Sussex Wedding Guide Part 1: venues and planning
Browse our pick of contrasting Sussex venues plus suggestions for help planning your ceremony
Getting married, know someone who is, or arranging another kind of big bash? Inspiration starts here. Feast your eyes on our pick of unique venues around Sussex, plus where to get planning help. Look out for our second feature with ideas for hens and reception trappings.
You don’t have to be Harry and Meghan to get a castle wedding. You can tie the knot in East Sussex at 15th century Herstmonceux Castle which has a moat and the beautiful setting of 300 acres of carefully managed woodland combined with themed and formal gardens.
Herstmonceux can host your big day in the ballroom, conference room or Elizabethan room, holding up to 180, 60, or 30 guests respectively, or outside in the cloisters.
Want to really step back in time? Medieval-style weddings are even possible during the annual England’s Medieval Festival – a huge summer event in the castle grounds with jousting displays and much more.
British Wedding Award winner and recent host of the Muddy Awards winners’ drinks, The Arabian Tent Company – countrywide boasts the largest collection of unique marquees in the UK, all beautifully handmade in India. The most popular design for weddings is, Cornish Crea, which is block printed, as is the Raj Tent, while flower panels grace the Arts & Crafts-inspired William Morris. For festival-style weddings, the Mexican motifs on a cream background of Viva La Fiesta, influenced by Frida Kahlo and Day of the Dead celebrations, are a sure fire winner.
Viva La Fiesta
Looking for something really colourful? How about a Bollywood Boudoir, Arabian Tent or Purple Palace? Sister company pearltents.co.uk meanwhile does bright, white and elegantly traditionalmarquees. Both can also hire you all the trappings, from dance floors to Moroccan lanterns.
Fine dining Jeremy’s restaurant at Borde Hill was among the Top 10 Most Romantic Restaurants chosen by The Times. It overlooks a terrace and Victorian walled garden with a wisteria-covered walkway. A wedding marquee leads off the bar and can be open-sided on warm days for orchard views. Book it for an intimate celebraiton or hire out the whole restaurant. You can even have your ceremony here.
Borde Hill’s beautiful Grade II English Heritage-listed garden set within 200 acres of parkland boasts can meanwhile be booked for photoshoots. Feature areas include an English rose garden, an Italian garden with a lily pool and a stunning view and subtropical dells with palms.
The licenced Artisan Bakehouse and its pretty gardens at Ashurst near Steyning are available for private hire and provide the perfect setting to enjoy delicious hand made lunches, buffets and afternoon tea featuring the site’s speciality breads and cakes. The Bakehouse itself can accommodate up to 35 and there’s plenty of space to space to erect a marquee for a larger celebration. There are also two cottages where the happy couple and family can stay over.
A 300 foot Edwardian Pergola, a sunken garden, walled kitchen garden and arboretum are among highlights of award-winning West Dean Gardens. With a 19th century flint mansion besides West Dean is perfect for event hire for weddings and other special occasions, indoors or in a marquee or tipis. There’s also accommodation for adults to stay over.
Between Arundel and Chichester, prettily positioned At Fontwell Park has several ceremony venues including traditional Fontwell House. The Paddock marquee next to the parade ring is among places to hold your reception. For a great vantage point to soak up the atmosphere you could hire private box for up 20 or suite for up to 100 on a race day. The site also has experience hosting large Asian weddings.
Sister site Brighton Racecourse is used to handling everything from a birthday to a black tie ball. You can hire one of the range of suites and get a lofty backdrop for photos with city or sea views
Are you a history fan, or after a rustic vibe? Get wed at the Weald & Downland Living Museum near Chichester where over 50 buildings spanning 950 years have been relocated and painstakingly rebuilt within parkland in the South Downs. For the ceremony itself, there’s the Downland Gridshell, a dramatic modern building made of bent oak. Or, have a simple woodland blessing in the Roots ceremonial clearing beneath a Hornbeam tree then party the night away in a marquee erected in the Greenways Field. The museum itself has plenty of ye olde worlde settings for photos.
Surrounded by a 60-acre nature reserve, WWT Arundel Wetland Centre has a number of unique spaces for hire for private functions including one for up to 200 overlooking the lake. Booking your bash there will even help wildlife conservation.
A countryside wedding in a pretty village needn’t mean you can’t shake things up a bit. Quirkily decorated pub with rooms The Bell at Ticehurst sits close to the Kent and East Sussex border.
Here you can make a brash entrance on a red carpet along a tabletop in the Stable with a Table (ideal for smaller ceremonies) then get stuck into communal feasting afterwards. Alternatively, go traditional with a formal layout in the Assembly Hall, or take the whole thing outside with up to 50 guests. Afterwards, start married life in the Love Nest, the most special of the pub’s garden cabins, where you can get steamy with a double shower, copper bath and wood burner.
It may be on historic Regency Square but it’s all about fun at Brighton’s Hotel Pelirocco.
Book out the colourful cocktail bar for your reception and combine your tipples with anything from creative canapes to a three-course dinner. Serenade your spouse in the plush karaoke lounge, hire the hotel’s decks with or without the in-house DJ and get snap happy in the photo booth. When it’s finally time to call it a night, retire to your pick of 19 rooms individually themed from Darth Vader to Diana Dors to the new Tropical Paradise.
Like a bit of drama? Stage your reception at arts venue The Old Market in Hove.
All or part of the Regency-era building – comprising bar, adjoining Waterloo Room and main house (where the theatre seating can be retracted) is available for hire with a 300 – 500 capacity. You can even use the stage if you wish.
For a special reception, Rathfinny Wine Estate, perched above Alfriston, combines knockout views with Sussex sparkling wine. Enjoy intimate fine dining in its Tasting Room or more feast casually, with larger numbers, in its Flint Barns. Get that house party feel when you and yours stay over – in the barns – originally built as upscale harvest accommodation and boasting a variety of flexible rooms sizes. It’s the perfect place to gather together at communal tables in the dining room, or in the courtyard or the cosy lounge.
Country House Wedding
Set amid the South Downs, Park House Hotel, near Midhurst can be hired exclusively for you and your guests. A beamed barn is the perfect setting for you to tie the knot. There’s also an award-winning spa for a spot of pre-wedding pampering with a sun terrace and indoor and outdoor pools, plus tennis courts, putting green, six hole golf course and croquet lawn. Oh and the dining it top notch.
Think you need to go abroad for a beach wedding? Think again. The Gallivant, just across from celebrated Camber Sands near Rye, often has its wedding parties break out into the dunes for photos, drinks and handmade ice cream. The theme continues with feasting from sharing platters at driftwood tables in the Gallivant’s Beach Hut Marquee. Don’t rule out winter either, when a ‘hygge’ feel is created with log fires, sheepskins and lanterns. The boutique hotel can hold ceremonies for up to 120, or you could say your vows in another nearby venue (a lighthouse even). There are 20 rooms for staying over.
A celebrant can work with you to add those personal touches that make an important day extra special. Claire Bradford from Creating Ceremony was the Wedding Industry Awards’ National Celebrant of the Year 2018, no less, and is recommended by a host of major Sussex wedding venues from Worthing Pier to Amberley Castle.All round people person and self-confessed ‘incurable mushbucket’, Claire is a writer, speaker and occasional broadcaster when she’s not being a celebrant so has plenty of experience of holding an audience. See our interview with her here.
If you want a wedding as individual as you are, QQW is your go-to organiser. The initials stand for Quintessentially Quaint and Weird and the company specialises in themes from vintage to steampunk, Medieval to rockabilly, kitsch to chic.Book an hour or more’s consultation with founder Bev and start planning a truly original big day. Bev has a background in performing, teaching and events and when she’s not running QQW can be found taking part in historical reenactments! She’ll steer you away from the pricey pitfalls, suggest some stylish and quirky suppliers and even coordinate your day for you, should you wish. Packages range from a one off brainstorm to email support to full service. Also look out for QQW’s alternative wedding fairs for heaps of offbeat inspiration.