How to have an English garden wedding in London…

My wedding research has made me fall in love with the idea of an English garden wedding – the flowers, the sunshine (fingers crossed) and the relaxed atmosphere. Perfect! However, if you live in London like me you probably don’t have the sort of garden that is big enough to swing a cat, or you might not have a garden at all.

Thankfully, the capital is a beautifully green city (a surprise to some), with lovely parks dotted around… most of which will have a central building that is licensed to hold a wedding, or at least is available for receptions. These all offer a unique and unusual alternative to the traditional city hotel wedding.  I’ve already written about the lovely former royal residence Cambridge Cottage in Kew, but to help out fellow city girls, here are some of the lovely park wedding venues I found when undertaking my own research – from budget to extravagant.*

budget2 * = easy on the purse expensive1 * = pass me the credit card

1. Pembroke Lodge


Where? Richmond Park, south-west London.

About: This pretty white Georgian Mansion, which is set in the 2,500 acres of Richmond Park, started out life as a mole-catchers cottage. However, it was eventually extended and given to Elizabeth Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, the principal lady-in-waiting to King George III. In 1854 the Earl of Aberdeen’s Cabinet met at Pembroke Lodge and decided to proceed with the Crimean War against Russia. Philosopher Bertrand Russell also grew up at the lodge.

The building features two venues which are licensed for weddings. The Belvedere is based on the ground floor and has a terrace that boasts gorgeous views of Thames Valley. The Russell Suite is based on the first floor and accommodates more intimate weddings.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: 70-140 in the Belvedere – minimum numbers apply at certain times of the year and on weekends. The Russell Suite can accommodate up to 70 people.

Cost: Prices for the Belvedere range from £500 during the week in the winter, to £3,950 on a Saturday in the summer.

Think about: Pembroke lodge seemed very accommodating regarding dietry requirements – I was offered Indian catering prepared by a specialist Indian chef for £5 per head more than the usual cost (£35).

The lodge has very pretty grounds – great for romantic wedding pictures. If you want to venture further into the park, you might also get snaps of the lovely deer.

The building is home to a café, so during the day members of the public might be occupying the terrace and grounds. Also, weddings take place in the Belvedere and Russell Suite on the same day, although the timings are different.

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2. The Belvedere


Where? Holland Park, west London.

About: Dating back to the 17th century, The Belvedere was a summer ballroom to Holland House. The restaurant, located just near Kensington High Street and Notting Hill, is surrounded by lawns, flowers gardens and a fountain. Chef Marco Pierre White got married here in 2000.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: The venue can accommodate up to 120 people.

Cost: Price on application. When I requested an estimate based on 60 people, on a Friday or Saturday in summer 2011 from 6pm (for exclusive use of the upper dining room including the mezzanine and terrace) I was quoted a min. spend of £7,000 including service charge. Three course meals with coffee started at £60 per head.

Think about: I was told there would not be an option of playing music or having speeches in this space as the ground floor restaurant would be in use by other people. This might be different if you are hiring out the whole venue.

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3. The Pump House Gallery


Where? Battersea Park, south London

About: The Pump House is a restored Grade II listed Victorian building. It was built in 1861 to supply water to the lakes of Battersea Park. It lay disused for many years until English Heritgae and Wandsworth Council undertook a £400,000 restoration scheme to bring it back to life. It is now run as a shop and art gallery.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: The venue can fit up to 70 people for a ceremony, 120 people throughout, or 200 people for drinks and canapés. You will need a marquee to have dinner and dancing, which will increase the capacity by 150.

Cost: The hire of the gallery is £300 per hour, or for the gallery and terrace it is £400 per hour. There is an additional cost for a marquee (which is not provided by the venue).

Think about: You can bring in your own caterers and there is no corkage fee – so you can potentially really keep the cost down. Also, there cost does not change depending on the day or season you decide to get married in.

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4. The Horniman Museum


Where? Horniman Museum and Gardens, south-east London

About: The museum was opened in 1901 to house the international collections of artefacts and specimins collected by Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman (he initially stored everything in his home, but the collection soon increased). Further buildings were added to the original site last century, although in 1999 some of these were demolished as part of a Centenary Development scheme.

The venue as we know it today reopened in 2002. Set in 16 acres of gardens, the conservatory-like building is light and bright, and is available for hire from April 1 to October 31. It also features adjoining private terraces, and an area for a marquee.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: the venue can house up to 100 guests.

Cost: £2,730 for an eight hour booking (this applies throughout the opening period). Think about: The museum is not available for hire from Monday-Thursday. Barbeques are not permitted in the gardens or terraces.

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5. Kenwood House

budget2 or expensive1

Where? Kenwood House and Gardens, north London

About: The estate was once owned by brewing magnate Edward Cecil Guinnessm, the first Earl of Iveagh. It was bequeathed to the nation on his death, including an important collection of art by the likes of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Turner and Gainsborough. The venue has great views of central London.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: 14-120 people.

Cost: £1,000 for the Old Kitchen to £3,500 for the Adam Library and Dining room or the East Wing.

Think about: Like some other venues, the prices do not include VAT – this will push the total cost.

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6. Syon House


Where? Syon Park, south-west London

About: Stunning Syon House and Park is the London home of the Duke of Northumberland, whose family has lived there for more than 400 years. The site was originally the home of a medieval abbey named after Mount Zion, that was favoured by King Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine of Aragon.

The house boasts a number of spaces for weddings including the Great Hall, the State Dining Room,  the Great Conservatory and even a marquee for larger weddings.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: From 50-120 for ceremonies in the house, to a 200-600 marquee for an evening reception.

Cost: £3,000-£8,000 for 6pm to midnight hire.

Think about: The conservatory is not open for weddings November to March, although the state dining room and marquee is still available. The venue has a wide list of caterers it works with, including specialist companies such as those providing kosher food.

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7. Beauberry House

budget2 or expensive1

Where? West Dulwich, south-east London

About: The estate originally consisted of two farms, and in 1785 John Wiles a corn factor from Whitechapel erected the building. After Willes death there was a new owner, Charles Ranken, who renamed the house Belair. Eighty years later it was purchased and renovated by Charles Hutton, a wool merchant and the sheriff of London and Middlesex. The building continued to change hands for the next 100 years.

In 2004, it was bought by Ibi Issoloah who renamed it Beauberry House and carried out a major refurbishment scheme. Last year, the house was voted the best wedding venue in south London and shortlisted as one of the UK’s best wedding venues.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: 20-150 people.

Cost: The White Room and private bar has a minimum spend of £5,000. Semi-exclusive hire of the whole venue costs a minimum of £6,000, and exclusive hire is from £10,000.

Think about: The venue offers a fun selection of menus from canapés, to bowl food, to a formal meal, to afternoon tea.

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8. Marble Hill House

budget2 or expensive1 (depending on hoe you look at it!)

Where? Richmond, south west London

About: The white Palladian villa is set in 60 acres of parkland in Richmond. It was built in the 18th century for Henrietta Howard, a mistress of King George II when he was the Prince of Wales. The house became a fashionable venue for artists, poets and politicians to congregate.

Ceremony and Reception? Ceremony and drinks reception

Numbers: 50 guests for the ceremony and 60 for a drinks reception.

Cost: £1,250 for a three hour period.

Think about: You cannot have dinner and dancing at the venue so you will have to find another location for that (thankfully in Richmond there are lots of choices). The venue is not available for hire on Sundays.

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9. Chiswick house


Where? Chiswick House and Gardens, west London

About: A neo-Palladian villa that is set in a newly restored garden that opened this summer after a £12.1 million scheme. Built by the third Earl of Burlington in 1729 to showcase his art collection, the house continues to display many spectacular works of art and provides a stunning venue for entertaining.

Ceremony and Reception? Yes

Numbers: The house and courtyard can accommodate 96 seated guests and 150 for a standing reception. The Burlington Pavilion can fit 150 for a dinner and dance, 250 for dinner only and 350 for a standing reception.

Cost: Hire fees range from £3,500 to £6,000.

Think about: Not all of the wedding spaces are available in the winter.

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10. Chelsea Physic Garden


Where? Chelsea Physic Garden, west London

About: How about choosing a garden itself? The site was established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries as an Apothecaries’ Garden, with the purpose of training apprentices in identifying plants. It continues to research the properties, origins and conservation of over 5000 plant species. Chelsea Physic Garden is an unusual venue in the heart of London.

It has a variety of function rooms in addition to the Garden available to hire for summer drinks parties on the lawn to weddings. Most events are centred around the lawn (90 feet by 77 feet) in front of the main building.

Ceremony and Reception? No, just a reception.

Numbers: The Garden has the capacity for 400 people for a standing reception.

Cost: Weekday and Sunday evenings prices ranges from £3,150 to £5,250. On Saturdays prices range from £4,200 to £6,300 and during the Chelsea Flower Show they treble.

Think about: Daytime hire is limited and prices leap during the Chelsea Flower Show. The website also states that amplified music is generally unsuitable for the garden – so maybe lean towards string quartets and harps.

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