Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first royal engagement as a couple was in Nottingham. They currently live at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace. So if they had wanted to continue this theme, they could have chosen The Old Vicarage Boutique Hotel in Southwell, Nottinghamshire to tie the knot.
Of course, they would have had to cut their guest list considerably, whittling it down to 50 for a more intimate gathering. Would they ditch the Beckhams or the Clooneys? Decisions, decisions. This would probably have been far too difficult, hence the venue was available on Saturday 19 May for my cousin, Jane, and her fiancé, Phillip.
Southwell itself is a gorgeous little town with a racecourse, the Minster, Archbishop’s Palace and the British Horological Institute on offer to visitors. But we were only able to glimpse at its treasures as we drove through to The Old Vicarage. Top marks to Jane and Phillip for choosing a Royal Wedding day for their own nuptials: it was exciting to get ready that morning knowing the whole world was in the grip of wedding fever.
As everyone was watching the big event on the TV, there was hardly any traffic on the roads which was a huge bonus. We arrived early, pulling up onto the gravel drive in the glorious sunshine. The hotel is a classic red-brick building which looks warm and welcoming.
The styling of the interior in a palette of contemporary grey and white is, by contrast, cool and very chic but with the addition of chandeliers and dark wood floors, it becomes lavish. The ceremony was held in the main room and it looked stunning on the day, with light flooding in from the large windows. Jane and Phillip had booked a harpist who played beautifully during the ceremony which was uplifting, simple and full of love.
The gardens of The Old Vicarage are lovely, with pretty borders and, at one end, a charming bandstand, handcrafted by the Amish in Pennsylvania. Guests spilled out of the main building onto the decking, finding shade and comfort on the sofas and chairs. There was no sense of hanging around while photographs were being taken. With a Pimm’s in hand, we were content to relax, enjoy the sunshine and even have a go on the swing. The time flew by.
As if by magic, the room was transformed for the wedding breakfast and it looked fabulous. I loved the lushness of the table centres created by VAAS, who had also fashioned Jane’s astonishing bouquet of peonies, roses and orange blossom. Everything, from the ultra-slim white candles to the perfectly pressed tablecloths, spoke of quality and attention to detail.
This continued as the food arrived: exquisitely presented trio of salmon (hot smoked, poached and cured) followed by the biggest supreme of chicken I’ve ever tackled and an assiette of dreamy desserts. The service was excellent: friendly staff topping up glasses and, for those not drinking wine, constantly refreshed jugs of iced water.
We tumbled out onto the lawns again, to enjoy the last of the evening sunshine while the staff performed their transforming tricks yet again, getting the room ready for the evening do. As we lit sparklers to celebrate the wedding of the happy couple, I was struck by how seamless the day had been, particularly for the guests. The fact that the hotel is purely a wedding venue and that each couple has exclusive use of the grounds and buildings during the day and night, makes everyone feel very special.
We weren’t staying over but I was able to have a peek at three of the eight bedrooms that are available for the bridal party. They were stunning and very spacious with huge beds and large dazzling bathrooms (some with free-standing bathtubs).
Harry and Meghan may have chosen Windsor for their wedding but Jane and Phillip’s choice of The Old Vicarage Boutique Hotel in Southwell, Nottinghamshire was certainly fit for royalty.