Author Archives: Nick

Rent a pop stars Chateau!

I had a call from Miles Copeland (familiar name I thought) introducing his castle in the Perigord region of France to me. It sounded fab and when he sent some images through of his castle, I became even more intrigued. It seemed to have an abundance of accommodation and facilities and had been his personal holiday home in Europe for the last 25 years used by family and friends (some pretty high profile ones too – Cher, Ellie Goulding, Jon Bon Jovi) – hence his passion for the place! Time to pack a bag a see it for myself.

There are 3 airports within 2 hours of the castle (Bordeaux, Limoges, Bergerac) – I picked Bordeaux as I could fly from Bristol (£40 return!!) and Miles kindly offered to pick me up as he travels into Bordeaux occasionally for supplies. As we were driving back to the Castle I was fascinated to hear some of the stories about bringing Sting and The Police to a global market – more hand to mouth than you may imagine!

Location wise you are deep in the countryside but the local towns/villages like Brantome surprise you with Michelin starred restaurants and Perigord specialities of foie gras and truffles. The main town of Perigord is only 35 mins away and provides an easy days distraction.

As you approach the castle you catch glimpses of it on a wooded hill, but when you pull up to the original gateway you realise you are about to go back in time. We were met by Ian who lives on site and manages everything from housekeeping to maintenance – an asset to have around and a wealth of knowledge about the surrounding area.

It takes a while to understand the lay out with the Outer Bailey (where the serfs would have lived and provided services to the castle eg blacksmith etc) and the Inner Bailey (through another impressive gateway this time surrounded by a dry moat), where the nobility would hang out. Today, however, you rent the Inner Bailey as a starting point (for up to 15 people) and then add the various towers and the Outer Bailey accommodation as required.

I took a couple of days to explore the castle and grounds. I did get lost a few times as there are many living areas for formal and informal occasions – the outdoor courtyards provide stunning settings for dinner alfresco and the Troubadour dining room is straight out of the Middle Ages replete with suits of armour. The pool and tennis court are both easily accessible and the snooker/games room is a real ‘man cave’ with beer fridges and TV/sound systems. The Dovecot is a stunning space and I imagine an ideal party venue – candlelit and full of atmosphere. There are over 200 acres of grounds around the castle and one afternoon we took the quads bikes out to explore. They also keep a friendly hog in the paddock looked after by Ian.

My thoughts were drawn to how much fun this castle could be for a group of friends and family and I came away with a good feeling that we had found another Big House property to add to the portfolio, somewhere that offered something different. There will obviously be some compromises to staying in a castle; the plumbing and heating work fine but castles are draughty and don’t expect air-conditioning. Most of the fittings are genuine antiques and great attention has been given to sourcing decorative items and paraphernalia, but if gothic is not your thing then a castle may not be your best bet! However the feel of the spaces and pace of life was very appealing and left me with a sense of wanting to return with a group a friends!

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How To Plan An Awesome Hen Or Stag Party

Being asked to plan and organise a hen or stag party for someone you love is a wonderful privilege that can be a great deal of fun. Needless to say, an event such as this is also a huge responsibility so if you are feeling the pressure – don’t worry, we have got your back!

Start At The Beginning

The very first thing you need to do, in to pinpoint a suitable date for this event confirming availability with the most important guests, starting with your bride and groom!

Sounds simple enough, but believe it or not, this task alone can be frustratingly time consuming in reality. For the majority of us, the process of taking time out for a stag or hen do involves a great deal of negotiation. Pets, children, partners and work are just a few examples of the commitments we have to consider before agreeing to disappear on a jolly for a couple of days!

The most logical option is to set up a round robin email to discuss possible dates with the group who are to be invited. Be warned; it will invariably take some time to pin point a date that you can all agree on. The more guests you invite, the more complicated the task will become.

With this in mind, it is crucial to start planning as early as possible, so that you are able nail a date that suits the majority.

Agree Your Budget

Before you can proceed with any planning, the next big decision to tackle is the budget for this event. This is another fine balancing act, as you need the budget to be sufficient to allow you to plan an astonishingly good party, whilst being mindful to avoid creating any financial barriers that could make it difficult for some guests to participate. Discussions about money are invariably a little uncomfortable, but this is a key step before you reach the fun planning stage , where you get to indulge in exploring your ideas and options…

The Search For A Fabulous Group Venue

Finding a great venue for a party is one thing, but finding a great venue, which offers the perfect facilities for your party and sufficient accommodation on site or nearby, will take a little more effort.

The Big House Co have a great selection of venues for a stag or hen group, where you can enjoy your re wedding break in the most indulgent surroundings. If you are stuck for ideas our experienced and helpful staff can assist you with everything from your catering and activities, to providing inspired solutions and ideas to help you put together a completely awesome package for your group.

Structure & Organisation

Some careful organisation at the outset will give your hen or stag party the structure it needs for everything to run smoothly. Here are a few key tips:

 Plan & Print Your Itinerary

Have the plans and activities arranged in advance and give each guest a printed copy. This way everyone knows what they are doing and all guests, including you can simply relax and enjoy.

This info should be emailed to each guest– but bring some paper copies along so that you can hand them out to everyone in person. Be sure to factor in plenty of down time around your activities and shenanigans!

Provide Useful Guidelines

Let everyone know about any must have items well in advance so that they are able to pack effectively for the trip. Try printing this information on your itinerary, keeping everything in one place.

Collate & Share Contact Info

Collate a list of up to date contact info for each person who will join you on the stag or hen do. This will serve several important purposes. First and foremost it will enable your group to stay in touch prior to the event to share the excitement and finalise the little details, but this list will also help you to look after one another during the event. If for example one member of the party is separated from the rest of the group or has not arrived somewhere on time, you will all have their number, making it easy to check where they are and ensure that they are OK.

Hen and stag parties are frequently the foundation for new and long lasting friendships. They provide time for bonding whilst having an absolute blast together! So, finally yet importantly, this contact info will help your group to stay in touch in the run up to the wedding and beyond!

Create The Ultimate Dream Team! – Part 2

In our previous blog, we looked at the benefits of team building as a tool for pulling your ultimate dream team together. Here are some suggestions for individual team building exercises that you could incorporate into your next event. ..

Introductions

Jumping straight into activities can be a little awkward, especially for staff who do not know a great deal about each other. Help your team members to drop their barriers by asking them to take turns in introducing themselves and giving one fact about themselves that most people in the room don’t know.

You can expand on this exercise, by using it to tie all other activities together nicely, by using it in between each new activity. Rather than asking for a random fact, choose a specific question such as “If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?” or “You’re going to be turned into an animal. Which one do you want to be and what is your reason?” This simple activity will get people engaged and encourage them to let down their guard, have a giggle and share some of their qualities, contributing to the bonds within the group.

Willow In The Wind

Ask your team to stand in a circle. Choose one member to stand in the middle, fold their arms across their chest and then, once the group is ready and focused ask the central person to fall backwards. The objective is for the person behind them to catch them and then push them sideways to the next person in the circle and so on. The group can pass them around, spinning them until they return to facing in their original direction. This trust building exercise relies on a focussed and mature group as allowing a co-worker to fall is not acceptable!

Towers

For this exercise, you need to split your team into smaller groups and give each group a large sheet of paper and a pack of drinking straws. Give your teams a time limit and ask them to build the tallest structure they can. This is a fantastic problem solving exercise as your team will have to debate possible options and rethink as they encounter design issues, which will be inevitable with such flimsy building materials! Award a prize at the end for the tallest tower.

Minefield

For this game, you could do with some blindfolds but can equally make do by trusting your team members to close their eyes! Choose a large indoor or outdoor space and scatter the area with obstacles to play the part of the “Mines”. These could be office chairs spread around; you could use balls or books – whatever you have to hand.

Split your team into pairs – one will be the blind and the other will be the leader. The objective is for the blind team member to get from one side of the space to the other without touching any mines. The leader needs to stand outside of the obstacle area but close enough to be able to hear. You can up the ante for this one by finding a way of creating things for a person to step over or duck under.

Get Involved!

Lastly, be sure to get involved yourself, as this is an important part of developing your own relationships with your team. Feedback in the workplace is invaluable and team building exercises can create a culture of peer-to-peer feedback. Getting involved in your own events is an effective way to build a foundation on which you will find it easier to give future feedback as a leader, and on the flip side your employees are more likely to feel able to approach you with their own concerns and ideas.

Happy team building!

Create The Ultimate Dream Team! – Part 1

Before I start talking about Team Building as a tool to transform your workforce, if I may, let me tell you a little story. When I was a teenager, I learned to rock climb. The outdoors, the exhilaration, and the self-mastery were fantastic for my self-confidence, but I took something else from it too. Many years later, even though I don’t climb any more, some of my closest friends are those same people I scaled cliffs with. We built strong bonds because in our chosen activity we had to do something which pulled us together – we built trust. We learned to intuitively know how to make the most of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and encourage each others’ greatness – when to let the other take the lead and when to take up the slack (sometimes literally in this case!) We learned that having someone catch you when you fall, tens of meters above the ground is a great way of fostering trust! Thankfully, while rock climbing is certainly an option for your team building event, there are many other ways we can build trust and mutual understanding within a group of people, and many fantastic reasons to do so.

Fostering A Shared Purpose

This is the premise behind the team building concept. In any given business, your staff may be working together on tasks or projects, overlapping their efforts or even working alone, but their activities always contribute to the strength of the whole and a sense of this shared purpose is an important thing to foster. The collaborative nature of team building activities will allow your team members to develop better communication, improve their capacity for organization and problem solving, bring out leadership skills, foster mutual support, boost morale, and make your team feel valued. A team building event provides a great opportunity for you to observe your team and discover strengths and weaknesses within the group that you may not otherwise have seen, better allowing you to manage the group.

Choosing Appropriate Activities To Suit Your Team

When planning an event, consider the different characters within your team, and whether they would enjoy a physical challenge or whether mentally focused activities would be more appropriate. Ensure that the event is well planned and engaging – activities need to be fun as the goal is to build positive association with working cohesively. If you have a higher budget, there are fantastic companies that offer all-inclusive team building events but if your budget is lower, you can always run the event yourself.

Change Of Scenery

While you can organise events and activities in the workplace, it’s great to get your team out of their work environment if possible. Putting them somewhere new will encourage conversations that are more personal rather than work related chat and create a relaxed, open atmosphere in which your staff can step out of their comfort zones and new dynamics can flourish.

Consider investing in a Team Building book or spend some time looking at team building websites to research ideas that will help you to organise an unforgettable and highly successful event!

 

Five Ideas To Steal For A Memorable New Years Eve Party!

Without a doubt, New Years Eve is one of the most exciting nights on the calendar, and hosting a party is fantastic fun but can also be a little daunting. Why not use some of our ideas to create a buzz that will make your New Years Eve party so memorable – that your guests will recall it for many years to come!

  1. Initiate A Cocktail Competition

Encourage your guests to each bring the ingredients of a cocktail. Not only will this spread the cost of the evening but it will also mean varied interest throughout the night. A huge diversity of cocktail ideas can be found on-line and not all the cocktails need to be alcoholic, which will allow your guests to pace themselves as the revelry gets under way. It can be fun to create a festively decorated cocktail bar in the main area of your party. You can hold a vote for the best cocktail at midnight by putting names in a hat, and award prizes for the best creations!

  1. Make Your Party Sparkle

Glitter is very trendy at the moment and can create a fantastic aesthetic for a seasonal party. Gold or silver are traditional for New Years Eve get-togethers, but you can choose any colour scheme you wish and use it to subtle or dramatic effect. Create a twinkling party environment by scattering glitter on surfaces and table tops, decorating your party space with glittered Christmas ornaments of your chosen colour, or getting crafty and using glue to make just about anything sparkle! You can up the ante by purchasing some edible glitter, which can be sprinkled onto deserts, mixed into the Champagne for the midnight toast or added to a festive Punch. Complete the look by using low lighting and adding candles, which will allow the glitter to catch the light and create a glamorous atmosphere.

  1. Make it a Mad Hatters Party

All that is required for the makings of a Mad Hatters Party is that your guests wear some kind of eccentric or unusual head-attire. Some may already have something perfect in their wardrobe and crafty types will embrace the opportunity to make something unique, but getting in the spirit of this idea doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A few decorative feathers in the rim of a normal hat can make it into something really fun and the headwear offered in fancy dress shops make the options endless. Gather a few spare hats for those who didn’t have time to get something together! You will be amazed how wearing something a bit different brings out the party spirit in your guests…

  1. Choose A Food Theme

From cuisine of different countries, to different eras, the possibilities are vast when it comes to themes for feeding your party guests and using a theme will make the dining experience part of the entertainment. For example; a Midnight themed menu could be governed by blue and purple tones, and might involve blue cheese based recipes, squid ink pasta and berry deserts. You could even serve this theme as a midnight supper! Another fun theme is miniatures, which could include miniature vegetables, which are often available during the holiday season and miniature style canapés.

  1. Set Up A Photography Station

If you or a friend is handy with a camera, you can set up a photography station to create some entertaining memories. Choose an area that won’t be in the way of the celebrations and perhaps put out a few chairs for your guests to use. Prepare some amusing props such as masquerade masks or some retro or vintage fancy dress items. Once the party mood is well established, encourage your guests to pose and capture them on camera to share in the New Year so everyone can remember what fun they had!

Big House on tour

There’s no substitute for seeing a house first hand, so last week five of us from Big House HQ did just that and went on a fieldtrip to deepest Devon to the gorgeous “Devon Manor” that we are delighted to have as one of our Big Houses.Driving through the village, past a butchers and bakers (worth checking out the jam doughnuts) – though no candlestick maker, to the stone pillars of the former rectory. The electric gates swung open and we wound our way up the drive, with lovely views emerging over the valley as we arrived at the house.

Laurence, the owner and his spaniel were there to greet and show us around. You walk through the front door and the house immediately feels so welcoming, you can smell the fire is lit and the oak hall with its impressive staircase just shout “country house”, yours for the weekend.

devon-manor-winter-view

It would be a tough call whether to bother getting your luggage out of the car on arrival, when you could just sink into one of the large, cushion filled sofas, with a cup of tea or something gently clinking against glass. With great south facing light, views over the countryside and elegant surroundings this is the heart of the house. Adjacent to the kitchen, the dining area gives plenty of space for your special celebration meals or simply chatting with your friends over warm croissants and coffee.

Venture upstairs and you’ll discover 8 of the bedrooms, all en-suite bar one, so no bathroom rota required! We loved the décor, very individual and the light and airy feel of the rooms, the gorgeous steel bath too, that may have been used by JFK, no less.

Outside, adjacent to the house, the barn forms a courtyard with a ground floor bedroom and a 2 storey studio, perfect as a family suite for 4. With a snooker room, gym and dance room there is plenty to do – but if it’s summertime, maybe the highlight will be the pool (shallow, so swimming only) and sauna area. The loungers surrounding it and the suntrap created by the walled garden, all look great for a lazy afternoon.

There’s a very eco vibe to this house from the bio mass heating system and solar panels for the pool to the cleaning products used and the spa water pumped direct into the kitchen. Check out the chickens too, fresh eggs for breakfast and there are Llamas coming soon.

If completely self catering isn’t your thing then there are recommended local chefs who will come to the house, but we thought it was pretty cool wandering down to the village pub, also owned by Lawrence (the home owner). Here, too, you see the stylish refurb that’s been undertaken and with 5 lovely bedrooms your group size could always expand and enjoy the best of house and pub!

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7 Great Tips For A Farewell Party To Remember!

Young people enjoying a party Saying goodbye to a friend or family member in anticipation of an upcoming new chapter such as a move to a different part of the country, or another part of the world is never easy.

A farewell bash is the ideal platform for saying goodbye as a group, allowing you to have a fun filled experience, sending your loved one off with plenty of happy memories.

The following tips will provide you with some great ideas and insight, helping you with the task of planning a farewell party that everyone will remember for a long time to come…

#01 Choose The Perfect Venue

Your choice of venue will depend on many factors, but primarily you need to consider the convenience of any location, making sure that it has a suitable capacity to cater for your numbers comfortably.

For a longer, weekend event; look for a great venue with sufficient accommodation for groups; for example a large manor house, where you can enjoy a luxurious and intimate environment in complete privacy.

Whether you are planning an evening event or an extended celebration, be sure to choose a venue with plenty of parking for all of your guests.

#02 Select Your Theme

Themes tend to be a fairly easy choice for a farewell party. Whether the guest of honour is retiring at the end of their career or heading off into the blue yonder you can choose a suitable theme taking inspiration from any given situation, career or destination. You could alternatively choose a more random theme that celebrates that individual’s passion. This could be absolutely anything from unicorns or star wars, to something more expected – such as maps and aeroplanes for a travel theme.

Choose a theme that reflects the individual’s personality best, after all, the point of this celebration is to demonstrate how much they mean to you all!

#03 Get Your Invites Out Early

Be sure to get your party invites out well in advance, as this will ensure that the majority of those invited will be available to attend.

A well designed physical invite is always lovely to receive, however you could consider sending a digital invite and you could also back up by creating an event on Facebook.

#04 Dec The Halls!

Decorate your venue choosing a variety of items that compliment your theme. This coordination will help to tie the whole look of the event together, creating a professional and utterly gorgeous looking background for your farewell party.

Again, you want to make this as personal to the star of the party as possible, so look for ways to incorporate the story of their past, present and future for a truly personal touch.

#05 Catering For Your Party

Planning and executing the catering yourself is likely to prevent those responsible for the organisation of the party from being able to relax and enjoy it all themselves. Look for an option that will involve minimal fuss, such as hiring a professional catering team or arranging for a fish and chip van to rock up unexpectedly!

Take inspiration from the individual’s favourite foods, or the cuisine at the destination they are moving to… Alternatively, you could give them a lasting reminder of a local favourite – such as Cornish pasties, or cream teas, to give them a pertinent reminder of something they will miss terribly once they move away!

#06 Dedicate A Skit To The Guest Of Honour

Personalise a little skit for the guest of honour, drawing on the creative skills of your group to come up with a fitting piece! This can be a great way to entertain all attendees, particularly when the skit is injected with personal anecdotes and humour. A great starting point is to begin with a famous song, story or poem, inserting your own content to personalise and entertain.

#07 Celebrate Your Stories & Connections

Invite all guests to contribute something personal in writing and use this content to create a very special farewell gift for the person who is leaving. This could be as simple as asking all guests to complete a short sentence, such as; “The thing I am going to miss about you most is…”, a short paragraph sharing how the guest met the guest of honour, or the invitation to divulge an amusing memory.

Collate these little gems in a book, to be read aloud at the party. This book would provide an incredibly special memento for the leaver to treasure.

Customised photo boards and books also make a great focal point for any farewell party. Get creative and encourage all guests to dig deep for their most precious images to illustrate their relationship with the guest of honour. The resulting compilation is sure to entertain all and what a marvellous way to demonstrate your love and appreciation of that individual at their farewell bash!

Hosting A Sophisticated Halloween Bash

Halloween parties can be so much fun for adults and children alike, but the garish mass-produced plastic decor that fills the shops every autumn is no use to anyone planning a glamorous and sophisticated event to celebrate Halloween…

Hosting a more sophisticated Halloween bash will require a little imagination and creative flare, but with the fantastic tips we share below – you are already half way there!

Less Is More

Rather than go over the top with a whole ton of Halloween themed decorations, take a ‘less is more’ approach, adding subtle details that will give greater impact. For example:

  • Add a single delicate bat or spider to a frosted celebration cake for decoration.
  • Use squid ink creatively to add a Halloween edge to your dinner menu. Something along the lines of spaghetti al nero would be an awesome choice!
  • Chalk paint is easy to purchase and can be applied to glasses, bottles and surfaces creatively. Try adding it to bottles or glasses before applying your guests names or ‘drink me’ in beautifully formed italics.
  • Place settings will also look fantastic in a monochrome theme, simply apply guests names, (or fun alternatives) using a calligraphy pen, for an elegant and ever so slightly eerie look!

Create The Perfect Halloween Atmosphere With Candles

The last thing you want at any Halloween party is bright overhead lighting. Dim lighting created with multiple flickering flames will be far more conducive to setting the scene. Be resourceful, using recycled bottles and jam jars, old candelabras and candlesticks, or metallic tea light holders to create the look you are going for.

Keep in mind that it is crucial to place your candles carefully as you don’t want any of your guests wigs or capes getting singed, (or worse), accidentally.

Decide On A Suitable Colour Theme For Your Event

Decorating the venue where you plan to host your event is so much easier once you have decided on your colour palette. Orange is the most obvious colour to spring immediately to mind when you think of Halloween, (thanks to pumpkins and autumnal hues), however for a stylish look this should be used as an accent colour; perhaps with a few well-carved pumpkins and some seasonal, orange toned floral arrangements on the table.

Working with a monochrome backdrop, your accent colour will pop out effectively. Try dressing your dining table with a black tablecloth and black crockery, then bringing it to life with some shiny cutlery, antique look candlesticks and your chosen centrepieces for a colour pop.

Create A Wonderfully Eerily Focal Point!

Choose a key area to serve as a focal point for your Halloween celebrations, and go all out with the creativity in this particular spot.

A cocktail bar is a fun choice for an adult party, with plenty of scope for creativity.

Create a cocktail menu with a variety of bright green, blood red or slightly gross themed cocktails for a bit of fun and curiosity.

You can also get incredibly inventive with your glassware. Think along the lines of laboratory experiments and get your hands on some laboratory style, glass beakers for mixing up your drinks. Small glass vials would be a fantastically good choice for an ominous serving vessel too!

Use skulls, mirror glass, masks, obscure antique finds to add mood and mystery and a spooky vibe to your cocktail bar. The more random and weird you can make it, the better!

The Team That Plays Together Stays Together!

A strong team of employees is not something that happens overnight. It takes time for a group of individuals to connect and form the type of bonds that will enable them to work together cohesively.

Smart businesses are well aware of the direct link between a cohesive team and a truly successful business, fully recognising the crucial role that teambuilding plays in helping any dream team to gel as one!

Teambuilding Events Benefit Your Business In Numerous Ways

If the mere mention of the word ‘teambuilding’ makes your employees eyes roll, you are doing something very wrong indeed. The benefits are plentiful, but this relies on the organiser having a creative approach, as well as a genuine understanding of the purpose and true value of this type of event.

For example:

  1. Productivity

When a team of colleagues are given the space to focus on and discuss their current processes as a group, in an informal environment they are able to brainstorm and come up with fresh ideas to boost efficiency and make the business even more successful.

  1. Relationships

In a typical workplace environment, many roles have no overlap, which provides little opportunity for many relationships to evolve and grow. A teambuilding event is the ultimate space for everyone to get to know each other that little bit better, whilst interacting and having fun together as a group.

  1. Communication

Nothing breaks the ice like a well-planned teambuilding event! With the time and opportunity to enjoy and explore conversations of a more fun and personal nature, (over a cheeky glass of Pimm’s), communication and connections can grow stronger than ever before.

  1. Strengths & Weaknesses

You may find that your teambuilding activities reveal hidden talents you were previously unaware of, as some skills that were perhaps not evident within the workplace come to light!

Of course on the flip side, in addition to highlighting strengths, this type of event can also highlight weaknesses within the team. Keep in mind that all insight can form the basis of constructive improvements…

  1. Morale

On return to the workplace after a fabulously executed event, employees enjoy stronger relationships and a deeper understanding of all of the complex personalities within the team. This tends to have a notably positive impact, improving workplace morale. 

Making It Count

If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly, and a night or two at an appropriate venue is an effective approach for anyone planning a fun filled and productive event.

A longer event makes it possible to achieve a greater balance, by incorporating plenty of relaxation, activities and fun, maximising the benefits for both the attendees and the business.

Plan something special, choosing a unique venue for your corporate event. Your efforts are sure to be rewarded, with a stronger, happier and far more successful team!

The Wedding Guest List Challenge

Putting together a guest list for your wedding can be a surprisingly challenging and time-consuming process for many couples, and with this in mind, we share some great tips below to assist you in completing this task with minimum hassle!

Newlyweds with friends taking selfie

Establishing Numbers

Knowing the approximate headcount for your guest list is a priority from the outset because without this figure you cannot begin to make decisions about the venue or develop your budget.

Once you have a number to work with you can establish the projected cost per head and evaluate whether this is a realistic number to work with!

Time Is Of The Essence

However long you think this task is likely to take, try doubling it – and then some. This is one of those tasks that is guaranteed to take far longer than you ever anticipated. Balancing your guest list around your budget, your own personal opinions and the expectations of others can be a truly tricky arena to navigate.

Think of this as your first major task to tackle as a couple following your engagement. Giving yourself plenty of time to work on your list together is crucial, as breaks may be required!

Intimate Affair Or Massive Blowout?

Whether you choose to host an intimate event with your closest circle of family and friends or a gigantic blowout surrounded by guests from every era of your lives so far, it is important to remember that your choices will directly influence your event and your experience of it.

Many couples find that on reflection, a small crowd was perfect choice for them, as instead of feeling obligated to spend a huge proportion of the day greeting guests, they were able to focus on interacting, partying and celebrating with their loved ones.

For some people of course, a huge bash is the only way they would want it..!

Establish The Rules

The rules are that there are no rules – other than the ones that you decide on as a couple! In times gone by couples would feel obliged to invite each and every living member of their family to attend their wedding, where as these days it is not unusual for couples to take all kinds of different approaches, with many opting to scale down their wedding for a more contemporary and intimate affair.

It is important to establish rules and stick to them, considering whether children will be invited, how you will determine which guests are invited to the ceremony and which are invited to attend the reception only and so on…

Once you have these rules in place you will find it far easier to work through your guest list, falling back on these initial guidelines whenever you need them, until you reach an agreement on a final guest list that you can both feel proud of!

 

The Secret To Throwing A Great Party…

The secret to throwing the kind of party that leaves your guests bursting with fond and hilarious memories of a great day is all in the planning and with the following tips up your sleeve; you can rest assured that the next event you host is going to be a roaring success!

Infuse The Air With Some BBQ Flavours

There is nothing like the smell of some deliciously seasoned meats and vegetables on the BBQ grill for creating some blissful, feel good vibes at your event so be sure to factor a decent sized grill in somewhere.

Apart from the pleasure of devouring said food once it is cooked, the process of grilling is such a wonderful, sociable experience.

Keep in mind that some of your guests may be vegan, vegetarian or have food allergies; (you may want to encourage them to share this info with you on an RSVP prior to the event). By providing a couple of different options for non-meat eaters you should be able to ensure that all of your guests feel well catered for and loved!

Create A Designated Photo Station

A well-stocked photo station is a great way to guarantee that you have a wealth of images to immortalise your party with. Choose a bright area that will provide you with a fabulous backdrop, and then stock your photo station with some great props such as cutouts of emojis, oversized frames, weird and wacky hats and masks, fake facial hair, wigs and anything else that will inspire your guests to strike a pose!

Provide Direction With Some Fun Activities

The activities you opt for will largely depend on your budget; however, rest assured that it is easy to inject some laughter and giggles without breaking the bank with costly equipment– all you need is a little creativity and imagination.

Think about the kind of activities that you loved as a child and use these as your starting point. Plan a scavenger hunt for a bunch of thirty something’s and watch their playful and competitive nature unfold before your very eyes, or dust off a bunch of old board games like operation and buckaroo and set up an old school gaming station!

Just like the photo station these ideas and props will complement your party by providing some direction for everyone and helping them to mix and enjoy themselves.

Choose A Central Theme

If you are throwing a party to celebrate Halloween or Easter, you already have a theme to work with but whatever the occasion, be sure to coordinate with a central theme, as it will give you a focal point for the party to build upon and embellish with signage, props etc.

Whether it is based on a current favourite show like walking dead, (encourage guests to express their inner zombie), or a vibrant carnival theme accessorised with lively music and brightly coloured lanterns and bunting, your theme will add structure and an air of professionalism to your party.

Be Selective With Your Invites

Forget about numbers as a great party relies on quality rather than quantity, without exception. Invite only your funniest, kindest and most sociable favourites, as this way you will find it far easier to relax and enjoy yourself on the day.

Choose Your Venue Wisely

If your own home is an unsuitable base for hosting your party, due to size restriction, grumpy neighbours or any other reason that means the space is not going to work for you, consider your alternatives for a space that will accommodate everyone more comfortably.

Options to explore could include renting out a local function room or community space close by, or for a seriously special occasion, you could rent a luxury party house and throw the house party of a lifetime!

Great Tips For An Extra Special Pool Party

Swimming pool

Swimming pool

What is the key to throwing a successful pool party? Well great weather is an excellent start, but more importantly is to invite a great bunch of friends who will combine to form a wonderful atmosphere. Even if the weather ends up letting you down on the day of the event, if you have planned everything well and taken care of all the extra special details, your party is sure to be a hit!

Invitations

When designing your invitations, along with the usual details, don’t forget to include anything your guests should bring with them. If the pool is going to be used for swimming and not just as a backdrop, it is crucial to tell everyone to bring some swimwear and a towel!

Sunscreen and items to freshen up

A great touch is to have a few baskets or pretty containers strategically placed close to the poolside with useful items like small bottles of sunscreen, antibacterial hand wipes, facial wipes and so on, so that your guests can use them to freshen up should they wish to!

Creature Comforts

Even though your guests will probably bring their own, have a supply of dry hand towels and swimming towels available in case your guests need them and position plenty of comfortable chairs and seating around the pool area. Ensure you have a little more than the right amount of chairs for the number of guests you have invited and scatter a few gorgeous cushions around.

Some big, colourful and inviting looking beanbags dotted around the lawn would be the icing on the cake!

Safety First

Some of your guests may not be able to swim very well, so have some pool noodles, tubes and large, brightly coloured rubber balls floating in the water. This will add a vibrant touch to your party area, and the guests who cannot swim will feel a little more comfortable.

Place food and snacks in the shade

Make sure that your food and snacks are placed under cover and out of the hot sun. There is nothing worse than warm fruit or hot salads!

An extra large ice bucket

It is a wonderful sight – walking into a pool party and seeing a huge metal bucket filled to the brim with ice cubes and drinks. It can make you feel cool just looking at it on a hot day and your guests will be able to help themselves to cold refreshing drinks all day long. Have plenty of ice available to keep topping it up throughout the party.

Variety is the spice of the party

Offering a variety of food is vital, from a choice of salads and finger foods to a selection of meats on the barbecue. Don’t forget your vegetarian and vegan guests and if you are unsure, it is sensible to have some meat-free alternatives available just in case.

Choose the right time

Aim to miss everyone being out in the sizzling summer sun for the hottest time of the day, (especially between 12pm and 3pm) in especially hot weather as no one wants to be sweating profusely! It is always important to provide sufficient shaded areas to allow guests to escape the sun if they need to during hot spells.

Plan some games

You would probably like your party to be remembered for its delicious food and fabulous atmosphere, but to be extra sure that your guests have a wonderful time, get them involved in some fun outdoor games! A quick search on Google will throw up an enormous amount of entertaining ideas that will suit your space and the group you are entertaining.

If you are looking for the perfect venue to host your pool party, click here for some fantastic options!

Holiday In The Cotswold’s

English Cotswolds

English Cotswolds

The Cotswold’s is known as one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom. It is a very popular tourist destination, known for its pristine natural environment and its wide range of tourist attractions. The activities available in the Cotswold’s range from adrenaline pumping rock climbing through to soothing day spas and world-class restaurants.

To help you appreciate what the Cotswold’s has to offer, we have listed some of the most popular activities in the area…

Visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

This huge 160-acre wildlife park is a great day out for children and adults alike. There are more than 260 different animal species in the park, including lions, zebras, rhinos and giraffes. The Madagascar exhibit is one of the key highlights, featuring dozens of energetic and amusing Lemurs. The beautifully landscaped park also features its own train, a petting zoo, reptile house (with crocodiles), restaurants, insect house and a bat house.

Have a Drink at Cotswold’s Distillery

This is a popular destination for adults visiting the Cotswold’s, it is the oldest working distillery in the region. Located on 4-acres of stunning gardens, the distillery specialises in making single malt whiskey, gin, and other natural spirits. The distillery tour is popular and there are regular tasting sessions available.

Visit the Cotswold Motoring Museum

Are you a car fanatic? If the answer is yes, you will absolutely love the Cotswold Motoring Museum. Located in the picture postcard village of Bourton on the Water, the museum has a massive collection of cars, caravans and motorcycles.

Enjoy Some of the Best Restaurants in the UK

The Cotswold’s is a foodie’s paradise! There are so many incredible eating options in the region, ranging from mouth-watering pub food through to spectacular fine dining experiences.

Some of the best restaurants in the Cotswold’s include Cutlers Restaurant at Number Four (Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire), My Great Grandfathers (Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire), The Rectory Hotel (Crudwell in Wiltshire), Lords of the Manor (Upper Slaughter), and Lumiere (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire).

Ride the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway

This railway line is a 12-mile long steam and diesel heritage railway that passes through Toddington, Winchcombe and the Cheltenham Race Course. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Cotswold’s, with authentic shops at the railway stops and a fantastic buffet car on the train. Visitors can enjoy the self-guided heritage trail, featuring a children’s play area, a signal box and a locomotive yard viewing area.

Jet Age Museum

This is an incredible museum located in Gloucestershire. The Jet Age Museum focuses on preserving the rich aviation heritage of Gloucestershire, starting from the first planes to fly in the area through the modern jets…

Montpellier District

Do you consider yourself a shopaholic? The Montpellier District in Cheltenham combines stunning architecture with some of the best shops, bars, and restaurants in the UK. You could spend days exploring the shops, trying new restaurants and enjoying local ales in the many bars.

Cotswold Farm Park

The Cotswold Farm Park is an excellent outing for families, particularly those with young children. This large working farm was created to protect rare breeds of farm animals in the UK. You will see many unusual cows, pigs, goats, horses and other farm animals during your visit to the farm and there are plenty of fun rides for the kids.  

Explore the Dragonfly Maze

The Dragonfly maze is a traditional yew hedge maze that has clues dotted around it. Visitors hunt to find the clues and solve the puzzles, in order to discover the Golden Dragonfly hidden in the central pavilion. Great fun for all ages!

Have a Punt at the Cheltenham Racecourse

The Cheltenham Racecourse is one of the most famous racetracks in the world. It is the home of jump racing and the Cheltenham Festival is held here every March. In addition to horseracing, the racecourse hosts concerts and comedy nights.

Get Active!

There are dozens of exciting outdoor activities to choose from in this area. Some of the most popular outdoor activities available include; sailing, bike riding, horseback riding, rock climbing, water skiing, swimming, snowboarding, canoeing, golfing, hiking and off-road driving.

As you can see, there is a lot to see and do here; making the Cotswold’s a fantastic destination for an unforgettable UK holiday.

Unusual Wedding Favours

Weddings are such special events and should be exciting, romantic and memorable. You can make your wedding even more memorable for your guests by giving them an unusual or rare wedding favour. A wedding favour is a special reminder of your wedding day that your guests can cherish. Here are a few ideas for wedding favours that are sure to charm and delight your guests!

Give guests a botanical gift!

Give your guests a potted plant or seeds which they can add to their garden. They can water their botanical gift and watch it grow as your marriage grows. This kind of gift fits in well with rustic style ceremonies or weddings that are held in a scenic country location. You could take it one-step further and include a quirky watering can to help them get started.

Unusual sweets

Track down some interesting sweet treats from another country. Guests are sure to enjoy the experience of trying something or the first time and this will help to make the wedding memorable. Look for treats that come in collectible tins and packaging so that guests have something to keep for future use.

Sunglasses

If your wedding is being held outdoors in a sunny part of the world, sunglasses are a useful and unusual gift. You will also get some great photo opportunities with all of your guests wearing the same eyewear! You could opt to buy sunglasses that have been personalised with each guest’s name or include some text mentioning the wedding.

Customised wine glasses or wine stoppers

You can give guests a wine stopper or wine glass with their name engraved on it, along with the date of the wedding. They will hang onto the present as a reminder of your event and enjoy using it for years. As an alternative, you may prefer to opt for personalised shot glasses or beer glasses.

Donate to a charity

Instead of a physical wedding favour, you could opt to make a donation in your guest’s name. They will feel great knowing that their attendance at the wedding helped support a charitable foundation.

A set of drink coasters

Coasters are another great gift to remind guests of your wedding. You can purchase timber, stainless steel or glass coasters in a style to match the wedding theme. They could also be customised with text and images.

Wedding wish keys

These are beautiful antique keys attached to a ribbon and a label. Guests receive the keys and are asked the question “The key to a happy marriage is?” They write their responses on the label and give them to the bride or groom. This is a lovely way for guests to impart some wisdom onto the newlyweds.

Bottle openers

Another item that has a great deal of utility and longevity! Give your guests a bottle opener commemorating the wedding and know it will probably reside in their kitchen for the next 20 or 30-years. A great gift item that is very practical.

Tissue boxes

Weddings are emotional events and people love to have a good cry during the ceremony! Why not provide guests with beautifully decorated commemorative tissue boxes or packaging and encourage them to let it all out!

Tea sets

If the theme of the wedding is “classical”, tea sets make the perfect gift. There is a huge variety of designs to choose from and they can be customised to commemorate the event. You could also include commemorative tea bags or antique tea bag infusers.

 A commemorative cheese knife

Why not give guests a beautiful bespoke cheese knife? They will get years of use from it and be reminded of your marriage every time they use it.

By thinking outside of the box, you can give your guests a wedding favour that will ensure that they fondly remember your wedding and the unusual little gift you gave them for many years to come!

Ten Great Things to do in Marbella

Marbella is a beautiful city located in the south of Spain. It is a popular tourist destination because it is perfectly located on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea and there are dozens of exciting activities available. Here are a just few of the best things to do in Marbella!

#1 Enjoy A Beach Day

One of the main reasons that so many people visit Marbella is the stunning sandy beaches. There are a dozen beautiful beaches within a short drive of the city including Bounty Beach, Playa de Rio Real, Playa Fontanilla, Playa Nagüeles, Playa Hermosa, Playa Real de Zaragoza and Nikki Beach.

They range from isolated stretches of sand where you can relax by yourself, through to action-packed beaches where celebrities are frequently spotted!

#2 Visit Marbella Old Town (Casco Antiguo)

Over the years, Marbella has become a very sophisticated and modern city. However, they have retained a link to their past by keeping a section of the city free of development. Old town is a collection of historic buildings, most of which are hundreds of years old. Architecture is in the Andalusian/Moorish architectural style, with beautifully appointed balconies, rooftops and archways.

Old town is full of romance, with winding cobblestone streets and some truly remarkable buildings.   It is the perfect spot to take your partner for a romantic stroll after dinner. There are also some fantastic tours available; a great option for anyone who is interested in learning about the history of Old Town.

#3 Hike Along Sendero de Juanar

There are plenty of outdoor excursions available around Marbella, but this one stands out as one of the best. There are two walks available, one is an easy 2 km route and there is also a more difficult 5 km route.

The easy route walks through some lovely olive groves and past a historic building before reaching a lookout point. The lookout offers a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea and the city.

The more difficult route heads up a rocky trail to the summit of Juanar Hill. This peak is 1164 m above sea level and the views are incredible! You will then descend the opposite side of the hill. This walk takes around 2 hours due to the tricky terrain.

#4 Go on an Eco-tour

Marbella is surrounded by a beautiful and pristine natural environment. One of the best ways to explore this incredible environment is by going on an eco-tour. There are two established eco-tour companies to choose from in Marbella; Born To Be Wild and Monte Aventura, Andalucia Ecotours.

Both companies offer jeep eco-tours, where participants drive through some of the most beautiful areas surrounding Marbella. The tours drive through the UNESCO listed Sierra de las Nieves Nature Park and teach participants about all of the beautiful flora and fauna on display.

#5 Take a Jet Boat Ride!

If you are looking for an adrenaline pumping activity, then a jet boat ride will probably be right up your street! Jet Boat Marbella offer exciting boat tours using a powerful jet boat that is capable of performing 360-degree spins and rapidly accelerating to top speed. Participants also get to enjoy some incredible panoramic views of Marbella and Puerto Banus.

#6 Explore Puerto Banus Marina

This is one of the most fashionable locations in Spain, comprising of a marina and shopping district that is favoured by millionaires and celebrities. You can check out the multimillion dollar yachts and enjoy some shopping at high-end stores including Dior, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Chopard. Seafood lovers will find some astonishingly good dishes on offer in the many great restaurants nearby.

#7 — Visit a Theme Park

You will find several theme parks in and around Marbella. They are the perfect spot to enjoy a day out with the entire family. Funny Beach is closest to the centre of Marbella and has electric cars, video games, children’s rides, go-karts and lots more.

Marbella’s Costa Water Park is also very popular. It has two locations, one in Marbella and the other in Puerto Banus. They are both floating in the sea and have a wide variety of fun activities on offer including water slides, swimming activities, balancing bridges, and various rides.

Other theme parks a short drive from Marbella include Tivoli World, the Butterfly Park and the Sea Life Centre.

#8 Play a Round of Golf

There are more than a dozen golf courses in and around Marbella! Many tourists come to the city just to enjoy these spectacular courses.   Some of the best on offer include the Los Naranjos Golf Club, Marbella Club Golf Resort, Cabopino Golf Marbella, La Quinta Golf & Country Club, Marbella Golf & Country Club and the Aloha Golf Club.

#9 Enjoy a Day on a Boat

Boating is one of the most popular activities for both locals and tourists visiting Marbella. There are many companies providing boat tours including Marbella Yacht Charters, Fly Blue Gran Catamaran, Splash Water Sport, Red Tide Charter, Albertan Sails, and Marbella Boat Parties.

#10 Visit Cultural and Historic Sites

Marbella is a very old city that has some important cultural and historic sites. A few of the “must see” locations include: 

  • The Iglesia Mayor de la Encarnación church
    A beautiful church in the old quarter of Marbella
  • Fuente de la Virgen del Roció
    A spectacular water fountain that is lit up at night.
  • Murallas del Castillo
    A large historic castle ruin near the centre of Marbella.
  • King Abdul Aziz Al Saud Mosque
    An incredible mosque, built hundreds of years ago.

There is so much to do in Marbella that you will be spoilt for choice and in terms of accommodation, check out our Marbella Villa. This luxurious pad guarantees an unforgettable stay!