We peer behind the curtain of Weddings at Oulton Hall near Leeds in Yorkshire with Caroline Smith, Weddings and Events Manager. Find out what we discovered!
Listen to Caroline on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…
Caroline Smith, Weddings and Events Manager at Oulton Hall
James [00:00:05] Hi Caroline thank you so much for joining me today.
Caroline [00:00:08] Hi. How are you?
James [00:00:10] Yeah I’m very well thank you. So you are Caroline Smith from Oulton Hall and you are the Events and Wedding Coordinator there.
Caroline [00:00:18] I am indeed yeah.
James [00:00:20] Awesome.
Well we would love to discuss weddings at Oulton Hall and getting married at Oulton Hall with you, because a couple of weeks ago we had the extreme pleasure of staying at Oulton Hall, as guests, for the first time.
We’ve filmed many, many weddings there, enjoyed every single one, but we’ve never been a guest. So we got to stay at Oulton Hall and it brought back so many memories. I mean the immediate things that spring to mind were when you walk into Oulton Hall, the Reception Hall is fantastic. You feel like you are entering an incredible place. And then to back that up the staff are so friendly, and I’ve also seen from your TripAdvisor reviews that this is something that everyone else is finding as well. Such a friendly welcome and I think that is very, very important.
James [00:01:13] And from our perspective, as guests for the first time, the thing that we discovered was that the breakfast is incredible! We love the breakfast! That was amazing. So yeah. Anybody who’s going to attend a wedding at Oulton Hall is in for a fantastic time and a fantastic breakfast.
But we wanted to ask you from your perspective as the Wedding and Events Coordinator at Oulton Hall, what would you say is particularly attractive to Brides and Grooms, what’s on offer?
Can you lift up the curtain and just reveal a few of the more exciting details for us?
Caroline [00:01:48] So the hotel itself is absolutely stunning, as you know, and every wedding room is perfect. Whether it’s a big wedding or a small wedding, every room is absolutely perfect with its own unique features. All the staff, we’re such a massive family and you can be so confident that you come in and every member of staff will look after you, and we all love a wedding and we all get very excited.
James [00:02:15] Amazing. How many reception rooms do you have?
Caroline [00:02:18] For weddings we’ve got 3 reception rooms. We have one at the back that’s got beautiful chandeliers and a terrace that goes out to the back where the fountain is. We’ve got a much larger one for the bigger weddings which has it’s own courtyard. But anybody that gets married here can use everywhere in the hotel for photographs, outside, inside. We’re an all weather Wedding Venue.
James [00:02:48] Excellent. Is it an exclusive use Wedding Venue?
Caroline [00:02:52] We do offer exclusive use in January and February.
James [00:02:56] Right. OK so they’re the exclusive months for exclusive use.
Caroline [00:02:59] Absolutely.
James [00:03:00] Brilliant. And in terms of kind of size of Wedding Venue. How many bedrooms, how many guests can we accommodate?
Caroline [00:03:07] So…
Oulton Hall has seven suites and we’ve got a hundred and forty five bedrooms. Anybody who stays at Oulton Hall for anybody’s wedding can also use our spa facilities as well after the wonderful breakfast!
James [00:03:25] After the wonderful breakfast! Can you tell us a little bit about the spa?
Caroline [00:03:29] The spa has got a sauna, a steam room, a pool, a gym. Obviously the spa girls do offer treatments as well so you can get a massage, get your nails done.
James [00:03:42] Perfect post wedding wind down!
Caroline [00:03:44] Absolutely.
James [00:03:46] Cool. And so before the Wedding then, you have a Golf Course nearby. How available is that to people?
So my Brides and Grooms, if they choose to play golf the morning of the wedding or the day before, they just speak with myself and I sit next to the golf coordinator and just say “Please can I have some nice golf prices for my Bride & Groom?”.
James [00:04:15] Excellent. We’ve had Weddings in the past where, maybe the groom is very into his golf and the Bride and Groom have nipped out on a golf cart for some photographs during the day. Is that doable?
Caroline [00:04:27] Oh Absolutely. Definitely. We’ve had “Just Married” on the back, cans…
James [00:04:32] That kind of reinforces the idea, that if you get married at Oulton Hall you do have the run of the place, you can go anywhere you like.
Caroline [00:04:43] Absolutely. Yeah. It’s somebody’s wedding day and we’ll make it unique and special for them, so whatever they want, within reason!
James [00:04:50] Love it.
In Yorkshire we have many, many fantastic wedding venues to choose from, Oulton Hall being amongst them. Is there anything in the surrounding area that is particularly attractive to people?
Or a good idea that can bring people in from maybe further afield?
Caroline [00:05:10] Because of our location we are just off the M1 and M62 so we get a lot of Brides and Grooms from Doncaster, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Bradford. It is so central for everybody, so accessible when you get off the motorway, people can come here and make a weekend of it. So you’re not coming to a wedding, you are coming for a bit of a break as well.
James [00:05:34] That’s fantastic. And from your perspective then as the Events and Wedding Coordinator, what would you say you enjoy or particularly enjoy about your job? What really, really gets you excited?
Caroline [00:05:45] From the moment that you book their wedding. That light in their eyes, they’ve got a date! From then right up until the day that I go up to the room and go get them for the ceremony and bring them down and try not to cry. But I usually do!
James [00:06:03] Sure. And then on the day. Are you the Coordinator in charge of the wedding?
Caroline [00:06:11] So each wedding has its own Event Manager who acts as Master of Ceremony. But I’m there to come and get the Bride and pop in and out as it’s coming to speeches. And obviously say goodbye at the end of the day and wish them well for the evening.
James [00:06:28] Fantastic. I saw a twitter post the other day actually, and it was about how (it was a blog post) wedding venues nowadays are working so hard to provide fantastic on the day coordination, including a lot of the roles that maybe conventionally or traditionally belonged to a toastmaster. So obviously you’d welcome a Toastmaster if the Bride & Groom wanted it, but if the Bride and Groom weren’t going to have a Toastmaster, can Oulton Hall provide all of that service including announcing speeches and so on?
Caroline [00:07:06] Absolutely 100% Yes definitely. We do as much or as little as a Bride and Groom want. These days it’s not just a fishbowl centrepiece, it’s blossom trees and big centrepieces and things like that. So obviously venue stylists do that, but there are still some weddings where they do want to make it more personal, and they do their own centrepieces.
So we will set everything up for them. The Bride and Groom do nothing on the wedding day apart from get married. Leave the rest to us.
James [00:07:36] Is that a question then of the Bride and Groom providing you with a plan of everything they’ve got? Or do you liaise with their suppliers? or how would you suggest that works?
Caroline [00:07:46] It’s a little bit of both to be honest. A lot of the suppliers we do know really well, so they get in touch with us and kind of leave the Bride and Groom alone. And we coordinate with them. Sometimes it’s the Bride. I’ve just done a handover now and we’ve got a detailed plan of everything that they have delivered. And I make sure that I tell all my Brides and Grooms to have everything labelled so we can’t possibly get anything wrong. So it’s absolutely perfect for the day.
James [00:08:11] Cool. And so if the Bride and Groom are bringing in a ton of their own stuff, if they’re going very very bespoke, how soon before the wedding would you suggest that they bring them in, can you store them? What’s the sort of time limit/time frame on that?
Caroline [00:08:24] I’d probably say no more than two days just because, especially coming into the wedding season, we do have a lot of weddings and we just don’t physically have the room to store. So the wedding (meeting) today, they’re getting married on Saturday.
James [00:08:40] Right. Two days before.
Caroline [00:08:41] Yeah.
James [00:08:43] Cool. And I did have another question, that’s slipped out of my head. Yeah, that was it!
How far in advance do people need to be considering talking to you in terms of availability? How quickly does Oulton Hall get booked up?
Caroline [00:08:57] Key dates such as Bank Holiday Sunday in August, that can get booked up to three years in advance. If you’ve got a special day that you want. So for example 08/08/2020 you must book as soon as. If you’re not hung up about the day then 2 years/18 months.
James [00:09:19] Right. Okay. So actually quite far in advance really.
Caroline [00:09:23] Yeah absolutely. Yeah. We’ve got bookings for 2021 and 2022.
James [00:09:31] Fantastic. So how many weddings can you cater for per year? Is it one per weekend, because I know we discussed exclusive use and non-exclusive use? So what’s the maximum quantity we’re looking at?
Caroline [00:09:43] In August, which is our busiest month, the last two years we’ve done 21 in August. We can do 2 on a Friday, 2 on a Saturday, 1 on a Sunday. We also do midweek weddings sometimes during August. Because we can do two a day we could have potentially have five. Usually Sundays we offer a self catering option for multicultural weddings and they take out the big hall and have their own caterers in, so five weddings potentially.
James [00:10:18] Fabulous. And then looking at the extreme end of the spectrum, if it’s just a wedding for the couple, no guests, no witnesses, is that doable? Can that be accommodated?
Caroline [00:10:31] We’ve never had a request but yes, absolutely. Our packages start with a minimum of 40 guests, but obviously not everybody will know 40 people, so we do offer a bespoke package where it’s per person. And we just tailor it to whatever they want. If they just want to come and have a ceremony and a wedding breakfast then that’s fine.
James [00:10:52] Fantastic, Awesome. So in terms of when someone is short listing Oulton Hall as a fantastic place to get married, what would you suggest people do? Where do you think people should go to follow the excitement of Oulton Hall on Social Media and online?
Caroline [00:11:05] We’ve got Facebook, we’ve got Twitter and we’ve got Instagram. Especially Facebook and Instagram, all the Weddings get posted on there on a weekend, we take lots of photographs, lots of videos, so they can have a look almost firsthand what we do and what our rooms look like when they’re dressed.
James [00:11:29] Are those dedicated Wedding channels or just the general Oulton Hall channel.
Caroline [00:11:36] Yep, the general Oulton Hall Channel and we do Wedding Open Days and Wedding Opening Evenings. So all our preferred supplies come in and dress the rooms for us and everybody can just come along and have a look and see it first hand.
James [00:11:50] And I assume people would get invites to those on your mailing list?
Caroline [00:11:53] Absolutely. Yep.
James [00:11:55] Incredible. Well Caroline thank you so much for sharing that information with us really, really appreciate it.
Caroline [00:12:00] My pleasure.
James [00:12:01] It’s been absolutely amazing to talk to you and maybe we’ll have the chance to get together again in the future and have a little chat about weddings again.
Caroline [00:12:08] Absolutely, I look forward to it.
James [00:12:10] Awesome, thanks very much Caroline we will speak to you soon, Cheers, Take Care. Bye.
Caroline [00:12:12] Bye.