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 …


Weddings: traditional and modern

One of the joys of weddings is a mix of traditional and modern. I’d like to examine some of the traditions, and suggest a modern take as  a possible alternative.

 1.      Wearing a Wedding Veil

Traditionally, a veil was a symbol of purity; nowadays, it tends to be worn simply because it is lovely and has a romantic element (and indicates that “this is the bride”). Blushers can be worn alone or as part of a two or three-layer veil ensemble. The longest piece is usually worn for the ceremony only, and it is detached before the reception.

Nowadays, some prefer to replace the veil with a millinery cap or a tiara.

2.      Something Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

A charming tradition whereby the bride carries personal treasures on her wedding day. They will normally mean something only to those closest to her.

Nowadays, the groom can participate too. He might wear his father-in-law’s cuff-links, for example.

 3.      Throwing Rice

Throwing rice, or confetti, is an ancient and lovely custom, that symbolizes the showering of abundance and fertility on the newly-weds. (It could be wheat, as in France or sweets and sugared nuts, as in Italy.)

A modern-day alternative is biodegradable confetti. Also quite popular are banners, blowing bubbles or little noisemakers.

4.      Tossing the Bouquet

One of the most exciting moments in the ceremony is when the single women wait for the bride to throw the bouquet over her shoulder.

Today, some brides choose to save their bouquet and throw, instead, a special bouquet or a “fortune bouquet” (maybe a dozen small flower clusters tied by a ribbon which the bride unties before throwing).

 5.      Cutting the Cake

Virtually no wedding – of whatever scale omits the cake-cutting.  The couple take centre-stage, and the bride places her hand on the knife, with the groom’s over hers. They cut the cake and then feed each other (symbolising that they will always care for one another).

Nowadays, there might not actually be a cake. In that case, it will probably be a question of the bride eating part of a pastry before the groom’s turn.

6. The Car

Many a wedding ends with a car driving the happy couple off, to the accompaniment of cans or  old boots tied to the bumper, with “just married” sprayed on the car in foam.

Of course, today, the vehicle may be a motor-bike or coach and horses.

An interesting modern idea is to have the guests’ cars decorated during the reception. You could have a ‘thank you for coming’ card attached to the wing-mirror, for example.


So whether you stick to the traditional or innovate a bit, these ideas may add an extra zest to the big day. Enjoy!


Michael Gordon is a celebrant based in London.