Unusual venues: Wellington Arch

London is scattered with fabulously quirky wedding venues from grand, historic buildings to unexpected, hidden treasures. And if chosen wisely these locations can really pack a welcome punch to your big day… with very little effort on your behalf (my kind of wedding planning!).

So following on from my article on Harrow School, we travel into the heart of the city to explore a site that you probably never imaged could be a wedding venue.

What is it called? Wellington Arch

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Where is it? On the north-west side of Hyde Park, just a couple of minutes away from Hyde Park Corner station. You’d struggle to find a location any more central than this, unless of course you were following in the footsteps of Kate Middleton and tying the knot in Westminster Abbey.

Ceremony or reception? Reception.

Some history, please: This imposing structure was designed in 1825 by Decimus Burton [you’ve gotta love that name!] for two purposes – to act as an outer entrance to Buckingham Palace and as a monument of victory to mark Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon. It was completed in 1828, but was dismantled 55 years later and relocated 20 meters away to help ease the traffic around the park.

The original crowing statue of the Duke of Wellington was replaced with Peace Descending on the Quadriga of War, which remains the largest bronze statue in the UK.

Why this one? Imagine a lovely ceremony at a London church or town hall, followed by a ride for the wedding party on a quirky red routemaster, which eventually pulls up outside Wellington Arch. The expressions on the guests’ faces are guaranteed to be struck with surprise (in a good way!); no one would ever expect a wedding reception to take place within the walls of this majestic masterpiece.

After dinner, invite guests up to the balcony of the arch and sip some bubbles while taking in views of Westminster and the park at sunset – the knowledge that few others are ever likely to enjoy that same vista will make the experience all the more special.

If you are after somewhere pretty for your wedding snaps what could be better than London’s ultimate back garden – Hyde Park?

What’s on offer? This is ultimately a very intimate venue, and perfect for those who want to splash out on a smaller number of guests. The venue has a capacity of 80 people for drinks and 36 people for dining.

What’s the damage? budget2expensive1 = Somewhere in between!

Wellington Arch is available to hire through English Heritage all year round, seven days a week, during the daytime for £2,500. The evening hire price will set you back a little more at £3,500 (this is excluding VAT).

Anything else you need to know? Caterers (as well as florists and entertainment) must be booked through the venue’s approved list of suppliers, and they have a comprehensive list of high end companies that serve a range of cuisines. There are no budget options here, but as your numbers are smaller, you may find the budget stretches a little further per head.

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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!

Aerial-view-of-Harrow-School-Jul08-LR-for-web

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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