Shortly after the proposal and the excitement of sharing your wonderful news with your family and friends, a venue will need to be picked. Whether it's a quaint village hall in your home town or a grand castle found in the hills of Scotland, your venue will set the tone and theme for your whole wedding. All else will have to fall in line.
If you are looking for a beautiful town house right in the centre of London's affluent Knightsbridge district, full of interesting history and original features, then Kent House may well be the venue for you.
We spoke to Hannah MacLennan, Sales and Events Manager at Knightsbridge's exclusive wedding venue and with seven years wedding planning and design experience herself, to find out all the elements that should go into choosing your picture-perfect venue.
Can you tell us a little about the history of Kent House and its beginnings as a wedding venue?
Kent House was originally built back in the 18th century but was knocked down and rebuilt from 1872-74 as the building we know today, located in fashionable Knightsbridge a stone's throw from Harrods and Kensington Palace. It was built as a residency for Lady Ashburton who was indeed a mistress and kept in rather plush surroundings. She lived here until the 1940s and thereafter the building was left abandoned until the 1960s when it was restored to its former glory and has since developed into an incredibly versatile and prestigious venue for weddings and private celebrations alike. Evolve events have been hosting weddings and events at Kent House Knightsbridge for the last 14 years and it is licensed by Westminster Council for civil ceremonies.
What is the best thing about organising a wedding at Kent House?
The versatility of the space and the grandeur of the restored original features make our venue a dream to theme and the suites are bright and able to adopt a whole range of styles and colour schemes. There are so many twists and turns to the venue, including key features such as beautiful fireplaces, marble flooring and decorative ceilings that really create a journey from the moment you enter to the time you leave.
What elements should a couple consider when choosing a wedding venue and planning the day?
I always recommend choosing 3 dates that you would be happy with before contacting your venue. Never restrict yourself to a date unless it is of sentimental significance and always make sure that you have provisionally booked a date with your church or registrar before confirming a venue, to ensure you can 'marry' the two together. I also recommend being open to things you may never have thought of before as you may discover your dream venue doesn't necessarily fit your 'vision'. For example, your venue might be absolutely perfect but if they are not licensed to host civil ceremonies, you should always be open to the idea of marrying elsewhere and travelling in. This way of thinking keeps as many options open as possible.
What does Kent House offer the bride and groom, from the first viewing to the planning, ceremony and aftercare?
We have an incredible team and are small but mighty! We are close-knit and genuinely love what we do and who we do it for. Our clients are at the forefront of our planning and we take into account emotions, thoughts and feelings of our clients as well as offering helpful tips and words of encouragement when need be. With over half a century of experience between our perfectly formed team and with me specifically specialising in weddings, we are on hand from start to finish. We also always invite our clients for lunch after their special occasion to de-brief and establish long term relationships. We find that a wedding with us will likely turn into christening celebrations, birthdays and anniversaries for years to come.
What options/packages are available to those choosing to get married at Kent House?
We have a very flexible system at Kent House Knightsbridge whereby we offer a day hire rate and allow our clients to build their day from the ground up with exclusive use of the venue and a list of accredited caterers and suppliers that we recommend. Alternatively, we offer all-inclusive packages that include everything from the venue hire to arrival drinks, an unlimited bar and a delicious three-course wedding breakfast. We are also on hand to offer guidance with regards to timings, what works well and any fun extras that may fit the personalities of our clients.
How much should couples budget for their wedding venue?
I usually go by the rule of thumb that 15-20% would be a good figure for venue hire. Nowadays, most venues offer a variety of all-inclusive packages that include catering, beverages, entertainment and venue hire in which case I would say this would cover about 50-60% of your overall budget depending on the inclusions. Always start with a figure in mind and break it down to cover all of the elements of your wedding. Catering and drinks will usually be the largest portion of your budget at around 40%.
What makes Kent House such a unique place to get married?
Kent House offers a unique blend of Victorian charm, Royal heritage and historical uniqueness that cannot be rivalled. It is the largest Victorian townhouse in London offering dining space for up to 230 guests and we only offer exclusivity of the venue in its entirety promising a totally private and intimate celebration for our couples and their guests. Fascinatingly, Kent House Knightsbridge also boasts two original tunnels dating back to 1872 when the venue was built for Lady Ashburton. One tunnel is said to lead to the vaults at Harrods and one, interestingly, to the palaces at Kensington - of course we all have our own notions as to what these were for but they are largely conjecture!
Finally, what are your top 3 tips to planning a wedding?
1) Having 3-5 non-negotiables should be at the core of your wedding plans. These could be anything from location to pricing. This will allow you to search for venues in the right place and keep clear in your mind what is most important to you. Make sure they are important and non-superficial to avoid rejecting a venue or supplier based on something that is not necessarily important to the grand scheme.
2) Ask your wedding planner or coordinator for recommendations - odds are they know who is worth talking to and will more often than not recommend someone who they know they can rely on in terms of quality and customer service. Try and do as much research as possible before you book your suppliers. If that means going to a gig to see your favourite band play live or paying £50.00-£100.00 for a food tasting before booking a caterer, then so be-it. Rather find out before your deposits are paid and hands are tied.
3) Don't sweat the small stuff. The majority of wedding planning is enjoyable \(save for the table plans\) and certainly enhanced using a reputable management company or wedding planner. On the day itself, if you have taken on the task of wedding planning alone, don't worry if your flowers aren't quite the right shade of crimson or if you chip a nail on the way to your ceremony. Always keep in mind the main focus of the day which is a union amongst family and friends - by accepting the fact that things can and do go wrong will allow you to deal with each situation objectively and rationally.
Special thanks must go to Hannah MacLennan from Evolve Events and Kent House for all her help in the creation of this article.
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