A brand new venue with Wigwam Holidays glamping on site.
Diversifying from farming to hospitality, Catherine and Stuart Tweddle have already established a thriving glamping business through Wigwam Holidays and have now turned their attention to repurposing redundant outbuildings to create a spectacular wedding venue. We talk to Catherine
When did you start your venue business and what is its history?
Sedgewell Barn is a brand new family-run wedding barn venue and we’re expecting our first wedding to take place this summer, following the Covid-19 delays.
My husband Stuart and I took over the running of the farm when Stuart’s parents retired in 2010. About four years ago we decided to shift the emphasis of the business away from farming and diversify into tourism and the running of a small haulage business.
Wigwam Holidays Sedgewell Barn, which offers luxury glamping accommodation, welcomed its first guests in July 2017. We started with just two en-suite Wigwam cabins, which then quickly expanded to six.
Later this spring, a total of 11 cabins, including an accessible Wigwam Lodge, will be onsite. Nine of them will have private outdoor hot tubs.
More recently we decided to convert some of our redundant farm buildings into a beautiful wedding venue to sit alongside the existing glamping site. Stuart has done much of the conversion work himself – it’s been a real labour of love!
I am also from a farming background and worked as a chartered surveyor until our two children arrived. We also have a sprocker called Max who loves to help meet and greet our guests!
Tell us about your location and site
Our wedding venue is set within 60 acres of rolling countryside in the heart of rural North Yorkshire. We have two interlinked wedding barns, one of which is romantically rustic and the other which is stunningly industrial in style. Both barns together can accommodate up to 200 seated guests.
Our venue has the advantage of having luxury en-suite glamping units onsite, many of which have hot tubs. The venue also boasts an outdoor seating area, indoor chill-out space and several stunning backdrops for photographs.
We are licensed to hold civil ceremonies and there are several indoor spaces to choose from, as well as our pretty outdoor courtyard area.
We are located just a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque village of Ainderby Steeple and the venue is nestled between two National Parks: the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales. Yet the A1(M) and the railway network are both within a 10 minute car journey.
What facilities for outdoor functions do you offer?
We have a beautifully landscaped courtyard area where wedding ceremonies can take place and guests can mingle for a pre-wedding drinks reception. We are also developing a terraced area where guests can have a stroll outside after the reception and take in the breathtaking views and wide open skies with the Yorkshire Dales on the horizon.
For couples who would prefer to hold their reception in a marquee or tipi then space is no problem here and we have a designated area for this purpose too.
Our on-site glamping accommodation is just a short walk from the wedding venue. For those wanting to get wed in the great outdoors couples can even have their ceremony in a Wigwam cabin! Each cabin has its own parking space, plus outdoor area to the front with a firebowl, wooden stools and picnic bench.
Onsite there are private dog walks, a children’s play area and an honesty shop where guests can buy marshmallows and free range eggs from our own chickens.
What services do you offer?
Our friendly team has a full list of handpicked suppliers, including approved caterers and bar hire. Our experienced in-house wedding planner is there to give a helping hand with supplier coordination leaving couples to relax and enjoy the wedding day of their dreams. We may be a new wedding venue but we have a very experienced in-house team.
We are also licensed to hold civil ceremonies throughout the venue, including in our intimate open-air courtyard area and in six of our Wigwam cabins.
Describe how you researched and sourced your structures
For the wedding venue, we knew our redundant farm buildings were a huge asset and, while we did the practical research, we felt our location was perfect for a special celebration.
We had hired a marquee from Abracadabra Marquees for Stuart’s 40th birthday party and found them to have a very high level of customer service. We have also been recommended Totem Tipis by a number of different sources, including Ellen our in-house coordinator.
For the glamping accommodation, we did exhaustive research into the products on the market and we also visited a number of industry exhibitions so we could physically see the different products available.
A Wigwam Holidays franchise stood out due to the quality of the cabins, which allows for year-round occupation. Wigwam also has its own booking system and marketing assistance, which was a big draw for us.
How do you work with your customers to make their event unique?
From the moment a potential guest gets in touch, our customer service is paramount, and each guest is made to feel extra special. Our approach is friendly and accommodating and we’re developing the knack of anticipating guest requirements, which is particularly helpful for our wedding venue.
Our venue is a blank canvas so couples can style it how they wish. We also have a superb list of suppliers in the region, so we support a number of local businesses.
How do you publicise yourself?
We have a very active social media presence and Laura Spouse of VSM Consultancy looks after our PR. We are in the process of building a new website for Sedgewell Barn and have invested a lot of time in researching and being listed on third party wedding directories.
How would you describe your style or unique selling point?
Exclusive, rustic, unique, rural and relaxed. Our unique selling point is that couples have exclusive use of the wedding venue and glamping site for three days and two nights, making it a truly memorable event.
What challenges have you faced historically?
Converting the barns mainly ourselves whilst running other businesses and fitting in a family life has not come without its challenges at times!
How has Covid-19 impacted you?
When Covid-19 struck, we were left reeling at the impact and, as company directors, we were unable to access any financial support for a very long time. We lobbied the Chancellor to reconsider this and while this has yet to be overturned, we were able to access some financial help as Lockdown 1.0 progressed.
Our Covid-19 secure measures were exhaustive and once we could re-open the glamping site in July 2020, we had a very busy, yet safe, summer.
Since the beginning of Lockdown 3.0 we started offering couples virtual show rounds of the wedding venue, which worked very well. We have managed to secure bookings by offering flexible deposit payments.
How large is your team – any special people you’d like to mention?
We currently run the business between us with help from Louise King who is an invaluable member of the team and takes care of our bookings and accounts. We also have Ellen Davies of LND Events who is our in-house wedding coordinator, Laura Spouse of VSM Consultancy who helps with our social media and wedding enquiries, and Faith Young who helps with glamping enquiries and customer review responses.
We are currently advertising for more staff to help us run both the glamping and wedding side of the business.
Have you worked with any industry bodies or consultants?
We did some Q&A sessions with Kelly of Kelly Chandler Wedding Consulting and group training with other venue owners over Zoom. Guides for Brides did a live feed to help market our venue via one of their Facebook wedding fairs.
We also used Zoom for training with Hitched on converting enquiries to bookings, and used Bridebook to learn about pricing structures.
Ellen Davies of LND Events helps with venue consultancy and wedding coordination for our couples, and we have Laura Spouse of VSM Consultancy for social media expertise.
Wigwam Holidays has helped in marketing the glamping site and we use their booking system and assistance on dealing with amending glamping bookings due to Covid-19 restrictions.
What are your plans for next season?
If the ‘Roadmap’ doesn’t change we plan to reopen the glamping site from 12 April and the wedding venue from 21 June 2021. We then plan to remain open for both glamping holidays and weddings from then on, although at the moment the wedding venue is only operating from May to October. The glamping site is open all year round.
Describe your average day mid-season
Like many family-run businesses, we juggle the school run and running two separate businesses.
In mid-season, we are up early, checking emails, checking the site and then ensuring all cabins and hot tubs meet our exacting standards once guests leave at 10am. Guests can arrive from 2.30pm and everything has to be ready by that time.
We have a self-check-in policy, yet we live onsite so we have a presence. We’re then catching up on paperwork, dealing with enquiries and keeping an eye on all the latest industry announcements.
Each hot tub needs testing twice daily so this is a good chance to meet guests and deal with any queries they may have. We often feel as if we don’t have time to sleep!
What do you enjoy about the business and why?
Helping make couples’ dreams come true! We’ve all had a very tough year and to be able to offer our couples and their guests something so special and exciting to look forward to is very rewarding.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
Our wedding venue and glamping accommodation complement each other perfectly, being situated together on one site. Couples book all the glamping accommodation and the wedding barns as part of one exclusive venue hire package.
What are you most proud of?
The fact that we’ve built this business from nothing and that we have built a viable business in just four years. There have been tough times, yet knowing we are getting it right (fingers crossed) is something to be very proud of.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
In the wedding industry you need to be a people person and always greet your couples and their guests with a smile. You also need to be prepared to work long hours, including weekends and bank holidays, as that is when most couples are spending time planning their wedding.
Ellen Davies, LND Events www.lnd-events.co.uk
MOBILE BAR HIRE
MARQUEE & FURNITURE
Abracadabra Marquee Hire www.abracadabramarquees.co.uk
Totem Tipis www.totemtipi.co.uk
Typical Type www.typicaltype.co.uk
Sedgefield House Farm