Choosing where you want to get married is such a big dealbreaker. One of the core bookable services, the venue should epitomise your tastes and aesthetics. With new venues popping up monthly, where should you choose to get married? We've been shooting throughout the Cotswolds and countryside for years now. Stumbling across so many quaint little venues, all the way through to the big and bold manors. Let's walk through the pros and cons to booking a barn or a manor as your wedding reception venue.
As a photography and videography company, we're based in a region of the UK called the Cotswolds. This is a general term for the swathe of land south of Birmingham and north of Bristol. A rural area with plenty of sunshine, hills and regency towns, the area boasts so many beautiful open spaces as well as historic buildings still in place. It still baffles me that many of these places you can get married in are two or three times the age of the founding of the United States. We're big lovers of leafy exteriors, "Cotswold Stone" buildings and rustic wooden struts. The Cotswold surroundings have influenced our photography and video styles throughout the years. So thank you Cotswolds - you've been very kind to us!
A barn or farm wedding will be as you guessed it, in a farm. We've seen a huge range of venues, from Mussel End Farm in Gloucester, which is still a fully functional farm (complete with smells and sights of cows) to Hyde Barn, a purpose built wedding venue. Many of these farms are being renovated or newer side barns added to the venues for wedding specific function rooms.
The majority of wedding barns are owned by a central wedding franchise. You will find that the venues are quickly booked for the hottest summer wedding dates. I've routinely heard a two to three year waiting list for a good date in the summer is normal for these glorious barns. If you're in to your locally sourced food many of these farm weddings will supply food from their own or local farms. Expect loads of free parking and lovely local hosts who can cater for your needs in the most friendly way.
Cripps Barn was the very first wedding venue I ever photographed. Back in the day I was helping out my old work colleague as a second photographer, and loved the custom renovated interior and outdoor views of rolling fields. Out the back is a little paddock area, surrounded by trees on all sides, where they hold the outdoor ceremonies. The interior barn is glorious stone and timber, with a hanging wreath in the centre of the room. This place looks truly gorgeous when dusk settles in, and the ambience from the lights really adds to incredible photos. I recently returned to the venue to photograph my friend Josh at his wedding there.
Home during the summer to the local 2000 Trees Festival, this farm is miles out of the way of any major town or city. Through winding roads you come across the farm, with a long road leading you to the venue. The venue still retains some of its original charm whilst keeping things up to date with a dance room to the side.
During out couples session at a wedding in the venue last year, we took a wonder through the trees and stumbled across a little campsite for a more rustic experience. The owners of the farm were kind enough to let us take photographs in their private garden, whilst a peacock patrolled (and almost attacked me) outside. The staff were so kind and lovely, it would be a pleasure to return one day and capture more memories with more people.
England has enjoyed so much rich history through the years. From reigning Kings and Queens to Lords and Ladies, manor houses have popped up throughout the countryside. These huge buildings are typically hotels now, available for holiday makers to see some local culture and read up on the history as they enjoy a short weekend away. The Cotswolds has so many hidden gems to be married in. Routinely we are requested to return to the same venues over and over.
Manor houses will typically hold a higher amount of guests than a barn, typically in the 200 capacity region. Having canapés and champagne in these grand reception halls whilst a string quartet or pianists plays on in the background gives a grand appearance to the day. Dramatic lighting and historic wall features are present in nearly every venue we've visited, adding drama and intrigue to each wedding days event.
Located in one of the strangest of places, hidden near a business district and only noticeable by a sign on a gravel road, Manor By The Lake is Cheltenham's hidden gem. Once you make your way down the path and through the trees, the venue opens up in a spectacular fashion. A huge pathway adorned by trees on either side guides you to the front door of this huge manor house. During the autumn purple shaded ivy covers the exterior of the building, which makes for a magical experience.
Inside you'll find a hidden away rock-themed bar and multiple function rooms. The reception room comfortably holds over 200 people. There's an area for kids to play and an elevated stage for the band or DJ in the evening. But the time when Manor By The lake truly shines is at night. The path circling the central lake is lit with warm glowing lightbulbs which give a fairytale ending to the day.
Just up the road from where we're based in Cheltenham is Evesham, and the small village of Dumbleton. Just a few houses and a modest little church it seems from the outside. But follow up a path beyond some big gates and you'll come across the most surprising and gran manor house I've ever seen. With acres of private land, a lake and black swans, Dumbleton Hall Hotel sits happily on the hillside and is open for weddings throughout the year. The venue can fit a huge amount of guests, and has multiple (I counted four) reception and bar rooms all in the original decor of the time. Out in the field sits the remnants of an old window frame, giving a great opportunity to shoot against for photographs.
From all our weddings, about half of all we shoot are barn weddings, the rest manors. We have carved out our unique rustic style by becoming prominent at these venues. Our colour palette and vintage style reflects the amount of times we've visited these venues. The choice is your for where you'd like to book, above I've just included a handful of my favourite places. Farm weddings give you a local and friendly vibe, with a smaller guest count. Manor venues cater for larger guest counts, but can be quickly booked up and the costs vary. If you're interested in finding out about any more wedding venues, just browse through our blog and explore.
If you would like to book your own wedding day with Special Day Photography, please contact us. We travel all throughout the UK but are based in Cheltenham. If you have a wedding in Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff or Oxford please get in touch. We specialise in lifestyle wedding photography, with nothing too staged or forced. We'd love to catch up with you over a coffee to discuss any plans you may have.