Something Borrowed Something Roo: When it all Goes Wrong…

When I got a text from Roo just before Christmas saying “erm…I think we might have to cancel our wedding…our wedding venue is being shut down” my heart skipped a beat. You know when people say “oh I know exactly how you feel…” but actually, really, they don’t? Well in this case I could reply those words with utmost sincerity. Our wedding venue pulled out of our wedding just three months before our day. That’s a story for another time, but I did have 100% confidence in my reply “Roo, everything with be OKAY. You won’t have to cancel your wedding”…

Photography Credit: internet k-hole

You know that phrase “rollercoaster of emotions”? I hate it. It’s up there with countless other overused phrases that initially sound incredibly profound, but actually they’re just unbearably hollow and totally meaningless. When you have a hatred for something that burns as deep as mine does for this, then you can imagine my turmoil when suddenly, out of nowhere, I found that it actually applied to me. A bitter taste, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now, I won’t be offended if you’re sitting there and thinking what on earth is she rabbiting on about? – because really, I get that all the time. So I’ll tell you: after all the fussing and fighting of finding our wedding venue, we all sank comfortably into the cushions of wedding planning bliss, and looked forward to enjoying a real family-orientated Christmas before we thunder-bolted into the new year with the rest of our arrangements.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how you always remember where you were when you received bad news? It was a dull afternoon on December 2nd, 2011, and I had just come home to show Lamb some of the Christmas gifts I’d managed to pick up. My phone chirruped with a text message from my friend and bridesmaid, Rea, and I glanced to read it almost absent-mindedly (my attention span is mortifyingly weak) until I saw what it said. Simply, “have you heard about the CUC?”

You know when you just know? Well I just knew. My fingers sort of became haunted with this ghost that wanted to text back and ask the question that I already knew the answer to: what about the CUC? – but the truth is that I already knew in my heart of hearts that what it was about was that it was no longer our wedding venue. To read her reply, “it’s closing down” was no more illuminating than my intuition, which had supposed that our gorgeous venue had either been washed away by a flash flood or had been completely overrun by mean and scary ghosts – two perfectly understandable reasons for closure that I absolutely could not have argued with no matter how much I was crying. And I was crying a lot. Buckets, you might say. Rea told us to look online, and sure enough in black and blue it was there for all to see on their website:

 “CUC TO CLOSE ITS DOORS 3RD JANUARY 2012

They cited public sector cuts as the reason for their closure, but as a bride on the receiving end it did not compute; all I could see in my mind’s eye was that room; flashes of that iron spiral staircase and those Chesterfield sofas and how we cried when my dad put our wedding deposit down because we realised that we had actually set a date. The Contemporary Urban Centre was not just a wedding venue to me, it was the wedding venue that had helped us over the hurdle we felt we’d fallen at, it was the wedding venue that finally made our wedding seem real – it was our wedding venue, and now it was gone, and it didn’t matter how many times I read it or re-read it – it just didn’t make any sense to me.

Contemporary Urban Centre

It also didn’t make a blind bit of sense to me that this press release had gone public without us being notified first. I had the CUC on redial, ready for a kick-off, when eventually their wedding co-ordinator, Adele, returned my messages. I started to spit out my complaint when I heard that she was crying, just like me – not only had we lost our venue that morning, she’d lost her job, too. It suddenly became apparent that it had been an absolute shock announcement, with 28 other couples in the same position as us – some of them due to hold their wedding just days after the closure date. Adele insisted that she’d tried to speak to us all before 12pm when the press release was published, but that it had been impossible. We started to understand, but it was by no means any easier. Things had already been so hard for us and now we had to face it all over again, in even more of a daze.

Contemporary Urban Centre

Looking at these photographs still hurt. We were going to get married in front of that staircase, in front of our nearest and dearest, and walk up it to our dressed tables for a wonderful meal. As we ate, the area downstairs would be cleared to make way for an evening of dancing. I can still see the light pouring in through its stained-glass windows, and I can still feel the spring of the carpet under my feet. It still hurts.

When the initial shock and that pang of what the frig are we gonna do now? had settled, we decided to keep a scout out online, and I enlisted the help of Kat who turned to her Twitter congregation for suggestions. If you were one of the people who selflessly and tirelessly helped and supported us through that first week of searching, then thank you. Reactions were varied – most were as shocked and disappointed as we were, and some expressed their excitement that maybe we could have the wedding in Brighton like we always wanted. Not so. For our families’ happiness, it still had to be in Liverpool, and our options were slim.

The CUC’s wedding co-ordinator, Adele, kept in regular contact with us as much as she could over the Christmas period, and she introduced us to an alternative she’d found that was befitting of our taste as a couple.

Camp and Furnace

Camp and Furnace is a warehouse building situated a few hundred yards from the Contemporary Urban Centre. With the news that the CUC was closing, it’s reported that C&F jumped on the opportunity to establish themselves as a wedding venue – they quickly applied for a wedding license and there were immediate plans to renovate the space in the coming year – including an on-site kitchen, reception bar, outdoor BBQ space and a retro caravan “indoor camping hotel” (I know, insane). The area pictured, the Furnace room, would be left untouched as a bare warehouse space, which could be dressed according to the function it was being hired for. Our initial despair at losing the CUC had been met with a glimmer of hope, but viewing it was going to be a problem with our busy work and university schedules, coupled with the fact that it was Christmas season. Our festive visit to Liverpool left us with one day free to see C&F before it closed over Christmas, and it just so happened that the day we got to view it fell after a huge warehouse rave held there. It wasn’t ideal, but we had to make the best of it.

Neither Adele nor the manager Ian were available to show us around, so we had guided tour from one of their events people who specialised in the club nights side of things, as opposed to weddings and “formal” events. Being creative people, Lamb and I found ourselves able to visualise how the space might look full to the brim with guests, music and décor, but the same can’t be said of our parents, who hated it. I can’t really blame them – for most it’s incredibly difficult to see past that stale beer aroma and the sight of bottle caps all over the floor – and it was definitely the nail in the coffin for our parents. I physically shudder when I think of their reactions – a further blow to our ever-dwindling hopefulness, and we were left feeling very aware that we might not be able to have the kind of wedding we wanted. I think the really stinging point came for me when I was told that somewhere like C&F would be an “embarrassment” for our parents’ friends and extended family – all Lamb and I could think was, well, so? – because we can’t imagine caring for one second about what a relative stranger might think of our wedding. We just wanted it to be honest and reflective, and we were so appreciative of Adele for understanding our vision and trying so hard to make the best of a really rubbish situation.

Camp and Furnace

Trying to keep a positive spin on things, I worked with Adele via e-mail to come up with a package that would keep our parents happy – we also tried to organise another viewing at some point in the future when Adele and Ian would be there to talk us through it properly, and when the venue would be cleaner, and generally “rave-free”. In the meantime, Adele also subtly mentioned another alternative venue, almost as a side note – I even nearly missed it, in fact, as my ears failed to translate what she said in her distinctive Irish tones – but when I repeated what I thought she said to my dad, he excitedly told me that she was talking about The Florrie – officially known as The Florence Institute – an old boys’ club in Liverpool where my dad had his 21st birthday party, and where Lamb’s dad used to learn how to box when he was younger.

The Florence institute, standing proud – image via Liverpool Monuments

The Florence Institute was built in 1889 and stands in the Dingle, a relatively poor area of Liverpool. It was the first building in Britain to be constructed with the specific intent of being a boys’ social club, and was opened to occupy the poor and unemployed youths of the local area. From the 1980s onwards, it gradually fell into a state of disrepair through neglect, vandalism, natural erosion, and a freak fire that destroyed the roof in 1999. The early “noughties” saw campaigning for its regeneration grow and gain momentum, and to date the Florrie has had about £6million invested in its rebuilding. It has applied for a wedding license, and is due to reopen its doors to the public in March this year.

The Florence institute – as she stood until recently… Photography Credit: Russ Oaks

Two weeks or-so ago, I took a solo trip up to Liverpool to speak to their events manager, Hannah, about our woes. I had also arranged the aforementioned second viewing of Camp & Furnace with Adele, but earlier in the day it had been brought to my attention that there was no way our families would consider it as a viable option. Again, stinging, and I felt bad for Adele who’d gone to the trouble of making the space look extra wonderful for our visit – though I think she knew from their initial reaction that it was going to be a no-go. Without taking offense at all, she passed our case over to Hannah and came along to our initial meeting to introduce us all. As I got to know Hannah, and explained what we wanted from our wedding, nothing sounded impossible to her. Everything sounded like it could slot into place at the Florrie, but the only problem was that it is still a building site, and therefore inaccessible to the public. This meant that we are so far relying on concept images, our imaginations, and blurry Facebook photos to give us an idea of how it’s going to look.

The grand hall, where we’ll (hopefully!) be saying our vows. Photography Credit: The Florrie via (Facebook)

Hannah said she’d already pencilled our wedding date into their diary, and in March we’re going to head up north to have a proper look around, and hopefully confirm it as our venue. For now, all our other arrangements are taking a back seat – though try telling that to Lamb’s mum, who’s been e-mailing me with ‘mother of the groom’ dress ideas this week…

So, I am sure you’ll be wondering whether I have any advice – and in short, no, I don’t. Whether you’re struggling with your venue or any other aspect of your wedding, I am not about to tell you not to panic. Absolutely panic – you have every right to panic. You have every right to cry, and swear, and to punch pillows and eat junk food – you have every right to be upset. Getting married is fun when you think it’s all about cake tasting and sketching dream dress ideas, because a lot of the time it is – but sometimes, it goes the other way too. When everything was going wrong for us, Emma Case sent me the loveliest of messages reminding me that at least we had the love, and although one of my immediate reactions was still “…but we still don’t have a venue!” – she is right. Maybe it’s easier for me to say it now because things are slowly looking up again, but I think I could go through all that disappointment and all those woes a million times over if I knew that I would still have Lamb at the end of it. So if you’re stressed, remember, you have your own Lamb, too – except he/she might be called Bob, or Winifred, or Cliff, or Jennifer, or Percy. So hold them close and remember that it’ll work itself out… right after this next packet of cookies.

34 comments

  1. Roo I have my fingers crossed you get this all sorted OK, was totally gutted for you when I saw on twitter about the CUC, and since starting to plan our own day and having a similar struggle to find a venue I sympathise even more. I know whatever you settle on your day will totally kick arse though!

  2. Sam

    Aww your venue nightmare sounds awful! I’d be devastated if our venue dropped out (Getting married next May). I hope it all works out for you both. I actually work across the road from Camp and furness, behind the CUC in Elevator studio’s. Our christmas party was held at camp and furness. They decked the whole place out in fairy lights and had a picnic theme with bales of hay and checked picnic blankets – looked really nice. We sat on wooden benches/tables and ate lot’s of bizarre picnic food, teamed up with a hog roast… it was a very unusual experience. I think it worked for some people, creative folk such as ourselves and young people looking for something ‘alternative’ but for the older people they didn’t really get it. I can see what your family/parents mean, its not very traditional at all. It is quite cold too, everyone was sat all wrapped up most of the night, ooh and the toilet facilities are not the best. However if it’s a alternative venue you are looking for it does look brilliant all lit up. Depending on your budget there is a big greenhouse type structure you can hold a wedding in Sefton park in Liverpool, not too far from the CUC area (The palm house)- it’s beautiful, I was thinking of getting married there myself.

    http://www.palmhouse.org.uk/palm-house-hire-weddings-civil-partnerships.php

    Hope you get everything sorted! Sending lot’s of best wishes! xx

  3. Sama

    Jeez- what a heartbreaking story! I’m truly gutted for you Roo but have faith in The Florrie- everything happens for a reason! You’ve got some lovely family connections there and from those few pictures it looks like an amazing space so maybe it’s all just meant to be…

    I do think the agony of venue hunting is something that isn’t touched upon enough in the mags and on blogs. I only got engaged in December and we have a venue and a date a month later… but after weeks of stress/family opinions I don’t want to hear/venues not coming back with quotes (what’s that about??)/clashing visions etc etc… In fact my boyfriend and I are having a ‘we will sit at the table for dinner tonight and be lovely to each other and NOT TALK ABOUT WEDDINGS’ night tonight to try and make up for a week of, well, not really behaving as a newly engaged couple should!

    Have faith, t’will all work out xx

  4. Man, that makes me want to kick someone in the face, but ultimately there is nothing you can do… although by the way that the CUC did it – publicly without telling their couples first (do you get your deposit back?!!!) – I think that shows their character and you may have just dodged a bullet working with them (although Adele seems lovely!)… Im betting this venue turns out way better as they seem to want to make your own vision come to life instead of you just building on what the CUC already had.

    Good luck!

  5. Addie; I don’t want it to sound like I am in any way slagging the CUC off – although the red mist descended when I first saw the press release; when Adele called me nearly in tears herself I started to appreciate the bigger picture, and that it wasn’t just about ours/20-odd other couples’ venue being shut down, but that it was about hardworking staff losing their jobs completely out of the blue, too. All of the staff we encountered at the CUC were wonderful, it’s just a great big shame that things happened the way they did. We can’t praise Adele enough; whatta star!

  6. Vicky

    Our wedding venue cancelled with just under six months to go, we felt all of the panic and upset that you went through. Found another venue and then with four months to go they cancelled our booking too! With three months to go we found a venue, organised food, decorations transport etc. I never believed we could do it but you relaise how strong you can be! Listen to your friends and family who love you, and let them help! Good luck to you both! (ps. our wedding was great in the end – we have been married almost two months!)

  7. I still remember frantically searching for venues, hoping to find an amazing little gem of a place that you guys would be happy with!
    I have every faith that you will have the most amazing, beautiful day and that when you look back on your day, the only thing you will remember is the look on Lamb’s face as he sees you walking down the aisle and how happy you felt when they announce you as Mr and Mrs!

  8. Vicky H

    Thank you for your last words of wisdom. I have been letting myself get stressed and panicky lately, and our venue is still there! Sometimes it’s so easy to lose sight of why we’re doing this in the first place and it is the best thing in the world.

    Best of luck with everything Roo, I know it will be ace wherever it is. Time for me to take a deep breath and step away from the cookies…

  9. I think The Florrie will be an amazing venue.

    But everyone is right, the important thing is the getting married. Where you do it doesn’t matter, no what other people think!

  10. We went through a similar predicament. Half our venue burnt down a few months before our wedding. Our parents reacted in a similar way too! We learnt a lot of life lessons through wedding planning: The love you have for each other is the best part! Love is really all you need!!

  11. Molly T

    This EXACT same thing happened to us – our lovely pub wedding was cancelled on us and tossed out the window 8 months into our 12 month engagement, and so were our subsequent member’s club booking (the Art’s Club – now the watering hole of choice for Gwyneth Paltrow – wouldn’t you bet *that* stings) AND our booking at the Globe, which is turned out had been double booked and they didn’t bother to check this fact until we’d been planning again for a MONTH. We finally booked the venue we went with TWO MONTHS before our December wedding.

    Roo – I swear to god, it nearly killed me and your heartbreak is so completely valid. It sounds like you’re finding your way to a really healthy and positive attitude and for that I commend you. I can also tell you that although it will involve working your ass off, you WILL have the wedding you and Lamb want, not least because as you so rightly say, you have Lamb and he has you.

    The lessons you are learning about how to manage your parents’ and in-laws’ expectations are also hugely important (I*know* you’re reading A Practical Wedding – the wisdom there about baby families should NEVER be overlooked) but always remember to stick to your principles and remember that you and Lamb are the primary players here; embarrassment is a big word to use about an alternative entertainment space. Have faith in yourself and Lamb to build the wedding (and marriage!) you both want. My mum was STILL saying to everyone that she was sure the wedding would be a disaster a week before the day. And you know what? She was wrong – it wasn’t. And yours won’t be either! It will be completely wonderful because Mrs Case/Smyth (our photographer!) and Florence and the Machine are totally right – you’ve got the love!

  12. Sarah

    You poor, poor thing. It’s kicker when things like that happen.
    We’ve got the Olympics issue- our venue is pretty central to the games and is not in use for the summer months prior to our wedding. This crossed out any ease of having it during the school holidays but isn’t that bad as my school has said I can have a couple of days off. We then had a meeting with the events lady in December as the 2012 commitee had finally given them an action plan for the removal of stands and hordings- when we get married, a lot of the stands will still be up which is a little gutting but i’m sure that my amazing photographer will be able to work around it.
    Reading your post has made me put some perspective on our issue!
    X

  13. Christine

    My boyfriend and I had a similar situation but with our photographer (I am not going to mention his name as I don’t want to give him any bad publicity).
    My boyfriend and I are getting married this summer, nothing big at all, there’ll just be 7 or 8 of us. We had always said we’d get married on our 5 year anniversary, the 21st of July, which luckily is on a Saturday this year.
    So we emailed our wonderful photographer the day after I proposed, hoping for the best and, against all odds he was thrilled and was digging the idea of capturing our wedding. After a couple of emails, he booked us in for our date. We were so thrilled as I’ve been drooling over his work for the past 2 and a half years, and it made us realise that we were doing it. We were getting married! Wow!
    A couple of months later, after picking me up from work, my boyfriend tells me something bad’s happened. I can see in his eyes that it is really serious and start to worry. He then tells me that our photographer made a mistake and double booked us so it’s either him or our date, one or the other. You can imagine how sad and angry I was. I simply couldn’t understand. We had sent the deposit, everything was settled, etc etc. And it felt so unfair as there were only two important things for us: our date and our photographer, we didn’t care much for any of the rest and then suddenly we had to give up on one. I was in shock for a while but our photographer was insanely helpful, trying to find ways to accommodate us. After talking about it together, my boyfriend and I decided we couldn’t give up on him, we’d be able to look at his pictures forever, when a date is only a day. So we gave up on our date, which still stings when I think about it. I mean who wants to get married 2 days after their anniversary?! On a Monday?! And worst is that the very few people who are invited might not even be able to make it as they are flying to Malta from either France or Denmark…
    The whole thing sucked. Big time. But in the end, I’m marrying the man I love with all my heart, so as long as you’ve got the love (and are about to marry him), you can overcome any hiccups and bumps in the road.

  14. This is so timely as I found out today that our reception venue may have booked another event that has taken all the bedrooms. I have been totally distraught all afternoon as we only have four months to go but, if we can’t sort things out tomorrow then I know from reading your post and these comments that we’ll find a way round things. At least our wedding is overseas and a month earlier so unaffected. Thanks for the wise words.

  15. I had no idea the CUC had closed! I photographed a wedding there in December 2010 and it’s such a interesting place – a loss for Liverpool. Sounds like it was very poorly managed! I can’t imagine how you must have felt reading that announcement online.

    It’s great that you have an alternative venue in your sights which means something to your Dad and Dad-in-law-to-be. Hope it all works out at the Florrie!

  16. Ruth C.

    I’m sure that this must be terribly stressful for you, but no matter where you get married or what the condition of the place is, I know that you will make it beautiful. Keep us posted and let us know if we can help.

  17. jess waymark

    I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL!
    Our wedding venue has cancelled (not their fault) and we are getting married on April the 14th 2012. Mad panic here in New Zealand!
    We couldn’t change the date (too many people coming from overseas) and I’m rather annoyed because I was so organised, so it feels like we are back at square one! Good Luck & I will be sending positive vibes!

  18. I felt sad reading this at first bit I know the exact building you now have in mind and I love it! Liverpools full of these lovely red brick buildings! With everything that has happened I’m sure they will put in that extra effort to make it all really special and when the day comes it will be more than you ever could have expected. I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the place in March! Good luck and smile 🙂

  19. Ella

    When people are saying ‘I know exactly how you feel…’ well, in this case, i actually do…. we were supposed to have our wedding at the CUC in April. I cried too when we found out they were closing. We were slightly luckier than you (if you can call that) as Adele did manage to call us before the press release went out, but it was only about 15 minutes before. I LOVED that building and just like you adored the sofas, the staircase and the wooden beams. Searching for new venues was horrible as every so often a picture of the CUC and ‘our’ room would flash up.
    We also tried Camp and Furnace but after hassling them for prices for ages, what they finally offered was way over budget (and way over-priced).
    But last friday we finally booked what will be our reception venue. It still hurts that it won’t be in the CUC but we are creating new memories elsewhere now and I can’t wait 🙂
    Good luck on your wedding day, hopefully in 20 years we will be looking back and laughing at how stressful it all was?! x x

  20. Post author

    aww Ella sorry it happened to you too. When Roo told me how much Camp & Furnace were quoting i nearly died. over priced in not the word – its astronomical!! i was super shocked.

  21. It’s official, our reception is cancelled as we have found out our venue has been lying to us all along. Luckily our wedding is a separate event so that will go ahead but we are back to square one with regard to any kind of party. Can’t believe a ‘luxury’ hotel could behave so shabbily.

  22. BucksWriter – It’s always been our dream to have one giant party – i.e. ceremony & reception in one place – but I will always maintain that if we got married in a registry office and had our reception somewhere else, then that “somewhere else” would definitely be a pub! I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had equal venue heartache, do you have anywhere else lined up?

    Ella – I feel like we’ve struck up some kind of venue hell sisterhood. When the CUC announced that it was closing I went straight to their Facebook page to see if any other brides had left comments/messages on their ‘wall’, hoping to find some solidarity in numbers. It’s both comforting and saddening to hear from someone in our position – and I really do hope that one day we can all laugh about it! Where have you picked for your reception? I admit that the whole thing would’ve been easier for us if we’d just conceded and separated our ceremony/reception, but we really didn’t want to! We were even thinking about buying a license for the Kazimier!

  23. Hi Roo,

    The wedding is actually half-way up a mountain in Canada so that’s all good! No idea as yet about a new party venue but I’m sure we’ll get there in the end. We may have to hold it further from the wedding date-wise and I could do without a second venue-hunt but such is life.

  24. roro

    Hi Roo

    Its so sad about the CUC. I work behind the building in Elevator and went to the party in camp and furnace too, it is amazingly beautiful when all done up but to feel full you would need quiteliterally hundreds of people, and its true its freezing! That night i had on four layers hats and gloves, The kazimier is amazing aswell and the team there are really good to work with, every event i ahve been to there has been spectacular, if your willing to go a little out side of Liverpool http://www.meolshall.co.uk/ is very pretty and you could make it amazing x

  25. Vic

    I can chip in a tenner to your Kazimier fund if y’like. It’d be totally worth it. Though make sure they wash the place first. Last time I was there I left covered in actual dust bunnies (which might not co ordinate with mother of the groom outfit plans).

  26. glitz blitz

    Hey Roo,

    I do not want to rub salt into your wounds! But I think I just saw your (ex-)venue at “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”! Am I right?

    I’m German, so I cannot watch it on TV or their regular website, but I’m watching it here:
    http://fullepisode.info/big-fat-gypsy-weddings-season-2-episode-1-diamantes-are-forever/
    (Is it ok to post the link? Please do remove if it’s not cool!)

    It’s around minute 35. They’re holding a beauty pageant for the traveller’s girls there. Hee hee – I’m sooo excited I spotted this! (…and, YES, I do know that I should not be watching this show. However, I just can’t help it!)

  27. JIll

    ah Roo, what a story! I hope a year on you a smiling back at this time. How was your wedding at the Florrie? We are considering having our wedding there too
    xx

Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *