My daughter - she who is getting married – calls. They have decided they want the ceremony and reception at Ashton Court Mansion in Bristol, the city where they live and work. The venue (I’m getting the hang of wedding speak) has a special meaning for them. It’s where they walk the dog.
Not being a dog owner I’m not sure why this is so significant. Indeed, walking this particular dog has always seemed to be more of a nightmare than a dream date since it often involves altercations with other dogs, not to mention their owners, and a great deal of running round in circles on one of those very long leads (the dog, not the dogwalker).
Nevertheless, I check out the website, talk to the man who will be footing a large chunk of the bill, and pick up the phone. My daughter has told me that even though they don’t want to get married until July 2008 – 18 months away – it is necessary to book the venue as soon as possible. Vicky, who is called the Ashton Court Mansion Sales Co-ordinator, confirms this.
However, as they are offering money-off deals for some dates this year (Fantastic room hire offers for all 2007 weddings booked during January) I suspect booking a wedding venue is not unlike booking tickets with Easyjet or Ryanair.
To be sure of getting the day you want at a reasonable price you have to book as far ahead as you can. But if you are prepared to be flexible – not insisting on a Saturday, for instance - you’ll probably get a much cheaper deal nearer the time.
The daughter is not interested in being flexible. I make a provisional booking and agree to send a deposit of £1000.
Then we hit a snag. The daughter says the booking form she has specifies a minimum number of 100 guests. We were planning to have 50 to the ceremony and sit-down reception and about 100 to the evening party with a buffet. I call Vicky back to check.
“Oh no,” she says. “The minimum I would consider on a Saturday in July would be 80 for the reception.”
I am rapidly going off the idea of Ashton Court Mansion. There is almost certainly going to be another wedding going on at the same time. The wine list I have seen is uninspired and overpriced and the corkage charge is horrendous - £12.50 plus VAT per bottle of cava, for God’s sake. The grounds are open to the public until the evening and if we want to be sure we don’t have gatecrashers we will have to hire our own security.
We would have to supply and bring everything apart from food, drink, table linen, cutlery, glasses and crockery. That would include flowers. The cake. Favours (don’t ask).
And I have done some more research. The venue is run by Sodexho.
“Actually,” I tell Vicky. “I think I would rather my daughter’s wedding wasn’t done by school meal caterers.”
She bridles. “We are Sodexho Prestige. We do the catering at Blenheim Palace and Royal Ascot.”
“Exactly,” I say.