Wedding venues

Why today’s Budget announcement about wedding venues is so exciting

Budget 2018 outdoor wedding venue law change

My husband and I got married last year at Pennard House in Somerset. It was a warm and sunny September day and we had our civil ceremony outside in the Garden Pavilion, which was decorated with an abundance of scented flowers. The setting was idyllic, but had the law allowed us to marry in the rose gardens, or even beside the lake, perhaps it could have been even more beautiful…?

Today, the Chancellor announced in his Budget that there is going to be a review of the legislation governing wedding venues in England and Wales. It seems likely that the outdated law which says a legally binding outdoor ceremony must take place in a structure with a solid, permanent roof will be overthrown. As a planner who spends a lot of time visiting venues, I can tell you that these ‘structures’ come in all shapes and sizes, and that some venues have done a better job than others at disguising their frames and creating something befitting a wedding ceremony. Some venues satisfy the roof requirement by allowing couples to take their vows on their front doorstep. Talk about carrying you over the threshold!

So, what could this review mean and why is it exciting?

  • As things currently stand, couples who don’t want to have their wedding in a licensed venue or structure, have to do the ‘legal bit’ at a registry office and then hire a celebrant to conduct the ceremony. This suits some people perfectly, but for others it can be an annoyance because it inevitably adds to costs and organisation. It can even cause rows with those not invited to the legal ceremony, and not to mention awkward moments when guests realise that the couple are in fact already married. If a change in the law made it possible to get married more or less anywhere, then it would put an end to all this angst.

  • High costs and red tape put many venues off getting licensed. If it became easier and cheaper for venues to apply for a wedding license, more would be likely to do so. I love helping my clients find their dream venue, so a wider choice of licensed venues - indoor and outdoor - would be fantastic news!

  • Some venues have created beautiful licensed pergolas and gazebos, and couples shouldn’t necessarily shun them. I - for one - was very grateful for the shade that Pennard’s Garden Pavilion provided on our wedding day! However, for those couples who don’t like the look of the outdoor structure on offer, a change in the law could mean that they would be free to choose another location.

  • As someone who loves planning and styling al fresco ceremonies, a law change would allow me, and the florists and photographers I work with, to be a lot more creative. We’re always swooning over images from the US of spectacular outdoor ceremonies overlooking the ocean or against beautiful floral backdrops. It would be incredible to be able to do the same over here, especially when it’s sunny!

Whichever way you look at it, relaxing the laws on where couples can get married will give them more choice, ultimately making it easier to plan the day they want. Wedding planning should be a fun and enjoyable process - the fewer legal barriers the better!

Image credit: Helen Lisk Photography

Beautiful wedding venues: Petersham Nurseries

With their friendly garden café, à la carte restaurant and tempting lifestyle shop, Petersham Nurseries in South West London is a wonderful place to spend time. But I’ve long been curious about its potential as a wedding reception venue. Last week I met with their events team to discover what they offer...

Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries

Considering how dry and dusty everywhere is at the moment, Petersham looked refreshingly green and lush! I felt as though I’d stepped into a secret oasis as I passed by their welcoming displays of colourful plants and shrubs. 

The restaurant is well known for its exceptional food and their lunch menu certainly whetted my appetite when I visited! Their chef will curate your sharing menu using seasonal vegetables, herbs and edible flowers, many of which are grown either in the kitchen garden, or at Haye Farm, their sister company in Devon. Petersham cellar has a wide selection of fine Italian wines and prosecco to choose from, but you are welcome to bring in your own (there is a corkage charge of £25).

Matt Austin

Matt Austin

If you’re planning on hosting an intimate daytime wedding celebration, then the horticultural glasshouse would be a unique setting. Tables decorated with pots of herbs, mis-matched chairs and vintage mirrors give it a charmingly informal vibe. All floristry is done in-house, and their events team are happy to discuss any ideas you may have in relation to additional props and decorations.

Flora Lawson

Flora Lawson

For larger groups of up to 85, you can dine al fresco beneath the wisteria (depending on the weather of course!). Alternatively, the restaurant can seat up to 140 and there is room for a band and dancing. It is a bright and airy space, decorated with garden flowers and curious antiques collected by the owners from their travels abroad. Last week, it was ablaze with hot pink bougainvillea and looked very exotic.

Helen Abraham Photography

Helen Abraham Photography

This is undoubtedly a special wedding venue – elegant, in a casual and understated way. On a warm summer night, with flickering candles, floral scents filling in the air and perhaps a jazz band playing out, it would feel magically atmospheric. You'll have long-since forgotten you’re in London, but your guests will find it easy to get home or go off in search of a nightcap…

Helen Abraham Photography

Helen Abraham Photography

If you would like help finding your dream wedding venue, I offer a venue search service. I will research a shortlist of potential options based on your needs and wants, potentially saving you hours of painful admin and wasted visits. For more information, please email

For more information about Petersham Nurseries and to download their events brochure, please visit their website

Beautiful wedding venues: Newington House, Oxfordshire

I've had a lot of fun over the past few months visiting wedding venues all over the country and I'm thrilled to feature another stunning marquee venue today. Once the home of an Italian princess, it’s safe to say that wedding venues rarely get more romantic than Newington House…


Set in the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside, 11 miles south-east of Oxford, Newington House dates from the mid-17th century. The estate was built as a gift for a homesick Italian princess from her British husband and is believed to be a replica of her home in Genoa. Inside, the high-ceiled rooms have been beautifully restored and stylishly furnished to reflect the house’s unique history. 


I met the owner, Alexandra Nettleton, for a chat and a look around just before Christmas. For such a grand property, it felt very homely and relaxed. It was lovely to hear that she and her family enjoy seeing how couples make the venue their own. 

There are two historic churches close by - St Giles Church, which adjoins the house, and Dorchester Abbey, which is five miles away. Alternatively, Newington House is licensed to hold civil ceremonies and one option could be to have your ceremony outside on the front porch before walking through the elegant entrance hall to the back lawn.


The lawn makes for a magnificent marquee location. In fact, against the backdrop of the house, your guests would be forgiven for thinking they’d been transported to Tuscany! The extensive grounds are a delight to explore and offer many opportunities for stunning photography. There are manicured lawns, beautiful trees and even a river running through the bottom of the garden.


It’s undoubtedly a special venue and well worth a visit…


If you would like help finding your dream wedding venue, I offer a venue search service. I will research a shortlist of potential options based on your needs and wants, potentially saving you hours of painful admin and wasted visits. For more information, please email

Photo credits: Gyan Gurang. Gyan is a wedding photographer based in Surrey. He has a very romantic style and his natural images capture moments and events as they unfold.

For more information about weddings at Newington House, please visit their website or call 07786 087 201.

Beautiful wedding venues: Wickham House

Last week I had the pleasure of being shown around Wickham House by Deputy Venue Manager Isabel Stewart. Wickham House sits in 52 acres of parkland and looks out over the rolling Berkshire countryside. The house itself dates from the late 18th century and boasts many splendid period features. It is the much-loved home of Philippa and James D’Arcy, who have spent the last ten years transforming it into the spectacular exclusive-use wedding venue it is today. It is a truly wonderful setting for a luxury marquee wedding. 

Visiting any venue during the winter months requires more than a little imagination. Chilly winds, wet grass and rather colourless gardens all make it difficult to picture your wedding day. Kate Nielen's beautiful photographs certainly helped me visualise Wickham House in the summer, but in truth it wasn’t hard to see its potential - despite the weather!

Wickham House Kate Nielen Photography

Getting married at Wickham House

There are several options for your marriage ceremony at Wickham House. Isabel began by showing me the charming 12th century church that adjoins the estate and comfortably seats up to 200 guests - quite a large number for a parish chapel. Usually after a church wedding, an undignified scramble into cars and mini-buses ensues. Not at Wickham House. Here, your drinks reception is only a few steps away.

Wickham Church Kate Nielen Photography

Should you wish to have a civil ceremony, you have the option of getting married in the romantic surroundings of the Walled Garden. Through a set of wrought iron gates, the pebble pathway leads you to an immaculate sunken lawn where 180 guests could watch you marry beneath the elegant pagoda. Come May/June, when the garden is ablaze with colour, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Italy!

Wickham House Walled Garden wedding Kate Nielen Photography
Wickham House walled garden wedding Kate Nielen Photography

The third option for your ceremony is inside the newly-built Barn that sits beside main house. This also provides a homely setting for a rehearsal dinner and, on the wedding day itself, looks like a lovely space for the bridal party to get ready.

A photographer's heaven

As you would expect, the gardens offer lots of beautiful backdrops for photographs, as do the many established trees that dot the grounds. Inside the house, Isabel showed me several characterful rooms that are available to use for group shots and couple portraits.

Wickham House interior Kate Nielen Photography
Wickham House bridal bedroom Kate Nielen Photography

A truly memorable wedding reception

It is hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for a drinks reception than the Walled Garden. Its winding paths connect a series of landscaped terraces and guests are free to wander from one to the next, discovering different drinks and canapé stations as they go. The terrace beside the turquoise swimming pool is the perfect stage for live musicians, but the pool itself is one place guests aren't encouraged to explore!

Wickham House Walled Garden pool Kate Nielen Photography

Across the manicured lawns from the house, sits an impressive marquee site. With views out across the downs on one side and back towards the house on the other, it is an outstanding setting and would make for an unforgettable evening celebration. I could almost picture the fireworks going off at the end of the night!

Wickham House views Kate Nielen Photography

An exciting choice of preferred suppliers

Wickham House have a varied list of preferred suppliers, spanning high-end marquee companies, florists and caterers. Most have been personally hand-picked by Philippa based on their high quality and experience.

As I drove away, my mind was buzzing with ideas. Wickham House could as easily stage a luxury festival celebration, complete with glamping village, as it could a quintessentially English wedding, followed by a traditional reception.

I hope it’s not long before I’m back…


If you would like help finding your dream wedding venue, I offer a venue search service. I will research a shortlist of potential options based on your needs and wants, potentially saving you hours of painful admin and wasted visits. For more information, please email

Photo credits: Kate Nielen. Kate is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer based in London. She specialises in beautiful weddings and luxury events.

For more information about weddings at Wickham House, please visit their website