A family-run Herefordshire venue offering flexibility and fun.
Husband and wife team Ian and Jayne Pritchard created their venue at Jayne’s family farm after getting married on the site. Set in an apple orchard, it features a ‘naked’ tipi and willow tree for outdoor ceremonies. Working closely with local suppliers, the couple delivers 15 events each year, rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in to help customers on their big day. We talk to Jayne.
When did you start your venue business and what is its history?
The idea started in 2010 when we got married on the site. We had lots of comments from friends about how beautiful it was and had we thought about setting up a wedding venue. We finally took the plunge and moved back to my family’s farm in 2018 when the diversification began. We built our house first and then The Orchard at Munsley was launched in September 2019.
Tell us about your location and site
As the name suggests, The Orchard at Munsley is set in a cider apple orchard in the heart of rural Herefordshire. It is overlooked by a beautiful old church and pretty duck pond surrounded by weeping willows. Couples who wish to get married at Munsley Church can stroll down the drive to the orchard, taking advantage of the old barn and pond for photo opportunities.
It oozes rustic charm and great views, with plenty of space for outdoor catering, welcome drinks, garden games etc. As it is a rural site, it is not completely flat so structures and toilets have designated areas on the flattest ground. We have invested in a hard standing car park and resurfaced the driveway since opening.
What facilities for outdoor functions do you offer?
We are an outdoor venue with minimal restrictions, which means couples have the freedom of choosing the structure they want. Tipis are very popular at the moment with marquees being a close second. We have a naked tipi and a beautiful willow tree that are perfect for outside celebrant-led ceremonies. Couples are welcome to camp or hire boutique bell tents for the complete festival experience.
What services do you offer?
We offer exclusive use of our venue for weddings, vow renewals, hen dos, birthdays, corporate events and other celebrations. We’re always keen to try new things and are in discussions at the moment with a local chef about supper clubs in the orchard… Watch this space!
We provide the bar as well as organise the structure, generator and toilets. We also supply recommendations for those that want our list of trusted suppliers and accommodation in the area. We are always there for set up and on the day itself to ensure it runs smoothly from an operational point of view. We work closely with a wedding planner who offers a full planning option and on the day co-ordination.
Describe how you researched and sourced your structures
We found our three main structure suppliers – Giantipi, West Country Marquees and Canvas Belles (bell tents) through online research and word of mouth referrals. All three fit our ethos of working with small, local businesses who are trustworthy and produce a fantastic end result. They know and respect our venue so we can leave them to get on with it. Through Giantipi, we have recently invested in our own small tipi from Tentipi who were brilliant to deal with and supported us throughout the process.
How do you work with your customers to make their event unique?
We only run 15 events a year which enables us to really get to know each customer and offer a personal service to them. We are open to ideas and listen to our couples from the initial enquiry right through to the final few hours to ensure it is their wedding/event, their way.
There are lots of options, including the choice of structure and style, ensuring a unique and personal touch to their day. We are always there for set up and on the day and more than happy to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in with whatever needs doing.
How do you publicise yourself?
We initially started out with just our website and social media pages before gradually signing up to various wedding directories and getting to grips with Google! Recommendations through suppliers and word of mouth are also very powerful marketing tools.
How would you describe your style or unique selling point?
We are a small, family-run venue offering flexibility and fun, with an eye for detail and prompt communicators. Regular and timely communication is something that is really important to us, especially during these uncertain and difficult times.
What challenges have you faced historically?
The weather is our biggest challenge and one that cannot be controlled, but can be managed. We only run weddings between May-October and have invested in a hard standing car park and other hard surface solutions. The beauty of a temporary structure like a tipi or marquee is the flexibility – the sides can be opened or zipped up depending on the weather conditions.
How has Covid-19 impacted you?
Sadly all our 2020 weddings got postponed to 2021 and beyond so we had a very quiet year. However, we used that to our advantage and upped our marketing momentum to remain visible on our platforms.
We organised a Covid-secure open day with timed slots for couples to view the venue and meet suppliers. A small team of us organised a competition for a couple, who had been affected by Covid to win a mini ceremony celebration. We also used the time to arrange some beautiful photoshoots with suppliers who normally would have been booked up and unavailable.
The government restrictions forced us to look at micro-weddings which has been brilliant, as we now have those options in place, and are becoming very popular.
How large is your team – any special people you’d like to mention?
We are a husband and wife team, however we work closely with lots of fabulous suppliers including Vicky and Sam at Giantipi and Tom from West Country Marquees. A special mention must go to Lauradana Day from Wedding Creations who transformed our venue into a magical ceremony space for our competition winners and created an outdoor dining space that received so much love and generated enquiries on Instagram.
I’d also like to mention our wedding planner, Georgie from Georgina Rose Events who has introduced me to lots of fab people in the wedding industry and pushed me out of my comfort zone on social media! My final mention goes to Georgina from Deene Park wedding venue in Northamptonshire for all her advice and top tips. It’s been so helpful chatting to another venue and comparing notes.
Have you worked with any industry bodies or consultants?
We are members of the Association of British Wedding Businesses (ABWB) and follow the brilliant #whataboutweddings campaign, both set up in response to the lack of government support for the wedding industry. They have worked tirelessly on behalf of our sector to lobby government. There has also been another group set up, UK Weddings Taskforce, which has just launched its website.
We were part of Host Venue Consultancy’s Extra Mile Venue Campaign in July which spotlighted venues that had supported couples during the pandemic. I regularly tune into Alison Hargreaves from Guides For Brides who goes live after each government announcement to discuss the restrictions from a wedding point of view.
In November I attended a virtual training day led by wedding venue expert Kelly Chandler covering all aspects of running a venue during these Covid-times and beyond. It was a brilliant day of information gathering and sharing with venues from all over the UK, plus talks from industry specialists.
What are your plans for next season?
This will be our first ‘proper’ season so I’m sure there will be lots of learnings for the following year! All the weddings vary in size from 15 to 120 people which will be a great experience for us. We can’t wait to get started!
Describe your average day mid-season
Due to Covid, we haven’t had many events, so ask me this question again at the end of 2021!
What do you enjoy about the business and why?
I love hearing about a couple’s ideas and how we can bring them to life. Seeing how all the pieces fit together on the day is so exciting and being part of such a special day. It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it and takes me back to our wedding and all the happy memories that are created. I get a real buzz from each couple’s booking, thinking they chose our venue on the family farm to host one of the happiest days of their lives.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate?
We are looking into glamping so we can make full use of our new tipi throughout the year.
What are you most proud of?
Each and every booking we get as it shows we are doing something right!
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Collaborate with other venues and suppliers. Don’t see them as competition, instead get to know them and work with them as you can learn so much from people who have been in the industry for years. Create your niche and always be you, as people buy from people.
Event Furniture By Tarren www.hireeventfurniture.co.uk
Hampton Hire www.hamptonhire.com
Valley Furniture Hire www.valleyfurniturehire.co.uk
West Country Marquees www.westcountrymarquees.co.uk
Essential Supplies www.essentialsupplies.co.uk
West Country Marquees www.westcountrymarquees.co.uk
Marquee Floors www.marqueefloors.co.uk
WASHROOMS & WCs
The Convenience Company www.conveniencecompany.com
NFU Mutual www.nfumutual.co.uk
The Orchard at Munsley
Herefordshire HR8 2SQ
07974 249 656