– who has run events at the prestigious Rise Hall stately home for TV celebrity
Sarah Beeny for the past four years.
We can’t tell you how excited we are about this new link-up to create ‘Village Farm Events – with Helen Davies’, for all sorts of reasons.
Of course, she’s simply brilliant – and one of the most sought after event planners in the UK.
But aside from that, she’s a lovely person and a consummate professional – a very neat fit indeed with our ethos here at Village Farm Marquees, and we’re looking forward to developing some really exciting new opportunities together.
We have to admit that this feels a little like kismet – one of those happy events in life that seems to come at the right time, for the right reasons.
And we’re particularly excited about the new avenues the partnership with Helen will enable us to explore with our clients. We have already begun to venture into wedding planning and delivery, and have had the privilege to work with some wonderful clients over the past year, on shaping their special day.
Working with Helen will now enable us to go one step further, though, in collaboration with someone who is at the top of her game and, frankly, renowned for creating magic wherever she goes.
The partnership will mean all our customers booking weddings or other events with Village Farm Marquees will benefit from extensive advice from the expanded Village Farm team, including Helen. This will cover everything from supplier recommendations to creative concept ideas. An upgrade to full event planning by Helen will also be available, with or without one of our marquees.
We spoke to her about her journey to this point, her experience at the famous Rise, and what she’ll be offering our clients.
First things first – Rise Hall
Of course, we couldn’t resist asking her for a sneaky peek into the fabulous world of Rise Hall.
“My Rise Hall 'story' began in 2013, just 12 months after launching my own wedding planning business, 'The Wedding Concierge',” she said.
“Sarah Beeny contacted me out of the blue and explained that she needed some help at Rise Hall. She had spoken to a number of wedding industry professionals, who had repeatedly mentioned my name,” continued Helen.
“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 might have needed some ‘on the day’ help with weddings and events, or perhaps some generic guidance relevant to their business.
“Intrigued, I headed over there for a face-to-face meeting with Sarah, during which I recall drinking an obscene amount of coffee!”
And so it began.
“It turned out that, having completed the restoration of the property and following a lengthy battle with the local authority to secure the relevant licences, Sarah needed help to drive the business forward.
“It was clear to me that Rise Hall had enormous potential as a wedding and events venue, but there were certain fundamental elements missing and this represented an enormous opportunity.
“Sarah persuaded me to seize it and, six days later, I moved in with nothing more than a suitcase, a computer and a head full of ideas. This was so much more than a job. Rise Hall became my home and my number one priority. I put it before everything and everyone else in order to focus on making it a success. It was my life.”
And what followed for Helen was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and opportunity to build something truly extra-special.
“The first six months were terrifying and exciting in equal measure,” she continued.
“With no systems, processes or people in place, everything needed to be established from scratch, which included implementing customer relationship management systems, appointing housekeepers and general administration staff, managing the maintenance of the property and its grounds, overseeing relationships with multiple third party contractors, overhauling bed linen, upgrading soft furnishings, installing headboards on beds, replacing interior fire doors and installing a serviceable bar, all while promoting Rise Hall as a venue, attracting numerous clients, conducting viewings, taking bookings, meeting with suppliers, and hosting weddings and events.”
And all this hard work paid off, massively.
“In 2014, we entered the Wedding Industry Awards and were highly commended in two categories – Best Countryside Wedding Venue and Best Events Team,” said Helen.
“In 2015, we received the Regional Award (based solely on customer feedback) for the Best Countryside Wedding Venue in the North East of England. I doubt that I will ever again experience such a feeling of pride. Rise Hall and its tiny, but incredibly passionate and committed team were well and truly on the map. We were being recognised. It was an incredible result.”
And the growth of its reputation was mirrored by an increase in bookings.
“At the point when I took over Rise Hall in June 2013, there were just 17 weddings in the diary. However, this number grew to 32 and Rise Hall now hosts an average of 40 weddings each year,” she added.
And the million-dollar question – what was it actually like, living in the kind of property most people can only dream about?
“I felt very privileged to live in such a beautiful place. I am a country girl at heart and am definitely happiest surrounded by beautiful scenery, so I felt blessed to be in such a historic building, surrounded by idyllic countryside. However, it was incredibly lonely at times - and cold!”
Rise’s secrets of success
So what, does Helen believe, were the contributing factors to this venue’s phenomenal turnaround of fortunes?
“We focused on offering every couple exclusive use of the entire venue, which enabled them to have complete freedom and flexibility,” she added.
“As such, they were able to create precisely the experience they wanted to have, often for a full weekend – Friday to Sunday.”
“The Rise Hall team were also incredibly passionate and committed to delivering a truly personal service. In one particular instance, a bride described her experience as being as though she had ‘been looked after by a team who felt like family’. Couples often remarked about the fact that everything we did for them made them feel ‘at home’.
“I developed a relationship with every bride and groom, always taking into account their individual visions of the perfect day and making sure that no two weddings were ever the same.
“I provided each individual couple with a personalised portfolio of suppliers, whose products and personalities were the perfect match for their needs.
“The best weddings I planned there were those where couples and their families truly embraced every opportunity to personalise their experience. There are certainly one or two which stand out in my memory and I have made some life-long friends as a result.”
And we are absolutely
bursting with anticipation about this one!
After four years building the reputation of the famous Rise Hall, in East Yorkshire, alongside TV property star Sarah Beeny, Helen has decided to join us. Together, we are proud to launch ‘Village Farm Events – with Helen Davies’.
Our mission will be to create and deliver unforgettable experiences for people planning everything from corporate events to weddings, birthday parties and every other type of special occasion.
The partnership will mean that our customers will now benefit from even more event-planning advice, from supplier recommendations to creative concept ideas. An upgrade to full event planning is also available, with or without one of our marquees.
This partnership represents a fantastic new chapter for both Helen and us. We’re delighted to say that Village Farm Marquees is growing faster than ever, as well as being shortlisted in the Outstanding Customer Service category of the North of England Wedding Awards. Collaborating with Helen, who is one of the most sought-after event planners in the UK, marks the next, natural stage in our evolution.
We share the same commitment to delivering attention to detail, quality service and good humoured, personalised client care that is second-to-none.
Until recently, Helen was Wedding Co-ordinator and Manager of Rise Hall, which was bought by TV property icon Sarah in 2001 and renovated in a blaze of publicity. Helen established its place as an award-winning venue and increased its annual list of weddings from 17 to 40.
Most brides spend the months leading up to their big day sorting out caterers, invites, cake design, favours and bridesmaids’ dresses.
And they find that stressful enough.
But for Becky Cunningham and hubby John, getting ready involved six months of property renovation to boot.
Because they decided to hold their wedding at Barff House, the idyllic East Yorkshire farm owned by John’s parents, John and Katy, since 2010.
And that meant clearing out, cleaning and reinforcing an ancient barn at the property, to make it a fit venue for their wedding night knees-up.
The couple spent almost every weekend of 2017 staying over at the farm and holiday cottages, grafting alongside John’s parents to get it sorted. And that hard work continued right up to the week before their wedding.
“I know it probably sounds like an awful lot of hard work to most people,” said Becky, a self-employed performing arts teacher.
“But it was actually really lovely the way our preparations brought the whole family together, because we were living and working together on such a big project.”
Becky’s dad Peter and brother Thomas, both photographers, now live in New Zealand and came over to help out too, the week before the wedding. Her mum, who lives in Derbyshire, was involved, too.
“As a result, there was no awkwardness at all by the time the wedding came around, because everyone had got to know each other so well beforehand,” added Becky.
John and Katy took over Barff House, which is just outside the village of Brandesburton, as an old shell of a farmhouse, having decided to retire from their careers. They have spent the years since lovingly renovating it, and transforming old outbuildings on the site into holiday cottages. Its setting is so idyllic, it was the obvious choice as a place for the couple to hold their celebrations.
They had their ceremony at nearby Beverley Registry Office with close family on Wednesday 2 August, followed by a meal for 12. They followed this with a bigger celebration for family and friends the following Saturday, 5 August, at Barff House.
Village Farm Marquees provided a marquee for their sit-down wedding breakfast meal, and then they rounded things off with a knees-up in the adjacent barn that night.
“The barn was a bit of a tip really,” said Becky.
“It was very dirty and full of old machinery and equipment but we worked alongside John’s mum and dad to get rid of all that, knocked a partition wall down and painted the interior.”
A team effort
And many other aspects of the wedding preparations were a real family affair, too.
John’s sister Ellie’s boyfriend, Aaron Morris, is a photographer, too. So, as you can see from the beautiful pictures accompanying this blog, they had their photography well covered.
Ellie is a talented baker in her spare time and made their wedding cake. Her mum Dawn Holmes is an artist, and designed all of their favours, place names, table plan board and large decorative signs for the barn and bar, made from recycled pieces of an old cart shed. She even painted a special watercolour picture of Barff House for their invitations.
Becky’s grandma Arlene worked with John’s mum Katy to make 400 bunting flags, and collectively they decked the barn out with a canape ceiling featuring 200 metres of fairy lights!
“Basically, the whole family came over from the Wednesday before our party and everyone was given their list of jobs to get everything ready,” said Becky, 28.
“They were all amazing. They made a beautiful aisle for us to walk down from the house to the marquee, and my mum and grandma adorned this with a flower arch.”
The Saturday began with all the guests’ chairs out on the gravel in front of the house and marquee. John’s Aunt Susanna conducted a civil ceremony to kick things off, followed by two readings by John’s mum and Becky’s best friend Sam. They marked their union by ‘hand fasting’ with ribbons, as they had already exchanged rings at the registry office, and read out their own, specially-written, vows to one another.
John’s sister Ellie, a trainee teacher, serenaded them with a specially written song, accompanied by her ukulele.
They then had their photographs taken in the beautiful English garden of Barff House, followed by their sit-down wedding breakfast and speeches in the marquee.
Garden games followed, with a knees-up in the barn and more fairy lights in the surrounding woods for people to enjoy walking around.
John, 34, a film maker, proposed to Becky last year, during their four-month round-the-world trip, and so they projected poignant photographs from their travels onto the barn wall. Their music was provided by Manchester’s ‘Twisted Tubes’ New Orleans-style brass band, again inspired by their travel experiences.
“We could never have done it without our family,” continued Becky.
“It probably sounds like a lot of hard work but it was actually really lovely the way it brought everyone together. Our wedding celebration itself was really absolutely amazing, but with all the hard work over, we’re all wondering ‘what shall we do now?’.”