When planning a large event in a country manor house it pays to do your homework. There are countless pitfalls to avoid and with some careful thought your event should be a great success.
Here are our top ten tips:
1. Get on with it, but don’t rush it. Houses can (and do) get booked up a year or more ahead so if you know the date of your party start searching for a venue now. It is extremely rare that all houses are booked up on any weekend, even Christmas, but finding somewhere local and of the right size gets harder and harder as time goes by. Take time to do the research (landedhouses.co.uk is a good start), make several enquiries and book as soon as you are sure.
2. Read the small print before committing. It goes without saying – make sure you know what you are committing to. Is there a refund policy? Are bedding and the cost of heating included or additional?
3. Prepare to pay a damages deposit. It is common for landlords to ask for a deposit to cover accidental damage and generally it is fully refunded. If you break something own up and resolve the matter amicably, rather than ‘hoping they won’t notice’!
4. Think about how you are going to manage the catering. Some will fully self-cater, some part self-cater and some will ensure they are fully catered; it all depends on your budget and tastes. Often the expensive part of external catering is the serving/washing-up/people costs, rather than the food itself. For that reason we started Landed Pies (landedhouses.co.uk/pies) to help guests self-cater in a hassle-free manner. If going for external caterers, ask the landlord about local recommendations.
5. Work out what activities you are going to do. Your party is usually more memorable if guests are busy during the day as well as dinner times. Again, ask the landlord what activities are around and some will even be able to organise events at the house. Ideas are clay shooting, horse riding, murder mysteries or just going for a good old walk.
6. Ask for a floor plan and work out who is going in which bedroom. You can then have a plan to hand upon arrival and guide people to their rooms, or leave a few plans out for guests to see for themselves. Name-plates are a great idea and attaching them to door knobs with string is favourable to blu-tack which takes longer to remove. A nice touch and usually appreciated.
7. Take troubles with a pinch of salt. Landlords will do all they can to ensure guests have a great event, but sometimes troubles do occur. In two houses that we have visited the central heating system has been tiresome and packed up… tell the landlord and then start putting on the jumpers! Prepare for the worst and you ought to be pleasantly surprised.
8. Look into cancellation insurance. Events like fire can cause a venue to suspend or cancel bookings and, though rare, it’s not unheard of. Guests ought to get their money back but other suitable locations may be more expensive – particularly at short notice. If you do purchase cover please let us know and we shall share details with others.
9. Make sure you know your timings. Some landlords are flexible but others run a tight ship. Cleaning a large manor house takes several people a few hours and it won’t be appreciated if your guests are still asleep! Agree on arrival and departure times in advance of making the bookings.
10. As a host, enjoy yourself too and don’t fret. The great advantage of renting someone else’s house is that you can avoid the stress that comes with hosting in your own.
So there you have it, a few ramblings to point you in the right direction. If you have more please tell us. And finally, do not take anything here as absolute and do your own research. Good luck!