Finding the right venue for your wedding is one of the biggest decisions of the whole planning process. The spaces you choose to say your vows and party the night away set the tone for absolutely everything else. Your venue selection has an impact on the number of guests you’ll be sharing your day with; the overall ambience of your wedding (will it be classic and elegant, rustic and bohemian, sleek urban chic, or something in between?) right down to the tiniest of decor details and finishing touches. Needless to say, it’s important to pick the right one for you, and the day you’re dreaming of having.
Thankfully, there is an increasing number of truly stunning venues across the UK run by imaginative people who don’t want to see cookie-cutter, conveyor belt weddings. These venue owners are sensitive to the fact that a desire for luxury doesn’t mean putting a lid on creativity. They’re able to offer a level of flexibility and innovation that is key for so many couples who, like you, want a unique celebration in beautiful surroundings.
Some of the finest country houses in the UK are now able to offer exquisite, tastefully restored event spaces and on-site luxury accommodation, while bringing real versatility to the table as well. Here are some of my favourites at the moment, from across the South of England:
This Devon jewel is just three miles from Exeter, but feels a world away from any big city. Set in 37 acres of parkland, the beautifully regal house is said to have been Jane Austen’s inspiration for Barton Park in Sense and Sensibility. Frankly, this fact alone is enough to have me falling in love with it! The team here really understand the ‘your day, your way’ ethos, and there’s a huge range of options available - from a lavish ballroom ceremony and sit-down feast for up to 90 guests, to an intimate woodland blessing or a marquee to dance the night away under the stars.
Spectacularly creative duo Katrina Otter and Emma Hla of Coco and Kat put together one of my favourite shoots of last year at Pynes House (you can find it in its full glory over on Rock My Wedding.) This relaxed but oh-so luxurious editorial showcases the venue beautifully, particularly its suitability for a stylish and elegant weekend-long celebration.
Ah, Axnoller. What a delight this place is! Three private houses (each with a wedding license), a modern and extremely cool barn (farmyard rustic this is not!) and ample space for a marquee, this Dorset estate is just so fun and sumptuous. I love the eclectic mix of antique and modern in the decor, and the team here want each and every guest to feel pampered.
The 17 on-site bedrooms, saunas, pools and steam rooms are made for opulent relaxation. This is probably the only time I’ll use bedding to showcase an overall ethos, but when a venue describes its en suite rooms as boasting ‘“lost count of the thread count” linen’, you know you’re on to a winner!
Set in the heart of Dorset in acres of gardens and parkland, this Jacobean manor house is a venue for all seasons. It’s been painstakingly restored by current owners Sam and Serena, and remains their much-loved family home.
Warmwell is grand and elegant, while remaining completely charming. It’s perfect for a marquee wedding or outdoor ceremony in summer, or something indulgent and cosy by the fire in the winter. There are gorgeous guest bedrooms, and the opportunity for some stylish glamping in the two on-site shepherd’s huts.
Known as ‘the playground for partygoers’, this Georgian house in Buckinghamshire definitely has the wow factor! Sunken gardens, sweeping lawns, a magnificent ballroom, a domed central hall and a charming medieval Church on site - this really is the ultimate luxury blank canvas.
I can’t talk about Hedsor without mentioning the accommodation on site. There are 10 beautiful guest bedrooms, but this gorgeous house includes (wait for it) the largest bridal suite in Europe, with an en-suite marble clad bathroom that dreams are made of!
One of my all-time favourite venues, this Hampshire house does grandeur like no other. Somerley was built in 1750, and has been in the Normanton family for six generations. With the flexibility to hire the house and/or the grounds, it’s made for a wide variety of weddings.
Whether you opt for elegance steeped in history in the libraries, picture gallery and drawing room, or something altogether more bohemian in the gardens and woodland, Somerley has you covered. I had the pleasure of co-ordinating and styling a shoot at Somerley last year with a team of fabulous suppliers. It was the perfect choice for some understated luxury.
Image Credits: 1: Kitty Wheeler Shaw; 2: Amy O’Boyle; 3: Rebecca Goddard; 4: Rebecca Goddard; 5: Lily and Frank; 6: Peppermint Love Photography; 7: Lemon Tree Photography; 8: Axnoller; 9: Warmwell House; 10: Warmwell House; 11: Warmwell House; 12: Imogen Xiana; 13: Imogen Xiana; 14: Hedsor House; 15: Hedsor House; 16: Julie Michaelsen; 17: Dominic James; 18: Somerley House; 19.20 and 21 Kitty Wheeler Shaw