So hands up who got engaged over the summer months and now looking for your perfect venue?….. if that’s you, then do read on and let me take you on a little journey of my visit to Leeds Castle in Kent.
BusyBrides was invited by the events team, Debbie Sophie & Jenny, for a dinner and overnight stay at the Castle where they gave a handful of selected wedding planners across the home counties the opportunity to show case their venue and to say I wasn't disappointed would be an understatement. If you are looking for a beautiful historic venue for your wedding day, look no further. The last time I was here I was a Wedding planner & Toastmaster for a three day wedding for my client, which whilst was beautiful it was very busy so I didn't get to take in the venue and see it for its glorious grounds and offerings as my client had picked this venue before they chose BusyBrides, so I hit the ground running with the planning of their wedding. However having been invited here to see this by the venue as a guest I got to really have a good look around.
So firstly, I want to dispel the great myth that myself and many others believe that there is a 2½ year waiting list. There is not! Yes they are busy, it’s Leeds Castle and it’s beautiful, but you can in fact if you take the time to call, get a date in their diary for your wedding day with minimal need to push your wedding back 2 years later than you had hoped!
Whilst the team are flattered that they are seen to be booked so far ahead, after all, it is a beautiful castle, they also feel saddened that there are Brides & Grooms out there that may have dreamed one day of marrying in a venue like Leeds but maybe not consider to pick up the phone if they had heard that the waiting list is so very long. We all know that once you have that wedding date in mind, it's hard to then consider waiting another year or two just for your venue, so my advice would be to pick up the phone and see what they have for you. You may be pleasantly surprised.
So back to my visit, as we arrived we were greeted with a huge smile and had our luggage taken away to our rooms whilst we were driven in a golf cart to meet all the other invited planners in the Maiden's Tower gardens. It was a lovely day which was only made better by enjoying cocktails in this elegant venue which is just adjacent to the castle. It is a 16th Century stone building which was used for weekend house parties in the 1920's and is now a beautiful self-contained award-winning venue
The beautiful private garden had the greenest lawn I have seen in a very long time and used to be a swimming pool (many years ago). With it’s now lush green lawns and luxurious seating it was the perfect setting for welcome drinks for any wedding, or in fact any event.
Maidens Tower has five 5* en-suite bedrooms all beautifully decorated period style with a contemporary twist, offering the most stunning views across the moat and surrounding parklands. I stayed previously at the Margaret of France and I thought that was just beautiful, but having now had the opportunity to see inside all of the five rooms, they are all beautiful with equally breath taking views from each room. Now I understand why this venue won boutique venue of the year with the Kent Wedding Awards.
Then after we had our cocktails we were whisked away to our room in the Castle to get ready for dinner. We stayed in the Green room, which was a very large and with a 4 poster bed and crazily big bathroom. As I planned a wedding here this year I have to say that all the rooms were large, and some even larger than large with bathrooms as big as my lounge at home, there is certainly no shortage on space for anyone however heavy you tend to pack.
Once we were ready we headed down the corridor admiring all the old portraits down to the Library where we met for pre-dinner drinks. The library is where we held the guests before the ceremony at my clients wedding. The ceremony room looks amazing when it’s dressed for a wedding, and in fact even when it isn’t! The Library is ideal for drinks reception if you hire the castle as your wedding venue.
Shortly after the welcome drinks we all headed up to the Henry VIII Banqueting Hall which is the largest room in the castle where you can have a wedding breakfast for up to 100 people. We enjoyed a beautiful 4 course dinner and wine for 22 people before we retired to the castles drawing rooms. If you had your wedding here, of course you can enjoy your evening entertainment/dancing in the Heraldry Room.
After we finished our drinks we went up to bed at a reasonable hour and joined everyone in the castle dining rooms for breakfast the next day, where we were reacquainted with Sophie & Jenny the venues in-house wedding planners and not forgetting the lovely Michelle, a twice retired silver service waitress who loves the castle so much, she just keeps on going and enjoys the odd retirement party along the way, just because she can….
When it comes to the wedding venues, I have seen many different places, big and small old and new. Leeds Castle is definitely amongst my favourite. It does not matter what style of wedding that you want, the venue spaces you get with Leeds Castle can cater for most of them, even if you wanted a marquee wedding they have grounds to accommodate you that overlooking the castle, it’s all there to be hired. What’s more I found out whilst I was there that this is a completely “non for profit” venue/charity where every penny (bar wages of course I’m sure) is spent on the upkeep of the venue which can cost anything between 3-5 million pounds a year to ensure that this beautiful castle is kept as it should be for all our enjoyment.
So with the “official” itinerary over, we decided to check out the remainder of the castles offerings after breakfast. Again we didn’t get to explore anything the last time as I had to visit another venue just up the road on the way home.
The day was lovely and the grounds were just stunning. If you want a romantic day out with your partner, or want to take your family out for the day, it covers everything, and we didn’t even touch a smidgeon of what they had to offer in the time we had. We walked through all the flowers and shrubs, the setting was very tranquil, and extremely beautiful.
We headed for the infamous maze where we managed to get suitably lost for quite some time before we finally made our way out without seeing the grotto, so thankfully there was a lovely chap called Trevor who was the guide from the maze who showed us how to get to it and spent some time with us chatting. He made us feel like we were the only people there that day, which was a lovely touch to our day and made us feel special. I’m sure he does that with everyone, but it was lovely.
We had a good look around the grotto and then headed out for a coffee at the Maze Café that again had beautiful views and enjoyed the biggest ice cream we could manage! Considering I was on a diet, I couldn’t resist a huge three scoop honeycomb, coconut and salted caramel ice cream cone whilst Chris went for rum (ewe), mint and cherry!
There were plenty of activities going on, but sadly we just couldn’t fit it all in within our schedule. We then headed back towards the castle and found ourselves at the dog collar museum, where we, even at the very wrong side of 40, couldn’t resist having a little bit of childish fun before we headed home.
Over all it was an amazing visit from start to finish, not just as a wedding planner, but as a general visitor and I cannot wait to go back with all the family.
From a wedding planner’s perspective, the venue is very high quality with a service to match, but that also comes with a level of flexibility where you can still enjoy a unique wedding day to suit your needs.
Having so much accommodation on site means it also gives you the option of staying for the weekend with your main wedding party giving you time to catch-up and relax with your guests, makes this overall a beautiful and workable venue. The entire place has a high quality execution that we thought was great whilst offering certain parts of the castle at an affordable cost for all those that have champagne taste but yet only requires a Prosecco budget.
As a snapshot of what they can offer you….
Exclusive Castle Island weddings
This is a wonderful package that would suit a couple who would prefer a little more privacy as the whole Castle Island would become exclusively yours from 4.30pm to 1.00am the next morning. You would have use of the Maidens Tower and certain rooms in the Castle so could pick where you would like to have your ceremony, drinks reception, dinner and after dinner dancing. Priced just under £30k for 2017 this package offers fantastic value and includes the following;
- Venue hire
- Full staffing
- A champagne and canape reception
- A four course dinner from their platinum menu
- Half a bottle of house wine during the meal
- Half a bottle of mineral water during the meal
- A glass of champagne for the toast
- Coffee and chocolates
- A food and wine tasting in advance of the day
- Some seasonal florist in the ceremony room
- 25 Castle and Maidens Tower bedrooms
- Full English breakfast the next morning
Battle Hall is an exciting new venue that they will be launching next summer. It is a beautiful old Hall house that will be fully refurbished to include the very best furnishings and decoration. The venue will be exclusive use and boast, amongst other things, a private garden, eleven en-suite bedrooms and in-house chefs to cater for your every need. They are hoping to offer wedding ceremonies both inside and in the garden. They will also be offering Battle Hall as deluxe holiday accommodation so it would be an ideal venue for a wedding party to stay and enjoy a private dinner the night before their wedding in the Castle, Maidens Tower or Battle Hall.
The Fairfax Hall is a beautiful old tithe barn overlooking the Castle Island that has the advantage of comfortably seating up to 180 guests for dinner and dancing so a popular choice if you have a larger guest numbers. It is their main restaurant during the day and usually only available on an exclusive use basis from 7pm however their trustees have recently granted them permission to close the venue earlier in the day so a wedding reception can begin at 4pm. This is something I did for my clients wedding in May and it worked perfectly as whilst they were enjoying their wedding breakfast until 7pm in the banqueting hall, I had time to organise suppliers to change the room into a vision of beauty for the evening entertainment.
Exclusive Estate Use
From time to time it is possible to close the entire estate to day visitors giving the advantage of complete privacy for the couple and their guests. This is a bespoke option and would be price on application. So if you have the budget of all budgets, this package has the wow factor but I would recommend you get BusyBrides on board so that we can help you plan this complex package with the venue staff as there is a lot of work involved!
Whilst Leeds have on-site caterers that they use for all their functions they can, on occasion, allow external caterers to use their facilities subject to very strict terms and conditions which does carry an additional charge. They will need to have a minimum financial cover for their liability insurance for obvious reasons, so just check in with the events team what that is. Most suppliers it’s £5 million but as they are caterers and hold a much higher risk than your average DJ, this may be substantially higher so worth checking. This could certainly work well for Asian weddings that generally need to use their own preferred caterers.
If you are looking for a wedding planner to help you organise the wedding of your dreams, then get in touch with me today where I will help you design and execute your perfect dream wedding day.