Forget Elvis conducting your ceremony in Las Vegas or conforming to the traditional country manor or classic castle. If any engagement proposals come your way this St Valentine’s Day, take a more unconventional approach.
There is more to marriage ceremonies than simple hotels and venues. Taking your wedding somewhere exotic means that the honeymoon starts early. Rather than setting off for Cape Town after the ceremony, take the ceremony to Cape Town and up Table Mountain. The cable car installed in 1929 has helped this process (it’s a two-hour climb to the top of the 1,086m/3,563ft summit). The views from the vast national park cover the mountainous Cape Peninsula and the islands across the bay. Weddings & Honeymoons Abroad (website: www.weddings-abroad.com) offer Table Mountain packages, as well as weddings in other faraway places.
Patagonia’s vast and stunning glacial landscapes will make your wedding photos more than memorable. Eolo (website: www.eolo.com.ar) is a small hotel in the La Anita valley of Argentina, on the way to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Situated 25km (16 miles) from town, it’s a wedding venue in the middle of nowhere – providing isolated bliss for any wedding party.
Those who can handle the heat (brides who are unfazed in the face of perspiration) should head to California and get married on the San Andreas Fault. Desert Adventures (website: www.red-jeep.com) organises wedding ceremonies in ranches, canyons and oases. Rolls Royce and Bentley can move over – arriving by 4-wheel drive is the adventurer’s transport of choice. The sunset is sure to be spectacular but the entertainment needn’t end there. Wedding guests can witness the Old West with a performance by old miners and saloon girls and those with an astronomical fancy can do a bit of star-gazing across the clear desert skies. Just don’t forget to order a portaloo to take out into the desert with you.
If the very prospect of your special day being under the blaze of a glaring sun makes the makeup start to smudge and the hair begin to humidify, head up to Scandinavia for a cooler event. Arctic Experience (website: www.arctic-experience.co.uk) organises weddings in sculpted ice chapels. The Icehotel (website: www.icehotel.com) in the north of Sweden is such a venue and its location close to the Arctic Circle means there is a chance of a post-nuptial sighting of the Northern Lights.
Animals and underground
Anyone wishing to extend their guest list can broaden the number of species present by hosting a wedding ceremony at a zoo. London Zoo (website: www.zsl.org) has some fantastic venues and couples can wed in the presence of 5,000 animals.
If animal guests aren’t unusual enough, and you’re feeling a little indulgent, pop to France for a week-long wedding to really slow down the pace of the affair. Instead of an over-before-you-know it occasion, you and your guests can enjoy lengthy freedom over beautiful parts of France. Get Married In France (website: www.getmarriedinfrance.com) has chateaux and cottages available for extended weddings. The most unique location on offer is a wedding service in an underground church carved into a chalk cliff in Aubeterre.
Time for tradition
Failing all of this, have something conventional if you must, but do it with a difference. Notley Abbey (website: www.notleyabbey.co.uk) in Buckinghamshire is a venue that combines history, tradition and glamour all at once. The 13th-century building on the banks of the Thames was once the marital home of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. The dining area is a former monks’ refectory that can seat 160.
And if your matrimonial preferences are more city inclined, reconsider an urban wedding. Don’t flee the city in horror at the prospect – there are unique and unusual venues all over. Whilst not the country idyll or the space of the seaside you may have pictured, urban haunts can be just as special. The London Eye (website: www.londoneye.com), for example, creates a wedding with an ever-changing background. A wedding on board a yacht cruising the Hudson River in New York (website: www.prestigeyachtcharters.com) can create a similar effect – exchange your vows in front of a moving Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building.
Don’t forget to contact the embassy of the country you’re considering for your wedding as legal requirements will vary.