Welcome to our wedding planning blog series! This week we are featuring Charlotte & Laura from The Carriage Rooms, Montalto Estate, County Down - a venue as unique as you!
At the end of a meandering, fir lined driveway lies The Carriage Rooms, an impressive sight to behold with its restored mill and Manor.
Charlotte, the venue manager, greeted me at the entrance with great enthusiasm to show me around her venue. Before we set off, Laura the hospitality manager joins us, they inform me that it is mainly just the two of them that run the show so to speak. I can’t help but think how lucky couples are to receive such a personal service from these passionate and wedding obsessed co-ordinators!
How long are The Carriage Rooms hosting weddings and events?
The Carriage Rooms are hosting weddings and events for five years since being meticulously renovated in 2012.
Have you both been working here from the beginning?
Charlotte: Yes, I first came across The Carriage Rooms while we were planning my sister-in-law's wedding. When we arrived to view the venue, it was under renovation so we had to don hard hats while viewing the venue with floor plans. As it was a building site, it was hard to visualise the beauty that it would become today but when I saw the finished results I fell in love and experienced a strong connection with this place. I knew that I had to work here, so shortly afterwards, I got a job working in the bar at events until I became Hospitality Co-ordinator and then promoted to Venue Manager last year.
Laura: Like Charlotte, I also started working in the bar and I loved every minute of it. When I completed my university studies I jumped at the opportunity to progress my role to Hospitality Co-ordinator.
Congratulations, I see you are listed as the Top 100 Condé Nast venues as well as One Fab Day. These are great accolades. What do you think has contributed to these awards?
The uniqueness of our venue. All of our couples say they love how the venue makes them feel. We have cultivated a very naturally hospitable atmosphere for our guests; everyone who walks through our doors receives a 5 star personal service.
What is included in the price of booking The Carriage Rooms at Montalto?
The price includes exclusive venue hire which will be fully staffed on the day, a fully stocked bar, personal assistance with the planning of the day and of course, on the day coordination. We also have added lots of finishing touches to the venue so there really isn't very much more required.
Can couples get married onsite?
Yes. We can provide both an indoor and outdoor space so that during the warmer months we can offer a Plan A or Plan B ceremony. We usually make the final call at 10am on the morning of the wedding. We will have both indoor and outdoor spaces fully dressed and ready to allow us to make this last minute decision.
Indoors the ceremony would take place downstairs in The Sawmill, which is transformed into a magical setting for a ceremony with exposed stone walls and illuminated arches. For sunnier days we can facilitate ceremonies in our beautifully manicured walled garden, which provides a stunning backdrop for photographs. Our gardeners ensure that regardless of the seasonality, there is always a pop of colour in the garden all year round.
Are there many churches nearby for those wanting a religious ceremony?
Yes, there is no shortage of options in the surrounding area.
Do you offer advice on styling the reception room?
This is certainly something that we can do, to a point. We share our galleries of previous weddings with couples and more so, guide them on what styles might work better than others, offering advice on alternative styling options.
How many guests can you cater for?
We can host dinner comfortably for up to 180 guests.
What do you provide in terms of drinks reception/canapés?
We have a great relationship with The Yellow Door, who cater all of our weddings and events, the possibilities with them are simply endless!
What sort of menu do you offer?
The Yellow Door offer a huge menu of options in terms of food and its presentation; we have seen everything from ice cream trucks and milkshakes to gourmet cuisine and themed menus.
On the morning of a wedding, you can see their head chef Simon out in the walled garden with his basket, picking herbs from our onsite garden for dinner. He really is a master in the kitchen.
In fact, he was awarded an MBE from the Queen in this year’s New Years Honours List.
Do you use local suppliers?
Yes, The Carriage Rooms feel passionately about using local suppliers and small, family run businesses. The product surpasses profit here, and we have some wonderful products on our doorstep. We are all passionate about providing a 5 star service through all aspects of the wedding day or event.
Where/how do most of your couples find you?
We don't do much advertising. Instead we tend to be found through word of mouth and previous couples testimonials. This year we are starting to look at increasing our digital presence more and this will be the first time we will participate in a wedding fair.
The Carriage Rooms is only 1hr 40mins from Dublin so do you get many couples from the southern Ireland?
Yes, we are starting to get more now. It's helped with the current value couples are getting with the exchange rate.
After weddings, what would be the next most popular event hosted at The Carriage Rooms?
We also host corporate events. The venue is very flexible and can facilitate all kinds of events from team building days to corporate dinners and charity events. Last year, we hosted the Winter Wonderland ball in aid of Cancer Fund For Children. All of the management and staff gave up their free time to style and coordinate the event. It was a great success and we will be hosting it again this year.
Is there a particular event that is most exciting to be working at?
For us, it would still be a wedding. We get very involved in the emotions of the big day as you have been on the planning journey with each couple. We feel it's a great privilege to be a part of and to witness a couples' big day.
Describe the typical Carriage Rooms couple.
It's hard to pick just one type of couple. It would certainly be a couple with an eye for detail and have a creative flair. We get a lot of people who have moved to the UK and further for work and want to return home for their wedding. We work hard to ensure we are a flexible destination wedding location and are happy to arrange the details over emails and even FaceTime. We have had couples that haven't seen the venue in person until the day before their wedding but they always fall in love with it thankfully!
What is your favourite spot on the estate?
At The Carriage Rooms we are always thinking of ways to update the venue so when guests are returning for different events there is always a new element to excite or delight them. It might be redecorating a room, new furniture in the garden or creating a new photograph spot. Last year, we gained the boathouse, which is our current favourite spot on the estate. When we get a chance, you will see us having our lunch at the boathouse. It's located by the lake and is so tranquil and scenic. Brides and grooms can use this location on their wedding day, weather permitting, to take some beautifully intimate photographs.
Wow, that sounds very Pinterest worthy!
Absolutely, there are already many photographs of the boathouse on Pinterest.
I saw on your Facebook page that you had a staff day here recently, would I be right in saying there is a good camaraderie here?
That's one of the best things about working here. We all genuinely get along so well across all aspects of the team on the wider estate and everything is very much a team effort.
What one thing do you think you offer couples as part of the service that perhaps other venues do not?
It's mainly the two of us so we get to know couples individually and follow them on their planning journey right through to the end of their wedding day. We offer five star personal service to each of our couples. We could take on a wedding per day but we are strict in only doing so many each week so nobody is compromised and everybody gets the same excellent attention to detail.
What is your favourite part of the wedding process?
Seeing the relaxed happy wedding couple enjoying their day and witnessing that transition from planning to reality come to fruition.
Name one thing couples tend to forget on the day?
A pen for the guestbook! It's such a small thing but happens so often. It's always fine as we have a stockpile of The Carriage Rooms pens ready to go. All the hard work goes into the preparation so we have ensured everything is organised for the big day. We rely on our lists to keep us updated with last minute changes, our motto is #thelistworks!
Have you a top tip for our readers?
Trust your suppliers. While we understand it may be your first time planning a wedding, we have successfully planned many so we can foresee any potential problems etc. and we know the best way to execute things on the day to ensure our couples get their dream day. If you trust your supplier, it is easier to sit back and enjoy your day.
How important is the style of the venue to the perspective couple?
It's very important! Usually it's the first item to be booked on your list as it determines the date etc. It also dictates the vision of your big day. The great thing about The Carriage Rooms is that it can lend itself to many styles: French rustic, the recent geometric trend...
The venue has been neutrally decorated to create a great starting canvas; working with what you want as opposed to what you need. The décor has also been particularly chosen to work well in all seasons.
What style do you see the most here at The Carriage Rooms?
This year, we have seen many couples opting for the neutrals trend; it is quite a stripped back look with greys and whites. A lot of our couples have a more refined sense of style. At the initial walkthrough there may be talk of creative installations but on the day it often transpires to be more minimal which works perfectly.
What is the most lavish thing you have seen at The Carriage Rooms?
We have seen quite a few...from high ceiling installations of lighting and foliage to the wedding gifts. One bride received a Porsche as a wedding gift from her father!
Why would you recommend The Carriage Rooms in 3 words?
We would have to say it's bespoke beauty, its exclusivity and the team!
The Carriage Room’s architectural charm is not too dissimilar from a portrait gallery with it’s measured light, 360’ appreciation and modern, sophisticated interior design. I was most impressed with the level of detail that had been put into the renovation of the dining space where the original working mill would have been. The stone walls have been lovingly restored in keeping with the original mill but has all of the mod cons fitted including spotlights for each table to allow the centrepieces to really pop, an up to date sound system and a cleverly designed layout that allows you to maximise the space regardless of the size of your wedding. The space also boasts a 360’ view of the surrounding grounds with its feature windows that line each wall. Directly below this space on the ground floor, lies the ceremony space which also acts as the night time bar and dancing space. It shares the same stone interior and hard wood floors with windows that allow you to appreciate what the lush green exterior have to offer. At night, the space can be transformed tastefully with cosy lounge seats to create a trendy dance space that most urban cities would be envious of! Moving between each space, you don't feel like you are compromising taste like you can in some venues as each one has been finished with just the right amount of detail that you can easily imagine yourself celebrating here.
The Carriage Rooms is only 1hr 40mins from Dublin so whether you are based north or south of Ireland and looking for an elegant reception space, you need to check this venue out!
Thanks again to Charlotte & Laura for participating In our blog series x