How to have a great London wedding reception

The capital offers endless options for your wedding reception, from the grotty to the grandiose. These venues all have very different characters, but will all give a special something to the special day. Plus we've got some top tips to make sure everything is just right

  • Party planner: Essentials | Birthday | Kids' | Work | Wedding | Hen | Stag

    Venues

    Amadeus Centre

    BEST FOR CUSTOM THEMES This duck-egg blue nineteenth-century former Welsh Presbyterian chapel may look odd next to a west London housing estate, but once inside it’s delightful, with a wood-panelled gallery, complete with its own pipe organ. It’s a dramatic setting for a sit-down wedding meal or buffet, and also one that can be dressed up and themed – Caribbean, gothic and sci-fi have all been done here. You also get the Lower Hall for your money – the former church crypt has a low ceiling and solid soundproofing, so live bands sound amazing here. Capacity 250. Hire charge from £1,550. Amadeus Centre, 50 Shirland Rd, W9 2JA (020 7286 1686/www.amadeuscentre.co.uk). Warwick Avenue tube.

    Arts Club

    Founded in 1863 by a group of artists including Millais and Whistler, this eighteenth-century townhouse boasts leather furniture, heavy drapes and an ornate staircase. Nine spaces are for hire and the venue has a civil ceremony licence. The main dining room has changing art exhibitions and looks out onto a courtyard garden, making it ideal for a smart wedding reception. Food is provided in-house; there’s also a range of AV equipment for hire. Capacity 250. Hire charge from £250. Arts Club, 40 Dover St, W1S 4NP (020 7499 8581/www.theartsclub.co.uk). Green Park tube.

    Beauberry House

    There’s a choice of rooms in this leafy West Dulwich venue, from the White room, with its private balcony, to the ground floor restaurant and bar. If your event is really large, a marquee can be put up in the grounds. There’s a civil ceremony licence and a full DJ set-up, too. Capacity 400. Hire charge from £650. Min spend applies. Beauberry House, Gallery Rd, SE21 7AB (020 8299 9788/www.beauberryhouse.co.uk). West Dulwich rail.

    Bleeding Heart Tavern

    This restaurant, bistro and tavern caters for parties in spaces ranging from discreet back rooms to converted wine cellars. The elegant restaurant, with its mahogany panelling and mirrored wine bar, is available for wedding parties at weekends but the crown jewel is the 600-year-old crypt, all exposed beams and candlelit oval tables, where Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon hosted a five-day bash in 1531. Food is great and staff can recommend wines from a 450-odd bottle list. Capacity 44. Hire charge free-£750. Bleeding Heart Tavern, 19 Greville St, EC1N 8SJ (020 7404 0333/www.bleedingheart.co.uk). Farringdon tube/ rail.

    Cambridge Cottage

    Kew Garden’s former royal residence is spot on for a wedding reception with English-country-garden aspirations. Think string-quartet accompaniments, Pimm’s on the lawn and old-fashioned glamour. For the hire fee you also get the run of the gallery, whose walls are adorned with botanical-themed art, as well as the drawing room. Both interiors open on to the private Duke’s Garden. The only encroachment on this idyll is the occasional roar of a 747, as Kew is directly underneath the Heathrow flight path. Capacity 150. Hire charge from £3,500.Cambridge Cottage, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Surrey TW9 3AB (020 8332 5641/www.kew.org). Kew Gardens tube/rail or Richmond tube/rail then 65 bus.

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    Chelsea Physic Garden

    Chelsea Physic Garden

    A wonderful space, established in 1673 to teach the identification of medicinal plants. The garden is open to the public some days but have your wedding reception on Monday, Tuesday or Saturday and you’ll have the place to yourself. There is a 120-person reception room, but this venue is all about the spectacular garden. Music and drinks service must be over by 10pm and amplified music is banned in the garden – opt for a string quartet or something similar. Hire prices rocket during the Chelsea Flower Show. Capacity 400. Hire charge from £1,000. Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HS (020 7352 5646/www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk). Sloane Square tube.

    Chiswick House

    Every corner of this Palladian villa has been festooned with classical ornamentation. The building’s neo-classical architecture will impress your guests from the outset, while the interior – with white couches, gold touches to the furniture and splashes of royal blue wallpaper – continues the theme. Chiswick House takes great pride in its Italianate gardens, which are said to have provided the jumpstart to the English Landscape Movement; your guests will have the freedom to stroll around during your reception. Civil ceremonies can be held on either Fridays or Saturdays, but book early. Capacity 150. Hire charge from £3,250. Chiswick House, Burlington Lane, W4 2RP (020 7973 3292/www.chgt.org.uk). Chiswick rail, then E3, 190 bus.

    Conway Hall

    BEST FOR CIVIL PARTNERSHIPSOpened in 1929 by the left-leaning South Place Ethical Society as a centre for ‘the amenities of social discourse’, Conway Hall continues to host exhibitions and talks by political and cultural figures as well as wedding receptions and other parties. The main hall has a large stage, wooden floors and ornate panelled walls. Guests can make use of a PA system and a grand piano. Capacity 500. Hire charge from £50. Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL (020 7242 8032/www.conwayhall.org.uk). Holborn tube.

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    Covent Garden Hotel

    Covent Garden Hotel

    This Kit Kemp-designed hotel, converted from a pharmacy ten years ago, is a witty mix of the traditional and the flamboyant. Along with fabulous spaces for receptions, there’s a private screening room and good Modern British and European menus. Capacity 53. Hire charge from £100 per hour. Covent Garden Hotel, 10 Monmouth St, WC2H 9HB (020 7806 1000/www.firmdale.com). Covent Garden tube.

    Dulwich Picture Gallery

    It’s hard to think of a more magnificent setting for nuptials than this gorgeous nineteenth-century building by Sir John Soane. Now that the gallery has acquired a ceremony licence, it’s possible for your whole day to take place here. Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD (020 8299 8713/www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk). North Dulwich or West Dulwich rail. Capacity 220. Hire charge from £400.

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    Julie's

    Julie’s

    The front wine bar has a convivial feel, but it’s the labyrinth of rooms below that make this place special: from the terracotta dining room to the bright conservatory with its hanging ivy baskets, there’s something for every taste. Capacity 50. Minimum spend £30-£36 per person. Available for hire 9am-11.30pm daily. Julie’s, 135 Portland Rd, W11 4LW (020 7727 7985/www.juliesrestaurant.com). Holland Park tube.

    Kenwood House

    The pale stuccoed exterior of Hampstead Heath’s romantic country house makes a photogenic backdrop for refined, unmistakably English wedding celebrations. The isolated location provides a rare opportunity to turn up the trad jazz. Ask permission in advance to use the tree-lined driveway for stylish arrivals. Capacity 180. Hire charge from £1,000. Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, NW3 7JR (020 8341 5384/www.english-heritage.org.uk). Golders Green tube, then 210 bus.

    Pembroke Lodge

    BEST FOR THOSE ON A BUDGETGet outdoor space for a low price. Hire starts from £350, offering a bucolic setting and incredible views.Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey, TW10 5HX (020 8940 8207/www.pembroke-lodge.co.uk). Richmond tube/rail.

    Royal Institution

    Home to scientific artefacts including the first electrical transformer, the Royal Institution is as much a museum as a public forum for science-related discussion. Seven function rooms can host a variety of events, from performances to an intimate dinner for ten. The Institution was recently granted a licence to perform wedding ceremonies, making for an unusual venue in which to tie the knot. Capacity 440. Hire charge from £280. Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle St, W1S 4BS (020 7670 2905/www.rigb.org). Green Park tube.

    St Germain

    A play on the classic Parisian brasserie, with a touch of New York, this converted nineteenth-century print house between Smithfield and Farringdon has lovely tall windows, a stylish black-and-white palette mixed with dark woodwork, and serves good brasserie fare along with classy cocktails. An in-house stereo system plays discreetly in the bar, but you can also bring in your own decks. Capacity 160. Min spend: call for details.St Germain, 89-90 Turnmill St, EC1M 5QU (020 7336 0949/www.stgermain.info). Farringdon tube/rail.

    Stationers’ Hall

    BEST FOR SUMMER WEDDINGSYour guests can dine at 340-year-old tables, surrounded by polished wood panelling, huge stained-glass windows and the shields of the Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers’ Company at this Grade I-listed building, which has been the guild’s home since 1673. Three imposing function spaces all have mod cons such as vast LCD screens; discos can also be brought in. No in-house catering, but there’s a long list of approved caterers. The glorious courtyard garden, dominated by a 250-year-old plane tree, recently underwent a £120,000 makeover and is an irresistible draw for a summer wedding. Capacity 400. Hire charge £2,400 per day, £270-£400 per extra hour. Stationers’ Hall, Ave Maria Lane, EC4M 7DD (020 7246 0999/www.stationers.org). St Paul’s tube or Blackfriars tube/rail.

    The Vine

    This was a humble gastropub until designer Christopher Woods transformed it with theatrical themed private rooms. The real boon, though, is the garden – a leafy, canopied patio, with outside heaters. Italian food comes as set menus, or there is buffet and finger food on offer for smaller budgets. Capacity 100. Hire charge from £250. The Vine, 86 Highgate Rd, NW5 1PB (020 7209 9001/www.thevinelondon.co.uk). Kentish Town tube/rail or Gospel Oak rail.

    Zetter

    Covering the whole of the ground floor, with impressive floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant at this modern Clerkenwell hotel is great for a glitzy wedding bash; part of the space can be converted to a dancefloor. The newly furnished River room works well for smaller parties: it can cater for 80 revellers and has a stage, two sofas, a projector and a full PA system. The basement rooms have air-conditioning – great for summer parties. Capacity 150. Min spend £70 per person.Zetter, St John’s Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ (020 7324 4401/www.thezetter.com). Farringdon tube/rail.

    Wedding party tips

    1. Pick an original venue

    Try cool contemporary art galleries such as the Barbican and ICA or quirky museums like The Museum of Garden History in Lambeth. See www.hitched.co.uk and www.venues.org.uk for a comprehensive list of reception venues.

    2. Decorate it with style

    How about art deco glamour, 1950s Dolce Vita or Victoriana? www.confetti.co.uk offers affordable trimmings

    3. Choose cheap booze

    Pick a venue which allows you to bring your own booze and doesn’t charge corkage. www.majesticinfrance.co.uk, www.tesco-france.com, www.sainsburyscalais.co.uk

    4. Call in an expert

    If you are short on time, get a wedding planner to help. www.letticeparty.com

    5. Find a good foodie

    Try to avoid predictable and expensive caterers. See our party essentials guide.

    6. Get the tunes sorted

    Word of mouth is a good way to find a good DJ. Make sure you give them a list of songs.

    7. See the light

    If you are picking one of London’s lofty old buildings, atmospheric lighting will make all the difference. Enhance Lighting and Design (01322 427 232/enquiries@enhancelighting.co.uk).

    8. Embrace flower power

    A reputable local florist is often much cheaper. Dover Flowers in Clapham (020 8673 2958) and Chivers in central London (www.chiversflowers.co.uk).

    9. Check for cutlery, crockery and glasses

    Often venues don’t have their own; sometimes you need chairs and tables. www.welldressedtables.com

    10. Bake a cool cake

    Fairy cakes are delicious and great value. www.lolas-kitchen.co.uk, www.hummingbirdbakery.com, www.peytonandbyrne.com, www.outsidertart.comCompiled by Maggie DavisParty planner: Essentials | Birthday | Kids' | Work | Wedding | Hen | Stag

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The front wine bar has a convivial feel, but it’s the labyrinth of rooms below that make this place special: from the terracotta dining room to the bright conservatory with its hanging ivy baskets, there’s something for every taste. Capacity 50. Minimum spend £30-£36 per person. Available for hire 9am-11.30pm daily. The pale stuccoed exterior of Hampstead Heath’s romantic country house makes a photogenic backdrop for refined, unmistakably English wedding celebrations. The isolated location provides a rare opportunity to turn up the trad jazz. Ask permission in advance to use the tree-lined driveway for stylish arrivals. Capacity 180. Hire charge from £1,000. Get outdoor space for a low price. Hire starts from £350, offering a bucolic setting and incredible views.Home to scientific artefacts including the first electrical transformer, the Royal Institution is as much a museum as a public forum for science-related discussion. Seven function rooms can host a variety of events, from performances to an intimate dinner for ten. The Institution was recently granted a licence to perform wedding ceremonies, making for an unusual venue in which to tie the knot. Capacity 440. Hire charge from £280. A play on the classic Parisian brasserie, with a touch of New York, this converted nineteenth-century print house between Smithfield and Farringdon has lovely tall windows, a stylish black-and-white palette mixed with dark woodwork, and serves good brasserie fare along with classy cocktails. An in-house stereo system plays discreetly in the bar, but you can also bring in your own decks. Capacity 160. Min spend: call for details.Your guests can dine at 340-year-old tables, surrounded by polished wood panelling, huge stained-glass windows and the shields of the Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers’ Company at this Grade I-listed building, which has been the guild’s home since 1673. Three imposing function spaces all have mod cons such as vast LCD screens; discos can also be brought in. No in-house catering, but there’s a long list of approved caterers. The glorious courtyard garden, dominated by a 250-year-old plane tree, recently underwent a £120,000 makeover and is an irresistible draw for a summer wedding. Capacity 400. Hire charge £2,400 per day, £270-£400 per extra hour. This was a humble gastropub until designer Christopher Woods transformed it with theatrical themed private rooms. The real boon, though, is the garden – a leafy, canopied patio, with outside heaters. Italian food comes as set menus, or there is buffet and finger food on offer for smaller budgets. Capacity 100. Hire charge from £250. Covering the whole of the ground floor, with impressive floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant at this modern Clerkenwell hotel is great for a glitzy wedding bash; part of the space can be converted to a dancefloor. The newly furnished River room works well for smaller parties: it can cater for 80 revellers and has a stage, two sofas, a projector and a full PA system. The basement rooms have air-conditioning – great for summer parties. Capacity 150. Min spend £70 per person.Try cool contemporary art galleries such as the Barbican and ICA or quirky museums like The Museum of Garden History in Lambeth. See www.hitched.co.uk and www.venues.org.uk for a comprehensive list of reception venues.How about art deco glamour, 1950s Dolce Vita or Victoriana? www.confetti.co.uk offers affordable trimmingsPick a venue which allows you to bring your own booze and doesn’t charge corkage. www.majesticinfrance.co.uk, www.tesco-france.com, www.sainsburyscalais.co.ukIf you are short on time, get a wedding planner to help. www.letticeparty.comTry to avoid predictable and expensive caterers. See our party essentials guide.Word of mouth is a good way to find a good DJ. Make sure you give them a list of songs.If you are picking one of London’s lofty old buildings, atmospheric lighting will make all the difference. Enhance Lighting and Design (01322 427 232/enquiries@enhancelighting.co.uk).A reputable local florist is often much cheaper. Dover Flowers in Clapham (020 8673 2958) and Chivers in central London (www.chiversflowers.co.uk).Often venues don’t have their own; sometimes you need chairs and tables. www.welldressedtables.comFairy cakes are delicious and great value. www.lolas-kitchen.co.uk, www.hummingbirdbakery.com, www.peytonandbyrne.com, www.outsidertart.com Essentials | Birthday | Kids' | Work | Wedding | Hen | Stag