Strong, stable, dependable, impressive: all admirable qualities in a partner. And handsome too, of course, in a timeless and magnificent way. Oh, did I say partner? Of course, I meant wedding venue!
If you’d love to combine fascinating history with modern luxury, imposing might with whimsical beauty, and wow your guests with what will undoubtedly by the most unique wedding they’ve ever attended, then take a closer look at some of our remarkable fort wedding venues.
Spitbank Fort, with its choice of three rooms licensed for civil marriages and nine deluxe en-suite bedrooms, is a world away from your ordinary, run of the mill wedding venue. Completed in 1878, Spitbank Fort has been granted ‘scheduled monument’ status, recognising it as a nationally important historic building. Thankfully, the threat of invasion from Napolean’s navies has long passed, and the fort is now privately owned and run by AmaZing Venues, experts in event management, with an outstanding reputation for smoothly run parties, excellent cuisine and satisfied clients.
As you luxuriate on this private fort, perhaps in the outdoor hot tub, glass of champagne in hand, gazing back to the twinkling lights of the mainland, you may well feel like you’re a million miles away – and certainly, the privacy and exclusivity afforded by the island setting is unbeatable – but in reality you’re a mere 30 minutes from Portsmouth Harbour, or two hours from London. And anyway, getting here is all part of the fun, and can be as adrenaline-fuelled or as sedate as you wish: set a mile out to sea, slip a life-jacket over your wedding dress, and hold on to your veil as you bounce across the waves in a speedboat, or if you prefer, a more gentle arrival can be arranged!
Ship over up to 60 of your lucky family and friends to share in your big day of celebrations: choose from The Crow’s Nest, with incredible panoramic views from the floor to ceiling glass walls, across the Solent towards the mainland; The Officer’s Mess, with its unique arched brickwork ceilings and space for 40 guests; or The Victory Bar, also for 40, and with the added glamour of a Laurent Perrier bar all ready and waiting for your first tipple.
Once you have exchanged your vows, continue the celebrations in one of these elegant rooms, or step up onto the deck for your champagne reception and evening party. The sky’s the limit when you’ve got your very own island to play with; previous happy couples have organised exciting treasure hunts to entertain their guests, arranged a trio of Spitfires to fly in formation overhead and astonish their guests with dare-devil tricks, and after dusk, released a host of coloured Chinese lanterns to float away. How romantic! Whatever you have in mind, just speak to the AmaZing Wedding Planner, on hand to make your dreams come true.
It’s worth remembering that you could throw the best stag or hen party your guests have ever experienced. Being a mile out at sea, nobody’s going to be asking you to keep the noise down as you party long into the night!
If you thought that fort, complete with 8 foot thick walls built to withstand Napoleon III’s armies, couldn’t be stunningly romantic and breathtakingly beautiful, it’s time to think again! Take a look at Polhawn Fort, and you’ll instantly understand why it has just won the accolade of England’s most romantic wedding venue in the Mills and Boon Romance Awards 2015 – and whether you like a romping romantic novel or not (some of them are even rather saucy, I’ve heard!), you’ll have to agree, those people at Mills and Boon do know a thing or two about romance.
So what special ingredients have come together to make Polhawn Fort stand out from the crowd? Goodness me, where to start?! Standing proud on the clifftop on the southern Cornwall, it commands unparalleled views along the spectacular coastline, taking in golden beaches and dramatic rocks, and out to sea (well, we had to have the best possible vantage point for watching out for those invading Napoleonic soldiers, didn’t we?).
The gorgeous sandy beach, which could be straight out of the Italian Riviera, is accessed directly from the flower-filled fort gardens and elegant sweeping lawns, and offers the prettiest and most private of places to escape with your new husband or wife for a few precious moments alone together. Or invite all your lucky guests down for a refreshing paddle, challenge the kids to a sandcastle building competition, or give your pooch a chance to leap in the waves! Yes, this place is dog-friendly too, so no need for anyone to leave their four-legged friend out of the fun.
There’s no end to the photographic opportunities; aside from the beach and the gardens, there’s also a drawbridge, a rooftop terrace, granite staircases, cannons, vaulted ceilings and rows of windows all looking out to the shimmering turquoise sea beyond.
Where you actually tie the knot is your choice: there are two lovely rooms inside, each with their own unique character. The Grand Napoleonic Hall has space for up to 120 guests; or for a small yet perfectly formed ceremony, choose The Emporer’s Room, for up to 30 guests. In such a picturesque setting, it’s understandable that you might want to stay outside for as long as possible; exchange your vows in The Summerhouse, and then continue your celebrations with a marquee on the lawn, perhaps only venturing in later for your evening event.
If you can’t wait until next summer to get hitched, consider Polhawn Fort for your winter wedding. With such magnificent coastal views, you can hunker down inside the cosy rooms, watch the dramatic skies and seas as you warm your cockles by the roaring fire, and fortify yourself with a glass or two of celebratory port!
Built under the same directive as Polhawn Fort and Spitbank Fort, Crownhill Fort is another fine example of our defenses against French attack from Napoleon III. And like the other two forts, it has also not seen any real ‘action’, so you won’t be starting your married life on the site of a battle ground! Wonderfully preserved and steeped in history, Crownhill Fort is now a delightful wedding venue run by experts in the field, Orange Chilli Catering and Events.
Spectacular vistas and photo opportunities abound, from the impressive arched stone entrance, to the rolling lawns with trees beyond. The large central courtyard, perfectly private and a sheltered suntrap, is ideal for your champagne reception. You’ll feel as safe and secure within those fortress walls as you do wrapped up in the arms of your loved one!
If you like a bit of drama, why not arrange for a cannon to be fired, announcing your marriage vows for miles around? Traditionally, gun salutes are fired as a sign of respect or welcome. I’ll admit my knowledge of military custom is limited, but according to the Official Website of the British Monarchy, Just as a salute with the open hand was used historically to show that no weapon was concealed in the palm, so the firing of cannon as a salute indicated the friendly intent of an empty chamber. Well, what better way to welcome in your new lives together?!
Exchange your vows in beautifully dressed The Barrack Room, and then move through to The Main Magazine for your wedding breakfast, each with room for up to 100 guests. If you want wedding on a grander scale, then a romantically festooned marquee can be set up in the grounds, allowing you to throw open the doors for up to 400 guests for your afternoon and evening celebrations.
To keep things simple, Crownhill Fort offers a range of wedding packages at different prices, as well as a bespoke option if you have your heart set on a particular theme, so every wedding can be catered for to your full satisfaction and budget (for example, buffet options range from just £5 to £16.50 per head).
There’s no need to go far at the end of your blissful day; the Landmark Apartment, a spacious suite of rooms which can be booked for two or three nights, is charmingly decorated in elegant Victorian style. With room for up to eight people in three bedrooms, and a separate living room, the wooden floors, vaulted ceilings and period furniture are perfect for cosying up together on the first night of your marriage.
To see more fort wedding venues follow this link.