Every bride dreams of a Fairytale Wedding… and we say WHY NOT! Libby Cox from Allerton Castle shares the secret to Fairytale Weddings in North Yorkshire!
Listen to Libby on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…
James [00:00:03] Libby Good morning to you.
Libby [00:00:09] Hello.
James [00:00:09] Hi. I am really, really, really excited to welcome you to Wedding Espresso this morning because you are Libby Cox and…
you are the Wedding Coordinator at Allerton Castle, just outside of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire. And it’s one of our favourite Wedding Venue’s ever.
James [00:00:32] We had been filming weddings at Allerton Castle for over a decade. It was one of the first wedding venues that we filmed at and it’s just superb. I think the thing that grips you instantly is you’ve got a really long, secluded country drive down to the venue haven’t you? and you know you’re going off the beaten track when you’re driving down there. So it starts in the best possible way and then obviously as you drive up to the Castle there’s a grand reveal. It’s absolutely stunning. It looks amazing on the landscape. And basically you’ve got open views to the front, you’ve got open views to the back, you’ve got open views to the side. There’s no one around. It’s absolutely incredible.
Then when you walk into the castle obviously you enter through the Grand Hall. And I think that’s when people’s minds just pop because it really is absolutely phenomenally beautiful. It’s such a wonderful place.
I won’t say too much but we need to talk about the staircase.
Libby [00:01:39] Of course.
James [00:01:40] We definitely need to talk about the dining room because from a film and photography point of view, the dining room is really bright and it’s such a change to the norm – that’s a really big plus.
Libby [00:01:55] Definitely!
James [00:01:56] Obviously we need to talk about the gardens because they are phenomenal as well. And the rooms and the fact that you’re an exclusive wedding venue as well which is another big plus. So I’m not going to spoil anything more.
I just want to hand over to you and really discuss “Fairytale Weddings at Allerton Castle”.
Libby [00:02:14] Yes. Yes. So as you said we are an exclusive venue. It’s a gothic Victorian Castle. As you say, the Great Hall, it’s very much in keeping with that style. A lot of dark oak and it is… it looks very historical. You can look at it and think “yeah a lot of history has happened here”. We are quite secluded and it is in the heart of the countryside. And as you drive down that driveway there is nothing but trees and the castle. So that’s just such a lovely image as soon as your guests arrive. It really gets the excitement going for a wedding day knowing “this is ours”.
James [00:02:59] For me it feels like kind of exit reality and enter “Wedding World”. That’s the impression I’ve always had.
Yeah the whole idea of a fairytale is that you’re escaping reality and that’s kind of where the idea comes from. You’re coming through this driveway and you just see it there and it is a castle! And it’s not every day that you come to a castle and it’s exclusively yours.
It’s just you and your guest around, there’s no one else looking around or anything like that. So it is that idea of “this is my castle for the day” which is every person’s fairy tale really isn’t it?
James [00:03:41] Absolutely, what a wonderful concept. So not only inside… and we haven’t talked about the staircase yet!
Libby [00:03:50] Oh of course.
James [00:03:51] Yeah the staircase.
Our iconic staircase. So that is the Wedding entrance where you come down two flights of stairs with the torcheres either side, which are crystal chandeliers. And it is just a “wow” factor.
Usually it is the point where the a bride or groom will come to the top of the stairs and the Registrars will say “would you like to turn and look at your partner now”, and that moment is just amazing, you can always see the emotion in their partner’s eyes when they turn and look at them.
James [00:04:27] I think if anybody Google’s Allerton Castle and starts exploring wedding venues, the pictures and the video that are really going to stick in their minds is that wedding entrance.
Libby [00:04:40] It really is.
James [00:04:41] I remember from our perspective, you can shoot it from so many different angles and you’ve got the balcony above the stairs so you can look down on the whole of the room, and it is such an iconic shot. If you go and Google it now or after watching this, you’ll be like “Amazing”. There are so few Venues that accomplish that to that extent. And then obviously if you’ve got the fire going in the background, you’ve got that kind of atmosphere as well.
Libby [00:05:14] Yeah it really creates a really great atmosphere. So many people when they come to viewings and things, they look at the photos and they say “I thought it was going to be such a big space and I wouldn’t be able to fill it with my guests”. But it’s a very intimate space, even though it is quite large.
So it really does contribute to this romantic feel in that sense. It is a big space and it’s a very historical space, but it doesn’t take away from the amount of guests that you have.
James [00:05:46] So it works for large groups and small groups equally well.
Libby [00:05:49] Oh yeah definitely, definitely. We do have a big range of capacities that we’ve had in the past. Our maximum capacity is 120 in the day and 200 in an evening. But we’ve had inquiries for just the brides and grooms coming. And they’ve said to us “can you be our witnesses”. Even in that situation, yeah of course, we’re always up for completing that idea of what you want.
James [00:06:20] Fabulous. And the dining room. Big plus.
Libby [00:06:28] The Ballroom yes, it’s a big contrast between the Great Hall which is obviously very dark oak. Whereas when you move into the ballroom, which is for the wedding breakfast, it’s all very blue and white. And it’s a very classic elegant setting with engraving all over the ceiling with beautiful chandeliers all through the Ballroom.
That big contrast between a little bit darker and the brightness of the room, and it really brings out any designs that couples bring with them. It really lets them go crazy essentially with their centre pieces and things because it means that they can contribute as little or as much as what they want for centrepieces and decor.
James [00:07:19] That’s mega. It’s really, really difficult for me to describe, but one of the things I used to enjoy so much was because you have big windows in the dining room, and you’ve got those beautiful views outside. But when the sun sets, you get this kind of golden glow in there and it’s just… it’s incredible. It always works so well on video and it usually sort of timed with the mingling after the meal. It was just such a lovely atmosphere. It worked so well in that room, it’s fantastic.
Libby [00:07:51] It really does, yeah it’s part of the atmosphere again, relaxed, but it also has that sense of elegance and classic feel to the room. It means that you can relax and you can have a nice time and mingle with your guests. But you’re not taking away from your theme or what it is you want to present to your guests on your day.
James [00:08:11] Awesome. So moving outside, we can’t overlook the outside. What have you got going on outside?
So obviously we have at the front a beautiful lake. One of my favourite pictures that couples take, is out there, because you’ve got the front of the castle just behind you as well, with the beautiful Willow tree just in the centre. That’s just a really amazing photo.
And then at the back of the gardens you have the terrace areas which are really good for group shots because it has steps and things. It’s a photographer’s dream because you’ve got no heads hiding behind other heads or anything like that. And then we also have the memorial gardens out there as well, which has lovely little steps to go down and a little pond with archways. It is really the idea of this fairy tale, it’s the princess’s garden where she can go and have some lovely photo’s taken.
James [00:09:13] Awesome. Also, in fact actually we were talking to another wedding coordinator last week and one of the points that she brought up was when you’re shopping for wedding venues, you really have to love the outside as much as the inside, because obviously this is the UK and the weather is the weather.
Libby [00:09:30] We’re in Yorkshire!
James [00:09:33] That’s the way it is, you can’t get round it. Now we’ve had drinks receptions inside at Allerton Castle on rainy days and it still works doesn’t it, it’s incredible.
James [00:09:42] I’m always telling the couple the day before when they’re saying to me “You know, Libby it looks like it’s gonna rain!” Don’t worry!
We’ve got plenty of opportunities in here with group shots and things, they can be really excellent. Like you said earlier from the mezzanine floor down into the Great Hall with all your guests again, you’ve not got any heads hiding. You can use that iconic staircase a bit more than what you would usually. There is no fear when it rains.
James [00:10:12] You’ve got all bases covered.
Libby [00:10:12] Yeah definitely, definitely.
James [00:10:17] So when couples come to look round then, what do you find that they typically get excited about first? What are the first impressions that they get, the reactions that they have?
Libby [00:10:29] I’d say that the staircase is one of the biggest things. You know they always mention “oh you know, this is one I’ve seen on your social media” and we do post everything from real weddings. There’s nothing staged or anything like that. So it gives people a good idea of what to expect on the day and different ideas and “this couple did it this way”.
So when they come in they usually have a good idea of what it is they want, and seeing that staircase everyone’s always like “Oh I can’t wait to walk down there!” and the whole interior of looking up in the Great Hall as well.
Because most photographs can’t actually capture all of it because there is just so much.
James [00:11:11] No.
Libby [00:11:15] I mean even I myself working there, I’m still saying “Oh I didn’t notice that was there”, and you do just keep learning more and more. And it is such an experience, and I think that really does transfer onto couples really well, especially when they arrive and see it in person for the first time. And then again it’s the gardens as well, the idea that all of this is theirs for the day, it’s just amazing!
James [00:11:43] You’ve jogged my memory actually, I do recall even using the widest lenses we could find, we still couldn’t get the whole of it in – it’s a big space, It’s a big open space, a beautiful open space.
Yeah, the Great Hall is actually 70 foot tall. I do believe last time I checked it was one of the tallest stately homes in the U.K. So it just kind of adds to that momentous effect.
When you come in and you look at it all and so many guests, you know as they come in, if I’m trying to get them to go outside, I let them take a minute to look at it all and then take them out.
James [00:12:23] Awesome. Do you have guest rooms that people, friends and family can stay in?
Libby [00:12:28] Yes. So we have the Palace Suite which is where the Bride or Groom can go get ready for the ceremony. But it’s also where the couple can stay. It’s got a beautiful gold interior. It’s very much in keeping with the fairytale idea. And then we have two other rooms called the Tudor rooms, which are again, very in keeping with the Gothic style.
So we only offer 3 rooms, but usually that’s the couple and very intimate family. And then they can all have that experience together.
And then that means that they can share that experience the next day as well. Collect your things, have breakfast, talk about the day, without it being too overwhelming with all the guests swamping them and talking to them.
James [00:13:18] I suppose in terms of logistics you’re really not far outside of Knaresborough are you, so there’s plenty of other Hotel’s nearby.
Libby [00:13:25] Yeah there’s York and Harrogate. I’d say 15/20 minute drive which have ample hotels and things. There’s also Wetherby – we’re in a very prime location and there’s so much accommodation close by. It really is whatever people pick and choose really.
James [00:13:43] Brilliant.
So from the Brides and Grooms perspective then are there any questions that typically get asked about Allerton Castle that you find yourself answering?
Libby [00:13:54] Yes. I’d say the biggest one is “Has anyone fallen on the stairs”. I can say no. No one has ever fallen.
James [00:14:02] Not in our experience either!
Libby [00:14:02] We have a wedding rehearsal the day before just to practice the stairs with the wedding shoes as well. And it does offer such a great comfort to the couple because then they know what they’re doing, how it’s going to happen. And they can go away and feel confident about the next day and how it’s going to take place. They also ask about my services. So obviously I’m their personal wedding planner which means that I’m there from day one essentially, I help them with any suppliers and things, taking that stress away from them. But also I’m there on the day so they don’t have to be aware of anything happening. I just appear and tell them “go do this”.
James [00:14:47] It’s nice to have that one single point of contact as well because they get to know you over the course of time and then obviously….
Libby [00:14:56] It is yeah…
it really is a relationship if anything. It really is so lovely, it’s so nice after the wedding when they send me a thank you. And it does almost feel heartbreaking to myself because it’s like “I probably won’t see you again”.
The occasional email afterwards and it is really lovely to know that you’ve impacted someone’s day in such a way that they have left such an impression. And that relationship is there that you feel sad when they’ve gone!
James [00:15:25] Cool so, bearing that in mind then have you got any tips or general tips for Brides and Grooms currently planning their weddings out there from the perspective of a wedding coordinator?
Libby [00:15:39] Yeah of course. My biggest thing is I can’t recommend Wedding Insurance highly enough. It’s always something that’s good in all situations. Even as a safety net, if anything. And then things like…
just talk to the venue coordinators every step of the way because they might have suggestions throughout that you’ve never thought of or anything like that. Looking at social media can be great for ideas, but you never know how that works in that space.
And if you say “oh you know I’ve seen this, can you tell me how that would work?” That excites me because then you know what you want and I can help you create that. And it is such an amazing experience of fulfilling that.
James [00:16:27] You and I are two peas in a pod. We say exactly the same thing to couples all the time “ask, ask, ask” because that’s how you discover, that’s how you learn.
Libby [00:16:37] Yeah.
James [00:16:37] Actually from our wedding, we actually had to “ask” because the reception hall had hand carved oak beams in the ceiling. And we wanted to hang a big lighting rig off it for the disco. And they’d never, ever come across that before and we asked, and we had the discussion, and our guy went up there and he had a meeting with them. And in the end they decided it was OK. And they decided it was safe. It was perfectly OK and it went ahead. And so if we just assumed or thought “there’s no way that’s going to happen, we’d never get permission to do that”. You’ve got to ask haven’t you? It’s the best way forward.
Libby [00:17:18] Yeah definitely, so many people say “oh you know they are Grade I listed, they’re a historical site, there’s no way they’ll let us have that!”.
Things like a helicopter, someone asked “Could I have a helicopter?”. And then we sorted it out so that they could have a helicopter to arrive to the castle.
And something like that is so bespoke, I’ve never experienced that before. But then getting that sorted for them was such an experience and then we can now say to everyone else “this is possible” because we’ve done it once, we can do it again. And that applies to all things really as well. I’d say – Just don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t dismiss it at all, just always voice it!
James [00:18:04] Really good advice, we agree! Well Libby, thank you so much for sparing the time to chat with us today. That was really, really insightful, I really, really enjoyed it. I even learned some things and we filmed at Allerton Castle for over 10 years. So always great to learn something new, so thanks again, really, really appreciate it.
Libby [00:18:24] Thank you very much for having me.
James [00:18:26] It’s been our pleasure. So hopefully we might get a chance to speak to you again in the near future as well.
Libby [00:18:30] I’m sure we will!
James [00:18:31] Awesome OK. Take care Libby, thanks a lot.
Libby [00:18:31] Take care.
James [00:18:35] Bye.