Pippa Crossman is the Weddings and Events Planner at Berkeley Castle. Together with her team, she produces various events each year at a venue that has been family home to the Berkeley’s for 900 years! The most remarkable thing about the Castle is that for nine centuries, the building, the Berkeley family, the archives (which go back to the 12th Century), the contents, the estate and the town have all survived together. Its place in history is significant, not just because it is still intact, but because the Berkeley family and their home have played an important part in the power struggles of so many centuries. In this episode Pippa talks to Toby about the challenges she faces putting on an event in one of the most beautifully preserved, living pieces of history in the world.
In this episode you’ll discover:
• Where Pippa travelled to get her training (before it was available in the UK).
• How Pippa ensures all weddings and events are unique.
• How Pippa and her team ensure they each play a part to ensure Berkeley Castle is kept as a private family home, and a professional venue.
01:18 – Opening words with Toby and James.
02:41 – Interview with Pippa and Toby.
02:53 – Find out Pippa’s official title.
03:03 – Pippa talks about Berkeley Castle.
03:55 – Discover what events Pippa works on.
04:51 – Find out where in the castle events and filming take place.
06:12 – Pippa talks about the different areas of the castle.
07:14 – Find out where Berkeley Castle is located in the UK.
07:49 – Find out about Mr and Mrs Berkeley and the history of the Berkeley estate.
09:59 – Find out how long Pippa has been working in the castle.
10:08 – Find out how Pippa started as an event planner.
11:23 – When Pippa started at Berkeley’s Castle.
11:48 – Find out what Pippa studied for her degree.
13:08 – Discover what you need to become an event planner.
14:14 – Find out the challenges Pippa had to face when she started at Berkeley castle.
16:00 – How Pippa helps her clients make their wedding memorable.
17:16 – What questions Pippa asks her wedding clients.
18:00 – Pippa shares details of the fun winter wedding.
20:56 – Find out the key to having a memorable wedding.
22:01 – Discover more about the people who live in Berkeley’s Castle.
24:04 – Find out about the events team, and their different roles in the castle.
27:12 – Discover Berkeley’s Castle catering supplier.
28:18 – Pippa talks about her past clients’ food choices.
29:06 – Find out how Pippa has changed business at the castle.
29:40 – Doscover Pippa’s challenges in her role at the castle.
31:10 – The history of Berkeley’s Castle.
32:24 – Find out the details about Berkeley’s Castle history tours.
34:36 – Discover the unique way of running a wedding at Berkeley’s Castle.
35:41 – Obtain a candid advise on how to get into the event planning industry.
37:36 – Contact Berkeley’s Castle.
38:53 – Pippa talks about her favorite season for events.
40:59 – Find out the wedding ceremony that stands out the most for Pippa.
44:32 – Closing comments with Toby and James.
Toby: We’re celebrating the first fifteen episodes of Planner’s Pod by giving you all the complete transcript on every episode we’ve recorded, so far in one convenient bundle. These are completely free for you to download and feature over two hundred pages of in-depth revealing behind the scenes interviews with various top event professionals. From toastmasters to international TV production companies. This is an amazing resource for event professionals and it’s completely free. When you download our bundle of transcripts, you’ll also get show notes and our infographics for any episode that feature them, too. So, that’s all the content we’ve created, so far, packaged up in one convenient place, yours to keep forever. To get it, just go to metropolis-live.co.uk/pod. That’s metropolis-live.co.uk/pod.
Narrator: Toby and James are involved in amazing events all over the world. You’re listening to PlannersPod.com, where top event professionals share real-world experiences and cutting-edge ideas. Sponsored by Metropolis-live.co.uk.
Toby: Hello and welcome to Planner’s Pod. I’m Toby Goodman and this is James Eager. What’s new with you, James? Are you enjoying Pig-Gate?
James: Ah, loving Pig Gate, very much hamming it up as we speak.
Toby: Wonderful. But none of those non kosher jokes , young man. Today, we talked to the lady who’s in charged of weddings and special events of one of the most amazing venues we’ve ever had the chance to work in, Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire in the UK. If you’ve heard of Berkeley Square in London, this is the Castle, this is the square, where a nightingale in fact sang and it’s still owned by the people, the castle is still owned by the people who are in the square. So, it’s a real fascinating piece of British history, as well. Pippa’s experience learning her craft as an event professional in the United States clearly set her ahead of the curb with her event planning career and in this episode, she talks candidly to me about her approach to running unique events. So, without further ado, again, here is my chat with Pippa. See you at the end of the chat and if you wait till then, you might hear James sing a song. So, speak to you in a bit, James.
James: See you on the other end, my partner in Pod.
Narrator: Planner’s Pod is sponsored by Metropolis-live.co.uk.
Toby: Pippa Crossman, hello.
Pippa: Hello, `nice to talk to you.
Toby: Nice to talk to you. We haven’t been talking for the last five minutes.
Toby: Now, what’s your official title?
Pippa: My official title is ‘Wedding and Event Manager for Berkeley Castle’.
Click Here To Read The Full Transcript
Toby: Right. So, tell me about Berkeley Castle.
Pippa: So, the castle is the oldest castle in the country, to still be lived in by the same family it was built for. It was built for the Berkeleys in 1153 and they’re still here. So, primarily, a family home. But, as you can imagine, I’m trying to run a castle and the six and a half thousand acres estate that it sits in. It’s quite a challenge. So, Mr. Berkeley’s grandfather opened the castle to the public, sixty years ago, in fact, we’re celebrating next year, sixty years of being open to the public. So, there are certain days that visitors can come and then, there are certain days that you can hire the castle exclusively for an event, so, we do quite a few weddings. People can hire the castle exclusively to have their wedding here.
Toby: Do you do any other kind of events, other than weddings?
Pippa: Ah, yes. We often do a few charity events and some concerts, a little bit of corporate. So, yeah, a bit of various things, we also do quite a bit of filming here, at the moment, for British film industry is on the rise. So, we get quite a bit of filming here.
Toby: Yeah, and it’s the most beautiful location. So you can see why everything seems to be, it’s kept so beautifully, isn’t it? It’s perfect for filming period dramas, I imagine.
Pippa: I think so, yes. We’ve got some filming taking place next week again, with the same people that came and filmed a couple of weeks ago and last year. Hopefully, they’ll continue to come back. So, it’s good.
Toby: Yeah. Are there specific areas of the castle where events and filming take places or is it literally events and filming all over the grounds and in all the other different rooms?
Pippa: So, for the grounds, yes. Filming an event can take place anywhere in the grounds. For inside the castle, because it’s a family home and Mr and Mrs Berkeley have their private side of the castle and it’s very very rare that anything would take place on the private side. I think, we have two instances in my lifetime here where we’ve had some filming take place on the private side but otherwise all the rest of the filming for inside of the castle, we have a lot of rooms that are for use by the public and Mr and Mrs Berkeley’s private quarters.
Toby: Yeah, okay. And your main event space is the great hall?
Pippa: Yes. We have the main areas, we have the Great Hall, the Armoury , the Housekeepers Room, the Kitchens and Buttery , and then upstairs, the long and small drawing rooms, as well as the morning room.
Toby: Yeah, it’s a big place. And then you’ve got the… when we were there this summer, Metropolis Show Band performed in the great room, but there is also a really… because it was very fortunate with the weather, we performed down by the pond.
Pippa: Yes. You went down to the lily pond. So, we have… I’ll put the top, we have the grand terrace and then, steps that lead down to the mid-terraces and lower terraces and then that goes down to the lower lawns and then just along is the lovely lily pond, which is originally built as a swimming pool by the Countess of Berkeley for her husband The Earl, but it since been changed into a beautiful lily pond with water fountain. We’ve got lovely trees and plants, so the weather was gorgeous the last time you were here, so we have the singing and musicians stand by the lily pond and playing… lovely, really lovely.
Toby: Lots of cocktails and strawberries and stuff like that
Toby: Very very nice. Very very much enjoyed it, it was almost a shame to be working…
Toby: Because it looked like such a nice day out.
Pippa: Someone’s got to
Toby: They have to. Yeah. And just quickly because we do have quite a few people listening all over the world which is amazing and brilliant, where exactly is the castle in the UK?
Pippa: So, we’re in Gloucestershire, which is South West on the edge of the Cotswold’s and it’s in a little village or a town called Berkeley. The castle was built and Berkeley town and grew around it. But yes, it’s in Gloucestershire, in the south west of the UK.
Toby: Got it, and what I find really amazing is there are people, there are the Berkeley family walking around the town that’s named after them, so they must be kind of local celebrities, really.
Pippa: I don’t think they see it that way. I think Mr and Mrs Berkeley are very humble people.
Pippa: But yes, it’s lovely to be a part of the estate, it’s six and a half thousand acres, so, Mr and Mrs Berkeley are very keen to look after everybody that helps them look after the estate. So, we have houses and businesses and pubs, all on the estates and without people renting these properties and renting the pubs and the farms and the fields, we wouldn’t be able to survive. So, we have a big estate to croon and look after all of that side of things.
Toby: Sure. So, they don’t actually take anyone that misbehaves into the dungeon?
Pippa: Oh, no. Not anymore. But it’s quite tempting. (Laughs)
Toby: Yeah. Sure. The family also had had land or still own land because it’s quite a famous name- Berkeley- isn’t it? There’s a square in London and stuff like that.
Pippa: Yes. So, we used to own Berkeley Square in London and we used to also be able to get from Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire all the way to Berkeley Square in London without setting foot off the Berkeley land. Unfortunately, those days have long gone. Berkeley’s Square was sold by Mr Berkeley’s great grandfather, I think it was, to do the first round of refurbishments for the castle, as it had been falling down. And then other bits of land, was sold by Mr Berkeley’s predecessors for various upkeep and just having being able to have money, that was the only way that they could draw money from the estate. But we don’t sell any land or any properties, anymore, that’s six and a half thousand acres and I know that there’s no intention of selling any more, giving any more up.
Toby: Sure. It’s such a fascinating place. I wanna come back and spend some time there and just look around, because it’s really interesting to me. Anyway, let’s talk a bit about you and your background. Obviously, you’re now the wedding and events manager there.
Toby: So, how long have you been there and where did you come from before?
Pippa: So, this is my fourth year here at the castle. I have been a wedding planner for about eleven years or so. I started off as a freelancer. Back then, eleven years ago, it’s showing my age now, you didn’t use to be able to do sort of qualifications in wedding planning or anything like that here in the UK, it wasn’t something that we in England did. But they did very well in the States, so I had already obtained a degree and I’ve got my degree, I left university and I went out to the States for a little while to start a course in wedding planning. I couldn’t stay in the states for too long, I didn’t have the right visas, so I finished the rest of that correspondents. So, I learned a lot of that American weddings, as well as English weddings.
Pippa: And then being qualified, I then was a freelance wedding planner for several years which involves a generally a lot of marquee weddings, family home weddings, so doing weddings for people that own large property or large lands was lovely and very different from working for a venue. I went to one particular venue in Sunset and stayed there for five years, and I went just as a wedding planner but left as a senior wedding planner. And then I came to the castle, and then they needed somebody that knew weddings and understood weddings to take that side of the business because they could see that it was a good way to be able to keep the castle going and to keep the castle in the family like it has done for the past eight hundred and sixty years.
Toby: Yeah, got it. So, out of interest, what was your degree, then? What did you do?
Pippa: Oh, my degree wasn’t related. My degree was in Education and Sports Science.
Pippa: But I used to do a lot of events on various committees at uni and as much as l love my degree, I really wanted to do something in events, that was my dream, my idea and I just kind of thought, ‘Oh, this is not going to happen and that’s not going to be like that’ and my husband has a friend in the states which is why we were there, in the first place. She has the very good American attitude of ‘if you want it, you can have it, you just need to go out and get it’.
Pippa: And understand my fears of, ‘Oh, no.. I can’t possibly do that’, and she’s like ‘why not’, you want to fly to the moon, build yourself a rocket and go and fly’. I went to see various companies in the states that did wedding planning out there and they said, ‘Look, really you need to get a qualification and you need to get some experience and we’ll help… these are the best people to go to, these are the best courses to do…’
Toby: Brilliant. Obviously, other than learning about the US style weddings, what were the things that really helped you kind of understand what being a professional planner was?
Pippa: I think, probably, as much as I’m very glad that I did the courses, it was the experience, nothing beats experience. One thing that I will say about weddings and very gladly say is that I have never done the same wedding twice and that’s because I’ve never married the same couple twice.
Pippa: So, every wedding is very different, which is wonderful but it also brings different challenges, you can’t go into work where you can’t do your job properly thinking, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be the same as the last one’, because it’s not. And the experience that you gain after doing each wedding then helps you do a better job for the next one because you’ll just rely something else up to experience and go ‘Oh, that looks really well’ or ‘This is great, if this happens I’ll know what to do’, if that kind of thing happens again. Yeah, just so the experience is the best bit.
Toby: Right. Got it. Okay, so you’ve done all that amazing experience, loads of kind of freelance and another venues, so, you got to the castle, what were the challenges that you faced?
Pippa: I think for the castle, they have a board of trustees that help us look after the castle and the estate and they could see that doing weddings here at the castle would be beneficial. But they didn’t know much about it and they wanted the things that they asked me when they came to the interview would be to how would I increase business, how would I get more weddings in and I said, ‘Well, you can do more weddings but the castle is a unique building, you could do the same amount of weddings or invest weddings even but do them well and do them much better than they’re being done currently by offering a much higher service. The service should be as grand as the castle is’. The castle is not a hotel or a marquee, it’s an incredible building so having credible service and an incredible day to match the castle.
Toby: So, so your perception was they were undervaluing their amazing venue and the castle?
Toby: So, does that change the kind of people that have come through the door, then?
Pippa: Possibly. I obviously didn’t have much to do with the couples or the people coming through the door, prior to me arriving. But I think it’s an advance offering the experience that the couples don’t know that they want to obtain, because most of them, ninety percent of them haven’t been married before so they don’t really know what is it that they want. So, one of my jobs, is to get to what is it that is going to make their day amazing. I’m trying sort that out, because you say you want to have a fantastic day but what is it that’s going to make it fantastic for you and if you were to get married, or do it all over again, what would make our days amazing will be very different from each other because we’re very different people.
Toby: Yep, totally agree. I love that approach, completely. So, the thing is then, people obviously show up, they presumably, nine out of ten, found a website or maybe being told about this venue or perhaps even those who have been in a wedding before, so you kind of done really need to sell the fact that this is such a unique building because it really is, it speaks for itself. So, presumably you don’t need to talk about that, that much but you do need to help them discover a little about what you can do with such an amazing building. So, what are the kinds of, you know, they say… ‘I want an amazing memorable day’ and you say what, what do you ask them?
Pippa: I ask them what makes it memorable for them. I ask them what’s individual about them, their relationship, them as individuals, them as a couple. I offer some advice, about… it’s wonderful to read all these things and magazines and then on blogs, but you shouldn’t do anything that’s in a magazine or on a blog, because it’s in a magazine or on a blog and that’s popular at the moment. If it doesn’t work for you, as an individual or as a couple, it won’t work at your wedding. So, you need to think about the things that are very you, to incorporate these things. I remember ages ago, doing a wedding where they.. it was a winter wedding and they didn’t do sort of drinks, champagne, they were having warm non-alcoholic and alcoholic cocktails, and warm winter pints, all sort of hot kind of drinks and very different things, very warm and very hot, it was lovely. There was no sort of champagne, they had wine during their meal but there was no sort of champagne or bubbles, featuring in their wedding. We kept discussing speeches and she said ‘Oh, we’ll have to have champagne for the toast’ and I said ‘We don’t have to have champagne for the toast. Have it if that’s what you want to do but you don’t have…’you know, everybody has champagne for their toast… yes, a lot of people choose to, but if you don’t drink it, if it’s not you, don’t have it. At the point of me saying if it’s not you, her fiance giggled and I said ‘What’, and he said ‘No, we couldn’t do that’ and I said ‘What, what couldn’t you do?’ and it turns out that they do loads of dinner parties, anybody that knows them go down for dinner and that’s their thing- having dinner parties, having people over for dinner, for supper, for lunch, they cook like perfectly, they’re foodies. But after every dinner party, they always round it off with a shot of tequila with the lime and the salt…
Pippa: And I said ‘Why didn’t you have a shot of tequila?’ , and they were like ‘You can’t have a shot of tequila for toast.’ Why not? It’s them.
Pippa: And for their toast, we bought out lovely beautiful clatters with three round *19:40 so the shot glass went to one, salt went in another and the other , everybody had one and everybody nicely laughed as they were coming up because they were all just went ‘Oh, it’s so typical of them.’
Pippa: It’s like being in their house, it’s like being in event and party all over again the first time we met them we had a shot because we came over for dinner and it brought back all those memories for all the guests. So, it was ideal for them. But, if anybody ask to try to that for no reason other than it was being a bit different and quirky, it wouldn’t have the same warm reception.
Toby: Yeah. So, your role really, just as we did the music from production, is just to sit there and kind of listen and try to extract even just from the simple kind of little a side laugh that you’ve clocked to go, ‘Okay, that’s something, that’s specific to these people, I’m gonna try and see if it’s appropriate to get into their day’… because ultimately, although, we are talking about tequila so, I’ll put that as a little sort of beginning, but hopefully, other than the fact that I’m talking about tequila, it does mean that things are gonna be more memorable.
Toby: And depending on how much tequila you have. And that’s the key, isn’t it? The key that would such unique venue is to find out how you can best make it work for them?
Pippa: Yes. My job is to, like you say, whenever you’re in a castle, the castle speaks for itself. So, my job is to let them know how wonderfully well they’ll be looked after when they’re here and how amazing their day will be. Myself, my team, care so much about making their day perfect that we will do anything to keep it that way and make sure it is that way and that’s different. That’s it… unique… I feel to this venue, you know, to have the staff, to have one of me to have the people here that really really genuinely care about what your day is like.
Toby: Sure. So, other than the family, I mean… I’m pretty sure you don’t but are there other people live on site as well, other than the family?
Pippa: Not within the castle. So, it’s just Mr and Mrs Berkeley that live in the castle and they have two sons and they used to live with Mr and Mrs Berkeley but they’re married now and have children of their own, so they live on the estate…on properties, on the Berkeley estate.
Pippa: But we have properties on the estate that we rent out. So, we have Brook house which is a big huge, lovely town house in Berkeley, sort of walking distance from the private drive. It has nine bedrooms, sleeps twenty, we have another manor house on the estate, as well, called Pedington Manor , similar theme, nine bedrooms, sleeps twenty. Then, we have Blossom cottage, which is just for the bride and groom on their wedding day, as their sort of honeymoon suites. So, although it’s not within castle walls, they are look after the estate.
Toby: Got it. So, and the other thing that we haven’t mentioned that I just kind of realised, was there’s actually a church within the walls of the castle? Is it within the walls?
Pippa: It’s on the estate. We share a drive, so, the church drive and the private drive and the castle are the same thing.
Pippa: So, that’s St. Mary’s Church. It doesn’t belong to the Berkeleys, it belongs to the church of England.
Pippa: It’s a beautiful… beautiful church.
Toby: Okay, so, when we went and did the wedding a month or so ago, last month… it was, the couple did get married in the church and then, walked down. So, is that a typical thing?
Pippa: I do have lots of couples that get married in St. Mary’s Church and choose the castle to hold civil ceremonies in several rooms. So, I have quite a lot of couples that will get married in the great hall, the big stained-glass windows and the vaulted ceiling.
Toby: Yes. So, obviously, it’s not just Christian weddings, then… you get a variety of different types.
Pippa: Yes, civil ceremonies, civil partnerships, and yes, all sorts.
Toby: Cool. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And in terms of your team, how big is your team?
Pippa: That’s an interesting question, I suppose it depends on what I would consider my team. I have my full time team, myself, my lovely assistant Immy, we work together and we’re here all the time and then, I couldn’t run weddings without my… I call them my team of magic fairies because they are just so wonderful and in my team of magic fairies, I have my castle security- Tony and Norman, I have my castle caretaker and my bar manager- Ian Crossman, I have my lovely girls that do quick assisting and they also do housekeeping and making sure the castle is pristine- that’s Amery, Baron, Patricia, Carol. I would consider the gardener for the castle part of my team, as well, although he doesn’t work for me… without Chris doing his amazing work in the gardens, they wouldn’t look as amazing as they do. So, yes, I have my team.
Toby: It does feel like, just from listening to you talk and also having been worked with you and met Immy, as well and a few of the other guys, it does seem that there’s this incredible sense of family that runs through the whole operation, if you like. It doesn’t feel like a typical venue because it someone’s home.
Pippa: Absolutely… absolutely. We are a big family. I feel that we’re a big family and there are also quite a few family connections, so, the castle caretaker for the rest of the week because obviously we have to have somebody look after the castle twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, so it’s not just one person that does that. But the person that takes large share of that, his name is Josh, and he’s the son of Norman, Norman does a lot of my security for weddings and he volunteers doing garden things, as well. My bar manager and my weekend castle caretaker, that’s my husband.
Pippa: And then, Carol, who I mentioned to you, does a lot of the housekeeping and another assisting and often works on the bar with Ian. So, there’s lots of family connections.
Pippa: Yes, so we look after each other and I think that makes the difference because it makes a wonderful working environment and if you got a great working environment, you just continue… you want to go the extra mile for the clients and guests that you have in.
Toby: Yep. Absolutely. Love it. I totally agree and really feel like, you know, basically when you look after people, they look after you. You know, the result is super happy clients.
Toby: Okay. So, then obviously, going back to wedding, because that’s your main thing. Are there suppliers? Do people have a choice of, obviously, I know the people choose Metropolis which is brilliant to do the music, what about the other suppliers? I’m obviously thinking food, mainly.
Pippa: So, we have a sole caterer here at the castle, the designated caters are called Napier Catering. They’re amazing. Our kitchens are of the castle, so they have all the mod-cons that used to have in the 12th century . So, our caterers are amazing, they come in with absolutely everything that they need. They cook on site because I don’t like the type of catering where you can cook side and re-heat on the premises. I don’t like that, at all. So, they cook everything on site, they create amazing dishes. You name it, they’ll create it. But there’s this focus of the castle, as well, they, too, have never done the same, you know, wedding catering menu twice, because they’ve never married the same couple, either . So, they will go that extra mile and make their dishes or make the whole sort of days to make the catering unique to that particular couple, whatever it is that they’ve got going on. You know, they might have Scottish influence and we’ve got, I don’t know, little nods to Scotland in canopy’s , Haggis, or we’ve got a couple that almost American and almost English, and they had a duo of puddings and traditional mini-American cheesecake and the other one was Spotted Dick & Custard. They not only made this custard look elegant and beautiful and worthy of going on a dessert for wedding breakfast but it was very much, you know, England meets the States in pudding.
Toby: Brilliant. I love it. I love it. So, you have this thing, you said to the trustees, Look, this is where is at, actually I think if you really tell people about the true value of what you’ve got, then, they are gonna invest a little bit more than they have been. So, was the result that you did end up getting more events, anyway, or less for a higher value?
Pippa: Yes. Well, my proposal was that we would do either the same or less. But, we would have more revenue because of it. But what actually happened is we had more weddings and events and the revenue that went along with that. So, it increased. But then, I was in charged, I put all my time, my focus, my energy, into building the wedding business side of it up. It happened as a bi-product of my original plan, it’s a challenge but a very good challenge for me to have is that I have to be very respectful of the castle and its history and anything that I do, any changes that I make, any additions that I put in, impact the castle. For example, we never used to have a bar here and I had a bar created, which was kind of made and in keeping with the castle, but is completely collapsible, so that everything can be taken out and put up again. When we first had it, every single event that I did, I had to put the bar up and then I have to take it back down again. So that I was respectful of the castle, its surroundings, and the people here. There are a lot of people here that have been here a very very long time and for them, the wedding side of things is very alien to them and it’s a big change, so you have to approach with sympathetic way about it to make sure that people are on your side and are willing to support you. So, yeah.
Toby: The bar does look like it’s been there forever because I’ve seen it.
Toby: So, good work.
Pippa: Thank you.
Toby: So, in terms of those other people, who are they, obviously, the family that live there, you’ve spoken about the guard and stuff and all those kinds of things, because it’s also a tourist attraction, as well. You’re talking about the people that sort of work on that side of it?
Pippa: Yes. The history side of the castle. We could very easily be a museum if we wanted to be. So, when we opened our doors to the public, the public that come wants to see history. They want to see factual history, and especially people that come from abroad, people that come from the states or New Zealand or Australia, they don’t have that kind of history that we have in the UK. It’s just not there so they want to see genuine historic artifacts, genuine historic buildings, so, yes, we have a fantastic troupe of guides, historians, archivist, and their main focus is the history of the castle not the new things, so we need to have a good balance between us both.
Toby: Sure. And what I found really interesting was that you were able to, I don’t know if this is common because I’ve only seen one event there, so far, but you were able to sort of offer that historical tow of the castle at some point during a wedding. How did that work?
Pippa: Yes, I mean, it’s a fantastic opportunity for guests to go around and see the rest of the castle. I think because… guests were a friendly bunch, as you have seen, and my team is friendly, and people will stop and they’ll ask ‘Oh, tell me about this’ or ‘What else is in the castle’ or ‘Can you tell me a story about such and such?’… So, it’s nice to actually say, ‘Right, we’ll get our professional guides in and we’ll take you’. It’s a bit of a bridge tours. It’s a bit of a whistle stop.
Pippa: Walk through the ages. But kind of show you people what the castle was, what it was built, as how it’s come through history, all the stories behind it. There are so many stories.
Toby: Of course.
Pippa: Eight hundred and sixty years of history. But we have some amazing guides that will take the guests and also tailor things for guests. So, we had a wedding a few weeks ago, where lots of the guests were navy, so the groom was part of the navy, so we had a lot of navy guests and we have various stories for about things and our guides were able to kind of clock that we had individual guests like that and tailor stories specific to maritime history.
Toby: Right. That’s so interesting. So, how long are the little whistle stop tours go on for? And when you do the minute in a running of a wedding day?
Pippa: They’re about twenty minutes half an hour and I do all kinds of places , so I’ve done weddings where I’ve done them before, the wedding started we’ve done sort of pre-ceremony drink and toast, we’ve done them during a drink reception, we’ve done them during the parts of sort of, sometimes, certain weddings have a bit of a lull laughter after a full meal, but before the evenings, side of things is gonna get going so we part them in in that kind of space. So, where the people want to have them really.
Toby: That’s so cool. So, you really… you’re not this kind of classic full meal type of person, you really are open to doing things and exploiting the amazing, unique.
Pippa: I always say to my clients, there is no prescribed way to have a wedding at Berkeley’s Castle. It’s your day, you have the day that you want to have, our job is just to make it happen.
Toby: Yeah, that’s very very good. I like that, because I know a few wedding planners that don’t think like that, at all.
Toby: It’s such an incredible venue. You’ve got such an incredible job.
Pippa: I love my job. I absolutely love my job.
Toby: And it shows watching you work and obviously, listening to you talk about it, as well. And I’m just sort of interested in maybe, you know, you’re obviously very experienced, you’ve worked all over the place, if people want to get into wedding planning, I think a big tip that you just gave in is, there’s no one way… and I think that’s a lesson that quite a few people could do with learning, perhaps… if I may be so bold, but what are your other tips? You know, for people that wanna get into the kind of work that you do. What would you say to them?
Pippa: To go and get some experience. As painful as it might been to work and not own any money, it’s what I did, it’s what… I’ve had assistants that have come and worked with me, come and do, I’ve had a wonderful amazing assistance before Immy, who worked with me for a couple of years, two years I think, in total. But she started with me as on work experience, she just came back from uni, this is what she wanted to do, so she volunteered and said, ‘Look, I’ll come and work with you for nothing because I want to gain experience, I want to see how this is done’, and she did, and then that’s turned into employment through timing and one thing and another but she’s gone on to a bigger and better and greater things. But, she had the right attitude in that, you need to gain this experience and if you cannot gain this experience to somebody employing you, go and get it… to doing it for free. Because there’s no… when you’re applying for jobs, when you want to do it on your own and you’re getting clients from the start, your own clients because you’re a a freelancer, or whether you’re not you’re going to go and work at a particular venue, you need to have experience under your belt because as harsh as it’s going to sound, nobody wants somebody that’s never done it before. People want to be reassured and feel happy and confident and comfortable that you are going to take care of them. I can only demonstrate that by saying that you have a world for experience, so go and get the experience.
Toby: Yeah, and that means, doing basically everything, doesn’t it?
Toby: So, then, last question, I suppose, where can we find out more about the castle other than drive to it? How can I find you, you’ve got website I think?
Pippa: We have a website, in fact, we have two websites, we have two amazing websites. So, we have the history side of the castle, the visitor attraction side of the castle, we have a wedding website, as well. If you google, Berkeley castle, you’ll get both.
Toby: That’s right. I think I’ve got… I’ve actually just seen it, I have been professional and prep. So, over on my other screen I’m looking at now, Berkeley-castle.com, is that your kind of historical nine hundred years history?
Pippa: Yes, we also have wedding page in there and if you click into that wedding page, it will take you into a whole new world of weddings at the castle.
Toby: And that’s berkeleycastleweddings.co.uk.
Pippa: That’s correct.
Toby: Brilliant. And do you have a Twitter and Facebook and all that kind of stuff?
Pippa: Yes. We’re on Twitter and we’re on Facebook. We have two Facebook pages, we have a Berkeley Castle Facebook page and a Berkeley Castle Weddings Facebook page. And then, we have a Twitter account which is BerkeleyCastle, and we are also on Instagram, because with weddings, we have some amazing pictures that we get to take and see.
Toby: Yes, no doubt. Here’s one question, then? What’s your favourite season to do an event at the castle?
Pippa: Oh, that’s really tough. This is going to sound very corny and I don’t mean it to, but they all have something about them that makes it my favourite. So, winter… I love all the roaring fires and the crispiness outside and being in Gloucestershire, it’s cold, it gets frosty and icy and snowy, all of that look about things, I think the castle looks very majestic in the winter. So, I like that side of things and I love the Christmas weddings that we do here, so, any weddings that take place in December, we have a huge tree that’s floor to ceiling in the great hall… it’s just magical.
Pippa: But then, I like autumn weddings, because of the lovely colours and fantastic wedding. A couple of years ago, they had asked their guests to bring carved pumpkins with them, we had just an array of superb carved pumpkins which I lit later on the evening.
Pippa: That just looked super stunning. Summer is amazing, you’ve been here in the summer with the lily pond and the water fountain and the greenery and the foliage and the flowers and the land, that just goes on for miles and being able to kind of just bask in the sunshine with the castle as the backdrop, I think it’s amazing. On spring, as well, just that kind of new, fresh newness about the lands. Yeah, every season brings something different and when you get to that season, I think… ‘Oh, no no, this is my favourite… This is my favourite…’
Pippa: And then the next, you’re gonna go… ‘No no no, actually, this one is my favourite’.
Toby: Great. I mean obviously, you’ve mentioned loads of things there but is there one particular moment in time that’s really stood out to you that made you feel like actually this is the job of my dreams and you know, this is an amazing place and an amazing moment. Is there anything specific?
Pippa: I think, probably the moment that stands out for me the most, was a civil ceremony and wedding that we had here. I love doing all the weddings but because when I get very attached to my brides and grooms, I love simple ceremonies even more because I get to be present. I’m with them before they walked down the aisle, it’s a church wedding and I don’t get to go to the church but when it’s a marriage that’s taking place in the castle, I am there. I’m the last person to be with the bride before she walks down the aisle and I’m the first person that the bride and groom see and come to when they walk back down the aisle and because I’ve got to know my couples very well, that’s a lovely moment that I find personally, very precious to me.
Pippa: And I had a lovely couple whose husband was a teacher and unbeknownst to him, his bride-to-be had arranged his school choir, his group, to come and sing at the wedding and we put them up in the Minstrels gallery, which you which you will know because you’ve been here but for people listening that don’t know, it’s a big gallery in the great hall which is high above the great hall floor. It’s quite deep and if you sit at the back of the Minstrels’ gallery, people down below wouldn’t know you were there.
Pippa: So, we put the choir up there. The plan was that the music would start and the bride and the entourage walk down the aisle and the choir would stand up and sing. I had the pleasure of opening the big double-doors at the back of the great hall, which are very big, very heavy and have cloak to them. I opened these doors and everybody turned around to look at the bride and choir which from where I was stood was now above me, took a big step forward and sang and it was just amazing. The bride walked down the aisle in tears, the groom was in tears. Everybody was in tears. It was amazing. It was just… yeah, twenty young children singing so beautifully, it was just fantastic. Of course, other than the bride and myself, nobody knew about it and it was one of those moments that hairs at the back of my neck stood up even more so.
Toby: Yeah. And place like that that’s been designed, you know, back then with… Minstrels’ gallery and all that kind of stuff, it’s designed with singing, that kind of singing in mind.
Toby: You know, that’s just the kind of acoustic quality of that room is incredible and it was something that we’re very sensitive to doing when we put the speakers, because you know those rooms are designed actually for unamplified music and when you got full choir, I should imagine it would create that feeling, you know, the hairs on the back of the neck. So, that sounds amazing. Well, that’s it. We know where you are, we found out who you are, where you are, what an amazing venue it is and all that. So, we’ll obviously put the links on the Planner’s Pod website, as well, with all your details, so people can find you and thank you very much, Pippa.
Pippa: It was lovely talking to you. Thank you, indeed.
Toby: You too.
Narrator: You’re listening to PlannersPod.com
Toby: Okay, James, there it was… my chat with Pippa Crossman. I really enjoyed it, I hope that came across. What did you think?
James: Yes, I knew this one would be good. I’ve been looking forward to this one, to hearing this podcast for a while because we met Pippa a couple of months back when we worked there and we were greeted by super professional, really together lady who just made our lives so easy. Real pleasure to work with. I’m just gonna draw a few things at the interview that you did with her, which I loved. There was so much synergy with the way she does things and the way we do things at Metropolis and so the first kind of quote I guess I’m gonna pull from her, she said… ‘Never done the same wedding twice’… `Love that. How do you feel about that one, Toby?
Toby: Yeah, very good. As you’d hopefully hear, that’s like delighted for her to say that, because there are a lot of planners who believe there’s only one way to go about things, personally, I feel and I know you feel that that’s actually the worse thing that you could do is to kind of just carve with the same brush really, especially, private events that’s very personal, you need to really search out the unique parts of someone’s personality and then, try and draw them out somehow in an event which obviously she spoke about quite a lot.
James: Yeah and another quote that she said, ‘Offering the experience that the couples don’t know they want to obtain’. That for me is just so perceptive and I found a whole approach, I guess, incredibly perceptive across the whole episode is an interesting thing by having that sort of, I guess, that sense of perception is really important because you can do two things with it. You can firstly make a couple’s day but you can also really push your own business forward by listening to what your client’s say and I know that some of our best ideas have come directly from listening to clients and actually they’ve come to us and said ‘We really like this idea, can you make it happen?’, We go… ‘Well, yeah’.
James: And then we end up with new songs, or I don’t know what it could be and just a new way of doing things. That’s really really great. The other one that I’m gonna pull just to this point because I thought it was so cool is ‘There is no prescribed way to have a wedding at Berkeley Castle’. So, same way, same to Metropolis, there’s no prescribed way to have music or event production. We kind of listen to what you guys want and make it happen. So, yeah, what do you think about that one, Toby?
Toby: I think you send into a cheesy radio DJ but yeah, I absolutely agree with that. I think, yes, ultimately, as you said our best ideas and then you sort of talked about the fact that actually they are really our ideas, there’s someone elses but the fact is we ask the question which is what Pippa does as well and what all the good event pros we do, they ask a question, they listen and then they desperately or not so desperately try and find ways of making something happen. A few things have to align for that, obviously, the big white elephant in the room, I guess, being the coastal of things, you know where the people want to invest in something to happen and I guess, there are ways that we can talk about qualifying clients another time but if people are kind of prepared to invest in making their ideas come to life then, all of our job as event professionals is to just listen to it and find out what it is because a lot of the time you can pleasantly surprise people without actually that much effort.
James: Yeah, I think you’re right. I’m gonna, at the risk of being branded cheesy again by you, I knew you’d enjoy that one, is like the last thing I loved about this episode and I’m sure even the toughest man in this world couldn’t help but have the hairs on the back of his neck stand up when she told the story about the choir. That, I loved that. I mean, heaven knows how she orchestrated that one, we’ve done a few secrets in our time and it can be very hard to not let the cat out of the bag. How you do that with twenty children is beyond me, but they did.
Toby: You just gag them, then you just kind of… you just put something around their mouth and just make them not speak.
James: I’m not sure we can broadcast that one, Toby.
James: But this got me thinking and it is, I guess it’s a tad cheesy but what I’m gonna, but it got me thinking of why we actually do this job. When I started off working in the event industry, it was all about just trying to work as many nights of the week as possible, we were nocturnal animals, we’d be out all the time and it was all about how many nights a week we could work. Now, that we sort of, I guess, in our thirties, building this company… there’s got to be real value to actually going out to work and we got to feel like we’re making a difference and I know you with your family and what have you, is time away from the family whenever we pull this ridiculously long days that we do. I think the Berkeley Castle day was probably about the best part of eighteen hours and so, you really got to want to put your heart and soul into working in this industry and for me, those moments like the choir which Pippa talked about, which kind of makes it special.
Toby: And the memorable ones, as well. And yeah, interesting you talked about family, I found it really interesting, that Pippa even though, obviously, she must have some fantastic arrangements because she’s got children, as well but she’s managed to find an environment where her bar manager is actually her husband, so that’s quite a nice touch as well if you can stomach working long days with your spouse, then, she’s done the right thing, I’m not sure that’ll work for us but not that you’re my spouse, of course.
James: Oh, no no. We haven’t gotten confused with that.
Toby: Alright. Cool.
James: Sure, we’ve wrapped it up there. I mean, the old cliche, we’ve heard it so many times but you can’t help but take notes, if you want to get into this business, you just got to start going and getting some experience. I remember talking about that one, with Andy Nurse, back in episode two or three, I know it’s come up again, but it really is the way to start conquering the event industry if you want to do it.
James: Look where Pippa’s got, she’s basically in one of, must be one of the most premier venues in the country with a pretty free reign to run an events department there.
Toby: Yeah, well she built up trust, didn’t she? And yeah, just one thing, just the way in Berkeley Castle which sometimes you’ll hear it by accidents, say Berkeley, because that’s how it’s spelt. You said Berkeley, it’s unbelievably kind of well-kept, isn’t it? I don’t think you’ve ever seen a castle, not that I’ve seen many castles, but I don’t think you’ve ever been to somewhere that so old in such amazing condition, so it’s a great place to check out.
James: We actually touched on the preserving history and the sort of the politics of the venue that she’s had to negotiate. There’s so much in that podcast. We need to kind of wrap this up now, don’t we, Toby? But do this, if you’ve liked it, if you picked up on something, please do comment on the website, on the actual Planner’s Pod episode. We’d love to get a conversation started there. Over to you, Toby. Do you wanna finish it off for us?
Toby: So, you can find us on Facebook.com/Metropolislive, Twitter – @Metropolislive1, which is the number one and this podcast is directly available via iTunes and Stitcher, just search for Planner’s Pod. You can find a company notes, media and links from this podcast and of course, more about us on www.plannerspod.com. See you later, James.
James: See you on the other end, Toby.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to PlannersPod.com, with Toby Goodman and James Eager. Sponsored by Metropolis-live.co.uk.