Beside the seaside

Beside the seaside

Q. We wanted a relaxed beach wedding this summer in Devon, can you help?

A. Simon Daukes says: Arches Beach Weddings is an innovative new venue created following the transformation of the former Combe Martin museum building in North Devon. It's the sole ceremony-only seaside wedding venue in the country where couples effectively get their own private registry office set beside the sea against the stunning backdrop of Combe Martin Harbour.

The once derelict building on the Newberry promenade has been regenerated into a plush ceremony room licensed for up to 120 guests, looking out to the sea just metres away, with a private outdoor space. As well as a dressing room and toilet facilities, it also boasts an opulent bridal suite upstairs that can also be booked separately by couples if they wish to stay the night.

The venue is available in two-hour slots and can accommodate up to six weddings a day, with surround sound speakers and a variety of lighting options to create different themes.

Wedding couples and parties can book local pubs, restaurants or hotels for their reception and guest accommodation, as well as florists, photographers and other regional suppliers for their big day.

Local businesses have been invited to offer their services on the Arches website for free. Our philosophy from the start was that we wanted the venue itself to do as much as possible for the business and benefit of the village. Any local companies that want to be featured on our website only need to get in touch. We are not seeking any commission, we are sending business directly to them. We are not in competition with anyone because nobody else offers a ceremony-only service.

With the motto 'your wedding, your way', the aim at Arches Beach Weddings is to offer a large range of options to suit all budgets, from a ceremony and fish and chips on the beach to a reception with all the trimmings at a local pub, hotel or restaurant. The venue is ceremony-only with no parties, no noise and no local nuisance.

Couples can host their entire wedding for under £1,000 in a stunning location. There's currently a 25% discount for couples with an EX34 postcode. They can choose when they'd like to be married – at sunset, during the height of the summer or when the tide is in or out. We can be very flexible and would love to hear all of your suggestions, for example, we already have people talking about the couple arriving at the ceremony by boat

Simon Daukes, Arches Beach Weddings


Church on time

Church on time

Q. We can't decide between booking a church wedding or having a civil ceremony – can you advise us?

A. Jackie Searle says: I love marrying couples in church and adore the beauty of a church wedding, from the traditional moments and personal touches to the familiar words reflecting the individuality of each couple. A wedding in church offers a holy and spiritual dimension and the Devon Church Weddings project works with churches to ensure that prospective wedding couples receive a warm welcome and are supported through the process.

A church is a beautiful and special place in which to make marriage promises, celebrate love and be blessed. There's a beautiful moment in the service that always moves me after the couple have exchanged their vows and made their promises, where the vicar takes their hands and wraps them in the priestly stole and declares that they are now married. It symbolises that their love for each other, all that has just been promised and declared, is held in the even greater love of God.

At the heart of any wedding service or ceremony is love. The love of two people who are committing themselves to one another for the rest of their lives. They are joyful occasions and each one is so different. By the time you reach the wedding day, there is often a great bond that has grown between the couple and the priest from the first meeting, where you talk through practicalities and set the date, through to the wedding rehearsal and the big day itself. As a vicar, you want to do your best for each couple to make their wedding truly wonderful.

Two words come to mind when describing a church wedding - relationship and blessing. Your relationship is at the heart of the service. In the sealing of your relationship with each other, you are from then on related to that church – your names are in the register and the church will always be there for you in the future. The blessing element of a wedding is also really important. It doesn't mean that everything will go smoothly or that nothing bad will ever happen. Christian blessing is a deep faith that God is with us and wants good for us.

Many couples who come to church to marry find they become part of a church community who love and support them through their future life. Weddings have taken place in churches for generations, with families and friends gathering to celebrate.

Jackie Searle, Devon Church Weddings


'Tis the season

'Tis the season

Q. What's the best season to get married?

A. Simon Daukes says: We're all familiar with the tradition of the summer bride, and it's still the most popular and expensive season to get married. However, more couples are opting for spring, autumn or even late-winter weddings.

Spring – March, April and May
Spring officially starts in March and with its association of new beginnings, it seems like the perfect time to tie the knot and start your new life together. There are also two bank holidays and an Easter weekend at this time of the year, which means you could enjoy a long weekend of celebrations. During this season, the gardens of venues spring into life - wildflower meadows burst into colour, hanging baskets spill over with bright blooms and pink blossom covers the trees - so outdoor wedding photographs are definitely on the cards. Flowers for your bouquets are also more available with anemones, marigolds, and lily of the valley all in bloom. Daffodils are a bright and budget-friendly option to decorate the tables with. When it comes to a colour theme, look to Easter for inspiration with pretty pastels including pink, yellow and blue for bridesmaids dresses and flowers and table decorations. Or keep it fresh and natural with green and white throughout. If you're getting married near the Easter weekend, bowls of sugar-coated chocolate eggs make great favours and an Easter egg hunt on the grounds of the venue is always popular with the little ones. The evenings are lighter at this time of the year, and the days are fresh but often sunny, but it can rain a lot too. If you're opting for an outdoor wedding, make sure you can bring the ceremony inside at the last minute if there's a sudden spring shower.

Summer – June, July and August
If you're yearning for an outdoor wedding, the summer months are when you're more likely to enjoy glorious sunshine and warm days and evenings. Getting married in the open air surrounded by friends and family is so romantic. But while you may be happy to stand in the sun while you exchange your vows, not all your guests will be so choose an outdoor venue that offers some shade too, such as a tree or parasols. Nothing screams summer like a glass of Pimm's served in the garden as guests arrive alongside chilled fizz. Remember to have jugs of water available as well to keep everyone hydrated. A traditional sit-down three-course wedding breakfast may feel too much when the temperature is high so opt for something more laid-back like a barbecue, hog roast or a buffet of fresh salad, cheese and cold meats followed by ice cream for dessert. A summer wedding is a perfect time to indulge in colour. Think bright red, fizzy orange, fuchsia pink and aqua blue. Big, bold flowers like hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, cosmos, lilies, roses and sunflowers are all in bloom at this time - mix them with palm leaves for a tropical look.

Autumn – September, October and November
Autumn is a beautiful season in which to get married when the leaves on the trees turn orange and red, and the days are cooler. September can be pleasantly mild, and Britain often experiences an Indian summer, making this month a popular choice for couples. By the end of October, and into November, there'll be a chill in the air so it's best to host the ceremony and celebrations indoors. With Halloween and bonfire night at this time of the year, you can have fun with your theme, decorations, and catering. Opt for traditional warm colours like russet, burnt orange and honey for your bouquet and decorations. Many flowers are still available at this time of the year so mix them with foliage, berries and even pumpkins for an autumnal feel. Serve a hearty wedding breakfast with local seasonal ingredients and because it's close to bonfire night, gather your guests around a firepit roasting marshmallows served with hot chocolate (or something stronger!) Finish your celebrations with fireworks and sparklers.

Winter - December, January, February
Winter weddings are becoming more popular, especially those that are held in the build-up to Christmas and New Year. With Christmas on the horizon, venues look magical decorated with fairylights and candles and everyone is in the party spirit. Combine your wedding with Christmas celebrations and serve mulled wine to guests as they arrive followed by turkey with all the trimmings. The temperature will be nippy but if you're lucky, you may see some winter sun or even a smattering of snow on the ground which always makes for beautiful pictures. The key is to ensure the venue is warm and cosy for guests and if there's an open fire somewhere, use it. Keep your bridesmaids warm with stylish pashminas that can easily be slipped off for the pictures and pop a pile of blankets and throws into a basket and let guests help themselves if they feel chilly. What about the other winter months? Getting married in January gives everyone something to look forward to and suppliers are less likely to be busy at this time of the year. Hopefully, your guests will be happy to give up their dry January or new year's health kick for your wedding day. Getting married during February, especially around Valentine's Day, is a romantic time to tie the knot and the first shoots of spring are just beginning to show.

Simon Daukes, The Ash Barton Estate


Small but perfectly formed

Small but perfectly formed

Q. We're considering having a micro wedding – can you give us some ideas and advice?

A. Joanna Pisko-Szczepura says: Small, perfectly formed and individual is how we'd sum up the magic of a micro wedding. We love hosting romantic, personal (and often emotional) intimate affairs. The benefits include a day often filled with a more intense feeling of love and commitment than you sometimes get with the larger celebrations, with every guest present being emotionally invested in the day. As couples feel more confident to make it personal and reflective of their relationship through the vows that they say to each other, this is more often than not reflected in their styling and catering choices. What's more, small weddings are nimble and can be arranged at relatively short notice, meaning planning is fun and exciting from start to finish and can be kept within budget.

Hosting a smaller wedding ceremony and celebration means more freedom for couples to create the day they want. Wedding traditions can be followed or replaced with new ones. Maybe the mother-of-the-bride is asked to make a speech after dinner, or the bride has the family dog walking down the aisle with her. The meal could be street food-style, reflecting experiences from the couples' travels, or a gourmet picnic, afternoon tea or a traditional roast dinner.

Wow-factor floral arrangements, a statement cake and a great selection of music are all still possible at micro weddings. Some of the most beautiful days in terms of look and feel have been small celebrations because couples spend more on the details because they have fewer guests to pay for so their budget can stretch further.

Brickhouse Vineyard is a very special place for micro weddings. It's located just 20 minutes from Exeter in idyllic countryside and tranquil woodlands in a magical setting. The thatched Round House has been restored to its former glory and now benefits from a natural bridal aisle leading through the wildflower meadow boasting panoramic views across the vineyard to the rolling hills beyond. It's a beautiful building that needs very little added in terms of décor yet it provides a blank canvas for couples who wish to make it their own by adding flowers, accessories and props. The barn sat behind the Round House is currently under renovation to provide a dedicated indoor dining space.

The team host elopement and intimate weddings for between 2 and 60 people. This can be on a ceremony-only or celebration-only basis or a combined ceremony and celebration booking. The relatively lower cost of a micro wedding compared with a larger one is an advantage for some couples because they can spend more per head on food and drink and it opens up options that would not be available to larger groups. For example, a group of 15 local chefs can prepare a bespoke seven-course tasting menu using top-quality ingredients accompanied by fine wine. The team can recommend a list of great local wedding suppliers.

Finally, another deciding factor is that the season becomes less important with smaller weddings because they're less weather-reliant.

Joanna Pisko-Szczepura, Brickhouse Vineyard


Small but perfectly formed

Small but perfectly formed

Q. We're considering having a micro wedding – can you give us some ideas and advice?

A. Clare Fortescue says: Meet the expert: Clare Fortescue runs Boconnoc Cornwall with her sister, Sarah, and mother, Elizabeth. It's a beautiful country estate located in the South East of the region available for exclusive-use weddings, events and retreats, as well as restorative holidays with guests staying in the main house and on-site cottages.

Clare says: Couples are falling in love with the micro wedding trend so reacting to the growing demand for intimate celebrations, Boconnoc Cornwall is now offering wedding packages for between 15 and 30 guests. Our wedding team predict that these special gatherings may be around for some time to come, regardless of lifted restrictions. So many couples have decided to have a more intimate celebration whether or not restrictions are lifted so we think that 2020 made people realise that smaller weddings do have their advantages.

Here at Boconnoc Cornwall, we have loved planning our intimate wedding packages over the past six months and have surprised ourselves, and our clients, with the magic that we're able to create. From starlit tractor-trailer rides around the estate, champagne presented in a marble ice bath in the woods, cosy welcome feasts, intimate firework displays and wine and cheese tastings, these smaller celebrations are very special.

Wedding planner Jenny from Jenny Wren events in Cornwall tells us that many couples find that with a larger budget per head, intimate celebrations lend themselves perfectly to bespoke soirees, finished with personal touches. Couples can spend quality time with each guest – perhaps the most compelling reason for the surge in popularity of micro weddings.

At Boconnoc Cornwall, our new intimate wedding offering caters for groups of up to 30 people. Guests are treated to a two-night stay with everyone sleeping on-site in the main house and the surrounding cottages. They will experience understated luxury in cosy, stylish bedrooms and couples can plan a full weekend of food and celebrations – and a chance to explore the beaches, woodland and deer park surrounding the estate with their nearest and dearest.

There are several choices of locations for the ceremony. For those wanting a church wedding, the stunning 800-year-old on-site church is idyllic. There's also the option of a civil or humanist ceremony in the main house, the Georgian Bathhouse, the Dorothy Garden or even down on the expansive lawns. Wedding feasts can be set up in the Smoking Room, or, for a more relaxed setting, guests can sit at trestle tables outside by the firepits watching the sunset. After dark, the wedding party can settle in with a nightcap by the fire, or turn up the music and dance under the stars.

Clare Fortescue, Boconnoc Estate


Beautifully packaged

Beautifully packaged

Q. We're looking at booking a wedding package – what can we expect to be included?

A. Cat Richards-Kastelic says: Cat says: Wedding packages can vary from venue to venue. At Ashridge Court, we offer hire of The Great Barn and have just created an intimate wedding package priced from just £1,750. It has been designed for between 15 and 30 guests (and is pet-friendly) and includes, but is not limited to, the following:

- 36-hour access to the barn for set-up the afternoon before the wedding

- Catering from selected suppliers including Oaktree Occasions, Fig & Smoke Event Catering and Joe Dibley Chef

- Cake for between 15 and 30 guests from Diana Dench Creative Cakes

- Bouquets and buttonholes for the bridal party (table décor can also be added) from Catkin Blooms, Bluebells Bespoke Floral Design or Divine Flowers

- Rustic-style furniture to seat between 15 and 30 people

- Hire of the barn decorated with seasonal arrangements

- Access to the rustic-inspired prop collection

- On-the-day coordination service

- Support with planning in the run-up to the wedding

Cat Richards-Kastelic, Ashridge Great Barn