Travel journalist, Amanda Fisher, selects six fabulous wedding venues: three in Surrey and three in Europe, that would make any big day perfect, regardless of wedding party size.
Farnham Castle, Farnham
Farnham Castle is in a league of its own when it comes to weekend wedding venues. Considered one of the most magical and memorable places to marry in England, this beautiful building provides a stunning setting that combines 21st century sophistication and style with 800 years of history, religion and romance. The Gatehouse has been transformed into five rooms and a comfortable lounge that provide a peaceful place for the bridal party to prepare for the big day. The castle hosts civic and religious ceremonies in atmospheric locations that include: the Lantern Hall, Norman Chapel and Bishop’s Chapel, while lavish receptions are held in the lofty Great Hall and Stone Hall, opening onto a broad terrace overlooking five acres of lawns and formal gardens. There’s nothing sombre about these ancient rooms, where brilliant stained glass, gilded paintings, sparkling chandeliers and opulent furnishings bring a wealth of colour and luxury that hark back to the days when royal visitors enjoyed the rich hospitality of Farnham Castle. Modern day newly-weds can retire to a sumptuous honeymoon suite snug within the castle walls, alongside 32 elegant en-suite bedrooms for their guests. Available all year round.
Anassa Hotel, Western Cyprus
This beautiful wild region of Cyprus will capture the hearts of couples when they make their vows close to Aphrodite’s Rock – the birthplace of the mythical Greek goddess of love and beauty.
The peninsula is famous for its lush natural setting among protected forests and mountains. It’s a paradise pitted with coves and unspoilt beaches, where endangered sea turtles return each year to lay their eggs before heading back to the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean.
A wedding coordinator is on hand to ensure every aspect of the special event runs smoothly, leaving you and your guests all the time in the world to relax in one of the pools, before indulging body and soul in the Thalassa Spa, or take advantage of the many sports facilities on land and sea.
The hotel’s classical crescent of 166 low-rise designer rooms, suites and residences (many with private pools) are in the style of an elegant Byzantine village, (complete with a tiny white-washed church, four restaurants and two bars) that winds its way through terraces overflowing with vibrant flowers and groves of aromatic pines to one of the finest beaches in Cyprus.
Marriage services can be held on the beach, in the banqueting suite or hotel gardens, where the view over the Mediterranean – especially at sunset – is one of the best in Europe. Weddings available March to November. anassa.com/en-gb
Ravens Ait Island, Kingston upon Thames
When planning an intimate wedding it can prove difficult to find a venue guaranteed to be completely private – so an island retreat could provide the perfect solution. Ravens Ait is a thin green lozenge that parts the waters of a quiet reach of the River Thames above Teddington Lock, near Kingston Upon Thames. For many years the two-acre ait (old English for a tiny island) was the preserve of the prestigious Kingston Rowing Club. Ringed by trees, it’s a hidden delight, ideal for off-the-beaten-track marriage ceremonies and celebrations. There’s even an Edwardian launch to collect the bridal party and guests from the Queen’s Promenade and ferry them safely across to the island. At its centre, landscaped lawns and gardens, a marquee and decked boardwalk surround a substantial weather-boarded building housing a wide variety of rooms, suites and bar facilities. There’s also a ballroom with superb veranda views along the Thames and over the extensive grounds of Hampton Court Palace. Available all year round.
If you prefer an intimate winter wedding in a weirdly wonderful setting, then look no further than the tiny Swedish town of Jukkasjärvi. During the coldest months of the year this remote place, 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, plays host to the hottest pop-up venue around – the original Icehotel.
Every November for 25 years, Jukkasjärvi has invited teams of international artists and designers to sculpt an architectural jewel from more than 1,000 tonnes of ice in mammoth-sized blocks cut from the frozen waters of the Torne River. During the coldest winter months, the Icehotel offers around 16 Art Suites, two Luxury Suites, 23 Ice rooms and 18 Northern Light rooms, alongside an Ice Hall, Ice Bar and first-class Restaurant. Weddings are held in an exquisite shimmering Ice Church seating up to 40 guests. There’s plenty to do during your stay: guided Northern Lights tours, ice sculpting and ice fishing, husky sleighing, moose watching and Lapland snowmobile safaris. Starry-eyed honeymoon couples can gaze at far galaxies from the nearby Esrange space-centre in Kiruna. Available mid December till April. But a word of warning – if you want to get married here, you’ll have to you book your stay at the Icehotel up to a year in advance!
Horsley Park, South Horsley
Couples in love with all things gothic will fall for this extraordinary mansion, boasting a long and fascinating history dating back to Domesday. In 1820, the heart of the building was designed by Charles Barry, creator of the Houses of Parliament. The estate became the ancestral home of the Lovelace family – including the poet Lord Byron’s daughter Ada – a leading mathematician of her day – before ownership passed to Sir Thomas Sopwith, inventor of the Sopwith Camel aeroplane.
This is a spectacular hidden gem set in 70 acres of rolling wooded parkland, deep in the Surrey countryside. It provides a backdrop that is definitely dramatic and different: French chateau meets English stately home with a hint of Scottish baronial on the side.
The hotel offers a variety of ceremonial settings of all sizes, followed by a candlelit feast in the Great Hall or a traditional reception in the Sopwith restaurant. There are 180 bedrooms – 28 located in the towers – plus a choice of two bridal suites and two four-poster rooms.
Lake Bled, Slovenia
If you yearn for a secluded and stunning location for your wedding, look no further than picturesque Lake Bled in Slovenia’s alpine north west region. At the heart of a velvet-blue glacial lake is a tiny island occupied by the beautiful Baroque Church of The Virgin Mary. Legend has it that a temple once stood here dedicated to Živa, the Slavonic goddess of love.
With a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, and overlooked by Bled Castle perched high above the town, it’s a breathtaking all-season setting. Marrying in Bled is guaranteed to be a magical experience, whether you choose to exchange vows in the medieval castle with its panoramic views over unspoilt countryside to the Julian Alps, or opt for a church blessing on the islet.
Start and end your day with a traditional carriage ride around Lake Bled. Bridal parties access the island by wooden Pletna boats, before making their way up a stone staircase of 99 steps to the church where the bride and groom must ring the wedding bell three times to ensure that all their wishes come true. Wake every morning of your stay to the best views of the island church, a stone’s throw from your lakeside suite in Hotel Vila Bled, once the residence of Marshal Tito, president of the former Yugoslavia. Weddings available all year round.
bled.si/EN and slovenia.info/