If your idea of the perfect wedding involves bringing together your closest family and friends in a setting of quintessentially English elegant good taste, charming gardens and refined hospitality, then prepare to be seduced by the thoroughly charming Summer Lodge Country House Hotel in Dorset.
Here, every little detail is a joy-sparker. From the impeccably striped lawns to the three-rosette fine dining options and 400 whiskies on offer, Summer Lodge promises a wedding experience a cut above the usual hotel offerings. Available as an exclusive-use hire, the 24-bedroom Grade II-listed house has bags of extras to keep you and your guests entertained: a state-of-the-art spa, indoor pool, croquet, tennis court, even a warm welcome for canine friends (three dog bed sizes and a dog food menu). It’s no wonder that it was voted the number two hotel in the whole of the UK by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards last year.
This is Thomas Hardy country, and bibliophiles will be interested to learn one of the wings was designed by Hardy when he was working as an architect before he became a full-time writer. Much of the surrounding landscape and villages are included in his work.
So what would your wedding here look like? Well, for the traditionalists there is the nearby St Osmund’s church, just 100 yards from the hotel. Alternatively, you can say your vows in the Dorchester Room or Drawing Room, followed by a Champagne reception in the garden.
The head gardener’s boast is that there is colour in the garden every day of the year, so there will always be a spot for photographs whatever season you choose to get married.
For wedding breakfasts, the combination of the acclaimed chef Steven Titman and the award-winning sommelier Eric Zwiebel is hard to beat. Feast on Warm Smoked Loch Duart Salmon with Marinated Cucumber, Caviar and Crème Fraîche; Grilled Fillet of English Beef with Fondant New Potatoes, Tomato Compote, Parmesan and Truffle, and perhaps a cheeky Vanilla Crème Brûlée with Granny Smith Apple Compote and Calvados for pudding.
If your celebrations are likely to include more guests than can fit into the 24 bedrooms available, there is also the nearby historic Acorn Inn, which many couples choose to use for a pre-wedding dinner with members of the wedding party. There is also the glamorous and luxurious Ivy Cottage next door to Summer Lodge, with its hot tub and feature log fire – perfect for the new Mr and Mrs to get away from it all.
The testimonials from couples who have held their celebrations here are glowing, as you might expect. ‘We had an absolutely amazing tailor made wedding at Summer Lodge,’ said Michael and Heather. We and our guests were looked after happily and professionally to make us feel entirely comfortable and pampered throughout. What a wonderful day and a superb wedding dinner.’ Another groom was also fulsome in his praise. ‘There are countless special touches that distinguish Summer Lodge from other wedding venues, and if you’re looking for an intimate, understated yet luxury wedding venue, this is certainly the place for you’.