In the never-ending search to make your wedding stand out from all the others, there are a few tricks you can employ to bring the wow factor right from the start. One of the best is to find an unusual venue – something people might not have even realised could be used as a wedding location.
With the gradual relaxing of the venue rules over the past decade, more and more places have chosen to apply for a licence, meaning you can now get married in zoos, windmills, museums and even out at sea! Here’s our pick of the best.
Cley Windmill is a beautiful 18th-century structure on the north Norfolk coast. It’s for small gatherings, this one, as it can take only 20 people in the sitting-room (where the ceremonies take place). But what a ceremony! With breathtaking views over the salt marshes to Blakeney Point and the sea, delightful local cuisine for your wedding breakfast and accommodation available for all your friends and family, this is a small but perfectly formed venue.
Many newlyweds book the whole windmill for the weekend in order to enjoy the circular sitting-room and dining-room for a little longer – there is also a self-catering cottage nearby if you have more guests to house.
Rocking a very different, but still magical, vibe is everyone’s childhood favourite, London Zoo. Fancy drinks and canapes while coming eye-to-eye with a komodo dragon? Or perhaps you’d like Dana the lemur to greet your guests on arrival? Ceremonies here can be held in elegant suites that overlook the animal enclosures.
The Mappin Pavilion, for example, can hold up to 90 guests, and has wall-to-ceiling windows offering 360-degree views of the ‘outback’ animals in their Grade II listed enclosure below. For larger affairs the Prince Albert suite holds 260 guests, and boasts a lovely tranquil private terrace and lawn, alongside stunning grand décor. The zoo can arrange ‘meet and greets’ for your guests with a variety of animals (imagine the photos!) and provides impressive menus with its award-winning caterers, Ampersand.
Animals not your thing? How about a seaborne wedding at the Spitbank Fort in the Solent, a mile off Portsmouth coast? It might not sound very glam from the name, but in fact this historic building (built by Lord Palmerston to combat the threat of Napoleonic invasion) sits in luxurious isolation, offering speedboats and helicopters to ferry your guests to its shore, complete with 31 bedrooms and a huge range of function rooms to use for your celebration.
There’s a library, a games room, hot tub, sauna, sun deck and more: a Wine Cave, Victory Bar, Officer’s Mess and Crow’s Nest (all impressive and unique function rooms). The Crow’s Nest has awesome sea views (as you might expect) and is flooded with natural light; the Wine Cave is a curved private space with mood lighting and bottle-lined walls.
Trainspotter in the family? Then you’ll feel right at home at the National Railway Museum in North Yorkshire. And if you’re hoping for a big bash you’re in luck, as this amazing space can host up to 800 guests for a seated dinner (but there’s plenty of scope for more intimate affairs too).
The unique location offers some awesome theatrical spaces to host your reception – including the wedding breakfast, which can take place on the central platform of Station Hall amongst carriages and locomotives set against an Edwardian era backdrop. Similarly, you can say your vows alongside Queen Victoria’s carriage in the Royal Gallery.
So that’s our pick of the venues that are sure to wow your guests with their unique style. Would you shortlist any of them? Let us know below!