Brilliant and Unusual Wedding Venues
London NW1 4RY
Tel. 0171 586 3339
Contact Nicky Elkington.
All things bride and beautiful meet all creatures great and small with a Wedding at London Zoo, set right on the edge of Regents Park, the centerpiece of Nash's Regency London. Recently reprieved from closure, the Zoo has two lovely rooms for your Wedding Ceremony.
The Raffle's Suite, named after the Zoo's founder Sir Stamford Raffles, is a colonial-style room. It has bamboo furniture and cream walls and a comfortable bar. A group of 120 can sit here and enjoy the ceremony and meal with ease.
The large Regency Room, overlooking Barclay Court and its attractive fountain (illuminated at night!) and a patio and lawn ideal for drinks and photocalls, is also available. This room has a rich colour scheme of green and red and divides into three - a reception area, a dance floor and an area for the ceremony itself. For parties of 200 or more, the whole room can be used for the meal and and the marriage takes place in the Raffles Suite.
You cannot see any animals from these suites - and you cannot get married in the snake pit! - but you can hire an animal house for drinks and canapes. The insect house, with its glassed-in tropical rainforest ambiance, makes a spooky and fun place to drink cocktails with the cockroaches. On a fine day you could have a barbecue reception on the lion terraces, a beautiful open terrace looking onto some of the world's rarest animals. Menu's range from buffets at £15 to £25 for meals (this includes wine). The Regency Suite costs £765 to hire and the Raffles Suite £530.
Bentley Wildfowl & Motor Museum
East Sussex BN8 5AF
Tel. 01825 840 573
Contact Barry Sutherland
If you are unconventional, eco-friendly or a car freak, this lovely museum is the wedding venue for you. Originally a farm and open as a wildfowl museum in 1966, it is the home of over 100 species of wildfowl and one of Britain's finest collections of veteran and vintage cars.
Weddings are held in the Phillip Rickman Gallery, another point of interest in the museum. Decorated in sunny yellow and white, with colourful oriental furniture and a black and white checked marble floor, it holds a collection of wildfowl paintings by Sussex artist Philip Rickman. The whole effect is exotic - especially if followed up by a photocall in the formal gardens and a reception in a marquee on the lawn. Background music is fine so long as is in keeping with the surroundings - better to have Mozart than Motorhead.
Cars in the collection are privately owned, but can be hired for a journey to the wedding. Basic ceremonies cost £150 excluding the registrar and catering costs from £7.50 a head for a finger buffet to £25 a head for a sit down meal in a marquee. An open-air picnic on the lawn is a lovely idea for a small and intimate party.
Cumbria CA8 2HF
Contact Colleen Hall
For a Medieval Fairytale Wedding, among the hills and waterfalls of Cumbria and in sight of the Scottish border, go no further than Naworth. Once the home of the mighty Dacre and Howard families, it is now a leading funcion venue. And you can enjoy your wedding among the wood pannelled rooms, towers, turrets and narrow spiral staircases.
The historic Great Hall is licensed for ceremonies. It has a timbered ceiling and a vast inglenook fireplace, as well as tapestries made for the wedding of Henry VI of France to Marie de Medici in 1600, brought to Naworth during the French Revolution. The Hall overlooks the Castle Courtyard, a great place for wedding photographs and greeting guests!
Also licensed is the Library, with rows of books, paintings and leaded windows. It seats up to 75 people. Although the castle is not a hotel, it has ten double bedrooms for guests and a bridal suite in the tower, complete with four-poster bed!
The staff guarantee a personal service and will cater for your every whim. They can organise the whole wedding, from photographs and flowers to car hire and any kind of food. To hire the bridal chamber and the Great Hall for your party costs £1000 plus VAT - plus £250 for the library for your ceremony. Finger buffets cost £7.50 per head and more formal sit-down meals from £20.
Rivers Nightclub and Boaters Restaurant
1 Saint Helen's Avenue
Oxon OX10 6RY
Tel.01491 838 331
Contact Mike Allen
For an upbeat and unusual venue near the waterways of Oxford, check out this popular pub restaurant and nightclub. Originally a 1930's tearoom, it was licensed for weddings through a suggestion of a couple who met and were engaged there.
The Wedding room is part of Boaters restaurant, an octagonal room with stained glass windows depicting exotic birds. This room can hold up to 75 guests for a wedding and 100 for a reception...
But if you are thinking big, you can be married in the nightclub downstairs in front of 400 guests who can later tuck into their buffet or lunch seated at tables around the edge of a huge dance floor! The food is reasonably priced - from £5 each for a finger buffet to a sit-down meal for £18 or so. Although the rooms can be hired for a wedding only, combined ceremonies and receptions are a bargain at £100 to hire Boaters and £150 for Rivers!
Surrey GU25 4LS
Tel. 01344 842 201
Contact Karen Bidgood
Wentworth Club.....one of the most prestigious golf venues, a beautiful gothic-style clubhouse with turrets and battlements set in 700 acres of beautiful Surrey countryside...a fairytale setting for a magical wedding. Virginia Water is the playground of the rich and famous and a wedding at this club, which has hosted nearly every major and international golf event, is your chance to join the jet set. The decor is classy - plenty of wood panelling and wrought iron in the Burma Bar, 'the nineteenth hole' and deep flora sofas in the lounge.
There are several rooms for weddings - small groups will feel cosy in the Ryder Cup and Curtis Cup rooms, which give onto a private terrace overlooking the rhododendron gardens.
The elegant Ballroom, with gabled ceilings, chandeliers, wall mirrors and oil paintings, can hold up to 180 guests with ease and style.
The Staff are anxious to make your day - they can organize flowers from £15 and have contacts from vintage car firms to hot air balloons to dance bands. Room hire ranges from £1000 for the Ballroom to £400 and £250 for the Ryder and Curtis Cup rooms. Buffets and Dinners cost from £22.50 a head. You can have your first night here, in a deluxe room at £55 or the Garden Suite at £225, and enjoy the health suite, tennis courts and, of course, the three championship golf courses!
Sandown Park Racecourse
Surrey KT10 9AJ
Tel. 01372 464 348
Contact Barbara Crow
Be a real life Eliza Doolittle and knock them all dead at the races! Sandown Park is set in acres of parkland and is steeped in royal and equestrian history. Opened in the wild days of 1875 where 'foul-mouthed rednecks' haunted the turf, Sandown was the first racecourse to offer wedding ceremonies.
Two rooms are available - the Director's Box, large and light with an unparalleled view of the racecourse, seating 60 people; and the Ardross Suite, with pale blue decor, a sprung dance floor and room for 200 guests. (The Weighing Room isn't licensed so you can't get married sitting on the scales).
As for food, the caterers are exclusive to the racecourse and have been in business for over 30 years so they know all about feeding the multitudes! There is a fabulous selection of packages, ranging from an evening finger buffet at about £13 a head to Vegetarian delicacies at £10 a head, to a full meal at £28 a head.
007 Bond Street
Warwickshire CV11 4DA
Tel. 01203 347 563
Contact Heather Clelland
Go one better than Fatima Blush and Pussy Galore - capture your very own 007 in matrimony at this fun theme pub.
Now 'Licensed to Wed' this pub has a music bar full of Bond memorabilia on the ground floor and Moneypenny's Nightclub upstairs, which by day is a light, pink and green room, perfectly suited for the ceremony, which seats 300 and is great dressed up with flowers.
If you want your party there, the club will pull down the blinds after the photo's and get the music going. You can have a band in the evening and a DJ's will play the music of your choice. There are a number of packages including room hire, arrival drinks, a buffet or sit-down meal and bubbly for the toasts. These start at about £15 a head. Evening buffets excluding drinks cost from £4 a head. After the red-carpet treatment you can arrange for an Aston Martin with a 007 numberplate to whisk you away!
Buckinghamshire SL10 0NH
Tel. 01753 656 744
Anyone who ever fancied a career in the movies will love to hold their Wedding at Pinewood. This 19th Century manor was converted into a super-studio in 1936 by Arthur Rank and it has hosted over 600 movies and a string of small-screen hits, including Jeeves and Wooster and The Camomile Lawn.
Weddings are held in The Gatsby Room, created for the film The Great Gatsby. It overlooks the gardens and their lawns, maze, lake and lush cedar trees - a perfect place for that solemn moment.
You can have your Reception in the huge oak panelled Ballroom, which is used as a restaurant during the week. If you visit before your Wedding to discuss arrangements, you may sit and eat next to the stars! Beside the ballroom is Theatre where you can exchange vows on a huge stage or have your reception bash.
Pinewood staff are used to arranging themed weddings such as Medieval or Fifties parties. A basic wedding including red-carpet arrival, bucks fizz for the guests and wine with the meal costs about £38.50 a head. A larger Wedding using all the facilities can go up to £65 a head.
These fabulous venues feature in a new book:
"Dream Weddings: The Hundred Best Places to get Married in England and Wales"
by Liz Bestic and Jim Bewsher
Published by Signet and available for £5.99