A radical change in British law has made it legal for gay men and lesbians to marry in England and Wales.
Prime Minister David Cameron and other political leaders heralded the result a triumph, the PM tweeting 'After a long parliamentary process gay marriage became law tonight - something I believe we can be proud of as a country'. Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of British lesbian, gay and...
What The New Law Means
It’s not only British gay men and lesbians who’ll benefit from the new law. For foreign nationals wishing to marry in the UK there are rules and conditions that apply, but now this bill has passed these rules will be the same for all foreign nationals, regardless of sexual preference.
While same-sex couples can’t get married in a church, there are plenty of amazing licensed venues to say ‘I do’ at. Here are some of the most special wedding destinations.
Romantic Country Style
A member of IGLTA (International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association), British-based Further Afield offers a collection of handpicked accommodation for gay and lesbian travellers. Simon Forrester, who launched the business in 2010 with his partner Andrew, says that many of the properties are licensed for civil partnership ceremonies. Next year they will launch a dedicated gay marriage collection.
Although some are gay-owned and run, none of properties on Further Afield are exclusively gay. Instead, they’re chosen because of their quality, location and service – and because they provide the same welcome to their gay guests as they do to all others.
Top picks include The Rectory, a stylish and lovingly restored property set in three acres of Victorian walled garden in the picturesque Cotswolds, 90 minutes’ drive away from London. With accolades from Vogue and Brides Magazine, this 12-bedroom country house hotel is licensed to hold intimate ceremonies for up to 60 guests. There’s a variety of dining options too, from wedding breakfast with champagne and canapés in the sunlit conservatory, to beer on tap and hearty pub classics in adjacent sibling The Potting Shed, winner of The Good Pub Guides 2012 Pub of the Year.
Across the border into Wales, The Grove is another of their gay-welcoming recommendations. Derelict for eight years, its current owners worked tirelessly with local craftspeople to restore this extensive estate as a luxury boutique hotel with 20 bedrooms and suites divided across the main house, Coach House and Long House, plus four lovely self-catering cottages. Here you may choose anything from a summer wedding for up to 150 guests in a marquee on the lawn, to an intimate candlelit ceremony in front of a roaring fire in the handsome Panelled Room. The Grove is in west Wales, just over 1.5 hours’ drive away from Cardiff.
Now the Queen has approved same-sex marriage, why not choose to marry in a deluxe London hotel next to Buckingham Palace? The Goring is where the now Duchess of Cambridge spent her final night as a commoner before marrying Prince William at Westminster Abbey. The Goring welcomes same-sex marriages – there’s a choice of private rooms for civil ceremonies, the spacious private garden is ideal for a marquee, and they have access to the very best suppliers including florists, photographers, horse-drawn carriages and toastmasters.
If that isn’t grand enough, why not hire one of Britain’s famous palaces for your own regal event? Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Banqueting House and Kew Palace are available via Historic Royal Palaces.
Futuristic & Artistic
One of London’s most distinct new buildings is 30 St Mary Axe, better known by its phallic nickname The Gherkin. The restaurant and bar on levels 39 and 40 are licensed for weddings and civil partnerships via Searcys. You can get married surrounded by family, friends and unsurpassable 360º panoramas of landmarks like the Houses Of Parliament and St Pauls Cathedral.
The Barbican Centre is another iconic London building licensed for ceremonies. Europe’s largest multi-arts centre, it hosts a mixed repertoire of art, music, theatre, dance and film, as well as being home to the London Symphony Orchestra. Its Conservatory and Garden Suite, a hidden tropical oasis with over 2,000 species of tropical plants, is ideal for an exotic same-sex wedding for up to 264 guests.
Gay & Gorgeous
Other English cities with significant gay populations provide excellent wedding opportunities. Manchester’s Cross Street Unitarian Chapel was Britain’s first place of worship to offer civil partnerships to same-sex couples. The Unitarian Church is not part of the Church of England and has a number of openly gay ministers, and was approved for civil partnership ceremonies in March 2012. They intend to begin offering same-sex marriage ceremonies as soon as the law allows. Manchester is in northwest England, only a 2hr train trip from London.
The English seaside city of Brighton is known for its fabulous gay and lesbian scene and has an array of licensed civil partnership venues, including the Prince Regent’s extravagant Indo-Gothic Royal Pavilion; the stylish and curvaceous 4-star myhotel Brighton; and brilliant beachfront options like famous Brighton Pier. For a really quirky option, water-loving couples can opt for Brighton Sea Life Centre, the UK’s oldest working aquarium – proving that when it comes to marriage in Britain, you’re spoilt for choice no matter what your preference is!
A Tartan Celebration in Scotland
Although same-sex couples can for now only choose civil partnership in Scotland, you’re compensated in that you can have the ceremony in a spectacular castle with royal connections. Recommended by Further Afield, Fenton Tower dates from the 16th Century but lay in ruins for 350 years. Restored since 2002, it now provides 5-star accommodation for up to 12 guests just 18 miles from Edinburgh. Surrounded by dramatic Scottish countryside (including its own loch) and decorated with tapestries, antiques and plenty of tartan, it’s unique and unforgettable.
Get Kitted Out
Finding the perfect venue is just part of a dream wedding. What you wear when you say “I do” is also crucial, because those wedding photos may be on your mantelpiece (or your computers desktop wallpaper) for many years to come. Fortunately, Britain is unbeatable when it comes to statement fashion, so be sure to check out British designers including Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood. If you’re hoping to save money for flowers, rings, hair & make-up, champagne, honeymoon…. don’t despair, because these big names are represented at Bicester Village, a luxury fashion outlet centre in Oxfordshire, just an hour north-west of London. One of nine Chic Outlet Shopping Villages in Europe, it’s also a member of IGLTA.