One Magazine’s Jake Tucker meets Claire & Richard Down, the inspirational couple behind Cullompton’s award-winning blank canvas wedding venue to find out more about their passion for creating unique wedding days without compromise

Q: First things first, how did Upton Barn & Walled Garden come about?
When we decided to ‘tie the knot’ we looked at other local wedding venues, but couldn’t find one that allowed us to do everything we wanted to. At the time our walled garden was completely overgrown and our cider barn had not been used for many years, both were crying out to be rescued! We realised that by giving them a new lease of life, we could have the wedding of our dreams and our home would then become something unique that we could share with other couples on their wedding day… and so the idea was born!

Q: How did you tackle such a huge renovation project?
Richard and I managed the project from start to finish. My father and his team of builders came to stay with us for six months to help with the renovation which meant we could really get stuck in and get our hands dirty. I managed the procurement, budget and health and safety aspects of the build, so wasn’t always the most popular person on site! Richard did a lot of the manual work and head scratching, at times the scale of the project was overwhelming, but we couldn’t be happier with what we have now achieved.

Q: The creation of your perfect wedding venue came about specifically for you as a couple. Was it strange when you first shared it with others?
It was a little surreal. We were actually guests at the first wedding at Upton. The couple married in a local church, then headed back to Upton for their reception and I recall Richard saying to me in the car “Do you find this a little strange, we are going home, but to their wedding reception?!” There was also a small amount of apprehension, as Richard and I had put so much of ourselves into the renovation, what if people didn’t share our dream? But these feelings were short lived. When we arrived we were overcome with emotion; it was so special to see the bride and groom so happy, it reminded us of our wedding day.

Q: Everyone wants their special day to be perfect, and by creating your own venue you were able to achieve exactly that for yourselves. Does that desire you once had help drive you to create the perfect wedding day for other couples?
Although the idea of creating Upton Barn & Walled garden came about whilst planning our own wedding, we designed the venue with both us and others in mind. It was so important for us to be able to have our day, our way, and this passion continues to drive us to deliver a venue where couples feel completely relaxed and free to create a wedding day that is totally unique to them.

Q: What sets you apart from other venues in the area?
It was so important to us to find a blank canvas venue that enabled us to create a wedding day that was completely unique to us and that’s why we provide our couples with access the day before to dress the venue, and the freedom to choose their own suppliers. Although we include the bar for their evening reception, couples also have the option to provide their own alcohol throughout their day and we do not charge a corkage. Our prices are completely transparent and we don’t believe in hidden extras. We also manage the venue personally, so from the minute couples get in touch with us, right through to their big day, we are on hand to offer as much or as little support as they need. Upton is a blank canvas venue where there is no need for compromise.

Q: You’ve just bagged yourselves Best South West Countryside Wedding Venue, and Best Newcomer at the regional heat of the 2016 Wedding Industry Awards – an incredible achievement! Did you ever think you’d receive such high accolades?
We consider ourselves to have extremely high standards and strive to achieve such high accolades, but we never dreamed we would achieve this award in our first year! We are extremely proud of what we have done so far, and we are now really excited to be going to London in January for the national finals!

Q: Top tips for any couples planning a wedding but have no idea where to start?
There are so many ideas out there on Pinterest, magazines and blogs, it can all be overwhelming. Although these tools are a great source of information for ideas, it is really important to stay true to you and remember what is important to you both. The most important thing is to pick a venue that will support you throughout the whole process and on your big day. Once you have chosen the right venue, everything else will then just fall into place.

Q: What does the future hold for Upton?
We want to grow Upton Barn & Walled Garden into an award winning venue that delivers on every level! Through our experience we would like to build up a portfolio of local quality suppliers who we can recommend to our couples to assist them in seamlessly creating their perfect day.

Find out more about Upton Barn & Walled Garden at: www.uptonbarn.com

Photo credits to:
Maxi Photography www.maxiphotography.com
Mal Roberts Photography

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