So I was going to tell you all about the wedding but then got distracted and forgot. Well I’ve remembered now so, sorry people, here it is, the gory detail.
The wedding was to take place in a rather nice country house hotel in the Midlands and we went down with Andrew, Karen and her parents a few weeks in advance to see the place. It’s a two hour plus journey from where we live and the ceremony was planned for 2p.m., so, having booked to stay over on the night of the wedding itself, we were keen to confirm that we could check in before the ceremony and change into wedding togs, refresh make up, leave overnight bags etc. Although they couldn’t guarantee that all the reserved rooms would be ready, they promised there would be enough rooms available for us to use before the ceremony itself. (You can already see where this is going, can’t you?)
Since people were coming from all over the UK (and beyond, Finland, France and the distant area known to us as Down South), we asked if refreshments would be available too. Remember, this is a hotel, so it didn’t seem such an unreasonable request. Yup, that would be fine.
We looked at the rooms, the bridal suite and the gardens, all of which looked rather nice and we left feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
On the day itself: We arrived a little earlier than expected and enquired when a room would be available for us to use. The receptionist did not know. We asked her to find out, she said she couldn’t. We asked her to let us know as soon as one was ready – we are still waiting. I mentioned that our son had stayed over the night before and asked if he was there. She didn’t know. Was he in his room? She didn’t know. Was there a telephone in his room? Yes. Wow, she knew that much. Perhaps she could call his room and see if he was there? Clearly surprised at such a radical solution, she did so and of course he wasn’t there.
At this point he and his best man appeared, looking, it has to be said, a little flustered. I was feeling a little flustered myself having carried both sides of the previous conversation single handedly. We asked if tea and coffee were available and she waved vaguely at the breakfast bar, which was being cleared away and which had no cups for us to use. (A very pleasant and efficient member of staff called Joyce brought us some cups and saucers when Luca [Our step grandson] asked her.)
In spite of our doubts about getting a sensible answer from Reception, we asked if the bar would be opening to serve drinks and snacks, since the ceremony was at 14.00 and the meal was expected to be at 16.00 approx. She didn’t know and therefore never answered the question. When the bar did open, it just served drinks. Now bear in mind, we were about three miles from the nearest town, so the alternative sources of food were limited. And did I mention that it is a hotel? Don’t they normally serve food? Just asking.
Our daughter, who had paid extra for early check in and had been told the room would be ready for midday, one of the few facts that I was able to confirm at Reception when we first arrived, arrived just after 12.00 and was told her room was not ready. Asked when it would be available, the receptionist said she didn’t know. When asked to find out, she said she couldn’t. (I had been counting on using this room to get changed in.) My cousin and his wife, who had also paid extra for early check in arrived shortly after her and got the same response – the room was not ready, she could not say when it would be ready she could/would not find out. I kept expecting John Cleese to do a funny walk across the foyer at any moment.
Later, quite a bit later, both my daughter and my cousin checked again at Reception and were told they would be able to check in at about 13.40, with the ceremony due to begin at 14.00. Still, it was better than the nothing the rest of us got.
By now the place was in uproar, the room for the ceremony was being cleared after having been used for breakfast – not vacuumed, just cleared and set up with chairs for the ceremony. At one point, 10 year old Luca was helping one of the staff to lay a red carpet for the bride’s entrance, as there weren’t enough staff to do it.
You may wonder why we didn’t ask to speak to the manager. Manager? What manager?
My son had been given the key to a conference room in which to store wedding presents, table decorations and so on and, half an hour before the bride was due to arrive, several of us who needed to change, retreated there and turned it into a dressing room, leaving our cases there and locking it behind us. The lock didn’t work but by that time we were past caring.
My daughter and cousin, who had paid for an early check in, went back to Reception at half past one and were told their rooms were ready, given the keys and left to find their way. My daughter’s room was NOT ready but they changed there, hoping it would be ready by their six year old son’s bed time, which it wasn’t but by that time we would have been surprised if it had been.
A harassed but extremely hard working member of staff called Ian appeared to be the only one who knew what was going on with the wedding and he did the work of at least three people to try and get everything right. He didn’t stand a chance.
Our room, which we were supposed to check in to at 15.00 at the latest, normal check in time it seems, was not ready until 17.30. Throughout the day, we checked with Reception, who had promised to let us know when the rooms would be ready, about every half hour. On several of those occasions, there was no-one on Reception, which at least meant we didn’t have a repeat of the previous abortive conversations.
Another cousin and her husband and grandson checked in at about 15.00, to find there was no bed for the child. They reported it to Reception, who said they would deal with it. It took two more visits to Reception to get it done and my cousin felt he had to stand over them while they did it at this point. He’s a big man, they did it but not until eight that night.
When all these things were reported to Reception, the response was excuses and a generally indifferent response. Never once did we hear the magic words, “I’m sorry, I’ll see what I can do…” She wasn’t sorry and didn’t do anything. We were aware that there had been a problem with late delivery of laundry but as the story was different every time we went back to Reception, we began to have doubts. (There had been an accident on at least three different motorways…) Frankly, we could have gone into town and bought the stuff at less cost in terms of time and client goodwill.
THE WEDDING CEREMONY ITSELF WAS LOVELY AND WE ALL HAD A LITTLE TEAR IN OUR EYE.
We left the Ceremony room at about 14.30 for photographs in the grounds, which were also lovely, with autumn colours on the trees and lots of room for the children to run round. So it was two hours later before we sat down for the meal. Service was extremely slow. Please bear in mind, there had been a two hour gap between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of serving the meal. (And, presumably, time before that to prepare the food.) And yet :-
Not one table got all their starters at about the same time. In two cases, the main course was served to some guests before the last portion of starters had been delivered to the table. The wine was served half way through the main course. There was a 20-30 minute pause between courses, at least. Service was extremely slow. Staff did not know what to serve to each table, even though they had been given a table plan showing what to serve to each table for each course. At one table, at least, dessert was being served to some guests when one of them had not received his main course. Service was extremely slow. Tea and coffee orders were taken too late.It took three hours to serve a very simple three course meal.Did I mention that service was extremely slow? We were appalled but didn’t make a fuss because the same guy who had been working so hard was still the only person doing his best and he was obviously unhappily aware that all was not well.
I suspect you have by now got a picture of the event. You begin to realise now that Fawlty Towers was not a sitcom, it was a documentary.
One couple actually went home because their room was still not ready at nine o’clock that night and another family was told there was no reservation for them.
We had, nevertheless, a great time, doing granny dancing at the disco and chasing small children out onto the bouncing castle in the garden.
We discovered the following morning that some of the rooms had not been ready until late in the evening. Our party had reserved at least 20 rooms, I don’t actually know exactly how many. One bridesmaid arrived, with family, to be told she hadn’t reserved a room so there wasn’t one. She had the confirmation email in her hand at the time. They had been booked for weeks/months. How could they not be ready? This is not a city centre overnighter, this is a country house hotel. Not.
And so to the following day:-
Breakfast was generous, but cold. It was served from a heated serving table that was not heated because it was not plugged in or switched on, so the food was, at best, tepid. There were no fried eggs unless we could find a member of staff, who then brought them freshly cooked from the kitchen – on cold plates but decorated with water cress so that was alright. The plates for self service were in a plate warmer, which was also not switched on or plugged in. How bloody amateur does it get?
We didn’t complain when we left. Ask me why, go on, ask me… Because there was no-one on Reception when we went to check out. Come back Basil, Manuel and Sybil, all is forgiven.