A North Yorkshire wedding venue and glampsite with some quirky handmade features.
Following a family wedding on the site eight years ago, Skipbridge Farm has evolved into a fully licensed venue with unique features including two handcrafted feature bar areas and a Hobbit Hole. Run by brother and sister Bronte Hall and Tom Throup, Skipbridge has also invested in its own tipis, selecting them to complement the venue’s style. We talk to Bronte.
When did you start your venue business and what is its history?
The wedding dream began when my sister got married back in 2011. Katie had always wanted to get married at home, so with the land and marquees that we already owned, a great vision and some very supportive parents, Katie and her fiancé Tom created the most amazing country wedding of their dreams!
Skipbridge has always been our family home and as a child I was lucky enough to have our small holding as a place to keep my horses and to rear many weird and wonderful animals as pets.
Skipbridge Farm has been in our family for 30 years. My parents bought it back when it was literally a derelict farm with an old empty barn that had a metal roof and four metal pillar legs! Over the years, my dad (who is a builder by trade) has converted and adapted the farm buildings to make Skipbridge what it is today. I’m sure if you were to ask him he would say that it’s still a work in progress.
Tell us about your location and site
Skipbridge is a small holding on the side of the A59 between York and Harrogate. To many people that pass us on their daily commute, they have absolutely no idea what lies behind our red brick buildings.
Around every turn at Skipbridge there is something unique that has taken a lot of thought and time for us to produce – we are constantly keeping my dad busy with building projects. We are a fully licenced wedding venue meaning we can host civil marriage ceremonies completely outdoors under our stunning willow tree in the Willow Bower.
We have created a bespoke bar, The Rolling Barrel, which really complements the tipi structures we use and ensures no wasted space inside, and have a second (almost famous) bar, ‘The Grain Silo’. Set within the trees, it was cleverly built out of an old grain store. By the evening it comes to life serving Yorkshire gin and single malt whisky, all set around a real log fire where guests can soak up the sounds from our fabulous acoustic entertainers.
The Hobbit Hole is also a thing of legends and we have taken bookings for weddings purely based on it! Created many years ago it was a glorified storage area for our lawn mowers, needless to say the garden tools are now stored elsewhere and the Hobbit Hole is enjoyed by both wedding guests and our glampers for cups for tea and photo opportunities.
What facilities for outdoor functions do you offer?
Our venue has a permanent tipi set up. This is made up of two giant tipis and one midi, as well as a purpose built catering area.
Our on-site accommodation comprises luxury cottages and glamping. We can sleep up to 50 guests, which is great as family and friends can really relax and enjoy everything.
Our venue also benefits from a luxury timber toilet and shower block, as well as ample onsite electricity.
What services do you offer?
Our services over the last few years have mainly been catered to weddings! We help our couples create the perfect day and make sure they have the best memories to take away with them.
Recently we have branched into the corporate events market as we think Skipbridge offers a fantastic space for hosting corporate training, away days and even award ceremonies.
Describe how you researched and sourced your structures
For all of our unique features, everything has a story about where it came from and why it’s a part of Skipbridge. I think this is what makes our venue most special.
For many years it was our couples that hired in the marquee structures they wanted. We have had pole and steel framed marquees, tipis and even yurts. I guess it was because of personal preference and a feeling that tipis suited Skipbridge most, that we embarked on the exciting journey to purchase our own tipis, making planning a wedding at our venue even easier.
How do you work with your customers to make their event unique?
When a couple book Skipbridge, they book it as a blank canvas. Yes, we have unique features already but each of our clients leaves something that adds to Skipbridge in some way. Nothing is off limits at Skipbridge; our couples really can bring their dreams to life.
How do you publicise yourself?
We are very lucky that Skipbridge has grown organically. We have had a lot of word of mouth advertising to get us to where we are today.
We do have a small marketing budget that we spend with Facebook advertising and Hitched.co.uk. We advertise on a couple of free wedding websites too.
How would you describe your style or unique selling point?
Our style is friendly and personal. I believe that every couple deserves to celebrate their love and we support them as much or as little as they want in order to achieve whatever dreams they have.
Our venue is our unique selling point. Along with our family values and our will to create memories.
What challenges have you faced?
I don’t know whether they are challenges or learning points! As Skipbridge is outdoors with our neighbours close by, we must be conscious of the noise our events create. Over the years we have refined our venue package to now include acoustic entertainment. Initially this was to cater for the sensitivity of our surroundings but we quickly realised that this is where great memories are made and that the music style complements us so well.
We’ve also initially faced challenges with getting our venue licenced; there were so many things to consider with our local council. I don’t see this so much as a challenge but as something we had never done before so didn’t know exactly how to proceed at first.
Being an outdoor venue, we can be challenged by the rain. 2019 was a challenging season for everyone! It seemed as if it would never end. But I can honestly say that with our adaptations to the venue and the amazing attitudes of our couples and their guests, every single wedding was a great celebration.
What are your plans for next season?
Our season kicks off in May and for the first time we are hosting a venue open weekend with supplier evening on the Friday night. We have never really showcased our venue before, so this is a super exciting event for us! With purchasing our own tipis, we thought it would be a great opportunity to invite not only our couples but also fellow industry friends and new connections to see all that Skipbridge has to offer.
Describe your average day mid-season
The average day for us starts at about 8am with a good bacon sandwich. By 9am we are outside working hard to make the grounds pristine and pull together all of those finishing touches. We’ve got mats to lay, glasses to polish, prosecco to chill and bars to set up. Typically, guests will begin to arrive from 12:30pm, with a wedding ceremony at about 1:30pm. We tactfully arrange all guests into position around the Willow Bower, with groom and best man waiting at the top of the aisle, then guide the bride and bridal party round to be in position for walking down the aisle.
After the ceremony, it’s all systems go on the drinks reception which sets the benchmark for the running of the rest of the day. Together with the couple, we have worked on an event summary and this is what we use to make sure everything stays to time and as planned. After the wedding breakfast and speeches, the team sets to work on a little tidy up; there’s nothing worse than a table of empty glasses in the background of your wedding pictures!
As the evening guests arrive to join the party, everyone settles into the flow. There is usually something going on in every corner – guests playing our giant garden games, granny and grandad enjoying a sit down with a cup of tea, and the bride and groom taking full advantage of all of our fantastic photo opportunities!
Then it’s time for the first dance. A lot of these at Skipbridge happen outside. Our acoustic performers set the perfect mood, photographer poised to capture all of those important memories. This tends to be the time to spark the opening of the Grain Silo. With the gin and whisky flowing, our couple and guests dance the night away!
What do you enjoy about the business and why?
I most enjoy bringing a feeling of joy to our couples. Whether this is in the initial excitement when they book the venue, their happy smiling faces when they are pronounced husband and wife, or the slightly subdued but smiling, hungover thank yous as everyone prepares to leave on the Sunday morning.
Knowing that we have provided lasting memories really means a lot.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
As Skipbridge is a family business as well as the wedding venue we have a glamping site and holiday cottage accommodation. During a wedding weekend, these are booked for the exclusive use of our couples and their guests. When there isn’t a wedding on, we welcome people from far and wide to enjoy Skipbridge as a glamper or holiday stay guest. The glamping is run by my eldest brother and holiday cottages by my parents.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of our team! Without the full team that is behind Skipbridge it wouldn’t be what it is.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
My advice to anyone that wanted to embark on setting up a wedding venue like we have would be to take your time. Good things don’t grow over night, they take a lot of thought and effort. Get involved with other people in the industry, see what else is out there and set yourself a goal that is not only achievable but rewarding. My second bit of advice, which is pretty self-explanatory, would be to always be kind and don’t rip people off!
Kata Tipi www.katatipis.com
PB Curren Brokers www.pbcurran.co.uk
York, YO26 8EZ