If you and your other half are foodies and have always envisioned your special day to be centred around a show-stopping meal, it makes sense to throw your wedding at a restaurant. Think about it: restaurants offer all the hallmarks of a great wedding venue, from dedicated private spaces to fantastic food and drink. To help you decide if they’re the right option for you, we’ve put together a helpful guide which explains everything you need to know about restaurant weddings, including the pros and cons, how much they cost and plenty of tips and advice.
An important thing to remember when starting your search is that just because a restaurant has a private space, it doesn’t mean it’s equipped to host a wedding. Get in touch with the restaurant first to check that it’s able to cater for your special day. Some may not openly advertise that they can host weddings, but are able to put on ad-hoc celebrations depending on the type, size and style of the event. Case in point: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
We spoke to Richie Corrigan, the Managing Director at Corrigan Collection, about the increase in popularity of restaurant weddings over recent years, and why they're suddenly garnering attention. 'I think restaurant weddings are becoming increasingly popular as couples prioritise what is important for them at the wedding, and are realising they aren’t obliged to have a large traditional wedding for their family. They can do it their way, with a real highlight on the meal, the food, and wine.'
Of course, a huge reason why people choose to tie the knot in a restaurant is because of the food, as Richie explains. 'The food is always a focus, and the couples we attract usually come to us for this reason.
'We always create a menu specifically for each couple, and have even created dishes particularly for them in mind. A couple recently mentioned they were honeymooning in Sicily, so we developed a Blood Orange Meringue to be served alongside Passito – a Sicilian dessert wine.'
Of course, restaurant weddings aren’t for everyone, and while they definitely have their perks, they also possess a few drawbacks, too. Restaurant weddings are less traditional than ceremonies hosted at a dedicated wedding venue, which can be a positive or negative depending on what you have in mind. But what they lack by way of a dance floor, they more than make up for in incredible food and drink.
Ready to start planning? Check out our guide on how to throw a wedding at a restaurant, which includes the benefits and drawbacks, things to ask the restaurant before you book, and some of our top picks when it comes to the best restaurant wedding venues in London.
Restaurant Weddings: Pros vs Cons
First, what are the benefits of throwing a wedding in a restaurant?
We might be biased, but there are a huge range of benefits to restaurant weddings, from guaranteed good food to potential price perks. Here are all the reasons you should consider hiring a restaurant for your special day.
The food and drink
This, without a doubt, is the best part of planning a wedding in a restaurant; you can guarantee the food will be good. Still, it’s important to have conversations up front about what sort of menu the team are able to offer, and to what extent you can influence what’s served. We’d be surprised if the restaurant doesn’t let you personalise the menu to some extent, but restaurants that are accustomed to hosting weddings on a regular basis may offer set packages, so make sure to ask.
This is also your chance to get creative! If there’s something special you fancy, like a bespoke welcome cocktail or a huge family-style feast, put in the request early on. Restaurants tend to be better equipped for tailoring menus to dietary requirements too, especially more niche needs such as for coeliacs or nut allergies.
Finally, restaurants are built around providing food and drink for customers, so they already have a built-in kitchen and facilities. This means you don’t have to source and pay an external supplier to cater for your wedding; your money goes to one business rather than two.
It could be cheaper
Ok, so the answer as to whether a restaurant wedding is cheaper than a traditional wedding is a little murky. Like a few things in this list, the answer is: it depends. Hiring a restaurant instead of a dedicated wedding venue can be a really savvy way to cut costs. They’re generally smaller affairs, require fewer decorations, don’t usually allow for a live band or DJ, and you don’t necessarily need to hire the venue for the full day, which will help reduce costs. You also only need to pay for one meal, whereas traditional weddings tend to include two – the wedding breakfast and the evening meal. Of course, the more expensive the restaurant, the pricier your wedding will be, but as a general rule of thumb, restaurant weddings can be a great way to keep costs down.
You’re supporting a local business
A small, but rather lovely, perk. If you choose to host your wedding at your local neigbourhood restaurant, for example, you'll be providing them with a significant amount of business. Equally, you might be helping to create new business, by introducing people to the restaurant and encouraging repeat visits.
They’re a great choice for smaller weddings
Restaurant weddings tend to be best suited to smaller celebrations, especially if you’re planning to hire a private dining room for your nearest and dearest. Of course, this depends on whether you choose to hire the entire restaurant as opposed to a private events space, but restaurants tend to be smaller than dedicated weddings venues and therefore a great choice for more intimate weddings.
You can go back!
Unlike many dedicated wedding venues which are hired specifically for one day, and one day only, you and your other half can return to your favourite restaurant again and again to relive the memory of your special day. There’s something romantic about being able to celebrate an anniversary, or even just a Friday night, at the place you got married.
What are the drawbacks of throwing a wedding in a restaurant?
Restaurants are, first and foremost, designed to serve customers good food, and don’t possess all the features of a typical wedding venue. If any of the below are a must for you, then a restaurant might not be the best option.
Space is limited
Space is one of the biggest issues you’ll face when planning a restaurant at a wedding. Even if the restaurant is able to hold up to 100 people, this will include use of the entire space, and doesn't include bridal changing facilities, a reception area or an expansive garden for photo opportunities, for example.
No dance floor or live music
On the subject of space, restaurants don’t usually have room for dance floors, and will require extra planning if this is something you want at your wedding. While it’s not impossible, you’ll need to consider moving the tables and chairs out of the way in the evening for dancing, which will in turn affect the number of people the room can hold. Take this into account when considering room capacities.
Equally, while music is possible, it might not be able to accommodate a live band or DJ, which requires a special sound system. On top of that, many restaurants will have noise restrictions which limit how loud you can play music, and might mean a quieter party overall. So, if music and dancing are big factors for you, then make sure the restaurant can accommodate these.
For guests who are travelling from further afield, they're likely to want to stay the night to avoid travelling back late at night. Restaurants don’t offer accommodation, so make sure to scout out the hotels and B&Bs in the area to ensure it’s possible, and affordable, for guests to stay nearby.
If you have a particular vision in mind for your wedding, you’ll want to double check with the team if there are any restrictions on decorations. To some people, not having to think about decorations is a positive - it's one less thing to plan and pay for. But if there's a particular feature or design element you've always dreamed of having, decor restrictions might put a spanner in the works and make your wedding feel less personal.
Private dining vs exclusive hire: which option is best?
This is one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make when it comes to hiring a restaurant for a wedding. Do you opt for exclusive venue hire, which includes use of the entire restaurant, or simply hire out a private dining room for a more intimate event? Let us help you decide.
The obvious thing to consider is your guest list: how many people do you want to invite? If you’re planning a wedding for 100 people, then naturally exclusive venue hire is a better fit. But if you want to celebrate with your nearest and dearest, then a private dining room would be the way to go.
Another thing to consider is price. If you want to hire the entire restaurant for the afternoon or evening, the restaurant will charge you a fee according to the amount of business they would have done that day. A Saturday evening, for example, is typically a busy evening for restaurants, so the cost of hire is likely to be more. On that note, think about the day and time you’d like to host your reception. A Monday lunchtime will be much cheaper than a Friday night, and remember, you can always think outside the box and host a weekend brunch wedding in the morning. It’ll be cheaper and, let’s face it, sounds like a great time!
How much does it cost to rent a restaurant for a wedding?
We’ve already mentioned how a restaurant wedding can be a cost-effective way to celebrate your big day, but how much does it actually cost? Again, the answer is: it depends.
If you’re hiring a private dining room at a restaurant, most require a minimum spend or a minimum cost per head to hire the room, rather than charging you venue hire costs. Corrigan’s in Mayfair, for example, does not charge room hire and instead charges each of its spaces on a minimum food and drink spend, which keeps the focus on the meal.
Equally, exclusive use of the entire restaurant is likely to incur a rental fee, on top of the cost of food and drink. The type of restaurant will also dictate its prices. A small, family-run restaurant in your local town is likely to be cheaper than a larger fine dining spot in central London.
What does a typical restaurant wedding look like?
Although there are certainly similarities between restaurant weddings, each event can vary depending on the size of the guest list and the flexibility of the venue you choose to hire. When we asked Richie what a typical wedding at the Corrigan Collection looks like, he explained that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wedding celebrations.
'Each wedding and each couple are different', he explains. 'We take pride in making each wedding different too. At Corrigan’s Mayfair we have hosted dinner receptions for eight, to exclusive hires for eighty. We have had couples have a smaller meal within one of the rooms, then move to the main space for the remainder of the reception.
'At our sister restaurant, Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, we have the opportunity to be even more flexible with the use of the basement space, where our last couple celebrated their ceremony in one half, their meal in the other, and then joined the two rooms together for the reception. Couples love that we are able to offer different spaces for each part of their special day, as it helps break up the occasion and make each portion all the more memorable.'
The takeaway? Make sure to ask the restaurant exactly what's possible from the off.
Things to ask your restaurant wedding venue before you book
Don’t get caught out with unexpected costs or limitations after you’ve booked! Here are a few things to ask the restaurant before you go ahead and secure a date.
Discuss the menu
While you can discuss the menu in detail further down the line, it's important to clarify a few things from the off. If you know you have guests with specific dietary requirements, check that the kitchen team are able to cater for special requests, potentially beyond just vegan and vegetarian options. Enquire if there is a set menu offering, and if it's possible to tailor this to suit you. The same goes for the drinks; do you want to create a special welcome cocktail? Or give everyone a glass of Champagne on arrival? What about teas and coffees after the meal?
Check parking and transport
Restaurants don't usually have dedicated parking areas, which might make things tricky. Do your research and locate the nearest car parks or parking options in the area before you book, to make sure it’s possible for your guests to access the venue. Check out the nearest train station and bus links too, then make sure to highlight everything to your guests on the invite.
Equally, if you’re hosting the ceremony elsewhere, research the route you’ll need to take to the restaurant. For older relatives, a long walk might not be feasible, and you’ll need to consider organising extra transport to the venue.
Ask about capacities
When you’re sending out your initial enquiries, ask about the restaurant’s event spaces and capacities. It’s helpful to know numbers for both seated and standing standing events, but the most important figure to know is how many it can hold for a sit-down meal.
Find out about noise restrictions
While a live band might be out of the question, a DJ or curated playlist is certainly a possibility. Either way, music is still an important part of a wedding, but check if there are any noise restrictions you have to adhere to that might affect the ambience of your reception. It's probably not a deal-breaker, but good to know anyhow.
What decorations will you need?
The beauty of hiring a restaurant for your wedding is that it has a lot of the table settings already, so you don’t need to worry about sourcing tables, plates and glasses. However, anything extra, like floral arrangements and centrepieces will need to be sourced externally, so make sure the team are happy to accommodate this.
This might seem like an odd one, seeing as all restaurants have tables, but the types of tables they're able to provide can really vary. Many are tiny and might not be suited to larger parties. If you want to host everyone around one long table, you’ll need to ensure the tables can be pushed together in a suitable layout.
Confirm a schedule
Restaurants don’t typically work like a traditional wedding venue, in that they’re more flexible with how long you can hire the space for. Check to see what time you can hire the venue from, and crucially when you need to vacate it by.
Ask about cake
If you’re a foodie, chances are a wedding cake is a pretty important part of your celebrations. Check whether the restaurant is able to provide a cake cutter and cake stand, as you may need to source these things separately. You can also enquire if the restaurant is able to make your cake too, with many kitchens boasting in-house trained pastry chefs. If not, you might want to consider sourcing your cake externally, or asking what dessert options the chef team can come up with.
The best restaurant wedding venues in London
Planning to get hitched in the capital? London is loaded with restaurants that are able to host weddings, but these are a few of our favourites. From large restaurants to trendy spots and fancy places, we’ve picked a diverse range of restaurants that are suited to all your needs.
What: Richard Corrigan’s eponymous restaurant serves modern British food in swish interiors just moments away from Hyde Park. You can hire the whole restaurant for 85 seated guests, or choose one of its private spaces, such as the intimate chef’s table or exquisite Kitchen Library. Menus can be tweaked to suit your tastes, but a sample menu includes the likes of wild guinea fowl with white onion, black pudding and dandelion, celeriac and black truffle veloute with confit celeriac and pickled dulse, and Irish soda bread parfait with oat biscuit and Guinness caramel.
Where: 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, W1K 7EH
Find out more: Corrigan’s
Searcys at The Gherkin, City
What: Imagine hosting your wedding at the top of one of London’s most iconic landmarks? You can make that dream a reality with a wedding at The Gherkin, which includes catering from award-winning Searcys. It’s able to host both smaller celebrations in its private dining rooms on the 38th floor, or larger events on level 39 and 40 with exclusive hire options. Whichever you go for, you can guarantee spectacular views and top-level food.
Where: 30 St Mary Axe, EC3A 8EP
Find out more: Searcys at the Gherkin
What: Madison is a rooftop restaurant and bar in the City featuring three outdoor terraces, multiple bars and a light and airy restaurant. Something of an anomaly when it comes to restaurant weddings, the space can hold up to 750 guests with exclusive hire and is a truly breath-taking option if you’re planning a large celebration. With expert mixologists, a well-stocked wine wall and a killer menu of international dishes, this is the perfect place for a party.
Where: 1 New Change, EC4M 9AF
Find out more: Madison
German Gymnasium, King's Cross
What: Boasting glamour and grandness in equal measure, German Gymnasium is a German-inspired restaurant near King’s Cross housed in a historic 19th century building. Split over two floors, couples can opt to hire the whole restaurant, the semi-private dining room or the Grand Café for their wedding, and there’s an outdoor terrace for guests to enjoy a spot of fresh air throughout the day. What’s on the menu? Think chicken schnitzel with braised red cabbage, and seared salmon with grill and mustard sesame sauce.
Where: 1 King's Boulevard, N1C 4BU
Find out more: German Gymnasium
The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
What: Vivek Singh’s award-winning restaurant in Westminster is housed inside a grade II-listed former library with a grand entrance, towering ceilings and tasteful interiors. It’s also licensed to host civil ceremonies if you want to hold everything under one roof. Naturally, this is a fantastic option for couples who love Indian food, with dishes such as tandoor chicken leg ‘chop’ with dried fenugreek, and pan-seared salomn with Kolkata style dopiaza sauce, on the menu.
Where: 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU
Find out more: The Cinnamon Club
Bubba Oasis, Islington
What: This homely restaurant in Islington boasts a hidden rooftop terrace and is a great option for more casual weddings hosted in the summer. Accompanying a cosy living room on the ground floor with a cocktail bar and shabby-chic furniture is a gorgeous top-floor garden with a fully retractable roof and heaters. It can also accommodate a DJ booth for an evening boogie, and there’s the option to hire a photographer and extra entertainment for an extra cost.
Where: 57-58 Upperst, N10NY
Find out more: Bubba Oasis
Launceston Place, Kensington
What: This lauded restaurant tucked away in Kensington is renowned for its classic-meets-contemporary food. Think sea bass ceviche, chicken liver parfait and cod with turnips and nori. The space can host up to 50 people for lunch or dinner, and you’ll receive a dedicated events manager to guide you through every step of the planning process.
Where: 1A Launceston Place, W8 5RL
Find out more: Launceston Place
Hotels are a great bet if you're after more exclusive, intimate spaces. Discover the best hotel wedding venues in London right here.