{review} Merridale Ciderworks

Merridale Ciderworks

Gorgeous orchard weddings at Merridale Ciderworks offer rustic country charm, true service, beautiful surroundings & a budget for every bride

Merridale Ciderworks offers a wedding experience that is difficult to find anywhere else. The gorgeous orchard property, long list of customizable options, eclectic, country chic deco, true hands-on service and budget-friendly options are among some of the reasons we (and so many Merridale brides) have fallen in love with this wedding venue. One bride recalls her wedding, remembering “the patio lights illuminated as friends gathered around tables, chatting and sharing a drink of cider, while others danced the night away. Looking out at all those loved ones, enjoying their moments, was a beautiful thing to see and exactly what we were hoping for on our wedding day.” This was just one of many glowing reviews of Merridale weddings.

From the apples to the Yurts we have researched just about everything you need to know about a Merridale wedding by touring the property and interviewing the staff and brides….

The journey to popular island destination

Rick Pipes and Janet Docherty bought Merridale Ciderworks about twelve years ago. It started out as a one building operation consisting of the production plant attached to a tiny tasting room remembers Janet. That was just the beginning of our much bigger dream. Today, with an expanded dining area, a pond, gazebo, two yurts, a bakery and extensive landscaping, Merridale has quickly become one of the Island’s ‘must-see’ destinations… particularly with brides.

Their first step in evolving the business was to create an experience for people. Rather than just a cider shop, they wanted to create an all-round experience that brought you into the process of Merridale. They started off with the property: cleaning up the landscaping and revamping the buildings. Everything was a part of the Merridale experience from the apple to the production to the sales. “Shortly after building our new ciderhouse, we opened up our bistro to complement our ciders with local cuisine” recalls Janet. “We have an awesome team of chefs, all red seal certified who create innovative dishes with local products. I love the enthusiasm they put into their dishes, always looking for something new to add to our menu.”

The idea of having weddings at Merridale was completely organic. “We had a vision for the orchard and once we were into that, it became obvious that it would work for weddings too – mostly because couples kept asking to have their wedding here!” They embraced the demand and began hosting weddings on their incredible property. “It just made sense. We had been doing a lot of other events, so weddings were just a natural progression,” says Janet.

Further increasing the beauty of the property, the pond was built eight years ago to create a beautiful backdrop for our gazebo and yurts that they had built primarily for the wedding ceremonies.

The Cider House offers a modern reception option with an outdoor covered patio for your dinner. With soft lighting, heaters and a raised platform for the wedding party it creates a perfect reception area for your wedding. Following the meal and speeches, the ciderhouse with its cathedral ceiling and full length windows is used for dancing and mingling or for a more intimate setting the wrap around enclosed deck is set up. If you get our classic West Coast rain on your wedding day, your wedding will go unharmed with tents for the ceremony and a completely covered reception area.

Yurts: Yurts are Turkish tents. They are round buildings with domed roofs. Inside, Janet has decorated them in a romantic period feel. Couples and their wedding parties can get ready for the ceremony there or they are also available for the first night as a married couple, in the privacy of the orchard.

Hand chosen designer, event expert and chefs

Merridale has the philosophy that “a warm environment is a welcoming environment” and they work hard to make that true about the weddings at Merridale as well.

Janet has hand-picked each member of the Merridale team, choosing only those who are just as dedicated to their philosophy as she is.

Jess, the Events Manager, tends to the wedding couples every need with her highly personable and detail oriented demeanor.  While Pipi, a local artist, brings her talent to weddings by handling design and decor.

Cuisine is an integral part of a Merridale wedding. With their highly esteemed team of  three Red Seal Chefs, a Pastry Chef and a Baker on staff everything from appetizers to the cake is taken care of. Guests are able to watch much of the food preparation in the outdoor kitchen or visit the nearby garden to see where the greens are grown.

In style and within your budget

Janet feels that they have reached that eclectic orchard feel where guests can enjoy the surroundings and couples can enjoy not having to ‘break the bank’ to have this type of unique wedding day. “We put people at ease and they know we are going to take care of them. It’s your day to enjoy family and friends and we facilitate that.”

Jennifer and Chris, who were married July 9, 2011, say that their entire experience at Merridale was fabulous. They told The Ring, “One year later, we are still getting compliments from our guests saying how our wedding at Merridale was one of the best they’ve been to. The food was creative and delicious and the location was beautifully rustic, while still being elegant. Everything for our special day went off without a hitch – from the spa treatments, chair & tent set-up, breads & dips by the pond right through to the reception and dinner. Everything was perfect. Merridale did a fabulous job!”

Despite the excellent service and beautiful venue, as Janet points out, cost is really one of the best points of Merridale. “We work hard to be the same price approximately as a DIY wedding except that we come with service, experience and atmosphere.”

Kelsey and Christine (married June 23, 2012) agreed: “For the money, it would be hard to find a location that included indoor/outdoor, ceremony and reception AND a honeymoon suite all in the same area. Merridale is very unique among the hard cider farms as they really invite you in and make the experience original, as well as unforgettable.”

Jennifer and Chris also say the prices were unbelievably reasonable for the level of service they received… “Merridale far exceeded any expectations we had or could have imagined… They thought of everything!”

Merridale’s artistic vision for fabulous weddings

After around one hundred and fifty weddings, Janet has created a vision for weddings at Merridale. Janet explains, “We try to create an intimate setting for family and friends that allows guests to wander through the property and enjoy the ‘farm feeling’.”

Justin and Kaela, married July 7, 2012, knew they had found their venue when they visited Merridale. “The patio was exactly the look and feel we were looking for! We didn’t have to spend a ton of money on decorations because it’s already naturally stunning. They provided all the tables, linens and cutlery service. All we had to do was add a few centerpieces. We wanted a backyard feel and that’s hard to do without a massive backyard somewhere but this is the closest to it! It still has such a relaxed and open feel to it.”

When weddings first started at Merridale the wedding team consisted of just Janet. She was forced to become a very experienced wedding planner! Now, with so many weddings under her belt, she says she “remains inspired as couples always come up with something new, that we can build on and add to the mix to enhance the experience.”

Andrea and Jay loved the ease of planning their Merridale wedding. “EVERYTHING was included! We didn’t have to worry about china, flatware, tables, table cloths, chair covers, bartenders or caterers.” The bride was given a beautiful Yurt to get ready in and it was available for them to sleep in overnight. “Parking was simple and, if need be, guests were allowed to leave their vehicles overnight. With Merridale’s surround sound system, we didn’t even need to hire a DJ. Also, we had someone appointed as our wedding planner to help hash out all the details for our big day. There was even a program and map of the grounds made for our guests when they arrived! We felt at home with the staff and we already knew the food was absolutely outstanding! Oh, and they made our wedding cake too. The easiest decision we made was choosing Merridale as our venue.”

Walking you through a tailor made Merridale wedding…

Janet has worked hard to make sure that a couple can get a sense of what Merridale is all about before booking. “I want couples that are really happy to be here!” When couples first show interest, Merridale books a complimentary tour of the property. This allows couples to see the property and meet the wedding coordinator Jess. Couples usually choose to eat in the bistro before their tour to get a sense of the food they will be having at their reception. If it is a Destination Wedding, Janet and Jess are also happy to meet over Skype and chat.

Once a couple has decided that Merridale is the right fit for their vision, a formal meeting is held to go over the contract. All available packages are discussed and explained. Then, thirty days later they discuss their decisions with them and answer all their questions. Forty five days before the wedding a meeting is held to go over details. “We really don’t want anyone to feel there were any surprises!  It also really helps to take away anxiety when everything is laid out as to what to do and when.” says Janet.

Kaela, who originally had a ton of questions for the Merridale team, appreciated this. “Merridale’s staff were very quick to help, understanding of hiccups along the way and accommodating them. They answered all of our questions quickly and concisely.”

If you choose any of Merridale’s wedding décor packages, couples will meet with Pipi, who is experienced at what looks phenomenal at the location and how to make it happen. Janet, Jess and Pipi are familiar with all the local wedding vendors and can get you in touch with anything you are looking for. Several couples mentioned how they felt they were working with family and not staff!

For Nicole and John, married June 30, 2012, the custom package really worked for them. “We were so impressed with how accommodating Merridale was of our budget and style that didn’t fit the traditional mold. They put together the perfect package for us and we had such a fun and stress-free day!”

A few of our favourite things…

♥ The resident farm dogs, Stella and Brit! They wander around the property greeting guests and loving every bit of attention they get.

♥ The Honeymoon Wake-up: a complimentary breakfast of freshly baked brick oven goodies and coffee. A great start to your brand new lives together!

♥ Delicious ciders, fortified dessert wines and a range of brandies and spirits. They’re all hand crafted, all natural and made from 100% undiluted juice from Cowichan Valley apples and other BC fruits on Vancouver Island. Even their names are delicious, such as Frizz, Scrumpy and MerriBerri!

♥ Yurts: Using them for the wedding and or the honeymoon night is such a unique, eclectic and intimate option. Love it!

♥ Payments aren’t fully completed until a week after the event so that the event is the focus, not the money.

♥ On-site favour ideas: The Merridale shop has tons of great local ideas like soaps or small bottles of cider.

♥ The waterfall, quirky signs, chalkboards and the deck chairs set in the orchard add to all the country chic. A bride and groom could make this venue as elegant or as laid back as they want. No matter the theme or style, Merridale is sure to please with its barns and rustic buildings.

♥ Brides adore this location. We loved hearing different couples describe Merridale, such as Kaela, “Merridale has a very comfortable but refined feel. The patio overlooks a stunning orchard, and as the sun was setting the color and lighting was absolutely magical; the entire place felt warm. The atmosphere is relaxed, quiet, natural and home-y.”

Details, details, details…

• Ceremonies and receptions are priced separately so that you can choose just to have your reception at Merridale. At this time, they will not hold a ceremony without reception though.

• Linens, tableware and tents are included in wedding packages.

• Food and beverage are priced separately according to what you choose. On average, however, couples spend from $29 to $35 per person.

• Reservation fee is $750.00.

• Merridale has special arrangements with nearby hotels, resorts and B&B’s to accommodate your guests.

• Merridale suggests booking the location at least a year in advance, whenever possible, however they’re happy to answer all inquiries.

• Taxes and gratuities are extra.

Contacting Merridale!

Merridale Ciderworks is located as 1230 Merridale Road in Cobble Hill, BC. We highly recommend scheduling a tour and tasting. Merridale can be reached by phone at 250.743.4293 or 1-800-998-9908 or by email wedding@merridalecider.com.  The Merridale website also offers extensive information on the orchard, their products and of course, their incredible weddings. Visit them online at www.merridalecider.com.

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