Choosing an Essex Wedding Venue
The most important wedding planning decision you’ll make is where you will get married.
Stuart and I got engaged back in 2011 and fairly soon after, we started the search for our wedding venue. What with both of us having family living a good distance away, we decided to stick with our adopted home of Essex to get married as the majority of our friends (and, by definition, our extended ambulance families) were in this area. So we stuck to the county of Essex and started looking around. That was only 6 years ago and I can tell you now, the choice was slim compared to today. Venues in Essex were still very much of the “country manor” or posh hotel/golf club ilk and neither of those options particularly appealed to Stu and I. After a lot of searching, we were finally lucky enough to find a beautiful garden and barn for our celebration – something of a rarity then!
Thankfully, a lot has changed in the last few years and the abundance of choice right here in Essex has doubled at least! We even have our share of quirky, slightly out of the ordinary venues these days, which I would have given my right arm for when I was searching back in 2011! As a wedding photographer, I travel far and wide to capture weddings up and down the country but I always love the opportunity to capture a wedding right here in my home county of Essex. So I wanted to share with you some of my favourite venues from around the county available to you now, especially if you’ve just got engaged and are starting the search!
Having been married in a walled garden next to a barn myself, I am, of course, totally biased when I say I love a barn wedding. Maybe it’s the history of the building or the textures of old wooden beams against stone floors, I don’t know. But there’s something about an old barn that always puts a smile on my face and I love capturing barn weddings! Apart from our own wedding venue at Marks Hall in Coggeshall, there are a good choice of barns around Essex. On my search I was impressed to find High House Barn in Althorne which has a beautiful building but also glorious outdoor space and the option to have your wedding outside when the weather is good! High Barn in Great Bardfield is another spectacular example and would make a beautiful backdrop for a rustic countryside wedding.
For an alternative take on the barn wedding, I can highly recommend Captains Wood Barn in Great Totham, near Maldon. You not only get the barn experience here, you could take an alternative route and plan a humanist ceremony in the bluebell glade or virtually any other nook or cranny you choose in the acres of space it has to offer! As a dry hire venue, Captains Wood really does offer endless opportunities to plan any kind of wedding you wish for.
Country House Weddings
Country houses in Essex are in abundance with well-known front-runners like The Fennes, Braxted Park and Leez Priory amongst many others. These places are well-oiled machines when it comes to planning and running a wedding – any problems that arise, they’ve got it in hand! On searching for country houses in Essex, I came across two that I think look really smart and contemporary and, judging by the images on their websites, would provide a stunning back drop for your big day. The first is Maison Talbooth in Dedham. It professes to be an ideal venue for smaller weddings, with capacity for up to 50 guests and, with its location in the heart of Constable Country, there are spectacular views all around for your photographer to capture for you! The other is That Amazing Place in Old Harlow. Previously an old monastery built in the 15th Century, this place is so full of character. And any place that dares to call itself “That Amazing Place” has got to be pretty good in my book – after all, they have a name to live up to!
I love a bit of history! And Essex has history in spades, especially with reference to Medieval times, the Tudors and military history dating back to the Second World War. With all this spectacular history comes a plethora of amazing historical buildings now available for people to get married in! My favourite, by far, has to be the Town Hall in Colchester which also works alongside Colchester Castle. The images of the various rooms at the Town Hall are breathtaking and would make such grand backdrops for your wedding day. Another Colchester venue (well it is a pretty old town!) that I was taken by is Tymperleys which is right in the heart of the town. I loved reading the amazing history of the 15th Century building and I think the next time I’m in Colchester, I’m going to have to pop in and sample one of their afternoon teas!
There seems to be a growing trend in general of going “back to basics” these days and that trend has definitely spilled over into the wedding industry of late. I’m seeing more and more weddings popping up in places like farm yards, with brides opting for a tractor to get them to the ceremony or couples choosing to pop a tipi up in the middle of a field instead of heading into a barn or building for their dinner and drinks receptions. Hay bales instead of seating is way more common and brides no longer worry about muddy fields and just get their wellies on and embrace it. And I bloody love it! Houchins Farm in Coggeshall is a modern twist of this trend with options for both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, a variety of different backdrops to your day and spectacular grounds to whisk you both away for your couple shots after the ceremony is over. I’m really excited about this venue and can’t wait for the opportunity to get to photograph a wedding there!
I am, and always have been, a big advocate of doing things your own way. Readers of the blog will know I don’t do “traditional” and I’m always very excited when a couple decides to do things a little differently. It just shows me their true personalities and makes their day so much more personal. Personal is good! It’s heart and soul and I’m all over that! I have been dying to shoot a wedding at the Windmill in Rayleigh for a few years now. It’s a tiny venue, I do believe there is literally only space enough for about 10 people inside (including the two of you, your celebrant and the photographer!). It’s also a ceremony only kind of place so you’d need to find somewhere to hold your reception (I can highly recommend The Old Parish Rooms just around the corner!). And the garden is small but if you don’t mind a little climb in your dress, Rayleigh Mount is there for a lovely spot to take photographs. If quirky is your thing, then this venue really is a place you should consider! Or maybe you’re a movie buff, in which case Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich may be just the place for you. One of only 3 cinemas in the UK licensed as a wedding venue, it’s one of those olde worlde cinemas with awesome architecture and shed loads of history to its name. And you can still catch a movie there too!
In keeping with the farm style wedding and the whole idea of getting back to basics and even throwing a touch of quirk into the mix, festival weddings are on the rise too. I love the idea of gathering in a field, putting up a tent and then dancing and celebrating the weekend away with friends and family. With the option of a tipi as your main gathering point, food trucks instead of a sit down dinner and an awesome band to keep you dancing into the night, festival weddings offer a real sense of celebration with a relaxed edge. Here in Essex, we are lucky to have the amazing Chalkney Water Meadows in White Colne. Run by the Browning Brothers, this is an entire weekend kind of venue where literally anything goes! You can style it however you wish, you can marry wherever your heart desires. The possibilities are completely endless and only end where your imagination runs out. Again, this venue is definitely high on my bucket list of places to shoot so if you’re planning a wedding here and are still looking for a photographer, get in touch!
Or how about just an entire island?
For the ultimate indulgence, why don’t you look at booking an entire island for your wedding day? Osea Island just off the coast of Maldon offers this opportunity, with an array of accommodation for all your guests and a variety of places to exchange your vows, the sky is literally no limit for a wedding here!
So there you have it… my top Essex Wedding Venues for you to explore and maybe book for your own special day! Wherever you decide to get wed, I’m sure it will be a happy and beautiful day and good luck with your wedding plans x