Less traditional venues

Less traditional venues

So you’re not going down the church route for your wedding? Maybe you’re not sure about holding your ceremony in a restaurant or hotel? There’s good news! There are less traditional venues available, and they can be wonderful!

Whereas you might choose the Queen Mary II (if you have a large budget!) or The Shard, your back garden might lend itself perfectly to your event. You may prefer to hold the event up Mount Snowdon or in a local aquarium. The London Eye may beckon, or else the seashore. Perhaps a medieval barn. Maybe a foreign clime attracts …

I know of people who have celebrated a naturist wedding, held weddings underwater and even while abseiling down some monstrous crag. (Quite relieved that I didn’t get to conduct those, actually!)

The world is potentially your oyster!


Freedom to choose a place that means something special to you is a reason to go a little less traditional. You may also like the opportunity to select a venue that reflects your personalities. That could be a prehistoric site, a barn or a  battlefield for history buffs.

You will almost certainly be choosing premises that don’t hold a licence for weddings. What that means is that you will have to go to the register office to get legally married first. You can go down together (make an appointment first!), in jeans, with two witnesses and get legally married a day or two – or even an hour or so – before the ceremony of your choice. Then you can really relax and enjoy your ceremony. You are secure in the knowledge that the legal bits have been dealt with, and now it’s all about celebrating!


Depending where you choose, you may have to organise most things yourself (or pay a wedding planner to do so). This may include arranging the catering and decorations, PA system, signage, entertainment. Then there’s the celebrant, photographer, florist, and the like, which you’d expect wherever you hold your event.

Correen & Steve Farnborough Canal Centre

Outdoor ceremonies?

A lot of people like the idea of an outdoor venue. Yes, you have to take into account logistics and health and safety, but you can let yourself be bounded only by your imagination. Well, by practicality too.

You can select a place that really means something to you. For example, I have conducted ceremonies at Old Sarum (Iron Age castle), a canalside grove and at Stonehenge. The atmosphere was unique and made the event even more special, and that was where the couple absolutely wanted to be.

Things to consider

Don’t forget to ask permission from the relevant landowner before you start organising things.

Weather is going to be a major unpredictable factor, especially in Britain!

Considerations should include:

  • availability of protection from the elements (sun, rain, cold and heat),
  • accessibility (mud, car parking, signage to the relevant area, distance to the reception and arrangements for getting there),
  • health and safety (no trailing wires),
  • seating (for, at least, disabled guests),
  • toilets,
  • PA system,
  • potential ambient noise,
  • warning/inviting neighbours, etc.
  • catering (including providing water on hot days).

So don’t go rushing into this without thinking it through. There can be nothing more magical than a beautiful ceremony in the most wonderful setting – but are you sure you can achieve the results you want?

Given time and sensible planning, you really can achieve your goals. Just be aware that it will call for hard work.

However, the rewards may be so stunning …


Registry Office & Civil Weddings

Registry Office & Civil Weddings

Getting married in a church is no longer de rigueur, of course. For those seeking alternatives, there are other routes to choose from.

The Registry Office

A registry office can be an option, especially for those who want a ceremony devoid of any religious content. And anybody not getting married in a C of E church, will need a certificate from a registrar to make the wedding legal.

Incidentally, it’s normally fine to arrange for a Church blessing after the registry ceremony.

The ‘wedding’ ceremony is quite short and to the point (around 20 minutes long), but is not likely to be particularly memorable or special. But if that’s all you want, then that’s fine.

Note that you have to register at your local Registry Office a year before the event (although you can be married at another Registry Office). One of you must attend in person, and there is a fee to be paid.

For the certificate, two adult witnesses to the marriage will be required.

Civil Partnerships

A same-sex couple can register in a registry office (or approved premises) as civil partners. Notice has to be given, and this will be publicized for 15 days, after which the event can take place. (The period of validity for the notice is one year.)

Licensed venues

Choosing the location for your marriage is becoming increasingly popular. If you use a licensed venue, you will still need two registrars present at the ceremony (to be booked up to 12 months before the day).

Don’t forget to  book the venue well in advance too.

Thanks to www.NeliPrahova.com

‘European style’ weddings

If you want to use an unlicensed venue (and that can include the sea shore, a mountain top, a palace, or wherever your imagination takes you – but do seek the landowner’s permission first!), that’s OK. You can go to the registry office in your jeans with two witnesses in the morning, say, and have the legal side taken care of. You don’t even need to exchange rings there.

Then in the afternoon, or a day or two later, you can relax and enjoy your unique ceremony along with your guests.

A unique ceremony

Nowadays, a (non-legal) wedding ceremony, whether for a straight or a gay couple, may be conducted by a civil celebrant, who will also help you write the whole service. You have freedom of wording, music, poems, rituals or, possibly, theme, and your celebrant will be with you to advise and make suggestions, so that the day is absolutely tailor-made for you.

Celebrants of various sorts can be found. Humanists will not have any religious content at all in their ceremonies. Others will allow you as much or as little as you want. The Interfaith Foundation can help. Organisations like the ARC or FOIC can help too and can direct you to a local civil celebrant.

As a FOIC member, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.