Mon 4th Apr, 2011
Yaxley Hall is a unique private home, situated in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. Dominic Richards, Yaxley Hall's owner, is delighted to welcome you to his home for your wedding, whether you choose to marry in the music room or outside in their Gothic Temple.
I recently met with the lovely Richard Orton, Yaxley Hall's Wedding Butler, and asked him to tell me a little more about his role and this very special Suffolk wedding venue.
We talked about wedding blogs, wedding trends, what makes a great Yaxley Hall wedding and some funny memorable stories!
Tell us about Yaxley Hall, the beautiful Suffolk wedding venue...
"Yaxley Hall is a beautifully restored and loved Elizabethan/Georgian country house set in the idyllic Suffolk countryside, an hour and a half from London. Built in 1580 with major additions during the late 18th Century, it is a rare example of the Strawberry Hill Gothick stlye of architecture and as such attracts much attention as this style was rarely seen outside of London.
Dominic has brought to Yaxley Hall his enthusiasm for architecture and love of historical buildings to create a home that is a mixture of old and new, and with a passion for modern technology each wedding couple is assured of the best of both worlds."
The Ebury Collection wedding blog. Photography copyright 2011 Hannah Gooch/Contre Jour
Tell us about you, Richard Orton, the man behind the Yaxley Hall Wedding Butler...
"Born Kettering, market town in Northamptonshire, studied at local Grammar school. Loves Theatre, large scale gardening, people, champagne, shopping for plants and Afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason!"
(Richard is pictured top left)
What led you to become a wedding butler?
"I took time out from my Devon Delicatessen business in 2001 to explore London for six months initially. I took up the position of Dominic's PA and personal chef and when he purchased Yaxley Hall in 2002 he invited me to stay on. It was a defining point in my life, I sold the deli and put my heart and soul into making Yaxley Hall the prestigious wedding venue it is today.
The wedding venue came about through the local authority contacting us following a change in the law allowing privately owned country houses to become approved wedding ceremony venues. With Dominic's business acumen and my experience in hospitality it made sense to develop Yaxley Hall as a country house that was not only a private home but was also able to be open to the public on a limited basis for weddings."
You're Yaxley Hall's wedding butler. What does that mean?
"It means that from the first time a couple visits Yaxley Hall to view, through numerous meetings, their menu tasting, to the moment they leave on the evening of their wedding I am available to advise, assist and in some cases be a shoulder to cry on, at any time throughout the whole wedding journey."
Describe an average day as a wedding butler...
"Up at 6am to get Yaxley Hall ready for the day's wedding couple who arrive at 10am.
Brunch is usually served at 11am whilst the bride is getting herself prepared, and I deal with the various suppliers bustling back and forth; the cake, the flowers, the photographer, the entertainment, making sure everything is in place just as we have discussed over the previous months.
My role is to take away any unnecessary pressures from the wedding couple and the family so that they can relax and enjoy their day.
Ceremonies usually take place around 2pm, though being an exclusive wedding venue the choice of time is between the couple and the Registrars. I will liase with the Registrars on the day and make sure that the bride and her escort are ready to make their entrance.
Keeping the guests together is often a tricky task and keeping the day on time requires a lot of patience and cajoling and sometimes a few gentle but firm words to the photographer in order that the day runs to schedule!
Once the guests have taken their seats for dinner I will announce the arrival of the bridal couple, announce speeches and ask the couple to cut their wedding cake. I can then hand dinner sevice over to the waiting staff so that I can concentrate of looking after the bridal party and any needs that they have during this time.
Once dinner is over, the main part of my role is finished apart from making sure that the bridal party have all they need and indeed it has been known for me to get up on the dance floor with guests to get the party started if they are initially reluctant!! A wedding butler's job is never done!
My last job is to make sure that everyone has arranged transport to take them to their hotels at the end of the evening and when all the guests have departed, its time for a well earned glass of red wine!"
What's the best thing about being a Wedding Butler?
"Working with each wedding couple to help give them the best wedding day they could imagine and to give them memories to treasure for a lifetime."
What makes a great wedding?
"The best weddings are when the couple are able to be true to themselves. As a guest I would always want to leave with the thought that the whole day had been an expression of the relationship that the couple had and that it reflected their personalities. Sometimes this can be a really simple affair and others completely over the top and lavish."
Have any couples taught you anything?
"That every couple is different and that you should never prejudge what a couple want from their wedding day. Many people think that weddings are all the same and to a point they do follow a similar format, but every wedding is unique because it has a different set of people and everyone has a different idea of what a great wedding is."
Being so closely involved in weddings at Yaxley Hall, what changes are you seeing with regards to trends and choices couples are making?
"It is quite clear that couples are trimming their budgets to suit the current economic mood and more couples are DIYing their stationery and decoration etc. That said there are still couples out there that have money to spend and it is good to see that the vintage, classic look has returned this year with the huge bridal gowns and tonged hair taking a back seat in favour of soft flowing fabrics and properly dressed hair (french pleats and chignons being my favourite). Flowers are trending towards seasonality too, which is great and the vintage colours of apricot, lilac and muted creams are dominant throughout."
What's been your most unusual wedding request?
"500 candles in the garden - yes 500! All to be lit as dusk fell so that the garden felt as if it were full of glow worms!
Daffodils in the garden in August! One couple visiting Yaxley Hall in Spring asked whether it would be possible to have daffodils in bloom - in August... Anything is possible at Yaxley Hall, but the bride was clearly no gardener!"
And just for fun... Do you have any funny wedding stories that have stuck in your memory?
The day the tent came down...
"Certainly not funny at the time but the way in which our original tent collapsed in the winter storms of 2007 was truly balletic and the sight of my colleagues and I trying in vain to keep it attached to the ground was quite something to be seen. At the end of the day it was a health and safety issue, (my health, their safety!). The couple whose wedding was supposed to be taking place there two days later were absolutely brilliant and we were able to arrange alternative plans for them very quickly."
When the wind blows...
"One windy October day, just as the wedding party were about to sit down for dinner, I heard an enormous explosion in the grounds and saw a flash of green flame. A tree branch had fallen directly onto a power cable and severed the electricity supply to the whole estate! Fortunately we cook by gas, but it meant no lights, no band and no heat until an emergency generator was found! Not to be put off by this, the guests, most of whom were South African and thought it hilarious that they should travel so far only to experience another power cut, it was "just like home" apparently! Mother rallied her church choir to sing acapella instead of the band, empty champagne bottles were used to light the tables and I cooked by candlelight. Power was restored just as pudding was served and the band went on stage only thirty minutes late - what a team effort!"
"On one occasion in Winter, Yaxley Hall was bedecked with candles everywhere and the whole place looked truly magical. As the bride made her entrance into the ceremony room it became clear that her full length net train was floating above the scented candles decorating the corridor and causing them to burn holes in it. A member of staff standing behind the bride looked on in horror as she made her entrance, expecting to have to grab a fire extinguisher at any moment. Standing in front of the bride I managed, just, to retain a look of complete composure whilst thinking of how I would explain to the bridegroom why his bride had been covered in foam from a fire extinguisher should the need have arisen. Fortunately all was well and the bride never knew why there were holes in her train!"
One legged Elvis impersonator...
"One of the funniest and perhaps tragic instances was an Elvis impersonator who had recently broken his leg. Trooper that he was, he persevered by sitting the whole time in full Rhinestoned attire with his broken leg propped up on a stool, and a glass of bourbon to numb the pain. It was, as you can imagine a unique performance!"
Have you met the ultimate bridezilla? Or even groomzilla?
"Not yet.... though there is always a first time. I truly believe that you get the clients you deserve and I always tell brides that we never have bridezillas at Yaxley Hall only "more, or less demanding brides"!
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