We continue our groom’s wedding blog series with our Irish groom BluefishDJ’s search full his perfect wedding venue…
Still on a high, and just weeks into our engagement we started talking dates and more importantly destination! As Bluefish Belle is from Poland I suppose I automatically thought (& would have enjoyed) we’d go to Poland and as it turned out so did a lot of my family and our Irish guests who were looking forward to that something different, wedding wise, and a trip to Poland too!
But after a good chat we realised as well as having more control over the wedding plans and the fact that we’d had our life together here for the last five years with all our friends living here it was just better to have it in Ireland. Another thing was that it’d be logistically easier to bring smaller percentage of our guests who were from Poland to Ireland rather than majority to Poland. We also felt we’d be minding our guests so to speak more if we did decide to have it in Poland. You can imagine my father what’s that, where are we going, what’s he saying, I won’t eat that etc. etc. In the end all our Polish guests are beyond excited to be making the trip over here to Ireland and going to make a holiday of it, so all good!
So with destination chosen we moved on to the date. We knew we didn’t want a long engagement but also wanted to give ourselves time so as we could plan correctly and also save towards the big day. Straight away we ruled out a summer wedding no offence to anyone having one, but let’s face it: Ireland hasn’t the best reputation for gorgeous summers so it would be very hit and miss, especially anywhere along the west coast of Ireland and summer is also hotel/reception venue peak season so extra costs there! So we immediately thought September or March, after a little to-ing and fro-ing we decided on March 2012 – just over 13 months at the time of our decision March stood out for us due to recent years its fine weather record around that time and also another big thing was the travel element for a lot of our guests, as not only would we have guests from Poland but also the UK and Australia, so we thought March wouldn’t be as expensive for flight tickets as other more popular holiday months.
March also is the month for daffodils which is one of Bluefish Belle’s and mine favorite flowers they’re so fresh, burst of colour, the real essence of spring and their ability to grow in abundance! We have loads planted!! And we even got our family and friends involved with planting batches over the last couple of months, all of which will adorn the church and reception as decoration (another DIY element to our wedding).
Confirmation of our wedding date being free with our chosen church we set about looking for a wedding venue. Living in the west of Ireland we were really spoilt for choice a beach front hotel, a mountain Resort, an array of country manor houses, an elegant river side boutique hotel or even a castle! All capable of catering for our intimate affair but at our first meeting with our now chosen venue The Downhill House Hotel, in Ballina Co. Mayo we just knew it was for us! As well as the venue having to feel right for us we also wanted to have that personal connection with the person who’d be overseeing our big day.
We arrived late evening after viewing some other contenders, so twilight was setting in and immediately we noticed the beautifully lit landscaped gardens and the gurgling of what I now know as the Brosna River, tributary of the famous River Moy photos, photos, photos rang around in my head. Upon arrival we were greeted by name and offered not only tea and coffee but a bite to eat aswell! As they say first impressions count and so far we were impressed recent refurbishment to the hotel boasted such high end finishes as seamless marble flooring in the foyer with plush ornate floral designs running throughout the patterned walls, furniture and accessories.
The wedding coordinator was extremely pleasant and we found her extremely approachable and also felt (compared to previous meetings) a sense of connection/respect or something for us – maybe respect is the wrong word but there was just that personal feel, no fakeness if that makes sense! Due to these traits she put us at ease straight away, so with initial greetings over I got down to brass tacks queue the A4 wedding folder this is something I think you should all have when starting to plan it holds a print out of the Wedding Checklist you can get off this site and also just great to keep the bits and pieces from other meetings or things you come across that is wedding related and as I pulled out my A4 ring bound folder I think she knew we (I) meant business and was organized
Questions For The Venue
From a little researching online I found a number of questions relevant to us as a couple, what we wanted of our wedding reception venue and just things that I thought would be needed to be asked that might have been forgotten if I didn’t have them written down, such as:
How many guests does your venue cater for?
Is there a reduction on mid-week / off-peak weddings?
What decorations and table settings are provided?
Discounted Accommodation rates for guests?
When do we need to book rooms?
Is there/what is the Corkage charge?
When do you need final menu choice?
When do you need final numbers?
Is there an extra charge or supplementary charge for extra menu choices?
What time is band/DJ allowed to set up?
How much is the deposit?
When does the deposit need to be paid?
Will I receive a written contract? (Also remember to make sure you get a printed receipt of any deposits paid)
These above questions are just some of the key things I went with I had 3 A4 sheets of questions that I thought were important and helpful on deciding on a venue. To get some more help check out The A-Z of Booking a Wedding Venue in the planning guides section of this site!
Surprise wasn’t the word when I asked if it was ok that she’d answer our questionnaire. She saw the sheets – she probably wasn’t expecting so much detail and questions never mind the fact that it was coming from me the groom!! But she did commend how well organised we were and thought it was an excellent idea and not something she had come across with other perspective wedding couples. So having her on side so to speak, we talked shop having a number of years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry I knew a bit about the food and beverage side of things and what we could get for say a set menu and I didn’t feel embarrassed by dropping this piece of information every so often so as to let her know I knew what I was talking about and with some more rapid fire questions and queries about decorations, red carpets, reception drinks, stage for entertainment we were finished. Having got a fantastic, very tailored to our needs and more importantly affordable wedding package we left feeling very positive about this meeting and the overall venue and said we’d be in touch! Always have the upper hand…
Before we even got to the car Bluefish Belle grabbed my arm. ”I love it” she said, “but could you have been any harder on the poor woman, you drilled her”; and that I did in a professional, respectful manner I might add and knew what things to haggle on and what things to push for and of course others that were just best left as is; I didn’t want to push too much but a vein through my forum posts and my wedding planning approach and I’ll repeat it here if you don’t ask you don’t get.
Taking everything into account fantastic landscaped gardens, fully decorated ballroom, complimentary drinks reception, 6 rooms (including our bridal suite), corkage, hot food evening buffet and much more (some of which I have forgotten so must get out that email to remind myself) all for a fantastic won’t break the bank price per person! Plus a very friendly approachable wedding co-ordinator and a link with some of my family members having had their own wedding at this venue we decided that yes the Downhill House Hotel ticked all our boxes and had the bells and whistles to boot!
I will add that we didn’t rush in to ringing them back as I felt we could get a little more haggling so in the end and after just one return call and a couple of emails we got the price we wanted which was within our budget and great value for all the extras that we were getting. Another factor that must be added here is the fact that we chose an off-season Saturday in March I am sure if we had opted for a June, July, August Saturday wedding we would not be getting everything that is in our package for the price we are paying so think wisely about dates and months if you are budget conscious. You can have that fairytale day with all the trimmings without the huge cost. Do your research into a venue, best to be prepared and above all and this was definite in our case: embrace the venue itself, we really fell in love with the place both internally and externally and were very taken with the way we were treated by management venue and the wedding co-ordinator any time we were in communication with them and we know that leaving them to do what they do best having 75 years in the business in this family run hotel that our day is going to be fantastic and we have nothing to worry about as it will all be in their very capable hands….
Having secured the venue we were on a roll and had to start looking at the different services we would require for the day all of which I will bring you up to date in future posts so check back soon!