Unusual venues: Harrow School

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, budget2 denotes “easy on the purse” and expensive1 denotes “pass the credit card”.

Read on, you might be inspired!

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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.

Harrow School harrow_building

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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? budget2 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.

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Budget wedding video: shoot it yourself but get it edited by a pro

I’d love to have a wedding video as well as photographs, but I’m not sure I can afford a professional videographer…

3_step_leftHiring a videographer can be expensive, and if you are on a tight budget it might be out of your reach. You could always get a friend to film your wedding day, but you run the risk of ending up with dodgy shots and ten minutes worth of footage featuring people’s shoes or the church floor, when the camera has been left on by mistake.

But I’ve come across a way that budget-savvy couples can (hopefully!) get a fun, quality wedding video –  by filming the day themselves and then getting the video edited by a professional, who will know how to cut out those moments when the groom is gurning and the camera has caught the bride’s bad side.

A company called Shoot It Yourself will courier professional standard cameras to you the day before your wedding. All you have to do is get someone you trust to do the filming, send the cameras and back to the company, and they will edit the footage for you. You can hire one camera for £500 or two for £600. Remember that you won’t necessarily get a perfect wedding video (unless one of your friend’s is a pro-camera man), but you will get something fun and personal to you.

If your budget allows, you can pay £800 for a professional TV director to film the ceremony and speeches, and then get your friends to film the fun parts in the evening.

Image from www.shoot-it-yourself.co.uk

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Vintage elegance for budget-conscious brides… from Topshop!

I love this beaded maxi-dress from Topshop’s new collection, and I think it could make an elegant, vintage inspired wedding dress – perfect for a more informal soiree. At just £225, the Snow Queen Maxi Dress is a steal for brides on a budget, and the loose column style should hide a multiple of sins! It’s probably not the best option for petite ladies like me, but if you are not vertically challenged then I’d suggest you check this out.

topshopMAXIDRESS

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