As we soak up the rather splendid setting of the house flanked by its beautiful gardens, we discovered that weddings and celebrations have actually been performed here since the late 1650s, giving the venue an incredible 350 years of experience. In a nod to this heritage the house has retained many of its original features, such as its lavish furnishings and the statement sweeping staircase. It’s clear too that conscientious decisions have been made to successfully add contemporary notes; the result, a venue brimming with emotions that merge cherished traditional with modern day excitement.
Couples and families come from all across the country to experience for themselves a wide range of events, retreats and celebrations, along with enjoying the estate’s beautiful accommodation, with the venue providing bespoke options to cater to all manner of gatherings, both private and corporate.
Undoubtedly though, Norwood Park has established its name primarily as an exceptional wedding venue.
We discover that the house has a number of different ceremony spaces, including its Drawing Room which seats up to 80 guests, the Long Gallery which seats up to 160 guests, and the outdoor Starkey Bandstand which can seat 140 guests and offer standing space for up to 50 more. Wedding Breakfasts can be enjoyed in a choice of two delightful venues; the Dining Room for more intimate gatherings, and the Gallery for larger celebrations. Evening receptions and partying can continue into the night in the Clock Tower and the Long Gallery, with ample space for bands, a huge dance floor, full bar, and outside courtyard.
Its events team, who are a close-knit group of really warm and welcoming individuals, combine their experience, expertise, imagination and a real passion for making couples’ dreams a reality.
Couples are certainly spoilt for choice, we were keen to say. “They certainly are!”, smiles Maddie, Norwood’s Operations Manager “Our outdoor space is truly stunning and very popular for summer weddings, but I also think that couples have a fabulous indoor alternative in the Drawing Room as you get to experience different spaces for the ceremony and dining, giving you a real sense of the grandeur of the house.”
We asked Maddie how she thought Norwood Park was able to remain such a popular modern-day wedding choice given its traditional style. “Couples seem to love that we can provide a genuinely beautiful Georgian venue but are still able to capture contemporary elements in their photos. Our modern gallery with its white walls and chandeliers never fails to impress!”
It’s clear that the heritage setting, and various offerings are ticking all the right boxes, but we wondered just what is involved to ensure that each event is successful and lovingly remembered.
“Ah, the key to a successful event”, explains Maddie, “is that you have to remember that you can really do as much pre-planning as you want, and for years, but ultimately it boils down to enjoying the day. I always say to couples to grab some time together on the day and just soak it in. Enjoy the moment.”
Her thoughts are echoed by Events and Marketing Assistant, Olivia. “Absolutely. Be in the moment. We always say to couples to relax, and hand over the reins to family you trust and the team around you. You’ve done the pre-planning now give yourselves chance to enjoy the day and let others manage it for you.”
Richard, too, Norwood’s Events and Catering Manager was keen to tell us the secret to ensuring the house and its team really create magic. “It’s a winning mix of preparation, organisation, communication and teamwork.”, he explains.
“You know the old saying; fail to prepare then prepare to fail. The preparation for us here is key in every department. We are meticulous in ensuring everything that couples ask for, every single detail, is covered and that we have everything ready to run like clockwork.”
“It’s a truly collective effort”, Maddie adds. “Everyone involved from the very first moment a couple visits us will be involved in some capacity on the big day. It’s reassuring for couples to get to know our team and build rapport and trust through the planning stages. We really pride ourselves on communication and investing in that relationship. You know, sometimes we even feel as though we are losing a friendship once the wedding has passed – we have spent so long talking to couples, especially the brides, and being a part of their special day.”
“Also”, adds Olivia. “We are often involved in creating a series of events and activities both in the run-up to and immediately after the wedding day, and this really gives us a sense of involvement. We take it really seriously as if we were planning our own special day.
“We are increasingly seeing interest in pre-wedding rehearsals and post wedding dinners, with couples often choosing now to spend additional time with their guests, so again, we really build such a close relationship with the couples, helping them through all the planning and bringing their ideas alive. “
The more we chat to the team we really sense that this isn’t a job to them, but something they actually love and take pride in.
“What makes us stand out against other popular venues”, explains Richard, “is that what we really do best is listen to our couples. We aim to make the experience as bespoke as possible and we know that what is right for one couple isn’t necessarily right for another.
“Many venues can operate with a ‘no’ culture, but if something is even remotely achievable then we will find a way to make it work so couples really get to live their dream.”
Speaking of dreams, conversation soon turned to trends and we wanted to know what’s popular at the moment and what the team think will be emerging in 2024.
I’ll answer that!” says Olivia enthusiastically. “We’ve seen a real trend for audio books in the past year, also content creation. Couples are enjoying behind the scenes footage and capturing the day in a more authentic and ‘as it happens’ way, rather than the standard videography we have seen in the past.
“I think this trend will continue into 2024 and beyond”, adding “I think we are also likely to see smaller bouquets with bolder colours and a lean towards minimalism.”
Our final question turns to the elephant in everyone’s room; the cost of living crisis. We are conscious that whilst we all have dreams, is a dream wedding affordable now given the current economic climate?
“We aren’t seeing any change in the volume of bookings”, explains Maddie, “but I’d say couples are taking longer in their planning. Whereas typically you would book 12 months, sometimes 24 months in advance, we are now seeing 36 months appear more frequently. So rather than compromise on what they really want, couples are preferring to save for longer.”
Olivia adds “Yes that’s right. And we are seeing Thursdays becoming increasingly popular, not just because of the saving in comparison to a weekend date, but also it is easier now for couples to do this. The rise in shift working, remote/hybrid and changing lifestyle patterns means most guests can still attend, and often prefer this.”
“We have also adapted our menus to two-course options with dessert tables rather than individual desserts, and our broad drinks packages have been designed to accommodate for every budget” Maddie explains. “We are certainly mindful of helping couples in subtle ways, so they still receive high quality but have the affordability”
“Always spend on your venue and food” suggests Olivia, “but I say to couples who are working to budgets, save on décor, and flowers. You can be smarter with these without anyone noticing and really save money. I think it’s worth re-using bouquets and aisle flowers, for example. Have them moved after the ceremony into your wedding breakfast space, and wedding favours also are not now expected. You can trim in little ways but still have a really wonderful day.”
It’s clear that the wider Norwood Park events team including Richard, Maddie and Olivia who kindly gave us their lowdown on all things wedding, are creative, savvy, highly experienced, and genuinely passionate. We’d certainly trust them to deliver our special day.
For further details on wedding options, private celebrations, retreats and corporate events, visit www.norwoodpark.co.uk