Natural Wedding Venues

Is it just me or does that title just sound ever-so slightly racy?
But back to the question…

Philippa asks:

My fiancee and I are getting married on the 5th July. We’re having our reception at the new site of the Hangar Arts Trust – a giant circus warehouse in Woolwich. To contrast with this, I really want to have a ceremony (more of a blessing and readings than anything legal due to location) somewhere beautiful and natural, like a wood or a garden. I wondered whether you might have any suggestions as to places we could hire or look at?

The Phantom replies:

Congratualtions, Philippa! I’m intrigued about the Hangar Arts Place – I haven’t come across it before. I agree that having a contrast is a good idea. Not least because most of the really wild places will be free.

There’s always the ancient Oxleas Wood – containing many possible sites within – worth finding a place beforehand and getting someone to meet your guests and lead them there rather than playing hunt-the-venue. Alternatively, if it’s a really relaxed affair, you could actually make it a treasure hunt, leaving clues among the bushes and under stones. Just be prepared for people to arrive in dribs and drabs.

The garden at the Royal Observatory is popular – you may be able to hire it – though presumably there will be rather a lot of onlookers.

Talking of onlookers, some friends of mine who are pagans had a handfasting at the stone circle in Hilly Fields Park in Brockley. Since it was a Saturday afternoon in summer, the dress code was thankfully not “skyclad” (phew) but there was still plenty for saucer-eyed small boys on bicycles to enjoy.

There’s always the little gorse-filled hollow at the top of Maze Hill – what the whole of Blackheath must have looked like once. There is the occasional burnt-out car there, but mostly it’svery peaceful, quiet and reasonably private.

How about at the foot of Severndroog Castle? Or among the ruins of Lesnes Abbey? In exchange for cash, you might be able to persuade the residents of Trinity Hospital along the Thames Path to let you use their back garden. I don’t know. But The Fan Museum’s garden is definitely available for hire, and of course, there’s an indoors if it rains.

Another indoor place that you might like to look at would be the Winter Gardens at Avery Hill Park in Eltham. Or if you really want to push the boat out, there’s always Eltham Palace. It gets very booked up, but Saturdays are reserved for weddings. The gorgeous palace is fabulous and the gardens are also great, but if you want “natural,” cross the little wooden bridge and wander into the less heavily tended areas. It’s administered by English Heritage, who also hire out Rangers House at extortionate rates.

Charlton House is cheaper (and though not quite as glamorous, still a lovely place. The grounds, if extensive aren’t that exciting however.) Hall Place is currently under restoration (though the gardens are eye-popping – the turf maze would have been fun) as is Woodlands House in Westcombe Park (the gardens are nicely shady) but Danson House will be open. The grounds are only so-so but the house is good.

I am sure people will have some more suggestions…

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