There is no denying that when it comes to planning your wedding the expectations are high and the pressure for everything to be just perfect can be really overwhelming for many people. For some couples bigger is always better – they want the most lavish locations with all the pomp and grandeur possible to make their special day an extravagant affair with hundreds of guests to bear witness. Traditionally weddings have always been fairly large events, but in modern society with a growing number of couples choosing not tie the knot at all, it’s unsurprising that a growing trend has emerged for smaller scale, more intimate style weddings.
Increasingly couples are choosing to strip back all the glitz and the glamour to the bare fundamentals of saying "I do", with just a few select friends and family to celebrate the nuptials with them in a laid-back and relaxed style. This decision comes with many additional benefits too. Not only does it hugely diminish the stress of organising a large scale event, it also cuts down on all manifold of costs allowing for spend to be allocated to just the things that are most important to the soon-to-be-weds. This could mean reserving funds for an all-out honeymoon, a new house or perhaps a memorable multiple-course fine-dining feast that knocks the average wedding breakfast out of the park.
Naturally here at SquareMeal we always tend to lean towards food focussed locations but we like to think that our carefully curated list below has a little something for everyone, whatever your priorities. So here are our top picks of the best small venues in London to tie the knot where you can make the ‘big day’ a little less big but just as memorable. Have a browse and see if any of our small wedding venues in London spark your interest.
Why: With semi-secluded areas, a stage and two bars, Quaglino’s is a venue that will bring wow factor to your wedding, while the location in St James’s, a short walk to both Green Park and Piccadilly Circus tube stations, couldn’t be any more central. Two private dining rooms hold 15 and 40 (60 standing) guests respectively and offer two/three courses for £52/£57 or £62/£67 respectively.
Where: 16 Bury Street, St. James's, SW1Y 6AJ
Why: Sunlight beams through the large windows at Orrery into the clean-cut dining room with its banquette seating but it’s the venue’s 70-capacity covered terrace that really steals the show. The leafy backdrop of St Marylebone Church gardens, meanwhile, is a winner for Champagne receptions and makes for lovely photos. For much smaller weddings, the restaurant’s elegant private dining room seats 16 people for a bespoke wedding breakfast.
Where: 55 Marylebone High Street, Marylebone,W1U 5RB
Why: Smaller wedding parties in search of a central London venue for a civilised wedding lunch or dinner should consider Avenue’s glass-fronted private dining room, which can seat from 8 to 18 people. The room blends the traditional styling of an antique wooden dining table with contemporary design flourishes such as a floor-to-ceiling plastercast of a bookcase that would not look out of place as an installation in one of the art galleries of St James’s.
Where: 7-9 St James's Street, St. James's, SW1A 1EE
Why: A good option if you’re keen to have your wedding based out east but you still want the polish and sheen of a City or central London venue, modern and stylish Plateau restaurant combines impressive cityscape views with a mid-century Manhattan interior – perfect for the Mad Men vibe of the surrounding Canary Wharf skyscrapers. For smaller weddings there is the option of a private dining room with seating for 20 guests. An outside terrace area can also be booked privately and has space for up to 60.
Where: Plateau, 4th Floor Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14 5ER
Why: If you have ever been dumbfounded by your favourite Instagram influencer uploading pictures of a tropical oasis and claiming that it can be found in the middle of central London, the likelihood is that you are seeing the Barbican’s rooftop Conservatory without even realising it. Without a doubt The Barbican’s best-kept secret, the Conservatory is an incongruous space that houses exotic fish and more than 1,800 species of tropical plants under its glass roof. It is certainly one of the most unusual wedding venues in the capital, but by no means does that make it second rate.
Where: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, Barbican, EC2Y 8DS
Why: Housed in what was originally a warehouse in the City’s Devonshire Square, Cinnamon Kitchen has worked its way to becoming a London landmark for Indian food since first opening its doors to the public in 2008. While the excellent food may have been the initial draw, Cinnamon Kitchen City’s shiny wedding licence means it can also accommodate civil marriage ceremonies. The 16-seater private dining room is ideal for a smaller party and for an extra special touch to really add to the atmosphere, a colourful Indian-style tent can also be erected on the terrace.
Where: 9 Devonshire Square, City of London, EC2M 4YL
Why: Carnivorous couples will rejoice at this popular City steakhouse, where the menu is stacked with the best quality British beef. Hawksmoor may boast sites around the UK but its Guildhall location is the only one in the portfolio where it is possible to get hitched. The 100-capacity venue also benefits from a separate bar that can host a cocktail and canapé hour prior to the traditional wedding breakfast.
Where: 10 Basinghall Street, City of London, EC2V 5BQ
Why: Situated on a quiet corner in Mayfair Village, the Connaught is one of London’s most elegant hotels, with a range of wedding spaces both intimate and grand. If you’re planning a modest wedding with only your nearest and dearest in attendance, one of The Connaught’s smaller rooms is ideal. The Silver, Oak and Georgian rooms seat between six and 12 guests, making them ideal for intimate celebrations and the venue’s mid-sized rooms – the Champagne, Carlos, Regency and Maple rooms – are perfectly suited to parties of between and 20 and 50 guests.
Where: Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL
No.11 Cavendish Square
Why: This Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in the heart of Marylebone provides a stylish setting in to host your wedding. Ceremonies for both weddings and civil partnerships can be held at No.11, so whether you’re looking to wed nearby and hold your wedding breakfast there, or plan to have the whole day in one place, the choice is yours. For smaller wedding parties, we love the townhouse feel of the President’s & Treasurer’s rooms, which seat up to 22 and 14 guests respectively.
Where: 11-13 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, W1G 0AN
Searcy’s at The Gherkin
Why: Although high-rise venues are no longer the novelty they once were in the capital, few London landmarks can say they boast uninterrupted panoramic views of the city’s skyline. Searcy’s at The Gherkin's wedding spaces are found on levels 39 and 40, and are licensed for civil ceremonies. The space can easily be tailored to the size of your party, perfect for intimate services. What could be more special than watching the sun set from the 40th floor after exchanging vows with the one you love.
Where: 30 St Mary Axe, Aldgate, EC3A 8EP
Size not an issue? Check out our list of the best wedding venues in London