Our winning couple have started their wedding planning - and first on the agenda is visiting their stunning Bijou venue! Bride-to-be Nuala shares their experience...
Last week, we visited Bijou’s Notley Abbey for the first time. After a flurry of activity in the weeks before, confirming a date, booking the registrar, and ordering/sending out our save the date cards from Swoon at the Moon (which are gorgeous by the way – Matt & Leanne have been so helpful!), it was lovely to see the venue for real and start to get a feel for how our day is going to look.
And now to the venue! As we approached from the main road, we spotted the quarter-mile tree lined drive way which is just as amazing, if not more so, as it is on pictures. It really is magical and as we are hoping to incorporate an enchanted woodland theme into our wedding, I don’t think we could have chosen a more perfect venue.
Towards the end of the driveway is a bridge which crosses over a small river, before reaching the main grounds of the house. What struck us both as we walked up to the house was the peace – it’s almost like you’ve reached another world. As Adrian said: “never mind getting married here, can we just move in?” – if only!
As we stepped into the main reception room, Philippa, the venue manager, was there to greet us with a glass of bubbly and to show us round the house before our food tasting session. The décor in each room is simply elegant and the house manages to be a statement whilst still remaining intimate and relaxed.
I can see why Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh (below) fell in love with Notley and made it their home for so long throughout the 40s/50s - as you walk around you get a sense of the history there and it’s still easy to recognise some of the rooms from black and white photos taken when they owned the house.
After exploring the house, and seeing the stunning bedrooms (and bathrooms – roll top baths!), it was time for our food tasting. This was held in the room where we will be having our wedding breakfast/evening reception on the day, the monk’s refectory, accessed from the main house via a covered walkway which passes a garden that is home to a listed rare tree with heart-shaped leaves (could this place be any more perfect!).
As a self-confessed fussy eater I wasn’t expecting to be able to try much of the food and we had already discussed that Adrian would be in charge of any menu decisions (he was more than happy to oblige!).
I was pleasantly surprised however, when on the table, there were personalised menus for both of us – a few weeks earlier, I had spoken to Emma, our wedding planner, and her colleague Stephanie when getting dates/timings/appointments confirmed and had mentioned then that I was vegetarian but also didn’t eat a lot of dairy and was just generally fussy. They said then there would be some options for me to try but I wasn’t expecting an entire personalised menu – it was a really nice touch!
We both agreed that the food was gorgeous and having the tasting session really helped us make some decisions from the extensive menu options available – I actually ended up choosing different options to what I was expecting to make as a result of the tasting and after being a little apprehensive about the food to begin with am now really looking forward it on our wedding day!
During the food tasting, we also met with Emma and Stephanie to go through some of the details of the day and the online planner that Bijou provide – I’m finding this really useful for planning the timings/menu/guest list/table plans – it really is a massive help.
Again, after initially being daunted by it, looking at all the things included on the planner and thinking, “oh yea, what about that”, I’m finding it really good to get a view on where we’re up to/what we still need to do.
At the end of our appointment, Emma and Stephanie left us to finish our food tasting (which took us about 3 hours in total – there was a lot of food!) before surprising me after with a birthday cake, complete with candle, as it also happened to be my birthday on the day we visited! I have to say the all the staff at Bijou really are lovely and can’t do enough for you! They really have put us at ease.
We finished the day by exploring some more of the gardens and having another quick look around the house (we may just have practiced walking up and down the aisle once or twice!) before picking up the six bottles of wine we had been given to sample (it’s a tough job!) and walking back down the lavender lined path away from the house. We can’t wait to be back there!
Find out more about Notley Abbey and what it could offer you for your wedding day here.