Shaftesbury Town Council is promoting our town across Dorset as a great wedding venue.
22 local businesses have been invited to showcase the products and services they can offer anyone planning a ceremony, during an event at the Town Hall. Tracy Moxham says this is a new initiative for the Council.
“It’s the first time the Town Council has decided to organise a wedding fair and hopefully it will encourage people to come in and have a look and see what we can offer for their ceremony,” said Tracy. “It doesn’t have to be a wedding. It could be a civil partnership, a naming ceremony, whatever they wish to hold here.”
Tracy says the Town Hall team decided to host an event to promote the town and the Town Hall as a wedding venue. “It was a discussion that we had in the office. We had noticed that our wedding bookings had started to dwindle off slightly so we thought we needed to promote it. We do between eight and ten a year, so we have scope to do a lot more,” Tracy said.
And the fair is a first for Dorset-based wedding venue stylist Rachel Pertee, too. Town Clerk Claire Commons had been impressed by one of Rachel’s wedding room transformations, so Claire approached Rachel and asked her to arrange the event. “I usually attend them, but this is the first time I’ve been involved in deciding who is going to come and in helping plan the day.”
Rachel says she’s pleased by the support she’s received. Shaftesbury businesses have embraced the idea of a wedding fair. “We’ve had a great response, so much so that we’ve had to turn people away because we don’t have enough space for everybody to exhibit on this occasion. It was really well received by everybody,” Rachel said.
Rachel is pleased at the range of businesses represented. “They literally cover everything that you would possibly need when you plan a wedding, from bridal hair and make up through to cars and photo booths.”
One of those venues taking part is the Trinity Centre. Trudie Stanley is a trustee of the local not-for-profit organisation that has recently spent thousands upgrading their function facilities in the former Victorian Church. “We are very pleased to have been invited by Shaftesbury Town Council. We are going to take along some promotional material showcasing Trinity and showing our newly decorated hall and facilities. We’re very excited to be part of it,” Trudie said.
Rachel has worked her magic with dozens of wedding and celebration spaces across Dorset, ready for the couple’s big day. She says the Town Hall’s upstairs area is special. “It’s a quirky space. It has stunning views over Gold Hill from one side. I won’t say it’s old-fashioned but it’s very unusual with lots of wood and different aspects to it that other venues don’t have,” said Rachel. “It’s also quite an intimate venue, which is nice if somebody is not having a huge wedding. When you see it dressed up for a wedding it looks quite different to how you might have seen it in the past. I’m quite excited to showcase it.”
People may well associate the Council chamber with meetings. “It’s very much about transforming the room and making it look less like a Council office, just with the use of the correct decor, props and lighting,” said Rachel.
Tracy says the stunning setting takes some beating. “It looks very nice when we have dressed up a wedding and most people opt to face Gold Hill when they’re getting married, with a wonderful view.”
Rachel believes that the Council has found a gap in the market. “We feel that Shaftesbury is an area that hasn’t had a lot in the way of wedding fairs and it is what we consider to be an untapped area for this kind of event.”
She has advertised the event across Dorset and says that it has generated a great deal of interest. “We’ve had a really good response on Facebook and Instagram of the event when we have shared details into local groups. Lots of brides-to-be have been commenting and saying that they would like to come along. It seems to be a very popular area for people to come to. I’m hoping that a lot of people will come through the doors,” Rachel said.
Tracy hopes this event will encourage more people to come and spend in Shaftesbury. “A lot of the people who get married in the Town Hall come from outside the area. I think it could be the Gold Hill thing. People Google it. We’ve had several people from London come here and get married. We’ve had them from Lymington, Sussex and Surrey but not that many from Dorset,” said Tracy. Council staff and councillors will be hoping this event will change that, too.
If you’re planning a celebration soon, Rachel says you just need to visit the Town Hall and everyone you need to talk with will be there, under one roof “You just need to turn up at the Town Hall in Shaftesbury from 11am onwards on Sunday, 20th January. We will be running until 3pm and there is no charge to come in. Grab a goodie bag, which will contain leaflets and a few freebies and work your way around the different suppliers. Say ‘hello’, get information, find out who we all are and what we can do for you,” Rachel said.
And even if you’re not planning a wedding soon, Rachel says many of the companies offer services that might still be of interest. “Even if they don’t intend to get married in Shaftesbury they might just want to come along and see what the suppliers have to offer,” said Rachel.
Tracy says if the turnout is good and attending businesses are happy, Shaftesbury Town Council could consider making the wedding fair an annual fixture. “We would certainly like to do it again if it is a success,” said Tracy. “We will be counting the number of people coming through and asking for feedback from all exhibitors and yes, we’d love to do it next year and hopefully will be able to include more local companies to join us.”