If you haven’t chosen your wedding venue yet, here is some helpful advice. As a full-time wedding photographer, I am booked to photograph weddings throughout the UK and abroad, throughout the year. As I am based in Oxford, I tend to be familiar with many established Oxfordshire wedding venues and I have given an insight to some of the more popular ones.
Booking a venue is likely to eat a significant hole in your wedding day budget, so you should ensure the one you finally choose is a perfect fit. Ask plenty of questions before committing but here is the Top Ten I would want answered:
1. Are you able to cater for wedding ceremonies and receptions and if so, is your capacity the same for both?
Finalising the number of guests should be the first thing you do with any potential venue.
2. Can wedding guests have a discounted accommodation rates?
If there is accommodation, many of your guests will, most likely want to stay, possibly for two nights if they have to travel some distance for your wedding. Negotiating a discounted rate is often possible.
3. Do we have to use your bar or can we provide our own alcohol. If so. do you charge a corkage rate?
Some wedding venues will only allow you to serve alcohol they provide, while others will let you bring your own bottles and charge you a standard corkage fee.
4. Do you arrange a wedding menu tasting and will it be complimentary?
Many couples assume a menu tasting will be free of charge. This is not always the case!
5. Do you allow fireworks?
There are strict laws around lighting fireworks and your wedding venue will have their own policy too.
6. May we see the chairs we’ll be using on the day?
Seating can have a huge impact on the style of the wedding ceremony or reception. Ask see the chairs when viewing the venue as well as asking for photographs of previous weddings they have held. This will show you how they intend to arrange chairs and tables and decide if this will work for you.
7. What time would the evening wedding celebrations need to finish, and can we have an extension?
At some wedding venues it is possible to obtain an extension (for a fee) if you are planning to party beyond midnight.
8. Is VAT included?
Find out now or this could push you over your wedding budget.
9. What is included in the Hire and Catering costs?
If you have set your heart of a certain style of crockery and cutlery then ensure your wedding venue can supply it – including a suitable cake knife!
10. Do we have to use your recommended suppliers or can we hire our own?
Some wedding venues will only allow their own trusted caterers to use their kitchens. If you are planning to use outside wedding caterers then check that your venue will allow them in.
Now take a look at some established and popular Oxfordshire wedding venues:
Milton Hill House
Milton Hill House is one of my favourite Oxfordshire wedding venues and can be found in Milton, near Abingdon, which is around 10 miles from Oxford city. It is a stunning venue for your wedding day. They are licenced for civil ceremonies as well as able to offer the venue for your wedding reception.
Milton Hill House is a charming Georgian mansion house, set in 22l acres of peaceful parkland. Having recently completed a multi-million refurbishment this wedding venue is ideal for intimate or large weddings and will only cater for one wedding on any given day ensuring you of their undivided attention! They can also offer various rooms licensed for civil ceremonies.
Accommodation is in either a contemporary, stylish design in their Garden Wing or a more traditional, deluxe style found in their Manor House bedrooms.
Capacity: Guests for a ceremony – 140. Guests for a seated meal – 30 to 140. Guests for buffet/cocktails – 200.
Price Range: £3,500 to £10,000 based on a typical wedding reception for 80 guests, including venue hire, wedding breakfast, drinks package and evening buffet.
Set in 300 acres of rolling countryside, this is another wedding venue I am familiar with and know those tucked-away scenic backdrops that make for stunning Oxfordshire wedding photographs.
The Oxfordshire is a great location for civil marriages, wedding receptions and evening celebrations and is close to the picturesque market town of Thame.
The quality of the setting is apparent from the moment you drive up the tree-lined driveway to the imposing clubhouse. The elegant interior and landscaped grounds provide a winning combination for a romantic setting for your wedding.
The Oxfordshire is licensed to hold civil marriages for up to 180 guests. The wedding suites all lead out to an elevated terrace overlooking beautiful countryside which gives me a brilliant backdrop for photographing an outdoor drinks reception.
The hotel has 46 en-suite bedrooms and 4 executive suites with spa and leisure facilities and their own wedding co-ordinator. Situated in the heart of the Chilterns, the hotel is easily accessible from both London and the Midlands.
Capacity: Guests for a ceremony – 200. Guests for a seated meal – 20 to 150. Guests for a buffet/cocktails – 200.
Price range: £4,000 to £20,000+ which is based on a package for 60 guests but the advice is to contact the wedding venue for more information on a bespoke package to suit your budget.
Hawkwell House Hotel
Another Oxford wedding venue I am very familiar with. Set in the silhouette of Oxford’s dreaming spires, Hawkwell House Hotel will give you total tranquillity near the River Thames.
With two magnificent 19th century manor houses set in 3 acres of gardens, it provides a variety of inspirational back drops for wedding photography.
Hawkwell House Hotel can offer totally bespoke and tailor-made wedding experiences, as well as a range of inclusive packages that include everything needed for your wedding ceremony and reception. They have a dedicated wedding co-ordinator to help with your planning.
Capacity: Guests for a ceremony – 140. Guests for a seated meal – up to 140. Guests for a buffet/cocktails – 200.
Price Range: Mid-price range as far as wedding venues go. As they offer a range of wedding packages then best advice is to contact their wedding co-ordinator.
The Cherwell Boathouse
The Cherwell Boathouse is high on my list for the perfect Oxford wedding venue, if for no other reason than it gives me the chance to get on the river in a punt which, as you can imagine, provides for amazing wedding photography. The venue is located on the banks of the River Cherwell and just a stone’s throw from Oxford city centre.
Both the restaurant, and the marquee on the terrace overlooking the river, are ideal places to hold wedding ceremonies and receptions and this venue is available to all year round.
The marquee can accommodate from 20-125 wedding guests in a variety of formats from informal to a 3-course seated meal and incorporating music and dancing. Underfloor heating can be used if it is a chilly day.
The restaurant will accommodate parties of up to 75 wedding guests throughout the year, offering more of a fine dining experience.
Their River Bar and terrace is ideal to cater for weddings that want to incorporate punting as well. Why not give it a go for a really fun experience – and I speak from experience!
Contact the wedding venue direct for details of experiences they can offer you.
The Bay Tree Hotel
The last wedding I photographed at this charming West Oxfordshire wedding venue was on a chilly day in November. My lasting memory was the dramatic autumn colours on the stone walls of this charming hotel covered in vines and creepers. A great opportunity for any wedding photographer!
Situated in the quintessentially English town of Burford, The Bay Tree Hotel is full of historical charm and contemporary style, boasting a setting to remember.
Nestled in this Cotswold town, off the main street, the wedding venue offers a warm, relaxing welcome. Whether you’re planning a traditional big white wedding or a romantic and intimate day, the wedding co-ordinator at the Bay Tree should be able to accommodate your needs.
As a small country house hotel, they can offer exclusive-use weddings from check-in at 2pm on your wedding day until check-out the following morning. Once your last wedding guests have arrived, they close the front door which allows you to enjoy the atmosphere of a private house party but with the advantage of a professional team to tend to your every need.
If it’s something a little more low-key you are looking for then ask The Bay Tree about their smaller rooms. The Hawthorne Room will hold up to 12 guests which is ideal for those looking for an intimate day spent with close friends and family. I photographed a larger wedding in The Conservatory, with its stunning views over the hotel’s Cotswolds garden. This room is a perfect setting for up to 60 wedding guests. We all had a lovely time.
Then there is The Garden itself. You can make the most of this picture-perfect Cotswold garden with a wedding ceremony held in a stunning summer house, complete with a red carpet. The garden has beautiful backdrops, even in autumn, for formal family and group pictures. A wedding photographer’s dream!
Here are some other Oxfordshire Wedding Venues you may want to consider:
- Eynsham Hall, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 6PN
- The Manor Country House Hotel, Weston-on-the-Green, Oxon OX25 3QL
- Witney Lakes Resort, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 0SY
- Oxford Thames Hotel, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX4 4GX
- The Tythe Barn, Bicester, Oxfordshire OX26 4SR
- Caswell House, Brize Norton, Oxfordshire OX18 3NJ
- Cogges Manor Farm, Witney, Oxfordshire OX28 3LA
- Heythrop Park Resort, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 5UE
- Mecure Banbury Whately Hall, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 0AN
- Shillingford Bridge Hotel, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8LZ
- Old Swan & Minster Mill, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire OX29 0RN
- Old Luxters Barn, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 6JW
- Cotswold Lodge Hotel, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 6JP
- The Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3BG
- Double Tree By Hilton Oxford Belfry, Milton Common, Oxon OX9 2JW
- Steventon House Hotel, Milton Hill, Oxfordshire OX13 6AB
- Ardington House, Ardington, Oxfordshire OX12 8QA
- The Spread Eagle Hotel, Thame, Oxfordshire OX9 2BW
- Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4PS
- Lains Barn, Ardington, Oxfordshire OX12 7QG
- Principal Oxford Spires Hotel, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4PS
- The Crown & Thistle, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3HS
- The Beetle & Wedge Boathouse, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 9JF
- Riverside Weddings, Standlake, Oxfordshire OX29 7QD
- Jurys Inn, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX2 8AL
- Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire OX44 7PD
- The Crazy Bear Hotel, Stadhampton, Oxfordshire OX44 7UR
- Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PX