Finding the right venue was a massive thing for me when I first started my wedding planning, and it was also the most daunting. I realised that the venue sets the tone for the day, and it is, of course, one of the biggest financial commitments you will make when you get hitched. I neither had a tone or theme in mind for my wedding and I had a pretty small budget… so I initially panicked, then I think I probably cried, and then spent a lot of time researching venues both in London and in the neighbouring counties.
Through my search I came across a lot of beautiful and unusual venues for weddings – some serving just ceremonies, some serving receptions, others dealing with both of these things. I decided that having my wedding in a quirky venue would work really for me considering I was on a budget; I couldn’t afford to add wow factor through sheer scale, but I could give things a little wow-ness through choosing a place that had something different to offer, a place that guests would not have visited before or be expecting.
I struggled to find an article on quirky or unusual venues in the UK, so I’m creating one for you! Actually I’m going to create a little series of articles, and the first stop on the trip will be Harrow School.
As with my article on London garden venues, denotes “easy on the purse” and denotes “pass the credit card”.
Read on, you might be inspired!
What is it called? Harrow School.
Where is it? Harrow-on-the-Hill in north-west London. Harrow-on-the-Hill station on the metropolitan line is a five minute walk away.
Ceremony or reception? Civil ceremony and reception.
Some history, please: Harrow is an independent boys’ school, which boasts a long list of famous alumni including Winston Churchill, Lord Byron, and (here’s one for the cheap seats at the back) James Blunt. There is evidence that the school has been on that site since 1243, however the school that we know today was officially founded by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I in 1572.
Why this one? Now you might be thinking: “A school? Why would I want to get married in a school? What’s so unusual about that?” But hold your horses, because this school is not exactly a local comp based in a seventies, rectangular building (sort of like the one CB went to).
Not only are the old historic buildings beautiful, but Harrow-on-the-hill is stunning and has a really special atmosphere. It’s easy to feel like you are in a historic little village in the countryside; you certainly don’t feel like you are in London or that you have a tube stop or Harrow Town Centre a short-ish stroll away. But it’s a bonus to have them so close by, particularly for guests.
If you do look eastwards you get an amazing view across London, and on a clear day you can see all the way across the city to Canary Wharf.
What’s on offer? Civil ceremonies can take place in the Old Harrovian Room, which was designed by late British architect Sir Herbert Baker and is based in one of the historic buildings. The room has hanging portraits and artefacts, and can fit up to 120 people.
You can also accommodate 120 people in the school’s main function room the Shepherd Churchill Room, which offers views across London and has a large garden terrace. The Shepherd Churchill Hall is used for receptions and is equipped with a dance floor and bar.
Harrow School has its own catering team, which you will have to use, offering mainly British and med-style dishes.
How much will it set me back? To hire either room for a civil ceremony will cost £430 plus VAT (this was in 2010 when I asked and might have increased since). To hire the pianos in the rooms costs between £45-70 plus VAT. The hire charge for the hall is also £430 plus VAT.
A selection of 13 canapés cost around £13 (again this is based on prices at time of enquiry), starters are around £8, mains are £15-23, and desserts are around £7. You can also get a three course buffet from £38, and there are various options for evening catering.
Anything else you need to know? You can only hire the venue during school holidays. You can’t use confetti, party poppers, sparklers or fireworks on the grounds. You will have to arrange your own DJ.
This probably won’t be an issue for most readers, but at the time of enquiry the school said they would not be able to provide Indian or halal menus.