Finding a good wedding venue is sometimes easier said than done. If the problem isn’t with the size or kicking-out time or extortionate cost of bog-standard chicken, it’s often that it all just feels a little… samey. You’ve seen one hotel function room, you’ve seen them all, right?
Help is at hand. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, something unique, something that reflects both of your personalities or interests (or burning passion for dinosaurs maybe), you’ve come to the right place.
Find here a hand-picked selection of wedding venues in the UK that bypass tradition in favour of a confetti-littered road less travelled. Aquariums, space museums, underground caves, temples, submarines, haunted castles, subterranean lakes, iconic landmarks and TV studios – we’ve got them all, including a room stuffed full of whisky.
Take a look at our gallery below for some wedding venue inspiration, and if you end up getting hitched in an Edwardian swimming pool, you know who to thank.
Please note: Some venues are reception only, please check with the venue's events team
A wedding in a windmill, and it's even near the beach. Cley Windmill in Norfolk is a strictly bijou option, with a maximum capacity of 20 people for a ceremony in the round sitting room. Bedrooms are also available, should you be making a weekend of it.
Holt, Norfolk cleywindmill.co.uk
The Edwardian Swimming Pool
Sitting your guests in a swimming pool sounds slightly bonkers, but when it's as fetching and, importantly, devoid of water as Victoria Baths, one is forgiven. The ceremony can take place on the bottom of the Gala Pool, while there are five different spaces in total for receptions. Swimming caps not necessary (unless that's your thing).
Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester victoriabaths.org.uk
Image courtesy of James Tracey Photography
A truly unusual venue presents itself at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum –the opportunity to get wed on the submarine HMS Alliance. The ceremony can be onboard or you and your guests can have a guided tour, while there's room for a reception in the futuristic John Fieldhouse building with harbour views.
The Jet-Inspired Hotel
Forgive us, but a lot of hotel weddings can end up a little… beige. The Aviator, however, is a boutique hotel specialising in jet-set glamour – the stunning contemporary design draws from an aeronautic theme. There's an atrium and sky lounge, and a wedding service that can go as luxurious as you want, including a car and chauffeur for the whole weekend, a hotel room full of high-end gifts and even a private jet to whisk you away on honeymoon, should your budget stretch to that of course.
Farnborough, Hampshire aviatorbytag.com
Castell Coch is a gothic Revival castle surrounded by woodland. The colourful interior, OTT furnishings and fairy-tale setting will definitely make any bride or groom feel like royalty. Ceremonies take place in the drawing room, though with room for only 30 people and no space for a reception, the party will have to move elsewhere.
Cardiff, Wales cadw.gov.wales
The Haunted Castle
Tutbury Castle dates back to the 11th century and boasts some fantastic ruins and stunning views for your wedding pictures. Don't worry – there's also a great hall that even has a roof and everything. The site is not short of reports of ghosts mind, so if that's your bag, look into the torchlit midnight weddings now on offer.
The Subtarranean Lake
Cornglaze Caverns offers four locations to tie the knot, one being on the shores of a dramatic underground lake in a candlelit chamber. It's only licensed for up to 35 guests, but there's a larger cavern with space for up to 400 people. Prepare yourself for a walk to meet your beau with the latter though – the aisle is 80 metres long.
Liskeard, Cornwall carnglaze.com
Yes, you can wed in an actual palace. There are four venues, including The King's Guard Chamber, which is adorned with 3,000 swords, bayonets, muskets and pistols (not for battling the new in-laws, we hasten to add). The spaces are luxurious and regal, there's 60 acres of garden for incredible photo ops and a maze – what wedding doesn't need a maze?
East Molesey, Surrey
Hampton Court Palace
The Film Studio
Make like a movie star and get hitched at these world-famous studios. As well as being a beautiful manor house in its own right, Heatherden Hall was the centrepiece around which Pinewood Studios was built and the house and surrounding gardens have featured in several films. The same company also looks after Shepperton Studios in Surrey. Where better for a Hollywood-themed or retro glamour wedding?
Iver, Buckinghamshire pinewood.genuine-events.co.uk
The Alnwick Garden is home to this impressive treehouse which offers a beautiful, fairy-tale setting of wood, greenery and twinkling lights, private decking, rope walkways and log fires. Up to 85 seated guests can enjoy proper storybook surroundings.
Alwick, Northumberland alnwickgarden.com
If it's the wow factor you're after, this iconic London landmark will surely deliver. The Gherkin is usually a private members' club, but offers wedding ceremonies up on level 39 with sweeping views of St Paul's Cathedral and the rest of the cityscape. Champagne under the glass dome at sunset sounds pretty unbeatable.
There are several lighthouses available for weddings in the UK, but Nash Point Lighthouse is actually still operational. It's ideal for intimate ceremonies – there's a maximum of 25 guests over two floors.
Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales trinityhouse.co.uk
The Whisky Vault
Dine in style at The Scotch Whisky Experience, surrounded by an impressive selection of whiskies on all walls. The private vault can cater for 10 guests total with an intimate, exclusive and wholly VIP experience, but there are larger locations on site too with access to the same overwhelming choice of fuel for your ceilidh.
Edinburgh, Scotland scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk
The National Marine Aquarium can seat up to 130 guests (on dry land) with a serene sea-life backdrop in the form of the Eddystone Reef exhibit. The ceremony can't be done here, but you can have a reception complete with watery well-wishers.
Plymouth, Devon national-aquarium.co.uk
The Walking Wedding
The journey to and from your wedding can be as much a part of the day as the ceremony itself, according to Wedding Walks. Plan a route to walk (with guests or without) and exchange vows at a chosen spot, though the outdoor ceremonies are not legally binding – the company can arrange a legal service beforehand. Walk on to your reception, be it a vintage tea party, a woodland wonderland or an intimate candlelit dinner, secure in the knowledge there's a contingency plan in case of bad weather.
Locations in Herefordshire steppingbeyond.co.uk
Whether just for the ceremony or for a full reception, a stunning beach wedding on your own doorstep can't be bad – judiciously timed of course. Bournemouth Beach is the first beach in England and Wales able to host legal wedding ceremonies, and the following party can be as big or small as you like, and continue the theme with fish and chips or a beach barbecue.
Westbourne, Bournemouth beachweddingsbournemouth.co.uk
The Norman Keep
130 guests can watch you marry in a Norman keep, built in 1140, in the heart of the Essex countryside. Couples can wed in a candlelit ceremony in the banqueting hall, before either a marquee reception on the lawn or a castle reception in the keep (from February 2016), before ambling along to a cottage set in its very own orchard.
Halstead, Essex hedinghamcastle.co.uk
The Cabaret Club
The ever-raucous Cafe de Paris, where Orson Welles and Vivian Leigh took a spin on the dance floor, opened in 1924 and can be hired for your very own show, ahem, wedding reception. The club is well used to cabaret and burlesque acts, so make use of the stage and the flamboyant sweeping staircases to host a super-glamorous, decadent bash in the capital.
The Cliff Top Temple
Forget stately homes: this National Trust property involves a neoclassical 18th-century rotunda. Set in Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, Mussenden Temple was built in 1783 as a library for an eccentric Earl to gift his niece and perches in picturesque fashion on a cliff top. The space is available March to September.
Castlerock, Northern Ireland nationaltrust.org.uk
The Marriage En Masse
Conceived in 2014 to celebrate the legalisation of same-sex weddings, the Southbank Centre has made mass wedding weekends an annual event. There are four ceremonies on the day – each pair says their vows separately (shown on the big screen) while their guests sit in the audience before all couples are simultaneously pronounced married and exchange rings. Packages for 40 guests, including bubbly and a disco, start from £1,950.
The Napoleonic Fort
Fancy a wedding in a real Napoleonic fort, complete with cannon, drawbridge and walls eight feet thick? While that might sound imposing, Polhawn Fort is set in a beautiful secluded spot, and inside it's all spiral staircases, vaulted ceilings and windows with incredible sea views. Choose between The Grand Napoleonic Hall or an outdoor summerhouse, and nip to the beach for pictures. No corkage charges and a dog friendly policy make for an all-too-rare flexible venue.
Torpoint, Cornwall polhawnfort.com
The Studio Warehouse
This East London warehouse (previously a mechanics, hence the name MC Motors) comes minus a wedding licence, but with masses of space and an Aladdin's cave of vintage props. Don't be put off by the idea of transforming a warehouse – the skylight roofing, textured walls and photo-shoot leftovers are all part of the industrial charm.
Moving onto an underground theme, Wookey Hole Caves can accommodate intimate weddings and larger ceremonies of up to 100 people. The acoustics for live music are said to be amazing, and there's a restaurant (above ground) for receptions too.
Wells, Somerset wookey.co.uk
The Royal Navy Ship
You can marry on this ship, though it's permanently moored (which might be a good thing where more lubricated guests are concerned). HMS President (1918) has a presidential suite, a gun room and a ballroom available, while higher-end packages even include a saxophone soloist and speedboat rides. The ship is currently decked out in eye-catching dazzle camouflage, a technique used in WW1 that didn't avoid notice, but made it difficult for enemies to judge distance and direction. An effect we're all familiar with at weddings.
The Market Hall
Borough Market is London's oldest market and licensed for weddings. The impressive, high-ceilinged Market Hall has a 250-person capacity, while Three Crown Square can host up to 200 people, and has a fully restored Victorian glass and ironwork roof. And of course, what better location for fans of street food? Fabulous.
The Space Centre
While we wait for actual orbit weddings to become a thing, geek out with the National Space Centre. Celebrate your union surrounded by unique exhibits and space-related artefacts, explore the Rocket Tower and dance your first dance under the stars in the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium (the UK's largest planetarium). Excellent photo opportunities guaranteed.
The House of Magic
Invite up to 150 guests to experience magic that's not entirely down to your glorious aura of newlywed bliss. Simon Drake's House of Magic is a bonkers Victorian mansion where guests arrive blindfolded and are led into the Enchanted Garden for drinks and canapés before a fun evening of fortune-telling on The Whispering Chair, tours of the haunted cellar and masterful illusion (not to mention various ghosts and eccentric house staff). Sounds divine.
The Artist's Beach House
This charming clapperboard house on the Kent coastline is a licensed venue, and weddings can take place on the veranda or in the summer cabin. Built in 1906 with New England-style features, it can host 60 guests for ceremonies and 80 evening guests. Colder weather calls for the log fire in the sitting room. The location means fish and chips or the beach or a meadow picnic are sweet, relaxed wedding breakfast options.
Whitstable, Kent uniquehomestays.com
The Dinosaur Museum
If your dream has always been the strangely specific fantasy of exchanging vows in the vicinity of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the Great North Museum is happy to oblige. All of the rooms and galleries are licensed so take your pick of ceremonies, buffets and drinks receptions across the venue.
The Officers' Mess
The Royal Marines Museum is a former officers' mess and as such, is steeped in history and tradition. Cosy opulence in winter and landscaped gardens for summer, plus a seafront location and a grand staircase ideal for flouncing down.
Portsmouth, Hampshire royalmarinesmuseum.co.uk
The Stretch Tent
Marquees, tipis and yurts are well-known wedding options, but The Arabian Tent Company offers something different. As well as their themed interiors, bell tents and boudoirs, they now offer stretch tents – canvas palaces to fit pretty much any location. Ideal for difficult patio or garden spaces as they can be attached to buildings, and the company will dress and drape them as you see fit.
The Historic Ship
While you can't actually wed inside the Cutty Sark itself, you can have the ceremony under the hull in what definitely makes for an unusual venue. For the reception, Queen's House – a 17th century classical villa – is open from July 2016, or there's the Royal Observatory Greenwich or National Maritime Museum to keep every part of your wedding day in the heart of a world-famous UNESCO site.
The Tin Tabernacle
If simplicity is key, try this tin tabernacle, which reopened last year as an events space. It's a listed building with a high ceiling, stained glass windows and a newly decorated interior that's kept the straightforward and kitsch church feel. Despite the miniature look, it can host up to 150 people, but note it's not licensed for ceremonies.
Hythe, Kent tintabernacle.co.uk
The Art Gallery
As one lucky bride asked, “How many places can you have dinner right next to Rembrandts, Gainsboroughs and Canaletto?” Have your wedding ceremony and reception surrounded by fine art at the Dulwich Picture Gallery: more than 300 old masters adorn the walls of the Soane Gallery, and up to 120 people can dine at one long table running the length of the room, while marquees in the landscaped gardens can also be arranged.
Marrying at The Little Theatre in Bath is a cinematic experience, from the personalised old-school tickets for your guests (that you can use as invitations) to faux film trailers on the big screen and drinks and popcorn served by usherettes. It's a little cosy for a reception, but as a ceremony venue (you say your vows on stage in front of the screen) it's a picture-perfect start to married life.