Weddings are big business in Gower and for one venue at least that means handling some unusual requests. RICHARD YOULE reports.
WHEN you are helping to fulfil people’s dreams, surreal moments come with the territory.
The wedding team at Oldwalls have had requests that have tested their resourcefulness, but that is all part of the fun.
Last year the North Gower wedding venue was transformed, Alice in Wonderland style, for a mad hatter’s tea party-themed wedding.
”We had umbrellas hanging from the roof, giant cups, saucers and teapots, and buoys in the grounds,” says Oldwalls marketing manager Shakira Obaid.
”We’ve got a request in the pipeline for a Twilight-themed wedding, based on the vampire love story, with fairy lights and candelabra.
”Nobody’s big day is the same. We don’t book it as a package, and we will never say ’no’ until we have explored it.”
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What Shakira and her team call their little white book of contacts — a who’s who of wedding suppliers — usually comes into play at this stage.
But sometimes, she says, the bride and groom are keen to source materials themselves to add their very own stamp to the venue’s appearance.
Shakira, 26, says Oldwalls has also put on country-themed and Asian weddings and that it is rare for requests to be turned down, although ostrich burgers did not materialise at one wedding, as had initially been hoped for.
Oldwalls, owned and built up by brothers Andrew and Simon Hole, is set in 50 acres of grounds and can accommodate 40 guests in the main courtyard and a further 20 in the glamping area between April and October.
But weddings are the former pony farm’s primary function, says 26-year-old Shakira, of Cardiff.
Most couples and their guests are from the Swansea area, she says, but more and more bookings are from further afield.
”People come down our drive and say it’s really peaceful,” she says. ”It’s rustic and rural — it’s the principle of a hidden gem.”
Oldwalls has three staff in sales and marketing and six in the wedding coordinating team — and the atmosphere among them, says Shakira, is pretty upbeat.
”We are not planning funerals; we are planning weddings. Everyone is happy when they come to us.”
Oldwalls is by no means the only wedding venue in Gower, but Shakira reckons they do things a bit differently.
She stresses that competition in the area is healthy.
”It’s putting Gower on the map, and it’s nice to see Gower thrive,” she says.
GOWER councillor Richard Lewis says he reckons the wedding industry is worth some £24 million per year to the local economy.
He says he based this figure on breakdowns from wedding venues and suppliers in Gower while supporting the Oxwich Bay Hotel in its efforts to grow its wedding provision.
”Now they are rushed off their feet there,” says Mr Lewis. ”And there are six or seven venues in Gower which are really full pelt.
”I think Gower has probably got the best wedding industry in Wales.
”They have all got local staff and use local suppliers in Swansea.
”This is why I feel so precious about looking after the industry here.”
The King Arthur Hotel, Reynoldston, and nearby Fairyhill, host weddings, as does Ocean View Windmill, Llanrhidian. A new player on the scene is Carreg Adventure at Stouthall, also near Reynoldston.
”The industry also attracts people from all over Europe,” adds Mr Lewis, whose friends from Italy had a wedding at the Oxwich Bay Hotel.
”They thought it was a fantastic location, and I have a feeling that they drank the bar dry!”
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