Beneath the late summer sky, the green leaves and grey stone looked nothing short of majestic as lights twinkled from within the crenellated hotel. A small man in a burgundy waistcoat jovially directed traffic into the small car park in front of the 18th century reconstructed castle. The Castle Hotel proudly dominated its surrounding landscape as ivy vines crept up its fascia.
Surrounded by antique furniture and a grand oak staircase, Abi & Lisa, the event organisers from Marry Me In Somerset, greeted their guests with huge smiles in the historic reception of the hotel. The patterned carpet of the stairs seemed to curl infinitely higher to three more stories above. Glimpses through carved balustrades hinted at luxurious sofas languishing on landings far above our heads.
With the tick of a list and a suitably pink badge affixed, each attendee was then presented with a glass of chilled Pimms, filled with fruit and the whiff of anticipation. As head of the Wedding Ideas magazine team, Rachel Southwood was on hand to meet everybody and make sure that they had represented themselves on a blue pin board in a vintage white frame which sat at the mouth of a long corridor.
The board gradually became peppered with business cards as new arrivals pinned their brands to the board. Occasionally, folks would stop to peer at it en route to the cloakroom, seeing who else was in the room that they had yet to meet. By the end of the evening, only occasional spots of the blue background could be glimpsed beneath the blanket of business cards.
Along the walls of the corridor, ancient brickwork integral to the hotel structure was framed like a picture behind panes of glass, between caricatures of famous guests and bespoke artwork. A glazed wooden doorway gave a glimpse into the large L-shaped ground floor suite, buzzing with activity and excitement.
Beneath gilded chandeliers, the good and the glamorous of the wedding industry in the South West gathered for canapés and cocktails, served by unabashedly sensationalist Butlers in the Buff. Insatiable laughter and unbridled glamour populated the room as the buzz of new introductions pulsed through everyone’s veins.
The hot pink walls were intermittently broken with white stripes, making the room feel like a giant bag of candy – a world of sweets that we were all lost in. Glossy brochures and business packs perched atop of pressed white tablecloths on small round tables. Boudoir photographers and venue packs sat next to each other around art deco vases and curvaceous table lamps. Their human counterparts mingled just as easily in the middle of the room, clinking glasses and exchanging cards.
Dispersed amongst the groups of guests were the exceptionally well-turned out Wedding Ideas girls from the magazine. With huge welcoming smiles and friendly chat, the Wedding Ideas team dotted themselves about the room, getting to know new industry professionals and creating introductions between old acquaintances. Sauntering between groups on their eye-popping heels, they acted like cupids to the wedding businesses, creating affiliations wherever they went.
Shot glasses and miniature crockery pots were filled with a variety of canapés, tiny pieces of toast sported satin slips of smoke salmon, breadsticks and crudités waved happily through the air as gesticulating tools before being crunched and munched for immediate sustenance.
The makeshift bar sported an enthusiastic pyramid of wine glasses sparkling in the evening light. The soft drinks side of the table depleted much more rapidly – a testament to the amount of people who had been willing to travel for the event in order to meet like-minded individuals.
The gentle hum of string musicians created a backdrop to the soundscape of chatter and bubble of laughter. Heels on the stylists went toe-to-toe with trainers on photographers. In cool spectacles, beautiful blouses, pencil-line wiggle dresses, and fuchsia stilettos that matched the décor, the participants of the tweet-up could hardly be described as geeky web people. Their interactions may have been primarily on the internet up until this point, but the South West had certainly managed to turn out some pretty cool wedding suppliers.
Lisa floated around the room joyously swinging a milk churn adorned with ribbons in the corporate Marry Me colours as she collected business cards for a highly anticipated rafflle. A sea of expectant faces turned towards the sound of a spoon clanking against a bottle of vodka, to find Pippa from Wedding Ideas drawing in the crowd with a whistle and hushing the chatter.
In time honoured tradition, Rachel S took the spotlight in order to thank Abi and Lisa for their hard work in organising the evening. Following a roar of appreciation and a round of applause, the milk churn was rattled in anticipation. In the style of extremely glamorous game show hosts, Lucinda and Pippa set about picking winners for the prize draw. Guests were equally as pleased with fruit baskets as they were with minibreaks in luxury hotels. The essence was that everyone was a winner that evening, regardless of the prize.
As the final contestants bagged their prizes, the room began to bubble once more with laughter. Chatter rose from whispered asides to guffawing conversations between large groups of new acquaintances. As the bar supplies increasingly diminished, the amicability of the evening heightened and friends who were strangers only hours beforehand began embracing in mutual appreciation. Handshakes turned to hugs and air-kisses became genuinely affectionate kisses.
With the sun setting over the motte and bailey walls of the original castle, guests gradually began to peel off from the group. Heading out of the pink room, out of the hotel and into the early night sky they left behind them a host of empty glasses, a trail of business cards, and a stream of new friends and business contacts.