It’s an iconic image: the white dress, the church bells, the priest, and the traditional vows repeated by a loved-up, fresh-faced couple. However, in a nation that is almost 50% atheist, it’s likely that many modern couples will not find traditional church weddings so appealing.
With that in mind, we have compiled a list of ten alternative wedding venues that can offer you the grand romantic setting you can expect from a church ceremony, without the religious association.
Stately homes, with their historic charm and elegance, are perhaps the perfect alternative to a church wedding. There is a whole host of country houses that double up as luxury wedding venues up and down the country; listed here are some of the very best.
1: Sandon Hall
Nestled in the Trent valley amidst 400 acres of rolling parkland, Sandon Hall is a beautiful 19th-century country house and arguably the most elegant wedding venue in Staffordshire.
The house itself, a quintessential example of neo-Jacobean architecture, is the jewel in the crown of over 400 acres of historic parkland which offers the perfect opportunity for the happy couple to stroll around the stunning surrounding countryside. The venue itself can be hired on an exclusive basis, and a team of dedicated staff will make sure your big day will go off without a hitch.
2: Morden Hall
Set within Morden Hall Park in London, this is a fantastic stately home capable of impressing even the most hard to please of wedding guests. This lovely 18th-century country house is set in 125 acres of lush National Trust parkland, so the enamored twosome will soon forget they are in London as they immerse themselves in the Hall’s “parkland oasis”.
What’s more, the house was extensively renovated in 2015, so you won’t have to sacrifice any modern amenities in this historic venue.
3: Scampston Hall
Scampston Hall, like Sandon Hall and Morden Hall, makes this list not only because it is a stunningly beautiful wedding venue, but because the grounds are truly mesmerising. Scampston Hall is set in a park designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1782, while the award winning modern Walled Garden was designed by the renowned Dutch garden designer, Piet Oudolf.
Options include a civil ceremony and reception in the house overlooking the Capability Brown Parkland and the Palladian Bridge. Ceremonies can also be held on the Palladian Bridge itself.
If country houses aren’t your thing, these three castles will provide a wedding fit for a fairytale. Although these three aren’t the only castles that double up as wedding venues, they are amongst the best in the country!
4: Eastnor Castle
Set in the Malvern Hills, Herefordshire, brides-to-be that have dreamed of a fairytale wedding need to look no further than Eastnor Castle. Lucky couples can hire out the castle on anexclusive basis, meaning that you can enjoy the venue and it’s impressive grounds in privacy.
The owners offer several options for couples, including a civil ceremony in the gothic room of the castle, or humanist wedding ceremonies which involve walking to the nearby village of Eastnor.
5: Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle in Kent is, without doubt, one of the most romantic wedding venues in the world. To walk hand in hand through the dreamlike grounds of Leeds Castle is bound to make the biggest day of your life the best day of your life. You’ll struggle to find a more historic venue too, as the castle has been on the site for almost 900 years.
For a truly unique wedding, the castle also offers a falconry service, where an owl will actually deliver your wedding rings to the ceremony.
6: Castell Coch
Castell Coch, located in the village of Tongwynlais, South Wales, is a unique and intriguing building, dating back to 1875. The venue is only available for civil ceremonies so it’s perfect for couples who would rather forgo a church wedding. The marquess of Bute’s Gothic creation at Castell Coch, with its colourful interior and beautiful woodland setting, is ideal for intimate ceremonies, holding up to 30 guests.
Other unique venues
7: Dilton Vale Farm
This picturesque farmhouse is another unique venue that can more than match a church wedding. Located near Westbury, in Wiltshire, Dilton Vale Farm is a peaceful place that is bound to help you and your guests relax and unwind away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. There are also plans in the works to create a mock ‘ruined’ chapel on the grounds, to offer an even more unforgettable twist to the traditional church wedding.
8: Pentney Abbey
Pentney Abbey is both historic and incredibly beautiful, surrounded by miles of stunning Norfolk countryside. Your ceremony will take place in the imposing Grade I listed Gatehouse, which the bride and groom will enter by an antique spiral stone staircase.
Unfortunately for couples on a tight budget, peak season prices start at £10,450. However, off-peak prices are significantly cheaper and there are discounts of £1,500 if you manage to book before April 1st, 2017.
9: Nash Point Lighthouse
Nash Point Lighthouse is an iconic 19th Century, grade 2 listed building. It’s the only working lighthouse in the UK that is a licensed premises for holding weddings and civil partnerships; a service it has offered since 2005.
Nash Point only hosts around 20 to 25 weddings a year and can accommodate up to 22 guests. So if you’re looking for an intimate and unique ceremony, Nash Point Lighthouse may be the venue for you.
10: Polhawn Fort
Although an old fort might not seem like the most romantic setting for a wedding, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Polhawn Fort. It even won UK’s Best Coastal Venue at UK Wedding Awards 2016.
The owners claim to offer a venue that comes “straight from the pages of a magical romantic novel.” Located on the south coast of Cornwall, this old Napoleonic fort can seat up to 90 guests and will make the idea of a traditional church wedding seem as dull as dishwater.