By TINA READING
A few weeks ago we were invited to the beautiful Banqueting House at Whitehall and whilst we were there I started telling my colleague all about the history of this fabulous building. Being a proud history geek I love nothing better than getting my Tudor head on (rather than Henry VIII who seemed to lop many a Tudor head off)!
I thought I would put together a few of my favourite historical venues that host weddings where you can be your very own princess, even if it is just for one day!
Pictured above: Kensington Palace / Nick Tucker Photography
Gill Aspell Photography
Windsor Guildhall, Berkshire
In 2005, worldwide attention focused on Windsor Guildhall when HRH The Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker-Bowles, followed by a blessing in St George’s Chapel and reception in Windsor Castle’s State Apartments. The intimate Ascot Room was, later that same year, the setting for one of England’s first Civil Partnership ceremonies between rock royalty Sir Elton John and David Furnish.
With two historic rooms available, the Grade 1 listed 17th-century Guildhall is the most popular wedding venue in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. A fine collection of royal portraits and two huge chandeliers on permanent loan from HM Queen Elizabeth II grace The Chamber. The Ascot room has two stained glass windows unveiled by The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 2013. Windsor Guildhall was originally designed by Sir Thomas Fitch and completed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1689. The building is steeped in history and is a dominant feature of the town.
The Chamber comfortably seats up to 100 guests and the Ascot room 20 -30. It doesn’t cost a royal fortune to marry at Windsor Guildhall. Prices start from £750 per hour. And while a reception in Windsor Castle’s State Apartments might not be readily available, there is no shortage of alternative prestigious and welcoming venues nearby.
Chenies Manor, Buckinghamshire
This stunning 15th Century manor is the perfect backdrop for your special day and their award-winning gardens provide a dreamy and romantic setting. The Tudor Manor house is steeped in history, once the family seat of the Bedfords it has been visited by both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. It is now the home of the Macleod Matthews family and those who have chosen Chenies Manor for their wedding reception have commented that it felt like their own for the weekend. They only have one event a weekend and access to dress the rooms can be offered on a Friday morning.
The stately long room and dining room within the house are perfect for drinks on arrival, as is the floriferous Rose Lawn. The garden room with doors opening onto the flower borders seats 90 and a marquee can be fitted to the side for larger numbers. The breathtaking gardens provide wonderful opportunities for photographs and boast a 1000-year-old oak, which was sat under by Queen Elizabeth I, a romantic gazebo and a full-size yew maze. Many may recognise it as the garden featured in the wedding scene in the recent film Me Before You.
Note from Tina: I am a frequent visitor to the manor as a local. This is such a beautiful little slice of our heritage and quintessential English countryside living. A truly fabulous backdrop to your wedding, it even has a church on its doorstep!
The Jockey Club Rooms, Suffolk
Steeped in history with Royal Connections since 1750, The Rooms and Club offer couples, the most stunning private home and venue, beautifully set in the historic town of Newmarket.
With walls adorned with Monarch’s who have been patrons of The Club, including the late Queen Elizabeth II who was as one would expect the Club’s Patron until her death this year. One of the most active and passionate Patron’s was Edward VII.
His private apartment is still available to couples who wish to spend their first night, with its elegantly appointed Drawing Room, Four Poster bed, and even The King’s original bath which has been beautifully restored taking pride of place in the bathroom.
Perfect for couples looking for a prestigious rural venue with a truly classic heritage and feel to make their day complete; the five fine reception rooms are licensed for civil ceremonies, with an additional marquee space for up to 300 people.
Incredibly private and with an air of exclusivity, The Jockey Club Rooms particularly suits couples with a penchant for art, history and country sports.
Also worth mentioning are the eighteen individually furnished bedrooms, complete with en-suites which are available to guests, along with a luxurious Bridal Suite.
Wynyard Hall, Teeside
If you’re looking for a wedding venue fit for a queen, luxury North East hotel, Wynyard Hall has long been a favoured haunt for royalty. With its 150 acres of stunning historic parkland and magnificent State Rooms, it’s easy to see why.
Wynyard Hall dates back to medieval times, but the present building owes much to the Londonderry family, who owned the property for several generations. In 1819 Lady Frances Anne Vane Tempest married Lord Charles Stewart, and together they embarked on a glorious restoration project. Following this, the impressive, elaborate décor was showcased to nobles, aristocrats and royals when Charles Stewart succeeded to the title 3rd Marquess of Londonderry.
The design of the Hall is based on plans which were drawn up, but never used for Waterloo Palace in Hampshire, and many of its rooms and historical pieces have been named after visitors that have passed through its doors. The corridor of luxury bedrooms on the first floor is named ‘the Duke’s Gallery’ after the Duke of Wellington, and the stunning Disraeli bridal suite is named after famous artist and politician Benjamin Disraeli.
Wynyard Hall is one of the few British venues to have its own Chapel on-site, adorned with beautiful Italian marble, and marvellous stained glass windows, licensed for religious wedding ceremonies. The opulent State Rooms make the venue truly unique. They still boast many of their original period features, including hand-painted ceilings, ornate fireplaces, and large windows overlooking the lake, which are swathed in elegant drapes – the perfect setting for capturing treasured romantic moments on a couple’s wedding day!
In more recent years, Charles Dickens, Sir Robert Peel, Winston Churchill, King Edward VII, King George VI, Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Kent have also been added to Wynyard Hall’s impressive guest list.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace provides a magnificent setting for any wedding. With a collection of six venue spaces to use for various elements of your event. From the stunning Orangery and Marlborough room for your ceremony to the impressive Great Hall and ornate Long Library for your dinner and drinks receptions, and the Water Terraces for music and dancing, or for large-scale weddings a marquee on the South Lawn, Blenheim Palace makes a perfect location for a wedding of any size and style.
Blenheim Palace is a privately-owned home and Estate with a hugely diverse history that is still being written. The Dukes of Marlborough have lived here since 1705 and today the Palace is home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough, Charles James Spencer-Churchill and his family. The Estate is a working one and is part of a long, living and lasting heritage.
Sir Winston Churchill (who was born in the Palace) once said “My greatest achievement was to persuade my wife to marry me” and he achieved this in The Temple of Diana in the formal gardens here. Churchill proposed to his beloved Clementine as they took shelter from a downpour in the summer of 1908. The spot is now a romantic must-visit for couples and a popular wedding photo location.
Blenheim Palace is surrounded by over 2000 acres of Parkland and is one of the largest and most impressive projects by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the famous English landscape gardener. The parkland is unrivalled and in 1874 Lord Randolph Churchill (Sir Winston’s father) named one part of the Park as having “The finest view in England”. It is the only non-royal and non-episcopal building in the UK to hold the title of ‘Palace’, earning its own unique sense of regality.
Pennsylvania Castle, Dorset
Pennsylvania Castle is an exclusive venue located on the beautiful Isle of Portland with stunning views across the English Channel and Jurassic Coastline. It offers classic yet modern surroundings with an obvious emphasis on comfort and luxury, with nine immaculate en-suite bedrooms, extensive entertaining and living areas and a fully equipped heated indoor pool.
The Penn is located on the Isle of Portland which forms the southernmost point of Dorset. Portland is 4.5miles long and 1.75 miles wide. John Penn started construction of Pennsylvania Castle in 1797 after King George III gave him the land that it now occupies. He was the grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania USA. Designed by architect James Wyatt, The Penn was opened by Princess Elizabeth in 1800.
The Penn has a rich and varied history that takes Royal celebrations (the King and Queen visited in 1800 and enjoyed their wedding anniversary here), the Napoleonic Wars, preparations for the D-Day landings, and literary figures such as Thomas Hardy whose novel “The Well Beloved” has the Castle at the heart of its love story. The Penn and grounds cover 4.27 acres, with gardens that have been designed to provide secluded retreats throughout. The principle rooms look out across the rugged UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jurassic Coast and along the English Channel towards St Alban’s Head and the Isle of Wight.
The Castle has on the ground floor, a Reception Hall, Drawing Room, Dining Room, Library, Conservatory, Study, Kitchen, various domestic offices including Utility Room, Butler’s Pantry and Wine Store and a magnificent indoor swimming pool and Orangery. There are nine bedrooms across the first and mezzanine floor. Outbuildings include a Wedding pagoda, a Japanese-style tea house, a breeze house, a waterfall with a lookout, log store, guest greenhouse with an organic herb and vegetable garden.
Nicola and Glen Photography
Hampton Court Palace, London
For centuries this magnificent palace has dazzled audiences with lavish parties and gala celebrations hosted by powerful monarchs. England’s kings and queens – from Henry VIII and his six wives to William III and Mary II – amazed guests with the spectacle and romance of Hampton Court Palace.
With splendid formal gardens, elegant courtyards and magnificent Tudor and Baroque architecture, this 500-year-old treasure really does provide a breath-taking backdrop for weddings. The palace’s timeless majesty will enchant and delight guests and ensure a day to remember for the happy couple.
Hampton Court Palace’s light and airy Garden Room, with capacity for 220 guests, is set in the beautiful Tiltyard Gardens with French doors opening onto paved terraces and manicured lawns reserved exclusively for the wedding party. Couples can enjoy a champagne toast under ancient trees in the lush greenery, followed by dancing in this spacious and versatile 1920s-style orangery.
The Little Banqueting House is a very ornate, intimate venue set slightly away from the main palace on the banks of the River Thames. Built for William III, the venue is spectacularly decorated with 18th-century paintings and murals by Antonio Verrio and offers a classic backdrop to a civil ceremony, reception, or dinner for up to 50 guests. The private walled garden is perfect for drinks receptions or photographs and can be approached by a riverboat as an extra unique feature.
The palace’s State Apartments in the heart of the palace are also available to hire for weddings. Couples can choose to enjoy a drinks reception in the beautiful Privy Gardens or the Cartoon Gallery overlooking Fountain Court before guests move through to dinner in the magnificent Great Hall of Henry VIII. After-dinner entertainment and dancing can follow in Henry VIII’s old beer cellar, the Undercroft.
Banqueting House, London
The sheer magnificence of Banqueting House, which was built for entertaining, has dazzled revellers and guests from the monarch since the early 17th century. When King James I wanted a sumptuous new banqueting house at Whitehall, he turned to his talented Surveyor of the King’s Works, Inigo Jones. Drawing on the harmonious principles of classical architecture, Jones created a sensation in 1622 when his designs resulted in one of the earliest classical buildings in England. The King immediately began hosting elaborate performances called ‘masques’ and in 1636, King Charles I added Sir Peter Paul Ruben’s magnificent ceiling paintings.
Today, this architectural and artistic masterpiece remains as inspiring as ever and is the perfect venue for London brides. Whether couples are looking for a spectacular wedding or an intimate reception, Banqueting House guarantees first-class service and an unforgettable backdrop. Banqueting House’s magnificent Main Hall with its priceless Rubens ceiling has one of the capital’s largest capacities and is able to accommodate 400 guests for a wedding ceremony and up to 500 for a drinks reception, depending on staging. Guests can arrive via an elegant entry hall, and follow in the footsteps of kings and queens, climbing the grand staircase to the Main Hall, which features magnificent pillars and glistening chandeliers.
Banqueting House’s atmospheric Undercroft is where Stuart kings once retreated from public life. Today, this intimacy – once favoured by England’s monarchs – makes it a special space for an unforgettable evening of dining, dancing and celebration. The Drinking Den of King James I, which features vaulted ceilings and candelabra to evoke a romantic mood, can accommodate 150 guests for a civil ceremony, 250 for a standing reception and 120 for a wedding breakfast or dinner.
Nick Tucker Photography
Kensington Palace, London
Few settings run as rich in allure, beauty and a vivid sense of history as Kensington Palace. The first house on the site was bought by William III and Mary II in 1689 and was later transformed into the Kensington Palace we know today. The venue’s timeless elegance and storied past are guaranteed to charm and delight guests and provide the most idyllic backdrop to a couple’s big day. Located within tranquil Kensington Gardens, the palace’s inspiring venues are some of the most beautiful in London.
A prestigious stage for hundreds of years, the state rooms are where powerful politicians and courtiers jostled for influence and the ear of the King. The palace’s exquisite style, shaped by artists, craftsmen and fashionable residents, made it a wonderful venue for the royals’ intimate family gatherings and extravagant all-night parties. Kensington Palace’s venues offer elegant interiors that lend flamboyance and flair to a wonderful evening – these include the Cupola Room, King’s Gallery – the palace’s largest space, and King’s Drawing Room.
Kensington Palace’s Orangery was built in 1704 for Queen Anne who originally intended to winter her orange trees here. Instead, it was frequently used as a venue for lavish balls and celebrations. Popular year-round, the venue’s palatial interior décor, Portland stone terrace and tranquil surroundings make it a highly sought-after location for weddings. The Orangery can accommodate 300 guests for receptions, 120 for dinner and dancing, and 150 for civil ceremonies. For summer weddings, guests can enjoy the south-facing stone terrace and larger receptions can be accommodated with lawn and terrace marquees, which can be fully heated in winter. Pyrotechnics are also permitted to round the evening off in dramatic fashion.
Kensington Palace’s East Front Gardens and Sunken Garden are ideal for outdoor drinks receptions in the summer months. Larger receptions of up to 400 can be accommodated in the East Front Gardens where guests can enjoy panoramic venues of the palace. The Sunken Garden, a lovely secluded English Garden, is perfect for intimate drinks receptions of up to 80 guests.
The Atholl Arms, Perthshire
Situated beside Thomas Telford’s famous bridge over the River Tay 12 miles from Perth, this historic 17-bedroom hotel is one of Dunkeld’s landmarks and enjoys a high reputation for food.
Built in 1833, a quarter-of-a-century after the five-arched bridge was opened to the public, it retains many original features. Queen Victoria dined in the hotel as a Princess on one of her frequent visits to Balmoral. Named after her, The Victoria Suite commands views of the Tay and Birnam Hill, mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. All rooms are en-suite and have free wi-fi.
The Riverview Restaurant offers top-quality cuisine and service in an informal and relaxing atmosphere. Its Meeting Place bistro and pub is one of the focal points of the local community.
In November 2016 its Garden Terrace on the banks of the Tay was voted Best New Outdoor Area in Scotland in awards organised by trade magazine Scottish Licensed Trade News. It commands splendid views of the bridge and river and has been the setting for small weddings. A wooden pavilion, created by local craftsmen, serves meals, snacks, tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks.