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Venue Showcase: Holdsworth House Hotel & Restaurant

Built in 1633 this venue is a four star family owned hotel, packed full of character and history. They have been hosting weddings for 60 years and know how to make your day perfect. You’ll find open fires, cosy lounges, fine antiques and tapestries that together create a sense of history, calm and comfort

We talked to Claire Nicholl, the Wedding and Events Manager at Holdsworth House Hotel & Restaurant to find out more this award winning restaurant and historic venue.

Tell us about yourself!

I’ve worked at Holdsworth House for almost 25 years, so in that time I’ve helped arrange probably 3000 weddings. We ‘re exclusive – we only allow one wedding per day, but we average around 120 weddings per year. I love dogs, so when I’m not working, I’m walking my dog.

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What drew you to the wedding world?

25 years ago, I suppose the job really suited me. I’m a stickler for detail and people joke that I have a photographic memory, as I do tend to retain facts, figures, couples’ names and all their wedding details! Today, I can’t imagine doing anything else. After 25 years there’s very little that can catch met out or no problem that can’t be resolved. Weddings provide a very happy working environment: it’s a nice, feel-good job to be involved in. It’s not just an office job, I’m often on my feet too meeting people and walking them round the venue.

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What do you think makes your venue unique?

The hotel sells itself from a physical standpoint: it’s a beautiful, historic building in three acres of well-kept gardens. But I don’t think you can put a price on experience. It’s not just me that’s been here a long time. Many of us in the wedding team have built a career at Holdsworth House. Tracy, our Master of Ceremonies, has been here over 30 years, our General Manager around 10 years. When you have such a consistent, experienced team the confidence rubs off on guests and couples; they can relax fully and enjoy their day knowing they’re in safe hands. I also believe that because Holdsworth House is independent (owned by the same family since 1962), there’s a level of care, love and attention that you feel compelled to give; you truly go out of your way because its personal. We really are a family at the hotel.

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How do you get to know your couples before the big day?

We have an initial meeting, and we discuss lots of ideas. Essentially, we listen first. We need to understand the couple’s needs, expectations and their personal touches/requirements. We then invite them in for a series of meetings or wedding menu tastings. By the time the wedding comes, it’s like we’re close friends! I’m really proud that people open up to me but it’s important that I remain professional – in the run up to a wedding, many people want to be given clear, detailed advice, and they look to me as the provider of that assurance. In many cases I’m holding couples’ secrets too, whether that be a surprise element of the day or some deeply personal information that they don’t want to reveal to guests. I must always remain completely discreet and supportive. Throughout the lead-up to their big day, our coupes will meet all the team within Holdsworth House. When they come for their wedding tasting, they’ll get to know the award-winning kitchen and restaurant team. When they select their accommodation, they’ll bump into our fantastic housekeepers. And, of course, everyone is always warmly greeted by our reception staff who have incredible knowledge and a can-do attitude. By the day of the wedding, our operations team has already been fully briefed and is ready to spring into action – it’s like watching all the cogs of a well-oiled machine working together.

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What do you think makes for the perfect wedding?

For the couple it’s when you can completely let go and be in the moment. Inevitably things will change because people – like the weather – are unpredictable. But when you can truly trust the team around you to deliver, and you can look back on your wedding day with multiple ‘wow’ moments, then that’s when you’ve had the perfect wedding. It’s not about quantity, it’s 100% about quality.

What is your #1 wedding planning tip for couples?

Make sure you book your venue and registrar (if applicable) early. Once that’s in place everything else can follow on in due course.

What do you love about Bridebook?

We meet so many amazing couples through Bridebook. Each has a unique story and it’s a privilege to be part of such personal events. Bridebook is excellent for helping guide couples and help them plan, it’s very much in line with our ethos.

What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve had?

I love it when couples bring their dogs to weddings to as ring-bearers. We also get Eric our resident cat photo-bombing some wedding pictures. Whilst most of our weddings are for 80 – 100 guests, we have some absolutely stunning small and intimate weddings. Our Stone Gazebo, in the hotel gardens, is the smallest licensed venue in England and only accommodates 10 people, so super-romantic ceremonies in here are just gorgeous. Most weddings here are traditional white weddings, but we also enjoy seeing the alternative events. From outdoor garden ceremonies to super-cosy winter weddings, vintage or Steam Punk dress codes to kilts and swords and military events – every wedding is different. In October 2021, we hosted the wedding of a couple who had met at a literary event we’d held at the hotel the previous year. There were so many poignant moments, you couldn’t help getting sucked into the fairy tale. Our couple had been inspired by the TV Show ‘Gentleman Jack’, which was filmed nearby in Halifax. Not only did the true story of Anne Lister inspire them, but they were able to track down suppliers that the TV show had used – like the jeweller who made the costume jewellery for the actors. They were an incredible, fun couple and they just celebrated what the essence of being married was all about – LOVE!!

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Why should a couple book Holdsworth House Hotel & Restaurant?

Honestly? You can relax completely here. We’ve been hosting weddings for over 50 years, not many venues can say that and we’re not going anywhere; we’re a very robust business. We’re flexible, knowledgeable and great with people obviously! At the end of the day, as beautiful as a venue is it’s the people – the interaction between the guests and the team – that make the difference. The fact that we have stunning photo backdrops and gardens is of course a huge bonus! The other reason is that we make hosting your wedding so easy. Some venues are forever putting in barriers, saying what you can’t do. We say what you CAN do, and we’ll pull out the stops to make your dream wedding happen. We really do take care of everything, with genuine care and attention. The whole team is involved so you’re not rely on one person for everything – what if you can’t get hold of that one person?

What’s the best photo spot at Holdsworth House Hotel & Restaurant?

There are lots of Insta-friendly spots at Holdsworth House. If you’ve got a dress with a train, then a photo going down the stairs is beautiful. Our restaurant and halls have been called a ‘photographer’s dream’ by a well-known Insta photographer (for its natural light and character). But my favourite spot is out the front of the hotel in the gardens with the historic facade behind you – it’s completely timeless.

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What part of your business are you most proud of?

The team, without a doubt and our honesty and integrity. We’re a friendly bunch and we do have a laugh. Everyone is very professional, truly cares and takes things personally.

How do you feel technology is changing the industry?

It really helped during the pandemic when couples were restricted on numbers of guests. We had live-stream weddings, which meant people who couldn’t be there in person could still witness the event. Technology has changed how some couples use suppliers, we see lots of people designing and printing their own stationery, people discussing their flower arrangements over Zoom or email, and looking for inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest.

Any final advice for a couple?

Food is a very important part of your day, so be sure your venue includes menu tastings. Ask your venue if it runs a ‘fresh banqueting service’ like we do at Holdsworth House i.e., do they cook your wedding breakfast fresh rather than plating and reheating? It’s surprising what a difference it can make to the taste and quality. If the last 50 years has taught us anything, it’s how to turn out the kind of food served in our fine-dining restaurant on a large scale.

A huge thank you to Claire Nicholl for answering our questions. Check out Holdsworth House Hotel & Restaurant on Bridebook!

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