This year on English Wedding we’ve been lucky enough to explore some more of England’s finest wedding venues in person, by kind invitation of the owners. I’ve most recently stayed at The Wordsworth Hotel and Martin Dabek (a brilliant Bristol wedding photographer and member of English Wedding) was invited to review Berwick Lodge at the beginning of the year. This time, we were asked to review the Orchardleigh Estate, which is just 10 miles from Bath – and lucky Martin was ideally situated to go and find out all about this amazing wedding venue.
Martin’s words about Orchardleigh have changed a few of my preconceptions about wedding venues. Perhaps the landscape is changing, perhaps Orchardleigh is just a shining example of progress in wedding venue management – but the way this place works is different – and I love that. It’s not owned by a faceless or international hotel chain. It’s not owned by the aristocracy, and it wasn’t inherited by rich landowners. Orchardleigh has a pretty inspiring story, and I’m so glad we can share it with you today!
Words & images by Orchardleigh House wedding photographer Martin Dabek
We arrive at Orchardleigh House on a Sunday evening and are greeted by Chris and Heather who live at the house (and who were married there in August 2019!) The house looks amazing, there’s a fire lit giving it a cosy feel and the house is dressed and ready for a Tuesday wedding.
How Chris came to own and run a high-end wedding venue like Orchardleigh is in itself a fascinating story. But the short version is that he didn’t inherit it, he left school at 15 with an entrepreneurial spirit, worked very hard, took some calculated risks and in the twenty years of owning Orchardleigh has transformed it into the luxurious wedding venues that stand today. And as for bookings, they’ve never been busier!
Chris, a keen pilot, (Orchardleigh Estate has its own landing strip!) has even been known to take brides and grooms up in his helicopter as a wedding treat! Helicopters, horse and carriages are just the tip of the iceberg. The estate offers a veritable feast of stylish ways for brides and grooms to travel with an array of cars and even yachts to choose from as well.
The Orchardleigh Estate boasts two separate wedding venues. The first one is obviously the house itself. This elegant Victorian stately home provides a fairytale setting for any wedding – surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful countryside views, manicured gardens and a croquet lawn, if you’re looking for a quintessential English wedding venue then this is the place for you.
For those wanting a traditional church wedding there are two parish churches within the parish. St Mary’s is a romantic medieval church which looks beautiful filled with candlelight for a wedding. It’s located on its own island at the heart of the Orchardleigh Estate and is probably the only church in the UK with its own helipad! There’s also pretty All Saints Church in nearby Lullington with the option of arriving there by Orchardleigh’s very own horse and carriage!
Orchardleigh Estate has two indoor and two outdoor spaces for civil ceremonies, the two outdoor spaces The Belvedere and The Woodland being the latest additions. The Belvedere area can seat up to 144 guests and offers the most beautiful views across the estate and beyond. Brides and grooms get to make an entrance from the Vestibule which makes a stunning backdrop in all of the photographs. The second outdoor space is in a small clearing in Orchardleigh’s woodland: a pretty wooden pagoda with tall trees provides a striking backdrop where you say ‘I do’ surrounded by the majesty of nature. Just don’t be surprised if you get a few uninvited feathered guests perched on the branches!
For indoor ceremonies and wedding breakfasts you can choose from Orchardleigh House’s grand ballroom with its ornate windows and elegant architecture, or The Great Hall, the largest of the indoor ceremony areas (seating up to 144 guests). With large open fire places the Great Hall is the perfect choice for a winter wedding. The grand staircase sweeps down into the Great Hall providing a fairytale entrance to begin your walk down the aisle.
The second and newer of the two venues is the stunning Elmhay Park. The venue compromises of a beautiful orangery which a light filled contemporary space which is perfect for your wedding breakfast and evening celebrations, a stunning Italian garden that seamlessly mixes indoor and outdoor spaces to create an al fresco feel for your wedding and accommodation for up to 65 guests in Elmhay Village. Elmhay is a popular choice for Asian and Fusion weddings as they can cater for 300 indoor guests, and 500 guests for a banquet.
This is all nestled within a gorgeous Victorian walled garden giving a fantastic ‘away from it all’ feeling for brides, grooms and their guests. Exclusive use at both venues means that brides, grooms and their guests can party as long as they like and with luxury accommodation for guests on site nobody has to worry about getting home. Accommodation ranges from cosy twin rooms in the attic to opulent four poster suites.
For wedding parties staying the night before, the celebrations start with everybody staying at Orchardleigh Castle. Where better to wake up on your wedding day than in your own castle! It sleeps up to 12 people and has its own private garden and hot tub. On the morning of the wedding there’s time for a round of golf and the bridal party can use the castle as the perfect place to get ready. The light and airy kitchen and dining area makes a perfect space for the bridal party and hairdressers, make-up artists etc.. to gather and the perfect place for the likes of me to get those essential bridal prep images.
After the wedding the newlyweds always stay in Orchardleigh’s palladium Boat House. Sat perfectly on the bank of a beautiful 35 acre lake, it offers total seclusion and stunning surroundings. A romantic getaway that gives you both a chance to relax, recover and reflect on your big day. The boat house is a relatively new addition with its first guests being Chris and Heather themselves after their wedding in August 2019.
And if one night is not enough then you could consider a mini-moon offer of a stay on Orchardleigh’s very own yachts either in Weymouth or The Canary Islands. Now I couldn’t talk about Orchardleigh without talking about the farm. The Orchardleigh Estate is also a working farm who supply their own chickens, beef, pork and lamb with a hygiene rating of 5. So when they say that all of their food is fresh, of the highest quality and locally sourced it really couldn’t be more so!
As well as being an extremely successful wedding venue Orchardleigh Estate also hosts the ever popular New Years Party, Tribute Nights, Christmas Parties and a luxury Christmas Break (I definitely like the sound of that one!)
I photographed my first Orchardleigh Estate wedding 10 years ago and it has been a privilege to come back year after year and see the amazing transformation that Chris and Heather’s hard work, love and devotion to Orchardleigh has brought about. If you’re looking to get married in Somerset and are looking for a simply stunning wedding venue they take a look at Orchardleigh Estate. It has certainly earned its reputation as Somerset & the South West’s finest wedding venue.
Martin Dabek Photography is based in Somerset.