by Jeffrey Cleaver
Director of Silver Pear Weddings, Oxfordshire
Swapping a London-based career in Interior Design for a move to the country and the decision to host weddings, more than ten years ago now, we thought the two or three we might host each year would be a pleasure and a way to regenerate the house and grounds.
Because we didn’t have the experience or the contacts or the budget for anything much of our own we offered the grounds and barn at Friars Court as a ‘blank canvas’. More by accident than design that approach carved a unique niche for us; since then we’ve discovered the significant demand from couples eager to have something ‘different’, something that’s personal to them.
For a bride, a ‘blank canvas’ allows her a greater degree of autonomy and freedom but that freedom is no “free lunch”: it means liaising with each and every supplier rather than purely with the clip-board-wielding event manager of an in-house team. So coordinating several suppliers equals work, time but, hopefully, not too much added stress. We’ve built up a really lovely group of suppliers over the years, most of them have now all worked together on the same weddings (some have even had their own weddings here) so there is more of a ‘team spirit’ which should help the wedding almost, as one bride put it, plan itself.
Making a successful, relatively stress-free, wedding is as much about the interaction of personalities as it is about the bride and groom. From personal experience I think it’s easier and, hopefully, more of a pleasure to work closely with someone with whom one has a rapport – doubly-so with a wedding – which is why we’re also popular with couples who want to use suppliers they already know – they keep their working relationships.
I’m famed for long meetings full of laughing and friendly, general, chit-chat; it might appear idle and frivolous but I see it as a valuable and essential way for a couple to get to know me just as much as I’m getting to know them as that’s the foundation of a good working relationship. I think the same feeling applies to all our ‘usual’ suppliers, certainly it does to those who work here very regularly. Fostering a sense of connection and involvement is more likely to result in a supplier adding little extra touches for a couple they’ve grown to like; for the couple with that same degree of connection and involvement it should make meetings a pleasure to be looked forward to rather than a necessary evil.
To borrow two words more usually reserved to describe the wedding itself, a “blank canvas” venue is both an engagement and a commitment: engaging with your dreams and aspirations and engaging with the suppliers who’ll realise them for you on your special day and committing yourselves to making those dreams come true – not only for your wedding day but for your future lives together as a newly-married couple.