When Tonbridge couple Sarah Handley and Jack Brown began their search for a wedding venue, they even considered hiring somewhere in France, they were so set on a summer wedding.
But that was until they visited Penshurst. Sarah, who met Jack at the Adventure Bar in Covent Garden in 2013, said: “Penshurst Place turned all our wedding ideas upside down.
“We had originally planned an outdoor spring/summer wedding and even considered a château in France. However, we left Penshurst Place until last - it was our ‘wildcard’ - and as we were looking round, we both said how stunning the house was and that it would actually be a perfect winter wedding venue. When we visited and heard it was available a week before Christmas (our favourite time of year) we knew it was meant to be.
“We loved the Great Hall in particular – there’s nowhere like it in the country and it is steeped in history.”
The pair also loved the variety of rooms available, from the Buttery to the marquee lit by fairy lights, and the fact that they could stay at the Leicester Arms pubs just down the road.
The pair, both 28, opted for a game theme, with suits incorporating traditional tweed; the stationery featuring game animals and the menu including venison, and with the flowers, they incorporated pine cones, berries, ivy and deep red baccara roses with pale roses, plus female pheasant feathers, provided by Penshurst Place’s gamekeeper.
Sarah added: “When we walked into the Great Hall, it was exactly how we’d dreamt and more. With the fire blazing in the middle and crates of blankets around the edge, it somehow also managed to exude a homeliness despite its size.”
Small touches which helped make the day included Sarah’s best friend playing John Legend’s All of Me on the piano as she walked down the aisle and her nana, who has since passed away, was also at the end of the aisle - when she had thought she wouldn’t make it.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the church,” she said.
The couple had some 120 guests with them to celebrate the occasion.
Sarah added: “We left together, walking through the sparklers and going down into the gardens. I was wrapped up in my fur coat with a lantern in hand. We spent a few minutes alone by the gate at the bottom, holding each other while looking up at the perfect starry night sky above and back at the glowing light of the house.”
Sarah’s dress was Fleur by Naomi Neoh in blush.
“I tried desperately to go for something more edgy and different, but when I tried Fleur on it felt like the dress personified my romantic, feminine side,” she said.
“The blush colour differentiated it from the traditional bridal gown and there were tears all round when I tried it on.
Although only the second dress I tried, I kept searching around in an attempt to find something quirkier (and as an excuse to keep trying beautiful dresses on!) but kept coming back to it.”
Standing since 1341, Penshurst Place, near Tunbridge Wells, has been hosting weddings for more than 30 years, with winter and Christmas ceremonies becoming increasingly popular.
With its candelabra flickering, the house takes on a new appeal during the winter season. There is a luxuriously heated marquee that’s decorated and resized to each couple’s requirements.
Used for dining as well as dancing, the marquee provides a good space for guests to enjoy dishes using local produce and winter warmers including mulled wine and hot chocolate. The period hearths in the Sunderland Room and the Buttery also burn with a cosy glow; each historic room contains a real Christmas tree, cut from the estate and doorways are dressed with bunches of mistletoe harvested from the gardens.
Blankets are provided for guests on arrival if needed.
Sarah said of the planning experience, “We were thrilled how easy it was with the co-ordinators. It became very clear that they knew what we wanted and remembered every small detail of making that become a reality.
“Menu tasting was one of our favourite parts of wedding planning and our guests said it was the best wedding meal they’d had. We also spent a huge amount of time on all the small things which made the overall look unique.”
For their honeymoon, the couple somehow managed to book five weeks off work with the first two spent with family and friends for Christmas, before travelling around South Africa and onto the Four Seasons resort in Mauritius.
NEED TO KNOW...
Entertainment: The Swamp Cats, swampcatsband.co.uk
First dance: Lana Del Rey, Young & Beautiful
Flowers: Sandra Lamb, Kent Wedding Flowers
Hair: RWK Hair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Little touches: Jack ordered a surprise Krispy Kreme delivery for 10pm – and one of the ushers ate six in one go!
Make-up: Sarah Louise Hines, slhmakeup.co.uk
The cake: Family friend, Caroline Smith
Videography: Cut Above Productions, email@example.com