As the home of Shakespeare, afternoon tea and an iconic royal family, the UK is a wealth of history and sophistication. Following the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 – a manifestation of international fairytale dreams – it is unsurprising that the nation is only increasing in popularity as a destination for elegant and exclusive celebrations.
London, the thriving heart of the nation, will forever attract those looking for opulence and glamour. Hasty decisions, however, risk overlooking the vast array of alternative options. From romantic Highland castles to decadent country palaces, the UK exhibits some of the most beautiful and exclusive venues, and choosing between them is no easy endeavour.
Whether intimate or expansive, traditional or contemporary, there is no celebration that cannot be accommodated within the beautiful isle. To make it easier for you to have the perfect day, we have picked out some of our favourite UK destinations.
No other nation has a capital quite like London. Whether perusing for treasures in Portobello Road market or strolling through one of the cities eight royal parks, there is no escaping the profound sense of place and prestige that resounds through this metropolis.
Boasting six international airports within an hour from the centre – Heathrow being a mere 15-minute train journey – London’s easy accessibility makes it the perfect choice for those with a worldwide guest list. The vast array of accommodation across the city can also be a virtue for those with a large number of travelling guests. Countryside weddings, for all their charm, can sometimes prove inconvenient if the venue itself does not have sufficient accommodation for those who require it.
With the history of the city resounding in its impressive architecture, it is unsurprising that behind London’s decadent exterior lie unparalleled interiors of traditional elegance. Chief among these is The Ritz: an international reputation of luxury and sophistication hardly does justice to the decadent décor and faultless service. Its prime central location is also a virtue of The Connaught, which offers a similarly exclusive experience.
For those seeking to capture the contemporary aspect of the city, the Sofitel St James is the height of modern sophistication. Alternatively, the Art Deco wing of The Savoy offers a refreshing accompaniment to its otherwise Edwardian elegance.
2. Countryside Residences
Famed for its rich history, it is easy to see why people travel from around the world to witness the beauties of the English countryside. Architecture, landscaped gardens and natural scenery are but a few of the attractions of the rural parts of the nation.
Whilst London weddings may be primely located for convenience, urban ceremonies cannot compete with the stunning scenery on offer at rural venues. Extensive landscapes provide endless playgrounds for younger guests, as well as unrivaled photographic backdrops. As British weather is anything but predictable, it is a good idea to ensure there is sufficient indoor space for all your guests, even when planning a summer wedding. Many venues can organise additional marquees if the main building is limited.
For true exclusivity and decadence, many locations allow hire of the entire venue. With Cowdray House formerly being home to Lord and Lady Cowdray, Blenheim Palace remaining the current home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, and Highclere Castle constituting the now infamous setting of the iconic Downton Abbey, unrivalled prestige is guaranteed by a celebration at a country residence.
From the tip of Ben Nevis to the bottom of Loch Ness, the raw, natural beauty of the Scottish landscape is simply breathtaking. Although the days of illicit unions at Gretna Green may have passed, there remains an ancient mysticality to the appeal of Scottish ceremonies.
Despite flights from Heathrow to Edinburgh taking a mere hour and a half, getting married in Scotland presents an entirely different range of options from the south. Chief amongst these is the possibility of conducting the ceremony outside; whilst the legal part of proceedings in England must take place in a permanent structure, no such restrictions apply in Scotland. Whether dreaming of loch shores or mountain slopes, an outdoor wedding can provide your celebration with a truly magical setting, taking full advantage of the incredible landscape.
With the Episcopal Church recently voting to legalise same-sex marriage in its churches, Scotland now can add such religious ceremonies – prohibited by the Church of England – to its copious list of attractions.
No traditional Scottish wedding would be complete without kilts and bagpipes, and nowhere does tradition blend so seamlessly with elegance as within one of the nation’s many castles. With turrets, towers and easy access to Dunblane airport, Cromlix House provides an authentic yet effortless Scottish experience. For those looking to venture further north, Inverlochy Castle, a favourite retreat of Queen Victoria, offers the best of Highland scenery and style.
Can I legally get married in the UK?
For foreign nationals, marriages in the UK are often a straightforward procedure, with Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitor visas being issued for those who simply wish to travel for the ceremony. As the duration of notice period can differ depending on your nationality, we recommend you check our Legalities pages, and get in contact with your embassy or consulate, who will be able to provide you with the most up to date information.
What’s the best time of year for getting married in the UK?
Whilst the UK has many virtues, reliably good weather is indisputably not one of them. Although summer temperatures in the south can exceed 30℃, it is advisable to always plan for the possibility of rain showers, whatever the season your wedding. Those desiring a winter wedding in Scotland should be aware that heavy snowfall can disrupt road and air travel between November and April.
Churches across the UK can legally offer religious ceremonies on all days between 8am and 6pm. We would, however, advise a discussion with your chosen church’s vicar before selecting a date, as Sundays and special days (such as the periods around Easter and Christmas) may already have scheduled services.