I’ve finally found the perfect venue and not only can I afford it ‐ just ‐ there’s a Saturday free in August 2003! After avidly searching Google, browsing Noble’s Wedding Venues Book and testing Confetti’s venue finder, I discovered a couple of places in Dorset that offer civil weddings and cater for a hundred people ‐ Lulworth Cove and Milton Abbey. I arranged to visit them both.
However, as I saw Milton Abbey I knew this was the one! Located in the depths of the Dorset countryside, Milton Abbey is now a boys’ boarding school, but there wasn’t a whiff of canteen food or glimpse of school uniform when I visited outside term time (the only time weddings can take place). Not only can couples have a civil ceremony here in the grand mansion, religious ceremonies can be held in the Abbey too! As I took a tour I knew it had everything we wanted and more ‐ there’s even a nine‐hole golf course where many a groom tees off to calm wedding nerves shortly before walking up the aisle!
I was positive my fiancé, James would like it (he’s not a keen golfer but there’s a great country pub nearby where he can take a shot and calm some pre‐wedding jitters), so I paid the deposit and booked the date ‐ August 16 2003. However, before you sign on the dotted line, double‐check you’ve added up all the additional costs. Even if you can afford the hire of the venue (anything from around £1,000‐£15,000) check the cost of the wedding meal as this constitutes a large portion of the overall bill.
Enquire if you can cut the cost of the meal in any way (eg by hiring outside caterers), find out the cost of corkage and house wine (usually from £10 a bottle), and check to see if the price includes VAT.
Some venues insist you take out wedding insurance, which actually is advisable anyway. It’s another additional expense, but would you ever consider not insuring jewellery or a holiday worth around £10,000? Reasonably priced policies can be found if you shop around ‐ I discovered a good one with a well‐known high street store (renowned for its sandwiches and underwear…) for £95, which covers us for cancellation or curtailment up to £7,000 with room to upgrade to a higher level if necessary.
With the venue booked there were only two other urgent things to do… tell my fiancé and beg the local bishop to marry us! James was delighted and then told me even better news ‐ he was coming home from overseas early. Not only was I ecstatic that I would see him for the first time in a couple of months, but he’d be able to see the venue and accompany me to meet the bishop! According to some of my married friends, this is arguably the second most nerve‐racking moment next to proposing or saying your vows. This is the time when even the most successful businessman or courageous soldier starts to sweat and fret about saying the wrong thing, worried about being subjected to the wrath of the girlfriend and the disapproving gaze of a man of the cloth.
Feeling very unholy with a hangover from the night before, we were determined to arrive for the meeting with the bishop in plenty of time. But we’d only been driving around 15 minutes when the exhaust literally dropped off the car…. After a quick diversion via Kwikfit (explaining our dilemma that it really needed to be ‘kwik!’) we were soon on our way and only five minutes late (plus £60 poorer)! Thank God, the Bishop was far less frightening than we’d feared.
After a brief chat (and few personal questions) he smiled and told us and the other couples present that he’d be happy to marry us, but as none of us lived in the area yet, we’d have to become regular worshippers in the parish in order to meet legal requirements, attending Sunday service at least once a month. Apparently, the rules are likely to be relaxed soon, allowing couples to have civil or religious ceremonies anywhere in the UK, but since we’re planning on making regular trips to Dorset, attending church is the least of our worries (as long as it’s not too early!) So we’ve now make a date and found the venue. We even know the priest who will marry us ‐ the Bishop also agreed to my other request ‐ that my cousin, a priest, perform the ceremony!