Who said the Victorians were buttoned up? Their extravagant look can do you proud on your wedding day if you choose one of these historical venues
Words: Hollie Bond
Cliveden House Hotel, Berkshire
‘The epitome of Victorian flamboyance and assertiveness,’ is how architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner described Cliveden
in 1960. He was right – you’re in for a treat if you choose this Italianate mansion as your venue. The tree-lined approach is made even more romantic by the late 1890s Fountain of Love that you’ll pass on your way up the drive. In true Victorian style, there are diverse influences in the interiors. If you like Gallic-chateau opulence, the gold-encrusted French Dining Room (pictured) is for you. It doubled as a bedroom for Robert Downey Jr in Sherlock Holmes
. For more of a stately English feel at an intimate do, consider The Boudoir.
tel 01628 668561
Highclere Castle, Hampshire
This Victorian gem needs little introduction. Unless you’ve spent the last decade on the moon, you’ll have seen Highclere’s Jacobethan-style turrets and Capability Brown grounds in Downton Abbey. For fans of the award-winning drama, there’s good news: this gorgeous country pile is also a wedding venue, so you can quite literally sweep through the galleried landing and down the stairs à la Lady Mary – to enjoy a wedding breakfast Mrs Patmore would be proud of in the Library (pictured), which can seat 120. The State Dining Room, a favourite of the Grantham family, provides more intimate dining for 12.
tel 01635 253204
Hedsor House, Buckinghamshire
This is a most handsome country house. Built in the style of an Italian villa, Hedsor House has impeccable credentials. Queen Victoria herself loved the Centre Hall with its domed ceiling – so much that she frequently visited to take tea. She had good taste: the hall makes an excellent ceremony space, to be followed by a wedding breakfast in the wood-panelled ballroom. Hedsor’s looks have ensured it plenty of screen time too. The Downton crew filmed a fashion show and romantic date here, while the Mr Selfridge team ‘used every inch of the house’ during filming.
tel 01628 819050
Carlton Towers, North Yorkshire
The north has its fair share of Victorian splendour, and Carlton Towers offers a truly impressive façade that would make a fine background for your formal photos. Designed by Pugin, it’s so representative of its era that the ITV drama Victoria was filmed here, making full use of its splendid gothic-revival rooms. The most spectacular of these are the opulent Venetian Drawing Room and the Picture Gallery (both romantic ceremony spaces), although your guests will be taken with the Beaumont Room – a smart little antechamber dedicated solely to the bar. Cheers!
tel 01405 861662
+ Historian, TV presenter and chief curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley is just the person to ask about the most memorable weddings of the era. This is what she has to say about biggest celebrations: ‘Victoria’s wedding was all about putting on a good show. She needed no fewer than 12 bridesmaids, but finding a dozen eligible young ladies with suitably stainless reputations was apparently quite tricky.’
+ Queen Victoria started our love affair with white wedding dresses in 1840. To that point, brides wore their best dress, whatever the colour. She also raised the bar for showstopper cakes. Her big-day confection weighed 300lbs and was three yards in circumference.
Fancy something from a different time in history? Click below to step back in time on your big day and star in your own period drama.
Looking for a venue for your big day? Find the very best in London here, and around the UK here.
This article was first published in SquareMeal Weddings 2017