Just thirty minutes drive from Melbourne, situated on the sprawling hills at the gateway to the Yarra Valley wine region, Bramleigh Estate is a romantic Hamptons-style wedding venue for the modern bride. It's a secluded gem surrounded by natural bushland, offering all-in-one services for couples looking to have a lush Hampton style wedding within a big city. Today, we sit down with Emily from the weddings and events team to chat about decor, wedding trends, guest numbers and the Bramleigh Estate venue.
How did Bramleigh Estate start as a wedding venue?
It all started with Bram Leigh Receptions based in Croydon. Our Director, Mary-Anne Lowe owned the Croydon property for 11 years before moving to Warrandyte when she purchased our venue here about five years ago, and it became Bramleigh Estate. When Mary was on holiday at a hotel and restaurant in Santa Monica, she fell in love with the venue and decided to bring that look and feel back to this new location. While Bramleigh Estate is young in terms of the physical space of the venue, our wedding and event team has been in the industry for a couple of decades.
Can you give me a tour of Bramleigh Estate?
You can group Bramleigh Estate into three sections. We have a beautiful and extensive decking on the side of our property, and we host most of our ceremonies there. It's gorgeous because you're looking at 10 acres of bushland, and the perimeter of our venues is lined with white roses. This time of year, everything's in full bloom. It's beautiful.
Moving indoors, the front foyer has a beautiful stone fireplace, our bar area, and a velvet lounge. Off to the side, you've got our VIP suite, a space for our couples to freshen up and have their dressing area. Next is the main dining room, which has space for the guest tables, dance floor, and all those exquisite exposed beams on a high ceiling.
Melbourne weather is known to be unpredictable. Is there a backup plan for the outdoor ceremony?
We usually make that call about two hours before guests' arrival. We use the foyer space for our wet weather ceremonies. There is a beautiful stone fireplace, which many couples use as their backdrop, and sometimes, there will be beautiful flower arrangements on the mantelpiece rather than a freestanding arbour.
How many guests can the venue comfortably seat?
We can seat 100 upwards of 350 guests. 100 is our suggested minimum because the venue is a large open-plan space. 99% of our clients will choose a sit-down style wedding, but we can also do cocktail style, but not many will opt for that.
Every wedding venue has that secret spot where photographers can capture a unique bride and groom moment. What are some of your photo picks for Bramleigh Estate?
We have a little pocket of gum trees on our back lawn that I like. If you get a photo there, it looks like you're in the middle of the forest with woodland vibes, but you're literally just by the venue. The driveway, when you first arrive at the property, especially when the roses are in full bloom as you come up, and the lawns are always immaculate. Walking down the driveway with the property in the background is a candid shot moment. My last pick would be our VIP suite. There's lots of natural light in there; everything has a Hamptons feel to it with the white. It's a charming place to shoot the quiet and private moments between the couple.
How does a couple start their wedding journey with you?
From the initial inquiry, our sales team will have a phone conversation to understand what the client is looking for and personalise the experience. We will ask about the dates they have in mind, the styles and guest numbers, and if our venue works for them, we will book a site inspection. During the on-site tour, we will learn more about what the couple are after for their special day. If a couple would like to proceed with a booking, they pay a deposit and sign a booking contract. For couples who are still shopping around or if we are their first venue but are still quite keen to hold a date with us, we allow tentative holds for five days to give them peace of mind while they decide.
The couple is introduced to their wedding coordinator when we receive the signed contract and deposit. The coordinators are there to touch base whenever needed; they will ramp up the planning with our clients four months before the wedding. More formal meetings, questions, and spreadsheets will be provided in that period. Additionally, we have a wedding planning guide we give out to our couples upon booking. It contains helpful tips and tricks, a checklist of where to start, questions to help guide the couples to communicate what they envision and a list of all our vendors and partners.
What wedding packages does Bramleigh Estate offer?
Couples can choose from an all-inclusive Hamptons wedding package, which is Bramleigh Estate providing the catering and some styling for them. Alternatively, couples can opt to do a venue hire-only package. This means they still have the coordination team with the planning and all the physical styling items included. However, the food and beverage component would come through the client's chosen caterer.
Our Hampton package will include a wedding coordinator, and they are there on your day to ensure everything's set precisely how a couple has planned it with them. They do meet and greet, but they don't work the wedding reception. For the whole wedding day, every couple is assigned a VIP host. They are the ones to look after you from walking down the aisle, if you've got mud on your shoe, if you've got a stain on your shirt, they are just there to help with anything on the day and to make sure you've always got a drink, or something to eat if you're thirsty or hungry. So they're the best friend for the couple. Then, you also have an operations manager who runs the event in terms of liaising with your band, DJ, MC, kitchen, and everyone in between.
Regarding physical items, our package includes quite a lot with our styling. We have fresh green and white floral centrepieces with real flowers, silver stands, seating charts, table numbers, wishing wells, tea light candles, five options for linen napkins, and many bits and pieces. There are mics for speeches and built-in ceiling speakers for couples who want to play their playlists. The only thing we don't include is your entertainment, screens for presentation and any extra decorations for your ceremony or head wedding tables.
We know a wedding venue can lay the groundwork for everything else, like the decor and the bridal outfit. What is the ideal timeline for couples locking in a venue during the wedding planning timeline?
12 to 18 months is probably the norm, with 18 months being the ideal. We do have most of our couples now looking into 2025. In saying that, the shortest turnaround we've done here is six weeks.
Food is an essential part of the wedding and is often seen as a way for guests to bond and celebrate. Is catering included, and is there flexibility to cater to different palates?
For our Hampton Package, we have an open bar with all-inclusive, free-flowing local wine and ciders and non-alcoholic beverages for the reception. The food menu caters to warm and cooler-style dishes. This time of year, seafood and the beef tenderloin main course are super popular. Our couples are invited to a complimentary tasting four to six months before their wedding, and they get to select their menu. Our chefs are flexible depending on our clients' palates. For example, we have a calamari entree that is done with spice, and it's beautiful, but for some pallets, it's too spicy. The kitchen team have been able to adapt that into a salt and pepper calamari for those clients.
We also have many couples from ethnic backgrounds who choose our venue-hire package. There is a list of vendors and caterers we frequently work with to help them. We do a lot of work with some different Indian caterers. We do use either Crystal Palace or Silks catering quite often with our Asian clientele, and sometimes, we have a Jewish kosher caterer that comes in for our Jewish couples.
Now that we know how much is involved and included in the different packages, what budget should couples set aside if they want to choose Bramleigh Estate as their venue?
Prices will vary depending on the time of year and time of week. Suppose we're looking at something midweek in the middle of winter. In that case, they can start around $165 per person versus a peak season Saturday date at $235 per person. We charge a flat rate for couples who want our venue-hire-only package rather a per person charge. That ranges from $14,000 to $25,000, depending on the day of the week.
You've mentioned the property is lined with roses. When is the most picturesque time to hold a wedding at the estate?
Our peak season is start of October to April, as the roses will get pruned outside of that. But it’s still beautiful and green outside that time frame because we've got the evergreen gum trees and the grass all around us.
Having such a diverse spectrum of couples, what are your top memorable wedding moments?
When people bring their traditional culture or personality into their wedding. I think that's when we find it the most fun and memorable. We recently had a beautiful Islander wedding, where the couple and their family members wore traditional grass skirts and did a beautiful dance performance for the guests. So that's very sweet. In a few of our Indian weddings, the groom arrived on a horse as part of the ceremony called the Baraat. We had a Sri Lankan wedding where there was a 10-minute parade to come down the aisle. Dancers are doing cool backflips; everyone is dressed in traditional clothes and playing different instruments. Of course, we can't go past the Chinese lion dances at reception time too.
Finally, while every couple and wedding is unique, trends always come and go. What are some of the 2023/24 wedding trends that you see for brides?
We've had lots of trends that have just recently come in. Increasingly popular in the last six months, many couples are starting to combine earthy tones like burnt orange and toffee with the white of our venue. Pearls are frequently seen in either the accessories or in the veils. As for dresses, those older-style or vintage dresses with beautiful puffy sleeves like the 80s are coming back into fashion with a more modern bodice. The more traditional styles are making a return with more regal, minimalist looks and thick satins.
All images are provided courtesy of Bramleigh Estates. For more information on Bramleigh Estate and how Emily and her team can help you with your big day, see here.
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