Introducing Christine, Principal Planner at Ellesley Events
Hello, I am Christine from Ellesley Events. Here is a picture from what can only be described as the most perfect, best day of my life so far, or the BEST. DAY. EVENT! as we affectionately describe it in the Ellesley household.
This picture is happiness personified, literally a blushing bride... but before we get onto this amazing day and why I decided to launch Ellesley Events, let me tell you a little bit about me.
Are you sitting comfortably, then I'll begin...
I started my wedding and events career back in 2002, at the tender age of 17. I enrolled to study for an AVCE in Travel and Tourism, which is the same as 2 A Levels. During this course I was expected to complete a one week work experience placement. So after a lot of consideration, I decided to reach out to my local big hotels to ask for some work experience on their reception desk. The reply I got back from The Nottingham Moat House Hotel is what has shaped my whole career thus far. The Moat House was happy to help and my one week receptionist work experience quickly turned into a full time job. As a receptionist, you are the gatekeeper for the whole hotel, you are the source of all knowledge with many different roles to juggle. The year I spent in this position gave me a great professional grounding and an insight into all possible career paths available in the hospitality industry.
My next more was to Lakeside, a beautiful Grade 2* listed converted Victorian water pumping station in Nottingham. The building had been lovingly converted into a bar, restaurant, brasserie, gym, spa and (this is where it all began) a wedding venue. I started as a Trainee Manager and then was quickly promoted to Restaurant Manager. The promotion was very exciting for me, as it meant I was going to run my own weddings. During my time at Lakeside I ran approximately 200 weddings, all silver service, some exclusive use where they had the entire building. I also started showing prospective couples around and discussing package options, this is where the wedding planning bug bit.
After a few years at Lakeside I had experienced all aspects of the business, including admin and accounting in the office. With all of my experiences in mind I made my decision about where my next step would take me... My decision was, you guessed it, wedding planning!
My next role was as a Wedding and Events Co-ordinator at the Renaissance Derby Nottingham Hotel, which changed to the Principal Hayley Derbyshire Hotel whilst I was there. I loved my role, I had found my calling. I organised over 100 weddings, multiple events and wedding fayres. Even including amazing fashion shows during the fayres.
The Derbyshire Hotel was a lovely wedding venue, but it is very corporate. So my next move was to a real, spectacular wedding venue, Breadsall Prior, a Marriott Hotel and Country Club. What can I say about Breadsall Priory, it is stunning! It is a venue that gives you the wow factor as soon as you pull into the long tree lined driveway... yes, one of those venue's. I felt so very lucky to work in such an amazing place. Bride and Grooms fell in love as soon as they pulled up, so my job was lovely, working with very happy and excited couples. Along with my fellow Special Events Co-ordinator, we planned over 120 weddings a year, plus special events and wedding fayres. I adored Breadsall, but after a year the time came to move to Bedfordshire due to my partner at the time getting a new job there. This move gave me an opportunity to again decide whether I wanted to carry on planning or delivering weddings and events.
For a change I decided to go back to delivering weddings and special events, as a Restaurant and Bars Manager at the Barns Hotel in Bedford. Once again I enjoyed the variety of the role and loved celebrating with many couples, but soon I longed for the planning side. I missed being there from the beginning of the journey. So my next move came quicker then expected.
The Hilton Hotel in Watford was my new home, I remained her for a couple of years. This was the biggest hotel I had worked in and definitely the busiest, I learnt a lot whist there. Our largest suite could seat nearly 600 guests, so we attracted a lot of Asian and Jewish weddings, all bringing in their own approved caterers. I was in a team of seven, three Group, Conference and Event Executives (this included me), an administrator, two Group Reservation Co-ordinators and the Sales Team Manager.
What followed was one of the biggest career moves I have made to date, I had applied for and got a Wedding and Events Sales Manager position at the Kettering Park Hotel and Spa. This was a big deal, I was now in charge, a leader, the buck stopped with me. At the same time my current relationship broke down and our wedding was cancelled, so this new exciting move gave me something to really throw myself into. My challenge was to increase our wedding bookings as they were not looking too good. It is a beautiful venue, so I took things back to basics, to good old customer service. Making sure we followed up every enquiry in a timely manner, being there for appointments when it suited our couples and making them feel special. This was the role that really made me appreciate the term 'people buy people'. I loved hearing about newly engaged couples idea's and learning what was special to them, and they loved sharing with me. We soon turned our bookings around. What followed was lots of hosting and attending wedding fayres. There are two wedding fayre seasons a year, Spring and Autumn. During these seasons, you could guarantee that we were at every single local wedding show!
I didn't have any plans to leave Kettering Park, but an opportunity presented itself, one that I could not refuse. Silverstone Circuit needs no introduction... it is the Home of British Motorsport, the British Formula One and Moto GP Grand Prix. My Dad has always been a Formula One fan, my Sunday childhood memories are of eating a Sunday roast with the drone of the cars in the background on the TV, so by default I was a fan. Their offer was for me to become a Corporate Account Manager and to launch Weddings at Silverstone. At first I had a few niggles, I mean I knew weddings inside and out, but I had never launched them, especially for such an iconic venue! I put my fears to one side and said yes to the offer. I was given a £100k budget, a Marketing Assistant and told to get on with it, a free rein. Wow! Looking back on this I realise the enormity of the task that I had been given, I didn't really appreciate it fully at the time.
Silverstone was everything I had imagined and more. It was and is a special place to me. Not only because I launched weddings at Silverstone, attending the national Wedding Show and got to work with amazing clients such as Pizza Hut, Coca Cola, Tesco and GAME. But because I met my now husband there, David.
I must admit I can not remember the first time I met David, he can though. Apparently it was a very cold Easter Monday, I was in conducing wedding 'Wing Walks' and he was strapped into the passenger seat of an Ariel Atom giving Personal Tuition to a novice driver. The first time I remember meeting David was a month later, on a hot Saturday, the 4th May 2013 to be exact. We just hit it off, we talked for about an hour before he was called away to move an Aston Martin, removed away from me by a protective senior instructor. The Silverstone Instructors had a reputation and some of the older boys took it upon themselves to look after me. The same senior instructor pulled to one side a couple of days later to tell me that David, was one of the good guys. Our first date was a few days later... anyway I have digressed, back to the story.
David lived in Suffolk, so I am sure you can see where the next move takes me. In 2014 I moved to the beautiful county of Suffolk to live with David. His race team is based in Suffolk, so it made more sense for me to move to him rather then him to me.
I had reached another crossroad in my career, I knew I loved weddings and events, but I also felt like I wanted to try something new, make a difference in a different way. So I applied for and was offered a job as a Home Admissions Advisor for Gracewell Healthcare. Gracewell Healthcare offer care homes for the elderly, focusing on residential, nursing and dementia care. My role was to help families during the difficult and scary time of finding a suitable care home for their loved one. This was the complete opposite to what I had done before. During my previous roles I was helping couples to plan one of the best days of their lives, they wanted to spend time with me and book, now I was a representative for something that, if we are honest, no one ever wants to buy. Which is why my role was so important. I was there to guide, assist, hug, support and cry with them, which I must admit I sometimes did. The role of Home Admissions Advisor is a tough and lonely role, I was exposed to illness' that prior to working for Gracewell I had not heard of. The role grounded me and really made me appreciate life and what I have. It also helped me to cut out everything that wasn't important. I feel my time at Gracewell Healthcare has made me a better and stronger person.
In 2017 during our winter holiday in Miami, David proposed! Of course I said yes, you have seen the proof above!
I absolutely loved planning my wedding, it reminded me of my time working in the wedding industry and reignited my passion. It was during this time that I decided I was going to launch a wedding and events business after my wedding. I had a plan, after all a dream is only a goal without a plan.
David and I got married on Monday 5th November 2018. We then went on honeymoon to St Lucia for 10 nights. Both our wedding and honeymoon were pure bliss.
In December 2018 I started work on Ellesley Events, first the website, then the logo and so on... On the 29th March 2019 Ellesley Events was officially launched, we were live! For my own wedding I chose the best suppliers and venue, all of which I work with now with Ellesley Events.
Now back to the blushing bride at the top, me on my wedding day. Now there is no denying that I had the best day of my life so far, however, there were a few things that could have made it even better. In hindsight I should have hired a wedding planner, not for the planning or the run up, because after all that is my trade, but for the actual day. I had the entire day plan in my head, I was the wall planner, the order of service. I was the one saying to my new husband, we should be serving canapes now, what time is it... luckily my wedding gift to David was a watch. During the evening I was saying where is the cake we are late cutting it and we are supposed to be doing out first dance now, all of this rather than mingling with my hand picked guests.
Don't get me wrong, our wedding venue was amazing, this isn't a reflection on them. I should have thought ahead, hired a wedding planner and downloaded everything from my head into theirs. So rather than me in the kitchen looking for the team it would have been them. The day was perfect, but the result of me 'being on the clock' all day resulted in extreme fatigue as soon as the last scheduled item had finished, which was about 9pm. Now I did pull myself together and partied on until about 11pm, but I would have loved to have had the energy to party on until the last reveler left at midnight.
Six months on, David and are very happy in our lovely house in Elmsett, with our cat Molly and horse Layla.
I hope that you have enjoyed my look back down memory lane, and hearing about my journey to launching Ellesley Events.