Early January is a very busy time in the world of weddings given the amount of people who pop the question over the festive period.
According to UK Weddings there are approximately 278,599 nuptials that take place every year in Britain – with 41,273 happening in the South East. So if you’re one of those couples who are poised to the knot then you may be either brimming with excitement about all the planning that lies ahead, or quietly cowering in a corner hoping that someone will do all the hard work for you.
Well if you’re in the latter camp then the good news is the experts who run the wedding and events at both Salomons Estate and One Warwick Park Hotel, both part of the Elite Leisure Collection are here to help you.
Pre-pandemic they were hosting on average 130 wedding ceremonies at the two venues combined every year. And since restrictions were lifted last year the good news is they have seen a strong uptake in both the number of weddings held as well as enquiries for future events.
“Covid hasn’t cancelled weddings, it’s merely deferred them and we are ready to roll out the red carpet once again for all our wonderful guests,” Nick Moore, Operations Director at Elite Leisure Group told SO magazine last month.
“And although we may not know how the next few months may pan out due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis we want anyone thinking of getting married to know that they can do it at one of our special venues in unique style.”
Nick Moore employs a team of specialist events planners across the two sites of Salomons and One Warwick Park who in turn provide a personalised approach to any couple wishing to tie the knot either at the grand 36 acre country estate or the chic four star hotel, both located in Tunbridge Wells.
The team is headed up by Fiona Massingham along with her colleagues Courtney Smith and Christie Timmins.
Fiona told SO magazine: “Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve seen a big increase in weddings being held from Monday to Thursday but Fridays and Saturdays remain the most popular. We do around 80 weddings a year at Salomons and 50 at One Warwick Park.”
Fiona adds that although both venues can provide the most lavish and luxurious of ceremonies thanks to their opulent surroundings, fantastic function spaces and excellent array of quality suppliers, Salomons Estate and One Warwick Park are also very flexible too offering smaller, more intimate affairs if so desired. She points out they can also provide a more unique and often quirky day if that’s what any happy couple wants.
“We can offer lots of bespoke packages and also accommodate the quirkier requests too such as one couple wanting their dog to accompany them down the aisle. We also get lots of requests for dogs to be the ring bearer! Then of course we’re asked for added extras to a couple’s big day such as fireworks displays and once we even had a petting zoo for a drinks reception at Salomons!”
Fiona says there are many options for couples to choose from at both venues, which also hold licences to perform civil ceremonies too.
“We’re able to host outdoor wedding ceremonies on our sun-soaked south facing Terrace at Salomons Estate where guests are able to enjoy panoramic views of the 36 acres of grounds and rolling parkland. With a choice of four function rooms within the main Manor House, we are able to cater for both intimate or larger wedding celebrations.”
And if you are keeping an eye on costs then the team at Elite Leisure Collection have got you covered. “Our pricing is layered to ensure you have lots of control over both the cost and the content of your special day,” continues Fiona.
“Quotations are sent over for consideration based on the number of guests and there are no nasty hidden extras. We encourage people to come in and discuss their budget and ideas in person but if this is not possible we can do this over Zoom. We guarantee wedding parties will be the only ones present on their chosen wedding day and our team of Experienced Wedding Co-ordinators looking after you for the duration.”
When it comes to music and entertainment Fiona says couples still tend to go down the traditional DJ or live band route but photo booths and magicians doing turns at tables are proving popular too!
This month is their busiest with lots of enquiries from newly engaged couples seeking to find the best location for their nuptials.
“What we pride ourselves on at both Salomons Estate and One Warwick Park Hotel is our ability to not only provide couples with the finest wedding experience on every level but our adaptability too,” explains Nick Moore.
“Both venues offer packages that are tailored for each individual couple. They are created element by element, so we can build a bespoke celebration for each couple based on their requests.”
Fiona adds: “We get lots of lovely feedback about this particular approach so will be continuing this into 2022. We are so lucky to have some very creative chefs, so we can offer so much more than your average venues such as pizza ovens, paella stations and gourmet burger bars! We can even provide guests with a Pimp Your Prosecco station and a Pop-Up Gin Bar.”
She goes on to say that the trend for ‘tablescaping’ – when you create a show stopping table set up and ‘room dressing’ when you embellish a space with a particular theme are also becoming a big trend in the wedding world.
Salomons mainly works with Bows Hire, a specialist wedding and events decorating company based in Robertsbridge. They will come in and transform any space into the room of a couple’s dreams courtesy of festooning fairylights, lighting candles and putting up incredible floral embellishments and divine drapery.
Elite Leisure Collection also work with a number of other recommended suppliers and will let potential clients know how they can assist you with everything from hair and make-up artists to photographers too.
And finally, during the month of January they are offering an amazing discount of 22% off all weddings for 2022. So, after a torrid couple of years due to the pandemic what better treat could you give yourself as a new bride or groom than to tie the knot at one of the area’s most charming wedding venues?
IN FOCUS: “Each wedding has its own style and its own story to tell…”
SO Magazine meets photographer Helen England who works regularly at Salomons Estate and One Warwick Park as one of their preferred professional photographers…
Helen is a talented professional photographer who regularly shoots a number of weddings at Salomons Estate and One Warwick Park. She has just won Wedding Photographer of the Year at The Kent Wedding Awards and also received Best Photographer in Kent accolade in the 2018 Muddy Stiletto Awards. She has also been highly commended as Wedding Photographer of the Year at The Kent Wedding Awards in 2015 and 2019.
How long you have been a photographer and how did you get into it?
Photography is my passion, obsession and lifelong love. I am often asked how long I have been into photography, and the answer is: forever! I was given my first camera at 14 and I don’t think I looked back from there. I’ve been passionate about taking photos for as long as I can remember and feel very lucky that this is my job.
When did you start doing photography for a living?
My professional career kicked off in 2002 when I graduated from Southampton Solent University with an honours degree in photography. After university I worked with a leading photographic studio where I gained a professional diploma. But things got really interesting in 2005 when I photographed my first wedding! It was then that my two passions – photography and weddings – first collided, and there was no looking back.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I feel extremely lucky that this is my profession. I am utterly passionate about photography, and probably a
little bit obsessed with weddings! The thing that inspires me most about what I do are the incredible people who I get to meet along the way; each wedding has its own style and its own story to tell. And that’s what I love, the people, the relationships and the stories. I love the fact that the photographs I take will be proudly framed and have pride of place in homes for years to come.
Are weddings your favourite genre to work in or do you also shoot lifestyle too?
Weddings are most certainly my first love! But really, it’s the people I’m photographing who make my job interesting, and the relationships I build with my couples is so special and truly genuine. Capturing their journey as they graduate from couples to a family is a natural progression! I offer a range of lifestyle photography that many of my couples book at various stages of their lives. It’s almost as if I’m their personal photographer – there for life’s important moments.
How did you get involved working with Salomons and One Warwick Park venues?
I photographed my first wedding at Salomons in 2009. I remember being so excited to be photographing a wedding there as it was a venue I had wanted to shoot for ages. It was an amazing wedding. I quickly made friends with the staff, and sent them images from the wedding as well as a beautiful album for them to keep and show potential couples. I’ve maintained a close working relationship with Salomons ever since, and am privileged to be a preferred supplier. When One Warwick Park opened, I was just as excited to shoot my first wedding there too!
What do you enjoy about your relationship with the Elite Leisure Collection team?
They are wonderful to work with! Their devotion to excellence is evident in the pride they take to keep the grounds and estate in immaculate condition. Nothing is too much trouble for them, they communicate brilliantly and we work really well together as a team to ensure the couple has the best day. Over the years I have built an amazing relationship with them which all helps to provide our couples with the best possible service.
How would you describe your wedding photography style?
I have always favoured a relaxed, documentary style, and that’s definitely the mood couples look for now – along with some artistic shots. It’s really about the balance of showing the true emotion of the day, exactly as it unfolds with a conscious effort to carve out the time to create those truly stunning couples’ portraits, too. Happily, gone are the days of a bossy photographer running the day and telling everyone where to stand for a hundred static, posed photographs!