I have been photographing weddings for well over ten years now and, in that time, I have photographed all sorts of weddings in a wide variety of different types of venues. Inevitably, I go to some venues on a fairly regular basis and there are others that, despite being almost on my doorstep, I have never actually worked in! I am also increasingly finding that brides are getting in touch with me before actually booking their venues or even the date for their wedding and it can be really nice in a situation like that to be able to offer a bit of an insider’s view to some of the local possibilities. It also occurred to me that, ten years on, it might also be nice for me to explore some of the venues that I didn’t know well and have a bit of a look at what is available out there beyond my own personal experience! Some of the venues in this post I have photographed in and others I haven’t but I have chosen them all carefully because they all offer something special and a bit unique, something that catches my eye or something that is a bit quirky or individual.
I have to say that this isn’t particularly a list of my top favourites (although that doesn’t mean that the venues here wouldn’t be in such a list if it did indeed exist!), the list isn’t in any particular order and it certainly isn’t intended to be comprehensive! It’s just a wander around some amazing places, some observations on my own particular take on things and an opportunity to peruse some lovely photographs!
So, without any further ado, let’s get started!
Hotel Felix – Cambridge
Hotel Felix is set in beautiful grounds towards the North of Cambridge. The original building is a Victorian Villa and it was actually a private house until it was converted into an hotel in 2002. A lot of the venue’s charm is due to it’s origins as it does have a large number of very attractive period features and a sense of restrained grandeur but also retains a real sense of intimacy and homeliness which I really like. There is a fantastic feature staircase for example, a really lovely outdoor terrace which is approached by impressive curved steps from the garden and large mature gardens outside but you can really imagine it also being a family home. The contemporary feel of the interior design complements the older building perfectly and the restaurant and bar areas have a real sense of contemporary luxury.
For me it’s a great venue for the atmosphere I described above coupled with the friendliness and professionalism of the staff. You can also get the whole of the first floor area of the main building as part of your wedding package giving it a really private and exclusive feel. The main room upstairs is beautifully lit by two large windows and the landing outside leads down to the impressive main staircase with it’s large full length window – lovely for photographs!
I have only photographed relatively small weddings at Hotel Felix and it is obviously perfect for more intimate and stylish celebrations, especially as you can have the ceremony outside on the lawn. It is also possible to have a marquee erected in the grounds if you have a larger guest list and I can imagine that this would work very well. The staff at Hotel Felix work very hard to make sure that everything goes smoothly, they are friendly, helpful and attentive. However you choose to celebrate your day having your wedding at Hotel Felix would be a great choice.
Website – http://www.hotelfelix.co.uk
Email- [email protected]
Telephone- 01223 277977
Bruisyard Hall – Saxmundham, Suffolk
There are a several things that really stand out for me about Brusyard Hall and Barn. The first is that the Hall has an attic cinema room with a 46” plasma screen TV, bar and poker table (nice!). Secondly, the newly and beautifully renovated barn has underfloor heating (believe me this is VITAL in the winter – I have photographed many weddings in stunning barns during the winter but many of them are FREEZING!) and thirdly…..wait for it…..dogs are welcome at Bruiseyard Hall! It does say this very prominently on the website and actually, I think that this encapsulates the country estate style of the venue very well!
Needless to say Bruisyard Hall and it’s surrounding estate are stunningly beautiful and wedding guests have access to miles of countryside walks and outdoor pursuits. The estate itself comprises an incredible 700 acres and the Hall is set in a wonderfully secluded and rural location. I think it has a wonderfully earthy countryside feel and is also tremendously old – the Hall actually originates from 1354 and has been in the same family for 400 years. Originally serving as an abbey many of the original features remain including oak staircases, oak beamed attics and even a “Sweet-toned-bell”. The Hall was rebuilt after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1500’s and much later fell into disrepair before a large scale restoration programme between 1988 and 1996. The work continues today with an exciting new development phase for the Hall which will bring it up to exceptionally luxurious modern standards.
Weddings can be accommodated in both the Hall itself (smaller weddings of 30 guests) and/or within the barn which can hold up to 140 seated or 250 for a drinks reception. The Hall is offered exclusively for the wedding weekend (3 nights), the Hall itself can sleep 20 and the Barn 4.
Bruisyard Hall is an exceptional venue and it’s hard not to wonder at it’s resilience and majesty. There is a real sense of genuine living history, an elegant and honest country feel and an exclusiveness and sense of luxury that it’s hard to better.
Website - http://www.bruisyardhall.co.uk
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01728 639000
Westminster College Cambridge
I have photographed weddings at most of the Cambridge Colleges over the years and, to a certain extent, they are very much my “stock” venues in that probably well over half of the weddings I have ever photographed have been in them. This is fantastic in that they are all beautiful, they all have something particular to offer and they are all, in many ways, a photographers dream to photograph in. However, I have to say, that after a little while they do all start to look a bit similar! One lot of cloisters is very much like another, one chapel fairly similar to another the Fellow’s Garden of one college very similar to another. Controversial statements I know but you will hopefully appreciate the point I am trying to make!
So, if you want to get married in Cambridge, you like the idea of a college wedding but would also like to perhaps be a little individual and different where should you go? That is of course why I have included Westminster College Cambridge in my list! I have actually only photographed one wedding there but I was struck by the college’s charm, individuality and also by the potential versatility of the accommodation.
The main building was constructed between 1897 and 1899 making it considerably younger than a majority of the Cambridge Colleges and it consequently has a very different feel. There is a sense of oak panelled opulence throughout the building and it has a welcoming warmth whether you are in the fantastic dining hall or the much more intimate rooms in the Lodge. Outside the front facade is stunning and is the perfect place for family photographs and bride and groom portraits. There is also an attractive side garden which is perfect for drinks on the lawn and there is even space for a marquee.
I think it is this versatility that makes the venue so attractive: on the one hand there is the grand dining hall and the impressive main facade of the building but also hidden further inside a much more interesting collection of smaller rooms, staircases, nooks and corners which just beg to be explored and make photographing inside all the more interesting. These areas have a much more intimate homily feel and are great for drinks receptions, eating nibbles and, at the wedding I photographed there impromptu speeches on the staircase!
Westminster can cater for up to 125 seated guests for a wedding breakfast or 80 for a buffet. Larger weddings can be accommodated in a marquee with space for up to 300 guests whilst The Old Principal’s Lodge and recently refurbished Assembly Rooms are available for smaller gatherings. The Dining Hall also has a staged area and has a music licence until midnight. The versatility of the accomodation and the venue’s flexible approach make it the perfect place for planning a stress free day!
Website – www.westminster.cam.ac.uk/conferences
Email- [email protected]
Telephone- 01223 330633
Maidens Barn – Essex
Maidens Barn is a family owned business again giving you the friendly personal service and attention to detail that is so important in making planning and running your wedding as stress free as possible. In fact, the farm on which the barn stands has been in the Matthews family since 1750 and today Clive Matthews and his son George still run the farm as well as the barn as a wedding venue. I love this type of historical connection! It really gives a sense of the venue being rooted in the fabric of the community and the long term family ownership is wonderful! The barn was actually quite run down when, in 2000 Clive and Katherine decided to convert it into the luxury wedding venue it is today. It took two years to convert the barn and to create the surrounding gardens out of what was essentially a muddy field and, over the last 13 years Clive and Katherine have hosted hundreds of weddings and receptions.
The barn itself is a beautiful conversion of a building which dates back to the 1800’s. There is an oak beam dated 1806 in it and, rather than being windowless and rather dark inside as many similar barns are it has high vaulted ceilings and windows which give it a light and airy feel. This can make the photography considerably easier, as the lighting options are much more varied – most photographers would prefer to work with natural light rather than flash wherever possible and this can be very difficult in a dark barn with no windows! An upstairs gallery has also been added which is great for photographing from and gives an added dimension to the interior.
Outside there is a mature garden designed to complement the country feel of the venue with mature trees, colourful borders and planters. The venue is licensed for civil weddings of up to 200 people sitting inside as well as for outdoor ceremonies which take place in the arbour in the garden overlooking the surrounding countryside.
Website – http://www.maidensbarn.com
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01245 231363
Hengrave Hall – Suffolk
Hengrave Hall is simply jaw droppingly beautiful. It’s one of those locations that offers everything you could possibly want from a wedding venue and then several spadefuls more! From a photographer’s point of view it is absolute heaven – beautiful backdrops, medieval architecture, stunning gardens – wherever you look there are pictures to be taken. In fact, it’s the sort of venue that could almost turn a passionate photojournalist such as myself into a landscape photographer (only joking!). I’m naturally drawn to photographing people, their emotions and interactions on a wedding day and I have to say that generally photographing “things” rather than people doesn’t really flip my photographic switch but a venue such as Hengrave, particularly in good light, might just be overwhelmingly tempting!
Hengrave Hall is steeped in history and the main building itself is a Grade 1 listed Tudor Mansion built by a cloth merchant called Thomas Kytson in 1525. It is surrounded by a 350 acre private estate comprising of a multitude of gardens, courtyards, lakeside walks and meadows. It even has it’s own Saxon church and a rose garden containing 1000 David Austin English roses.
Inside, there are preparation rooms for both the bride and ladies and the gentleman – I bit of a unique feature I think as I don’t think that I have ever come across a venue with a specially designed gentlemen’s room! – Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have stayed in the Queen Elizabeth Suite in 1578 and the gentlemen’s room is complete with a snooker table, wide screen TV and Play station! There are also a selection of luxury rooms for guests to stay in, each with a four poster bed and en suite facilities.
Hengrave also excels in it’s ability to offer a wide choice of possibilities in terms of ceremony and reception as well. Each wedding is completely different and you are able to choose between a civil ceremony in one of the many rooms in the house or a more traditional ceremony in the church. Reception – wise it is also able to cater for anything from large wedding breakfasts to more informal lunches in the library.
Whatever you choose, Hengrave Hall has the facilities to make your wedding day truly individual. (There are even specially designated chill out rooms and play rooms for children). It is an absolutely spectacular venue!
Website – http://www.hengravehall.co.uk
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01284 768024
The Sheene Mill – Melbourn, Cambridge
The Sheene Mill has to be set in one of the most beautiful wedding locations in the Cambridge area. The main building is a 16th Century water mill and it stands by the side of a lake, surrounded by trees and greenery – the view back to the mill, in fact from either direction over the lake is completely stunning and extremely photogenic whatever the time of year – or even day or night as the lake and surrounding trees are partially floodlit in the evenings. This gives the place a particularly magical feeling and it has an almost Alice in Wonderland charm!
By the side of the lake there is a large lawn and pavilion available for wedding ceremonies and this is a great place for enjoying the sunshine and having a drinks reception. Possibly more interesting photographically there is a beautiful waterside terrace adjoining the building and it is possible to get some great shots of guests mingling and enjoying themselves on here with the water in the foreground and the mill building itself behind.
The inside of The Sheene Mill is full of character with exposed beams, open fireplaces and also a few low ceilings which for me, at about 6′ 5” can cause a bit of an issue! The banqueting room looks out onto the gardens and there is also a very elegant bridal suite right at the top of the building with a sloping ceiling and little shutter windows that look out over the lake. This is great for bridal preparation shots, has nice directional light and a couple of good mirrors for photographing reflections! The venue also has a number of different ceremony options ranging from ceremonies in the conservatory overlooking the garden, the larger main hall as well as the outside pavilion.
Whatever you choose you will be guided by the specialist wedding and events coordinator and the staff at The Sheene Mill who are absolutely committed to you having a fantastic day.
Website – http://www.thesheenemill.com
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01763 261393
Greenwoods Hotel and Spa – Stock, Essex
The first time I went on a Spa break I have to say I was rather sceptical! The thought of wallowing around for the day in bubbly water or sweating in a steam room didn’t really appeal and I knew for a fact, that at 6′ 5” with size 12 feet I was going to look a Wally in the too small robes and slippers! However, (and it became a very big however!) I was completely hooked within about an hour and took to it like a duck to water! It’s amazing how quickly you get into the groove of relaxation where the only decision you have to make is what pool to go in next, what time to have your cream tea and when to book your back massage! As for the robe and slippers? Well, they really help you get into what we came to call “the spa shuffle” – a slow meander around to the sound of flip flopping slippers where your limbs feel so relaxed you can hardly make the effort to walk! Lovely!
So, the great thing about Greenwoods Hotel, apart from it being set in a lovely 17th Century Grade II listed building and being a great wedding venue is that it has a spa! Imagine combining the fun of your wedding day with the luxury and pampering of the spa. To me that would be the ultimate combination – I wonder if it’s actually possible to say your vows and actually get married in a jacuzzi?
Greenwoods offers Spa packages to all it’s couples who get married there and, if guests stay in the hotel they get access to the spa as well. They are able to cater for civil ceremonies, both inside and out, and for wedding breakfasts and receptions of up to 70 seated people in the Manor House itself and up to 160 seated guests in the marquee. There is a wide choice of locations and rooms including the Library, Boardroom,the Millenium Suite as well as the marquee and Garden Gazebo.
Website – www.greenwoodshotel.com
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01277 829990
Glemham Hall – Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Glemham Hall is another absolutely stunning venue steeped in historic atmosphere and character and offering a huge number of possibilities in terms of personalising your wedding.. It is actually a privately owned family home set in a 3000 acre estate and was built around 1560 by the de Glemham family. There is a rather nice wedding video on the front page of Glemham’s website which gives a lovely overview of how beautiful the setting is and also a sense of the unique atmosphere and privacy of the grounds.
There are three areas available to hold weddings: the Grand Hall for up to 95 guests, the Drawing Room for up to 40 guests and the new Summerhouse for up to 95 guests. The Summerhouse was commissioned for weddings in 2013 and offers something a little different in that it is set in the corner of the walled rose garden surrounded by traditional roses and lavenders as well as being close to a lily pond. There is space for seating up to 95 guests and, with Glemham Hall as the backdrop this has to be one of the most stunning places to get married in the area!
Glemham also boasts a “proper” all weather permanent marquee in the walled garden. This is available for weddings all year round and even has under floor heating! I have actually photographed weddings in marquees in the snow and they can be extremely inhospitable places without proper flooring and heating! The marquee also has a full bar and dance floor.
The icing on the cake is that Glemham can also accommodate traditional church weddings as well with the parish church of St Andrew hidden amongst the trees on the edge of the estate just a short walk from Glemham Hall itself.
Glemham strikes me as being effortlessly beautiful, unspoilt and a completely private and personal place to have an amazing wedding.
Website – http://www.glemhamhall.co.uk
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01278 746704
The Granary Estates – Suffolk/Cambridgeshire Border
The Granary Barns opened in April 2013, after a huge renovation project and have already established a fantastic reputation for both quality and attention to detail. This is reflected in the stunning facilities on offer, and the friendly and dynamic team.
The family owned business is located in the beautiful Suffolk countryside, and aesthetically has a lovely mix of traditional character and modern stylish facilities.
The restoration included the renovation of both the main Granary Barn and the smaller Flint barn, which are connected with a new bridal glass walkway. They are licensed for Civil Ceremonies and can accommodate 86 guests in the Flint barn and 180 seated in the Granary Barn with opportunity for additional evening guests.
Both barns are built from traditional Suffolk flint, have exposed beams throughout and are finished to the highest luxurious standards.
The venue prides itself on being unique and quintessentially English with a modern twist. The Granary team are passionate about providing a first class service, supporting and helping their customers with the planning and running of their wedding and are committed to making the whole experience as stress free as possible. I really do get the sense that the team at the barns really care about your wedding day and want to get involved to work with you to achieve the best day possible!
The Granary Estates second venue is The Dullingham Polo Club, set on 32 acres of grassland with a Pavilion in the centre. This is a much more open plan venue with space for large marquee weddings and the opportunity for couples to really work with a blank canvas. They have the opportunity to create something completely personal and unique again with the help and support of the expert Granary Estates team.
Website – http://www.thegranaryestates.co.uk
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01638 231230
The Venue at Kersey Mill – Kersey, Suffolk.
I love the look and the atmosphere at The Venue, particularly the amazing Kiln Room with it’s fantastically warm textured brickwork and fantastic chandelier! The whole of the venue was refurbished under new ownership in 2013 and it just looks like a fantastically chilled and welcoming place to have your wedding!
It’s set deep in the Suffolk countryside in 17 acres of beautiful grounds with gardens, a stream side walk with trees and a number of newly planted and developing borders and beds. There is also a bridge over the water as well as fantastic views of the venue and the mill itself. The main part of the building itself is the Maltings Function room which features exposed beams and exudes a real sense of warmth and character. The venue is licensed for civil weddings and there is plenty of space outside if you wanted to have a marquee to hold a larger number of guests. However, I do think my favourite room is the unique domed kiln room which would be absolutely perfect for a smaller civil ceremony.
The Venue at Kersey Mill is a new venue with a real sense of excitement and pride in terms of the facilities and service it can offer. Each wedding is completely bespoke, you will have exclusive use of the venue and there are new areas and facilities being added as the venue grows and develops.
Website – http://thevenueatkerseymill.co.uk
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01473 823380
Braxted Park – Essex
Braxted Park is known for being one of the most beautiful and versatile wedding venues in Essex as well as having a reputation for offering first class levels of service. The wedding team has years of industry experience between them and are committed to working with couples to achieve exactly the type of wedding they want as well as offering comprehensive support throughout both the planning of the wedding and also on the wedding day itself. I know, from first hand experience, just how vital and reassuring this level of professionalism can be. Having a venue that will work with you and will enable you, rather than hamper you at every turn to have the type of day you want is worth it’s weight in gold! Venues, such as Braxted Park, that are family owned and passionately cared for offer a level of personal service, care and experience that you simply don’t get all the time!
The house itself is a beautiful Georgian mansion set within a 500 acre estate. It offers a wide selection of locations and options for all different types of weddings and the venue prides itself on its choice and flexibility. There are a number of options for civil ceremonies including the newly refurbished Orangery as well as the beautifully restored Knott Garden as well the beautiful rooms within the main house. The Pavilion is also available and is situated in one of the most beautiful gardens in Essex. There is also a church, All Saints, within the grounds.
Also within the grounds is the Garden Cottage which can be used by the Bride and Groom for preparations for the day as well as being a luxurious hide away after the event. There is also guest accommodation comprising 12 beautifully restored stable rooms located near the Garden Cottage and also a purpose built changing room for the Bride and her bridesmaids to get ready on site.
Braxted Park is available on a venue only basis and can cater for ceremonies from between 30 and 200 guests and receptions for up to 300 people. It really is a venue with so much to offer and, in with its reputation for such high levels of service is an unbeatable combination.
Website – http://www.braxtedpark.co.uk
Email – [email protected]
Telephone – 01621 892305
So, there you have it. Some great venues, amazing locations each with something special and unique to offer.
If you have any locations you would like to add, or you have got married at one of the venues above why not leave a comment below.
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