Want to get wed under wide open skies, or say ‘I do’ with sandy toes? Outdoor humanist, civil or religious ceremonies are legal in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but in England and Wales there are limitations: all marriages must currently be conducted under a permanent structure with a fixed roof and solid floor.
But the rules are set to change. Marriage laws (dating from the 1800s) are under review and by 2021, couples could have a wider choice of al fresco wedding venues. For now, here are some of the most beautiful outdoor wedding venues in the UK.
If you’re after a rustic, rural wedding but are worried it will look twee, Fforest Farm will allay your fears. Set within 200 acres of Welsh countryside, this secluded retreat is run by two creatives who have designed their lodges, barns, cabins and geodesic domes with effortless style, making use of local materials, handmade textiles and wild flowers picked on site.
Say 'I do' in an old quarry or in wide-open fields (humanist ceremonies can be held almost anywhere on site) or opt for a civil ceremony in the open-sided garden pavilion, before tucking in to a locally-sourced feast, raising a toast in a tiny 200-year-old pub and dancing around the outdoor fire pit.
Isle of Coll, Inner Hebrides
Was your love written in the stars? Consider tying the knot on the wild Isle of Coll, Scotland’s only dark sky island. There are no street lights on this 13-mile-long Inner Hebridean island and only 200 residents, meaning light pollution is practically non-existent and the star gazing opportunities are out of this world – particularly on clear winter nights, when there’s even a chance of spotting the Aurora Borealis.
Local community centre An Cridhe – which means ‘the heart’ in Scottish Gaelic – can entertain up to 120 guests and you can say your vows on nearby Toristan Beach, where you may acquire a few extra witnesses in the form of bobbing seals.
Temple Island, Oxfordshire
Marriage isn’t always plain sailing – and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Those are just two of the slightly misplaced idioms best men and fathers of the brides might feel compelled to use in their speeches during a wedding on Temple Island near Henley-on-Thames, since every summer it marks the start of the Royal Henley Regatta.
Yes, you can hire this tiny island on the River Thames in its entirety for your wedding blessing and reception. The temple itself is an 18th-century folly, complete with an Etruscan-style dining room which seats 40. With the addition of a marquee on the lawn the islet can host up to 120 guests, who will arrive in style by boat.
Finnebrogue Woods, County Down
If your officiant agrees, your wedding ceremony (even if it’s religious) can take place anywhere in Northern Ireland. And Finnebrogue Woods would be a fine choice. Set in the grounds of a private mansion less than an hour’s drive from Belfast, you can say your vows in a magical woodland glade above a 30-acre lough (lake) and dance the night away in a giant tipi surrounded by fairy-lit trees.
Doing it for the gram? Snag the perfect couple shots on a photo safari (where you’re driven around the estate to search for the ideal backdrops) – book to get wed in April to pose in a carpet of bluebells.
River Cottage, Devon/Dorset
Did your romance take root over a shared meal? Has your mutual love of food bonded you forever? Whether you choose to say ‘I do’ in the walled kitchen garden, the restored threshing barn or within the famous farmhouse itself, one thing’s for sure: you can count on fabulous (not to mention fresh, seasonal and organic) catering at River Cottage, along the Devon/Dorset border.
Unfortunately you can’t contract celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to conduct the ceremony or walk you down the aisle (as far as we’re aware) but brides can still arrive in true pastoral style: on a tractor-drawn trailer!
Hoping for a festival-style wedding? Grab your flower crowns and get yourselves to Hush in Broads National Park. Here civil ceremonies are held in the Old Woodshed amongst ancient oaks and beeches – and outdoor hammocks, a communal fire pit and canvas tipi accommodation all add to the laid-back vibe. A limited number of weekend-long wedding slots are available each year, and the beautiful natural setting acts as a blank canvas with which couples can create their perfect day. Bonus for those worried about rain: Norfolk is one of the UK’s driest regions.
Tunnels Beaches, Devon
In North Devon you’ll need to venture through a 200-year-old tunnel to reach seaside Tunnels Beaches, where you can seal the deal beneath a gazebo overlooking a windswept beach and the Bristol Channel beyond. Ilfracombe’s four historic tunnels were carved by miners in the 1820s, opening up access to the coastline’s hidden beaches and a tidal pool – you and your guests will be free to explore the private beach after the ceremony, and can watch the sky turn fiery hues with a sundowner from the venue’s rooftop terrace.
Harvest Moon, East Lothian
Want a barefoot wedding? Just a 45-minute drive from Edinburgh awaits a broad sandy beach backed by dunes and tree-lined paths. With Harvest Moon Weddings you can get hitched on this wild stretch of coastline and party with your congregation in a marquee on the adjacent fields. There are seven luxury beach cabins, including a honeymoon suite with a four poster bed and sea views. In autumn and winter, you can opt for treehouse lodgings and a woodland ceremony.
Pergola and Hill Garden, London
Londoners needn’t be confined to stuffy hotels or chilly churches for their wedding ceremony – England’s capital is packed with quirky venues, including some al fresco gems. Hampstead Heath’s little-known Pergola and Hill Garden is one such spot; the 800ft-long walkway is a Grade II listed structure, and its vine and wisteria strewn columns ooze faded Edwardian grandeur. You can hire this venue for two hours only – so we suggest reconvening at a pub (with a garden) to continue the celebrations.
Carnglaze Caverns, Cornwall
They’re not technically out in the open-air, but Carnglaze Caverns are just as wild as any beach or forest wedding. There are four venues on site, two of which are underground. Choose to walk one of the longest aisles in Cornwall in the huge Rum Store cave (it’s 80 metres long), or descend 60 candlelit steps to meet your partner at the edge of the turquoise underground lake, which provides a more intimate setting. The temperature in the caverns is a steady 10ºC year-round, and there’s no chance of rain, so you can plan your outfits without worrying about the weather!