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6 top tips when choosing your wedding food!


Wedding party food for a fabulous wedding day

Delicious wedding party food by Milkshed Catering at Tone Dale House & Widcombe Grange










Getting married is such an exciting time and planning for your wedding can be a lot of fun for you and your partner to enjoy.  Once you’ve chosen your wedding venue, your attention will be turning to your wedding food.  We’d like to offer a little advice, based on the hundreds of lovely weddings we’ve had the pleasure to help married couples enjoy at Tone Dale House & Widcombe Grange.  So here are some of our top tips…

#01 Choose Your Style

Decide on what style of meal you want.  Would you like a formal served meal or something more casual, say shared platters or a “carve your own” at the table?  This is very much down to your personal style, there’s no right or wrong about it.  But it’s good to think about this in advance of meeting with caterers.  You may change your mind as your decision-making progresses, but it will at least give you the basis for a meeting or phone call to start things off with your caterer.

We’d suggest that buffet style (at least for your main course) doesn’t work for wedding numbers – you’ll end up with a queue of people waiting for food, the top table having finished eating, while others won’t have started.  This can prolong the meal a lot and speeches can’t start until everyone has finished eating.

#02 Your budget

Be open about your budget with your wedding caterer and they can usually work with you to achieve as much as your budget can allow.  It’s surprising what little tweaks to your food choices can do to the overall value for money you’ll achieve.

#03 Special to you

Bride & Grooms, we really think it’s important that you choose at least some food for yourselves that you love or that means something special to you. It’s your special day so don’t just choose what other people would like …..they can have that at their own special event!!  What you select will also be part of the personality of your wedding that is uniquely you.

#04 Keep the food coming, as well as the alcohol!

Think about having canapes served with drinks, particularly important if your wedding ceremony time means people won’t have had lunch!  Likewise, consider how many hours there will be between your wedding meal and the end of your party and think about whether your guests will need evening food.  Particularly important if the alcohol is flowing!

#05 Have a tasty tasting

Arrange a tasting with your wedding caterer.  Just you, your partner and the caterer.  Don’t be persuaded to attend a group tasting, as that just generically gives you an idea of the caterer’s food. You want to sample the food that you will be eating on your wedding day. It really allows you to know what you’re getting and for the caterer to be able to know what adjustments you would like – no surprises on your big day!  Milkshed Catering (a fabulous supplier to Tone Dale House & Widcombe Grange) go the extra mile here and prepare everything for your tasting, exactly as it would be on your wedding day.

#06 And don’t forget…

This is an obvious one, but just a reminder to think about the special dietary requirements of your guests and this needs to cover all elements of the catering – canapes, evening food etc, as well as the main meal. You can also introduce a fun element into the children’s food if you are having a separate menu for them.

Above all, enjoy the process and remember if you put yourself in the hands of a great wedding venue and an excellent caterer you can relax and let their expertise guide you through.

Have a big group weekend away


Hire a big house and have a great time catching up with friends!

With so many of us living at a distance from friends and family we often don’t see as much of them as we would like.  Jobs can take us to distant parts of the world even, where we establish new connections and new lives.  It’s great keeping in touch though, via technology and seeing what our loved ones are doing.  Sometimes too, the years can fly by and your twenties have suddenly become your forties!

Make a plan

It’s all very well, just thinking about the idea of getting people together and talking about the “if onlys” but the first step really is to get a date in the diary, however far ahead.  Get your group of family or friends to commit to the idea of meeting up and put it in the diary.  Organising a big group can be very rewarding and with any luck there is probably someone amongst you who just loves that sort of thing, it’ll be worth the effort for the fun times you have.

Think about a big group holiday

Deciding what will suit your group best is really your next step.  Maybe it’s just meeting up for the evening! But often, if it’s a milestone event to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or reunion a long weekend or a week’s holiday together makes for a very memorable time away.

Planning an extended break gives you all the chance to truly unwind, have fun and spend a significant amount of time together creating wonderful memories.  There’s no rush; meals can be leisurely, activities can be relaxed and even a couple of days away from your normal routine can have a really re-charging effect.

Large group accommodation

There is a whole variety of accommodation to look at.  Hiring a big house can work really well for a big group and be quite cost effective. It also gives you the flexibility to make your own schedule and the space to make your own fun.  Some of our Big Houses have great party rooms for dancing and wonderful games rooms that can become the hub of the house for competitive after dinner challenges.  Each of our houses are unique and we can guide you to which might suit your needs best.  But one thing they all have in common is exclusive use – you will not be sharing with another group on site.

Make it a tradition

We usually find with groups that have come to stay in one of our Big Houses there is an overwhelming desire to do it all over again. They’ve had such a great time, they don’t want to leave!  So why not make it an annual tradition? It gives everyone something to look forward to and keeps relationships with family and friends strong and those good connections can pass down through the generations.  It might make sense for your group to always holiday together at the same time of year or perhaps experiment and try a different season – you might find that low season works for you, in which case accommodation will be less costly too!

At the Big House Company we helped hundreds of guests to arrange their house party events, so do get in touch if you would like to know more.


Stunning large party house in Norfolk joins the Big House

We’re excited to welcome Cliff Barns as a new large house at the Big House Co. The owners originally stayed in one of our own houses (Tone Dale House) and loved the concept so much they decided to do the same thing for themselves – albeit a few years later!  The idea of having a ‘weekend’ place for big groups of friends and family to stay is no longer new but being able to offer clients a variety of properties with unique features to suit the needs of their group is a big part of what we do.  The stylish approach at Cliff Barns is certainly a superb addition to our portfolio.

Nestled next to a strawberry farm in Norfolk the property forms a quadrangle around a central courtyard with all the accommodation cleverly arranged on the ground floor.  The owners are interior and set designers to the stars and have put more than the usual ‘barn conversion’ formula into Cliff Barns.  The impression you get as you enter is one of rustic hunting lodge meets boutique hotel but with an overall feeling of squishy comfort.  The living spaces are generous and open out through folding glazed doors to the central courtyard which contains more seating, alfresco dining, hot tub and games area.

Sumptuous Cabana bedroom

Up to 18 people can be accommodated in eight stunning bedrooms and everyone can sit around the dining table.  There are great self-catering facilities but you can also let the local caterers take the strain instead.  It is possible to hold larger events such as weddings by arrangement and the team can look after all your needs and manage the event for you.

Make an effort to leave the property at some stage and explore the beautiful coast line with miles of sandy beaches, or enjoy some of the many local attractions and fabulous gastro eateries close by.  Ideal for families, birthday groups, hen weekends and corporate away days.

Stunning open plan living area, perfect for large groups.

Glastonbury Festival.…the alternatives

It’s got to be Glasto!

Come the third week in June, hundreds of music lovers will be flocking to Worthy Farm in Somerset.  There’s always a great line up at the Glastonbury festival and it’s a memorable occasion to be a part of.


Somerset – top UK summer holiday destination


Somerset is fabulous for summer holidays

Enjoy a fantastic summer holiday in Somerset

A summer holiday in Somerset is more popular than ever this year.  The fall in the value of the pound certainly makes going abroad far more expensive. Not having to go to the airport reduces stress levels too – no delayed or cancelled flights to contend with and what about the long haul flight in the seat next to the crying baby, not this year!

We think Somerset has a lot to offer for a summer holiday.  With so much coastline and a hugely varied landscape from the Somerset Levels to the Quantock Hills there is lots to explore and enjoy.

Stunning Cheddar Gorge in North Somerset is a great place to visit in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  It’s Britain’s biggest limestone gorge, with cliffs rising to 450ft and a designated walk along the top of them, guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away!  With a stalactite cave, an open top bus tour and a look-out tower adults and children alike will have a great day out.  For the more courageous, there’s adventure caving and rock climbing.

A trip to the beach is a summer holiday tradition for many and in Somerset there’s loads of choice.  Burnham-on-Sea is a classic seaside town with an Edwardian backdrop of buildings overlooking the wide sandy beach, perfect for getting out your buckets and spades – you can even have a donkey ride on the beach and why not enjoy an ice-cream on the shortest pier in the UK.  Further along the coast is Kilve, a fossil hunter’s paradise and a great place to investigate the many rock-pools that appear at low tide.  There’s a lovely grassy area at the back of the beach for picnics, barbecues, cricket and all sorts of fun and games.

Now, let’s face it, sometimes the weather does get a little damp in the UK, so your summer holiday may not be end to end sunshine!  Grab those opportunities and visit some of the excellent indoor attractions that Somerset is home to, you’ll be glad it rained!

Why not keep with the watery theme and visit SeaQuarium at Weston super Mare?  We particularly liked the moon jellyfish, just like watching aquatic ballet and the underwater tunnel with a huge selection of creatures circling above you.  There’s so much to learn about here and you can get hands on involved too with some of the rock pool creatures.

Another of our favourites is Fleet Air Arm Museum showing the history of the airplane from the very early days of the biplane (you get a real sense of their fragility and the bravery of the pilots), through to the modern day. Along the way you can learn the physics of flight from a model plane inside a wind tunnel and hear about the military and human stories of the second world war.  There’s plenty here to make a day of it.

Whatever you choose to do during your summer holiday, we think Somerset has a lot to offer, we know you’ll enjoy it, come and take a look.

Fabulous hen party houses in the South West

Hen party house parties in Somerset

Fabulous hen parties in Somerset

Your hen party is a great, fun event to look forward to.  It’s all about getting your closest female friends together and having a brilliant time…..


Enjoy a visit to Exeter with our top tips

Things to do in Exeter

Exeter Quay

The city of Exeter makes a great destination in Devon, whether it’s for a day trip or for longer, there’s heaps to do and see.  In a nutshell, Exeter is one of the oldest cities in England, dating back to Celtic times, where it’s location at a crossing point of the River Exe would have been strategically important.  Today it acts as a gateway to the rest of the gorgeousness of the south west.  But enough of that for now, today it’s all about Exeter.

Here are our top tips…..


5 great places to visit in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds makes a great location for a relaxing short break or family holiday with a wide diversity of great things to do.

It’s the epitome of rural England with its rolling hills, quaint villages, churches and stately homes built in distinctive, soft yellow Cotswold stone.  Here’s a few of the things we’d suggest you include in your plans:-

Historic villages and market towns

The Cotswolds charm lies in its pretty medieval villages and market towns with their mellow limestone walls – picture perfect rural England full of honey coloured thatched cottages.  Perfect for sauntering around on a lazy afternoon, buying some of the local crafts or indulging in a delicious cream tea of warm scones and home-made jam in a cosy teashop.

Our choice would be Bourton-on-the-Water, often referred to as “the Venice of the Cotswolds” with the River Windrush trickling through its centre, handsome stone bridges spanning it and quaint cottages to admire.  Enjoy a relaxing lunch and a locally brewed ale in one of the cosy pubs and don’t miss the exquisitely detailed model village, which even has the sound of the choir in fine voice, echoing from its miniature sized church.

Highgrove Garden

It’s probably the only garden visit where you take your passport and go through security, but doesn’t that give you the sense of something special on the other side?

The garden of HRH The Prince of Wales certainly offers something unique and it’s well worth pre-booking a tour to see the magical garden that’s been created there.  Surprisingly quirky and innovative – some of the delights include a colourful and elegant wildflower meadow, an idiosyncratic wall created from many of the unusual gifts given to HRH over the years, and the Rapunzel like treehouse of the young Princes.  The tour finishes at a beautiful building housing the restaurant and café.  It’s worth stopping here to savour the food and contemplate the delights of the garden.  The finale to your visit: the opportunity to buy plants that you’ll have seen in the garden, a lasting memory.

Charleston House  

A great family trip where you’ll find yourself stepping into a time capsule of 17th century living at this enchanting manor house, owned by the National Trust.  Built as a sign of prosperity by a rich woollen merchant, you enter the world of a bygone age.  Families will particularly enjoy the explorer packs available, which entice you into searching for the 400 year old mulberry tree, or test your wits by trying to name the cloud shapes clipped into topiary.  Believe it or not (it’s true) the game of croquet was actually invented here.  You can try your hand at a game on the original pitch where it all began.  Both the house and gardens are a joy, but don’t forget your picnic, if you want to enjoy the delights of an alfresco feast spread out on a rug in the sunshine.

Cheltenham Races  

Hear the thunder of the hooves on turf and roar on your chosen horse.  There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a day at the races to get the pulse racing.  Cheltenham is home to the world famous festival of jumps racing.  But, as well as this world class event there are other meetings throughout the year to indulge in.

Part of the great fun of a race meeting is the complete involvement you feel in each and every race; whether you’ve bet £1 or staked the family silver (we don’t recommend this!). Dress up in your finest, sip chilled champagne, enjoy a meal at the Roux brothers restaurant or go for the ultimate and treat yourself to a private box.

Whether you back a winner or not it’s a thoroughly entertaining day out.

Birdland Park

 If your group includes children, then hunting for dinosaurs may be right up your street. The Jurassic Journey transports you back 65 million years into a world where you’ll discover life size creatures, from the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex to the tiny baby stegosaurus.  Trackers kits are supplied and your inner pre-historic explorer might even come across dinosaur eggs, fossils to dig for and maybe some old bones.

You’ll be tempted to linger but the park has lots more that’s worth exploring – cute newly hatched chicks to cuddle, penguin feeding to watch and if you’re really feeling daring a snake to dangle round your neck.

Whether you choose the Cotswolds for a short break or a longer holiday there’s plenty to see and do and our Cotswold Manor makes a great base for a large group.



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!


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. ..


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!


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.


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.


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!


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!