It’s fair to say that wedding planning can be a touch stressful – and if you’re choosing to say your ‘I do’s’ in a city, it comes with its own challenges (how will everyone get to the venue? Will there be traffic? Where will you all stay?). So, if you want to make it down the aisle without tearing your veil/hair/tiara out, read up on these tips from the city wedding pros at the Oxford Town Hall – hundreds of weddings in, they know their stuff!
Choose a historic venue
This goes without saying, but your wedding venue makes a huge difference to the look and feel of your day – there’s no hiding conference room paraphernalia and strip-lighting in the photos. If you’re making a lifetime commitment, you want to do it in a place with stature, pizzazz, snazz… and definitely not a naff backdrop.
Oxford is home to plenty of top-notch wedding venues, but Oxford Town Hall is among the most jaw-dropping (we love it so much we even hold our editors’ meetings there). After opening in 1897, the Town Hall has been everything from an impromptu hospital in WWII (there were over 200 beds in the Main Hall and Assembly Room), to movie sets for A Fish Called Wanda and The Riot Club, and even a performance space for The Rolling Stones and David Bowie. That makes for a good conversation point over the post-ceremony champers.
Flexible enough to work around practically any wedding size or style it can easily handle weddings that range from 40 guests to 500 (yes, seriously, not a typo) and as its location is literally bang in the centre it’s a neat way to show off Oxford’s history to any out-of-towners.
Know the best photo spots
Image credit: V&H Photography
Now you’ve picked out a venue practically groaning with local history, you should make the most of having a city as your backdrop by popping out and about to get shots against the most iconic buildings. It’ll set the scene for the whole day and can be a chance to re-connect with any history you or your spouse have with the place – the street where you met, the library where you got sssh’d, the cafe where you shared your first latte, the nightclub where you first snogged (ok, maybe not that).
Image credit: V&H Photography
It’s easy find photo shoot gold dust just minutes from the Town Hall – the iconic domed Radcliffe Camera is just a six-minute walk away which means it’s doable even in a wedding dress (as evidenced by this shot from V&H Photography, above). The Bridge of Sighs is also tantalisingly close and in the other direction, just seven minutes away, you have Christ Church Meadow with possibly the loveliest – and unquestionably the most famous – Oxford college for your backdrop. Alternatively hop in a three-minute taxi and be at Oxford Botanic Garden, or throw caution to the wind and head to the River Cherwell where you can go for a punt with your photographer (tip: don’t try this after several glasses of champagne or in heels, or you could get the action shot that you really didn’t want).
Work with the best local caterer and suppliers
With external factors (the B-word and C-word, respectively) causing absolute chaos in the wedding world as of late, it’s more important than ever to support local suppliers that don’t rely on lengthy and complex supply chains – and, bonus eco points, it’s greener, too. Don’t panic if you don’t know the first thing about florist, caterers or photographers though, you can check out our Little Black Book suggestions here, or ask your venue to help.
In the case of Oxford Town Hall, the team there works exclusively with Elegant Cuisine, based out of Kingston Bagpuize, which will take one decision off your list and have plenty of case studies for you to draw on for ideas.
Know your travel options
One thing you might have to contend with when planning a city centre wedding is navigating traffic and parking, so being aware of the options available to you is crucial. You can always hire traditional wedding coaches or cars, but why not make the most of your location with something seriously memorable like a boat ride on the river? Oxford River Cruises has pick-up points convenient for couples getting betrothed at the Town Hall, and it certainly beats leaving your wedding in an Uber… Also, did you know that you can hire out CitySightseeing buses for weddings? It’s a fun, slightly eccentric way to both see the city and get a large number of guests from A to B – just up our street.
Book a romantic overnighter
So you’ve said ‘I do’, danced until your feet hurt and eaten enough wedding cake to keep you full for a week – the last thing you want to do is travel. Our pick is chic, boutique hotel Vanbrugh House which sits plum in the centre of Oxford (and is just a three minute walk from Oxford Town Hall – manageable even in stilettos!). Partly designed by Blenheim Palace architect John Vanbrugh, the honeystoned 18th century hotel is intimate and bijoux with roll top baths (two of them if you book the Vicarage Suite above) and ginormous beds.
For more insider knowledge and to take a tour of the wedding rooms on offer, visit Oxford Town Hall.