Looking ahead: Wedding inspiration for the ‘new normal’ – with Elite Hotels
Whilst the pandemic has thrown many couples’ wedding and civil partnership plans into disarray, others have had a rethink, opting for slightly smaller celebrations, often at luxury venues that might previously have been, on the financial front, out of reach.
Says Graeme Bateman, Managing Director, Elite Hotels: “It’s a welcome opportunity for us to throw open our doors to those who may not have had a luxury venue in mind originally; our wedding specialists are delighted to share their know-how and planning skills, honed over many years, to a wider audience who will doubtless much appreciate the history and heritage that comes as part of a wedding at our properties.”
Elite Hotels is a privately-owned collection of four luxury hotels in prime locations across the South of England. Located in Bedfordshire, Hampshire and East Sussex, each hotel is licensed for civil ceremonies and partnerships, providing the perfect backdrop for couples wanting to hold their special day somewhere memorable, where absolutely every detail is taken care of and nothing is too much trouble – plus, importantly, the hotels’ teams (including dedicated wedding co-ordinators) offer a really caring, human touch. Here’s just a taster of what is available at each of the four luxurious Elite Hotels:
Luton Hoo: Less than an hour north of London, Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, in Bedfordshire, is a grand, Grade I listed mansion house hotel which dates to 1601. The Queen and the late Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon at Luton Hoo in 1947, and visited the property several times over the years.
Luton Hoo sits in just over 1,000 acres of countryside, with Capability Brown-designed grounds (including a huge lake) and formal gardens providing a superb backdrop for wedding photos and the entire event. The hotel has 144 beautifully furnished and sympathetically restored rooms and suites, including several Mansion State Suites with far-reaching views, marble fireplaces, four-poster beds, ornate ceilings, oil paintings, and in some cases, balconies. Such is the size of the estate that guests are ferried around in the hotel’s own fleet of dark-green vintage London taxis (which can also take the couple to Luton Airport if their honeymoon involves a flight from there, while they will enjoy free parking during their honeymoon).
The mansion house is a hugely flexible space for celebrations, with a choice of 12 luxury wedding suites licensed for civil ceremonies, plus a former Russian Orthodox Chapel, ideal for more formal ceremonies. The stunning venue has appeared in numerous films, including Four Weddings and A Funeral, in which the hotel hosted the second of the four weddings.
Sample package: A typical wedding package in the mansion house includes not only room hire, the wedding ceremony, Champagne and canapés, plus finer details such as floral table decorations and organza seat covers, but also a three-course wedding breakfast (with coffee/petit fours, wine, water and a glass of Champagne for the toast), plus an evening reception space with dance floor, and an impressive suite in which the wedding couple will spend their wedding night. There is also a complimentary pre-wedding menu tasting. Based on 30 guests attending, the price is from £239 per adult, £90 for younger guests (aged 12-17) and £55 per head (children aged 2-11). For larger gatherings, a sample price based on 120 guests attending a wedding in the Mansion House, is from £179 per adult. Wedding guests enjoy preferential room rates, from £175 per night (two sharing), including breakfast and use of the spa. Call Luton Hoo on 01582 734437 (www.lutonhoo.co.uk).
Ashdown Park: Set in 186 acres on the edge of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club is a neo-Gothic Grade II-listed mansion with 106 bedrooms and suites.
The hotel has its own converted chapel (the Richard Towneley Suite), with stained glass windows designed by 19th century Irish artist Harry Clarke, the original organ, wedding bells and a vaulted wooden ceiling. The self-contained chapel also has the separate ‘John Haywood’ room for ceremonies and celebrations, and it comes complete with a private terrace overlooking the grounds.
Other rooms such as the elegant Lady Brassey suite, are available throughout the hotel for smaller gatherings. The Summer House, a characterful wisteria-clad backdrop for outdoor ceremonies on the lawn, is particularly popular for summer weddings. Ashdown Park’s grounds also include acres of grazing land where wild deer roam free, plus a lake with fountains and a jetty from which to view both the forest and the grounds – a perfect spot for capturing the day on camera.
Sample package: The Intimate Wedding Package includes a dedicated wedding planner, hire of a suite for the wedding breakfast, drinks reception with canapés, three-course wedding breakfast (plus coffee/petit fours, wine, and a glass of Champagne for the toast); there’s also a complimentary pre-wedding menu tasting, a luxury Master Suite for the wedding couple on their wedding night, and complimentary parking whilst on honeymoon (Gatwick is just 30 minutes’ drive). Based on 30 guests attending, the price is from £4,400. For larger gatherings, a Silver Wedding package based on 80 guests is priced from £9,000 with additional guests from £68 per person. Wedding guests enjoy preferential room rates when booking an overnight stay. Call Ashdown Park on 01342 824988 or visit www.ashdownpark.com.
Tylney Hall: Sitting in 66 acres of glorious gardens near Hook, Hampshire, Tylney Hall Hotel & Gardens is a grand Victorian Grade II listed house which dates to 1700 and boasts the longest uninterrupted view in Hampshire, lined by giant Redwood trees. The hotel’s tree-lined driveway, Gertrude Jekyll-designed water garden, impressive Mansion House and exquisite wood-panelled public rooms provide the perfect setting for weddings of all shapes and sizes.
The hotel can now host weddings al fresco in the stone gazebo in its beautifully tended Italian Gardens, with views of the lake. Up to eight members of the bridal party can be accommodated under the gazebo itself, with other guests seated in the surrounding garden. There are also smaller spaces for intimate weddings which are proving popular – each situated within the Mansion House, and suitable for up to 40 people. The Tylney Suite, a wood-panelled baronial hall with a vaulted ceiling, stage and minstrel’s gallery, is perfect for larger gatherings. Alternatively, The Hampshire Suite is a private space with its own reception area, bar and walled garden.
There are many other areas within the hotel which can be used for the celebrations, including the Italian Terrace – a superb spot for a drinks reception in the summer months – and the Boathouse Bridge, which is an ideal setting for photos by the lake.
Sample package: The Intimate Indulgence wedding package includes not only the wedding ceremony and a drinks reception (two glasses of Champagne and five canapés per person), but also a private suite to host a six-course Taster Menu wedding breakfast (plus coffee and truffles, fine wines and a glass of Champagne for the toast), overnight accommodation in a Mansion Suite for the couple on their wedding night, and finer details such as a Master of Ceremonies. Based on 30 guests, on a Friday or a Sunday (between April 2021 to end December 2021), the price is from £7,650 total or £255 per adult. Special accommodation rates are available for wedding guests, and gatherings of 20 resident guests or more enjoy a private dining room for the wedding party’s breakfast the following day. Complimentary parking for the couple whilst on honeymoon (Heathrow and Gatwick are both 60 minutes’ drive). Call Tylney Hall on 01256 764881 (www.tylneyhall.co.uk).
The Grand, Eastbourne: The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne is affectionately known by locals as ‘The White Palace’. The 152-bedroom hotel has hosted many famous names over the years, from Sir Ernest Shackleton to Dame Helen Mirren, and the hotel even inspired a symphony by French composer Debussy.
The Grand exudes old-world charm and elegance and has a host of celebration spaces which can cater for as few as two guests to a maximum of 150. For intimate weddings, there is The Gallery on the balcony, the wood-panelled Duke’s Room, the airy and light Arundel Room or the Prince’s Room, with its stunning crystal chandeliers. On a grander scale, The Compton Room is a former Victorian ballroom with stained glass windows, ideal as a venue for a wedding breakfast or as a setting for the ceremony itself, while The Silverdale Room offers intimate lighting and a dance floor for more informal gatherings.
Sample package: The Classic Wedding Experience includes an arrival drinks reception, a three-course wedding breakfast with coffee and petit fours, two glasses of wine from the Baron Philippe de Rothschild selection, a dedicated wedding co-ordinator to support with the planning of your special day, a special wedding accommodation rate for guests, services of a professional toastmaster, red carpet on arrival, wedding breakfast with room hire, candelabra centre pieces, silver cake stand and knife, place cards, table plan and personalised menus, and a menu tasting for the wedding couple prior to the wedding. Based on a minimum of 50 guests from Sunday – Friday and 60 guests on a Saturday, the price is from £95 per person. The Grand Hotel can also offer ceremony room hire at £500. Call The Grand Hotel on 01323 412345 (www.grandeastbourne.com).
Notes to Editors
A small, independent UK-based hotel group, Elite Hotels has been investing in some of the UK’s most beautiful historic houses since 1986. The first of these was Tylney Hall Hotel, Hampshire, followed by Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club, East Sussex, The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne and Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, Bedfordshire. Each of the four Elite Hotels is a member of Small Luxury Hotels, a prestigious consortium representing over 500 of the best independent hotels in 70 countries.
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