Last December, Will and I took some extended holiday and spent 3 weeks in the UK. We visited friends, family and attended a ‘destination wedding in London’ of one of my dearest friends Laura Lumley. Whilst London might not be top of mind as a prime location for a destination wedding (tropical, beachside locations instead springing to mind), I hope I can prove you wrong.
London offers some of the most iconic and quintessentially British wedding packages to suit all tastes, styles and budgets. As Laura says ‘a destination wedding in London can be as diverse and interesting as the city itself.’ There is so much to explore for your guests in London; arts, culture, history, fantastic food and unbeatable nightlife. For us flying from Australia, it was a chance to reconnect with our old home through new eyes; there’s always something new and unique to discover in London.
The Boltons and Kew Gardens, the locations of Laura’s wedding, are both located in West London. They’re both easily accessible from the rest of the city and indeed country via tube, train, bus and taxi options. The closest airport, Heathrow International Airport, is only a 15 minute drive away from Kew. For us flying from Australia, we flew via Singapore into Heathrow.
Check out my other post on a Destination Wedding in Crete for more wedding planning inspiration
For Laura, having her destination wedding in London was an easy decision; both Laura and her husband Jack are born and bred Londoners, with a special affection and love of the city. As one of Laura’s bridesmaids, I spent the night before the wedding with the beautiful bride at her mother’s home in Earls Court. When I first moved to London in 2012, I actually rented from Laura’s mother for 2 years. It was incredibly nostalgic to return to my first ever London home. There is plenty of accommodation available to suit all budgets and taste if visiting London from beautiful hotels to eclectic AirBnBs.
Laura and Jack’s destination wedding in London was a perfectly festive, classically British and stylish party, lasting long into the December night. I’ve finally caught up with Laura to get a few more details on her special day to share with you, and maybe help with your own wedding planning.
1) Why did you decide to get married in London?
My fiancé Jack and I are both born and bred Londoners (me from the West, him from the North). When we got engaged at a picnic in our West London garden square and began excitedly brainstorming location ideas London was always top of the list and the most natural place for us to pick. This city is our home, full of our friends and where we’ve planned our future life so felt like the perfect place to start our married lives together.
2) Was there anything challenging or unique about planning weddings in London? Perhaps transport?
A nod to the iconic transportation in London was a really key element of our wedding and getting me to the church (in a London cab) and our guests to our venue. We loved having all our guests pile on to the three red Routemaster buses. The buses were really fun and grounded the wedding as a quintessential destination wedding in London.
We supplied everyone with a goodie bag of a mince pie and bottle of gin & tonic for the journey which really got the party started. A great part about weddings in London (or any large city I imagine) is that you don’t need to worry about your guests getting home at the end of the night. There are so many options for people so it wasn’t a stress or administrative burden on us.
3) Did you look at many wedding venues in London? What made you choose your venue?
We did a lot of googling of the best wedding venues in London and London wedding packages. I was fairly picky we needed enough space for sit down dinner for 200 guests, and I knew I didn’t want to go for one of the big London hotels. As beautiful as these hotels are I wanted something more unique to the city. Our list was quickly narrowed down to Westminster Palace (my husband works in politics so the chance to host a wedding reception at the Houses of Parliament was appealing to him) or the iconic Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (my personal fave and ultimately the venue we picked). I had memories of visiting Kew Gardens since I was a little girl and it allowed us to have that country house feel without having to leave London.
We couldn’t have been happier with our decision. The staff at Kew were so helpful and the rooms are stunning and were the perfect setting for our party. You hire Kew on a “dry hire” basis. They don’t themselves offer any catering, floristry or entertainment services but provide a helpful list of preferred suppliers as a good starting point. This aspect was appealing to us as we liked the idea that we had free choice in food, drinks, DJ and flowers. The food tasting with the amazing Create was such a highlight of our planning and a great fun day out with my parents too.
4) What flowers and table decorations did you choose, and why?
The wedding was on 21 December so just before Christmas and mid-winter here in the UK. We wanted a nod to the festive time of year without it being rammed down anyone’s throat. Our lovely church was decorated with a huge and tastefully decorated Christmas tree at the top of the alter and the pews were filled with vibrant red poinsettia. My bridal bouquet and my bridesmaids flowers were a lovely mix of whites with highlights of berry and deep purple hellebores (the aptly names winter rose).
The decoration at the venue was focused on candlelight. The beautiful Nash Conservatory where we had our champagne and canapé reception was filled with hurricane lamps, pillar candles and smaller votive candles on the poseur tables. It being the winter solstice the day grew dark quickly but the candle light was romantic and lovely. The candle theme continued to the Orangery where we had our dinner and dancing.
The tables were decorated with large candelabras draped with ivy and decorated at the base with beautiful winter flowers in white, pink, red, purple hues – more hellebores, winter berries, roses and anemone. Still Life Flowers and our wedding coordinator Molly Marot did the most excellent job of styling the tables.
5) Tell me a little more about your music choices for the ceremony and reception?
Our church, St Mary’s The Boltons, is quite well known for its choral scholarship programme with the nearby Royal College of Music, so we were in safe hands with the Director of Music there. Given the time of the year we wanted to keep things festive. We wanted the congregation to get involved singing Christmas Carols – Once in Royal David’s City and Hark the Herald’s Angel. I came down the aisle to the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba played beautifully on the organ. Jack came up with a great plan for the choir to sing Carol of the Bells (he is a big Home Alone fan) whilst we were signing the registry and so many of our guests mentioned how much they had enjoyed that.
The music for the party at the venue was fun to put together too. Our DJ asked us to supply him with a playlist of songs that we liked. We wanted a mix of old school classics which would get everyone up on their feet, pop tunes from our Uni days and some more RnB/rap for later in the evening. We walked into the reception to The Beatles ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and our first dance just had to be (very tongue in cheekily) Mariah Carey’s epic ‘All I Want For Christmas’ – that really got the crowd in a festive mood.
6) You looked stunning in your wedding video and photos! Why did you choose your videographer and photographer?
Our very good friends Lottie and Anthony had got married in a winter wedding in Richmond Park the year before so we asked them for a recommendation for their videographer, Thompson Granger Films. We absolutely love our wedding video; they captured the fun of the day which is what we were really after from them. When searching for a wedding photographer in London, we were recommended our lovely photographer Frances Sales. We really liked her style. It’s not too posed or formal, and again we wanted the focus to be on capturing our guests having fun.
7) You opted for a beautiful, classic tailor-made dress. Can you tell me a little more about why you chose the dress and style? What about the bridesmaid dresses and your accessories?
When my mum and I first started looking at wedding dresses a tailor made dress really appealed. Philippa Lepley is well known for her couture work and excellent corsetry. As soon as we visited her shop and saw the expertise of her team we felt is safe hands. The thing I loved most about the dress was the fabric. It was a rich, heavy duchess satin in a beautiful ivory colour. I wanted a clean, classic look with a full skirt.
I decided on the bridesmaid dress colour pretty early on (a dark green). We picked the lovely Motee Maids Lake style with encrusted beading on the top for a bit of festive sparkle, but not too much, in the lovely Hunter Green. My sister and maid of honour is a redhead so the green was going to look stunning on her and my other 7 gorgeous bridesmaids. For my shoes I went for a vintage style by Rachel Simpson. I didn’t want anything too high and straps were essential so Rachel’s well-known T-bar 40s/50s style was perfect.
8) What else is there to do in London for guests attending weddings in London?
We had people coming to our destination wedding in London from many corners of the earth. People travelled from the USA (both East and West Coast), Scotland, Singapore and Australia. London is choc-a-bloc with things to do and places to see. At Christmas time, in particular, the city literally sparkles. The streets of Mayfair are covered with fairy lights. Kew Gardens also hosts the stunning Christmas at Kew light display. The shop windows of Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, which are adorned with beautiful festive displays.
9) Would you recommend other brides to have their weddings in London, and why?
Absolutely, especially if it is your home. It is such an easy city for guests from out of town to get to and stay in. London has some iconic locations for weddings for whatever vibe you want. A destination wedding in London can be as diverse and interesting as the city itself.
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