Photography by Joel Skingle.
Since moving on from Rise Hall in July 2017, I have found myself being repeatedly asked very similar questions about my experience there, not only as a Wedding Planner but as the person responsible for developing its profile and its resulting success. With this in mind, I have summarised the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions here in this blog.
Your success as the Wedding Planner at Rise Hall is well documented in testimonials and reviews which speak volumes. How did you become responsible for weddings at Rise Hall?
My Rise Hall ‘story’ began in 2013 when I was contacted – out of the blue – by owner Sarah Beeny, who explained that she needed some help at Rise Hall. She had sought advice from a number of Wedding Industry professionals who had repeatedly mentioned my name.
From the point at which I had embarked on becoming a Wedding Planner, I recognised the need to create and maintain an extensive directory of contacts through whom I could source quite literally ANYTHING a couple could possibly wish for in order to bring their vision of the perfect day to life. As such, I networked like a whirling dervish, attended every breakfast, lunch time and evening meeting and made myself available for one to one consultations with anyone I believed I had synergy with. I was always extremely friendly and helpful and often went out of my way to support the people I met. Evidently, this paid off because people were talking about me. I had very quickly established a reputation as a Wedding Planner who was reliable, professional and a pleasure to do business with.
When Sarah got in touch and asked me to meet her at Rise Hall the same day, I had no idea what to expect. I imagined that her team may have needed some help ‘on the day’ of weddings and events or perhaps she was merely in need of some generic guidance or advice relevant to the business. Intrigued, I took off from my home in Brighouse, West Yorkshire and headed East to Rise Hall for a face to face meeting with Sarah during which I recall drinking an obscene amount of coffee!
Having completed the restoration of the property and following a lengthy battle with the local authority in order to secure the relevant licenses, which was well documented in the Channel four television series ‘Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare’, Sarah needed help to drive the business forward. It was clear that Rise Hall had enormous potential as a wedding and events venue, but there were certain fundamental elements missing and to me, this represented an enormous opportunity. Sarah persuaded me to seize the opportunity and six days later, I moved in with nothing more than a suitcase, a computer, a head full of ideas, a heart filled with hope and some gigantic aspirations. In my mind’s eye, Rise Hall had the potential to become one of the UK’s leading wedding and events venues. From day one, I accepted that if I was to succeed in turning this possibility into a reality, it would be so much more than a job. It was a requirement of the role to live on the premises. As such, Rise Hall became my home and my number one priority. I put everything else on hold in order to focus on making it a success. Over the four years that followed, it became a LIFESTYLE.
What key ingredients contributed to its success?
At Rise Hall, I focused on creating a very clearly defined proposition which encouraged every couple to take advantage of exclusive use of the entire venue (including its 29 bedrooms) and its idyllic grounds for an entire weekend and offered them a great deal of freedom and flexibility. As such, they were able to create precisely the experience they wanted to have, often for a full weekend – from Friday to Sunday.
The small yet incredibly committed team I created at Rise Hall were passionate about delivering a truly personal service. In one particular testimonial, a couple described their experience as though they had ‘been looked after by a team who felt like family.’ Visitors often remarked about the fact that everything we did for them made them feel ‘at home.’
At Rise Hall, I developed a relationship with every Bride and Groom, always taking into account their individual visions of the perfect day or entire weekend experience. Because I worked so closely with them, I was able to help them appreciate and understand how to incorporate their own unique, personal finishing touches. In doing so, I made sure that no two weddings were ever the same.
I engaged with only the highest calibre wedding industry suppliers and provided each individual couple with a personalised portfolio of recommendations consisting of particular suppliers whose products and personalities were the perfect match for their needs.
This resulted in some fantastic testimonials, quickly positioning Rise Hall as one of Yorkshire’s most desirable wedding venues.
Which of your achievements at Rise Hall are the most memorable?
For me, the most memorable achievement was improving the guest experience at Rise Hall.
The first six months were terrifying and exciting in equal measures. With no systems, processes or people in place, everything needed to be established from scratch. This included recruiting every single member of staff, implementing customer relationship management systems and being involved in the interior design and upgrading of the venue.
It also included managing the maintenance of the property and its grounds, overseeing relationships with multiple third party contractors, overhauling bed linen, upgrading soft furnishings, installing head boards on to beds, replacing interior fire doors, installing emergency lighting and creating a serviceable bar. At the same time I was busy managing marketing activity, conducting viewings, taking bookings, selecting preferred suppliers whilst week in, week out hosting weddings and events and gaining enviable customer feedback.
At around the same time, I also implemented a program of work in order to realise the full revenue potential of the Rise Hall bar as a substantial source of income for the business. In addition to this, my team and I restored the Library creating a beautiful space and the perfect environment for guests to enjoy as a late night lounge.
The bar before….
The bar after…
Photography by Ally Byrom.
In order to create a more compelling offering in respect of Winter weddings I managed the installation of a beautiful pea-light canopy which improved the appearance of The Ballroom and illuminated the front of Rise Hall with dramatic up-lighting.
Photography by Dominic Wright.
In 2015, I sourced an incredibly talented local tradesman to build an outdoor bar alongside which I installed a fabulous fire pit surrounded by seats carved from logs sourced from fallen trees on the estate which guests absolutely adored.
At the point at which I took over Rise Hall in June 2013, there were 12 weddings in the diary. With very minimal investment in marketing, wedding bookings very quickly grew and Rise Hall has since hosted around 40 weddings each year.
In 2015, we entered the Wedding Industry Awards and were highly commended in two categories – Best Countryside Wedding Venue and Best Events Team.
In 2016 we won the Regional Award (based solely on customer feedback) for the Best Countryside Wedding Venue in the North East of England.
Within three years, from a standing start, Rise Hall was well and truly on the map. It was an incredible feeling.
You lived alone at Rise Hall. What was it like having a stately home all to yourself?
It was lovely to experience living and working in such a beautiful environment. I love the outdoors and am a country girl at heart so in many respects it was the perfect environment for me. However, it was lonely at times and I often felt very isolated. I learned that irrespective of how beautiful an environment might appear to be, living and working under the same roof 24/7 can be intense. Living and working at Rise Hall was incredibly rewarding but it was not without its challenges – professionally AND personally. After four years, I was ready to spread my wings.
What tips can you offer to anyone who is currently opening a venue or is operating a venue and wishes to increase the number of bookings?
First and foremost, DEFINE your proposition.
Be clear about your offering and what you want to be recognised for.
Be creative when reaching out to your target market.
Dare to be different. Unless of course you are operating a conveyor-belt and and that is all you want to be known for!
Identify, engage and do not be afraid to invest in all of the necessary resources.
You will need to have the correct infrastructure in place to support your business as it grows.
Invest time and effort to develop relationships with the most reliable suppliers.
Create a ‘dream team’.
Revisit your business plan on a regular basis and set measurable targets and goals.
Drive continuous improvement and celebrate your achievements.
If you are a new wedding venue in need of guidance or an established wedding venue looking to develop your business, I am available to provide consultative support.
Contact me via telephone : 07561 107888 or 01482 871053