OK, so when you left us gentle reader, we were feeling a little bit despondent after ruling out our first (and only real) option. However we had one more venue to see that afternoon: the 37th.
It all started with a burning desire for a cream tea. The plan for that weekend was that after we revisited our first choice venue, the Boy would drive up to London to see friends, while I had a cream tea with my mum and mother-in-law to be. When my mother-in-law-to-be (MILTB) was searching for a cream tea venue near Farnham, she came across the Elvetham.
The Boy’s sister, had got married in Richmond last summer at the Petersham, the sister hotel to the Elvetham. I knew that if the Elvetham was anything like the Petersham it would be beautiful, it would be exclusive, and it would be way out of our price range.
However, when looking at the cream tea menus, my MILTB checked out the wedding pages (at this point in our search, everybody had been sucked in, even friends of friends were sending me venue recommendations). As predicted, my MILTB said that the Friday and Saturday prices were sell your kidney ridiculous but Easter Sunday looked as if it were charged at normal Sunday rates. As I was snowed under by work, I asked if when she booked the cream tea could she check the prices for me?
Ten minutes later she rung back. Not only were Sundays, even bank holiday Sundays charged at the lower rate but although there was a minimum spend for catering per guest, this could include evening food. Even better the room in which you had your wedding breakfast was the Library, which for a bibliophile like me was beyond exciting. We booked in for a tour with the wedding coordinator that Saturday.
So one sunny Saturday afternoon in March: the Boy and I and our mothers set out to the Elvetham (he had postponed his trip for an hour after seeing the photos online). It was closer to home than I thought, fifteen minutes away just over the Hampshire border and close to the M3 (easy for friends from Brighton to get to). As we drove up the long green drive, and caught sight of the red brick towers I had to caution myself not to fall in love. There would be a catch. There was always a catch.
The grounds were beautiful undulating green lawns, merging into the wildness of a deer park. We met the wedding coordinator who gave us a guided tour of the Oak Room, the Library (my inner book geek was squealing with glee), the Drawing Room, and the beautiful vintage bar. Inside it was stunning: painted panelled ceilings featuring historical figures, soft thick carpets and oil paintings that gleamed in the soft lighting. Beyond the visible, the Elvetham had something more intangible: it felt loved.
The Bar, with amazing latticed ceilings
I clutched the Boy’s hand tighter and tighter as we went from room to room. I still remember as we walked into the Library for the fiest time standing on tiptoes to whisper in his ear, ‘this is where we’re going to get married. What do you think?’ I asked. ‘I love it’ he said. I could see from the expression on my mum’s face that she was getting excited too.
After the wedding coordinator showed us the tree in the grounds which Elizabeth herself had planted (with a spade and everything :)) we sat down and talked details. I was still waiting for the catch and I knew what it would now be. The price.
The Elvetham cut us a deal at a price we could afford with dozens of extras: a honeymoon suite, rooms for my parents, four dedicated rooms for our wedding. Not only that there were two dates to choose between: the Easter Sunday and the 4th of June 2012, which was a bank holiday and the day before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee meaning all our friends wouldn’t have to take a day off. We debated between the two dates, finally deciding on June. I would be in the summer holidays from my degree and some close friends were getting married on the same date a year before, so it seemed like a good omen.
We talked it over tea, scones and amazing patisseries. We went home and looked at our budget and the ticklist. We visited again and again and each time we fell more and more in love with the Elvetham. It had taken four months to find our dream venue and sign the contract.
Honestly dear reader, the rest was just details. They had me at the Library!
I couldn’t find a high enough resolution image of the Library set up for a wedding but this gives you an idea of it’s scope.