength to strength, year on year. You absolutely made our Wedding Day and for that I will be eternally grateful."