This time we speak with Jo Chellingworth at the wonderful Wakehurst, West Sussex. Having shot a wedding that (apart from a spot of rain!) ran extremely smoothly here a few years back and I was able to get some lovely photos of the house and grounds. It’s great to link up with and get to know the people behind the magic!
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I have been in the wedding and event industry for 16 years, working mainly for hotels. My career began working on reception at a hotel near where I grew up, from there I went on to become wedding coordinator at a hotel in Ascot. My career went from strength to strength and I eventually cluster managed two hotels, Selsdon Park and Wotton House, in the Devere group. Each doing in excess of 130 weddings per year. I also worked for the London Eye as Sales and Events Manager for a vintage river cruiser boat that they bought; launching weddings and events on board, building the events business from scratch to half a million pounds within its first year. I have a husband called Ed and a 13-month old daughter called Layla… and two bunny rabbits called Morty and Rey. Layla is by far the best thing that ever happened to me! Coming from a girl who just wanted to spend her life backpacking around the world and never get married, settle down or have children, that’s saying something! I have travelled extensively in my life, on my own and with my husband. Our recent purchase of a campervan is very exciting as we plan to travel the UK and Europe in it with our daughter.
What do you love about your job?
I love meeting people and helping them plan their special event or wedding. It’s a pleasure to be a part of such a memorable and important event in their lives. Every event is different and so I enjoy the variation. I am so lucky and fortunate to work in such beautiful venues, especially my latest project at Wakehurst.
Can you give us two or three insider tips about booking a wedding?
Make yourself a ‘venue wish list’, like when you buy a house, and ensure your chosen venue ticks the majority of your boxes.
Set yourself a budget and stick to it but be realistic in the first instance.
Consider where you will have your photographs taken at your venue and also make sure there are plenty of good opportunities within the venue in case the weather is bad and you can’t go outside.
What kind of services does Wakehurst offer in terms of weddings?
We have three very different and unique venues in one here at Wakehurst. Our Elizabethan Mansion is a stunning, historic building, also licenced for civil ceremonies so you can hold everything under one roof. The rooms inside are beautiful, with sculptured ceilings, ornate fireplaces and wood panelled walls. You’ll feel like Lord and Lady of the Estate! Alternatively, we have an area called the Croquet Lawn adjacent to the Mansion which can house a marquee or tipi for up to 200 guests. With the Mansion and gardens as the back drop for your wedding its truly magical. You can go for a classic white marquee or if you fancy a Boho festival wedding why not choose tipi tents? Finally, the world-famous Millennium Seed Bank is an iconic atrium made of glass. For a more contemporary wedding we can serve drinks and canapes as a standing reception in this space. We do all the catering in house and can tailor a package to suit your requirements whether it be a
formal sit down wedding breakfast, BBQ, street food stalls, tapas, paella, pizza we have something for everyone and like to make your wedding as unique as you are as a couple.
What are three tips that you would give a couple about their wedding day?
Ensure that the two of you get some alone time to take it all in. Go for a walk around the grounds and just take 5 or 10 minutes to soak it up, as the day will go so fast. Don’t forget to EAT!! Especially if you are having an informal style wedding where food will not be placed in front of you. I delegated one of my bridesmaids on my wedding day with the duty of making sure I was fed and watered and always had a glass of prosecco in my hand! It worked!
Focus your money on the important things that you and your guests will remember… the venue, the food, the drink and the entertainment. Not forgetting booking an awesome Brighton wedding photographer like Neil Shaw! Photos will be your documented memories and are so important for you to look back on an reminisce. Don’t waste your money on fancy invitations or favours for your guests that are just going to go in the bin.
What was the most unusual request, wedding plan or wedding day you have heard of?
I did an Indian wedding that wanted to arrive on an elephant once! One December I had a bride hire in a snow machine, as she was desperate to create a winter
wonderland theme for her big day, and on the day itself it snowed!
Can you recommend any good wedding blogs or sources of information/inspiration?
Instagram is full of millions of ideas. I often look up #weddinginspo #weddinginspiration for ideas. Coco weddings, Wedding Dates and Hitched are all good websites for ideas and recommended suppliers. For something different also check out Rock My Wedding.