“A palace is no ordinary venue”Oh to be a king or queen for the day. Well, thanks to a team of hard-working events staff and conservators, you can.
Historic Royal Palaces hosts around 70 weddings and private events each year across six incredible palaces, including Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, but given the historical significance and artefacts within the palaces, isn’t it a risky business? Jo Jennings, Events Manager at Hampton Court Palace, lets us in on some secrets.
“Our cause as an organisation is to help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built; and our ambition is to give these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past.
“Because we are a charity, income generated from weddings and events makes this possible; they also allow us to reach different audiences who may not have visited us before and who, through the wedding or event, will be able to see our palaces come to life. Venue hire fees paid by our clients goes straight back into the conservation, public access and educational activities of our Historic Royal Palaces, and this can only be a positive.”
Indeed, but how can they safeguard these incredible buildings and their contents against, dare we say, rogue or drunken guests?
“Putting on an event at one of our palaces involves a very big team effort; we have to manage the risks that could potentially occur whilst delivering a seamless experience to our couples and their guests, and have developed a series of guidelines to help us achieve this.”
“Many of our collections are on loan to us and so it is imperative that we adhere to the guidelines to ensure we limit the impact on the building and its contents. We do this by working collaboratively with our conservators so we can strike the right balance between offering flexibility to our clients whilst remembering our charitable aim of preserving these buildings for future generations.”
“For our wedding couples, this means receiving a dedicated, personal service from an experienced events team, who they meet regularly with and who use their expertise and knowledge of the venues to bring each couple’s vision to fruition. We also introduce couples to a first-class range of suppliers whose familiarity with the palaces and how things run, is invaluable.”
“Alongside the events team, we also have a team of front of house staff in all of the rooms to assist guests, an on-site maintenance team, cleaners, a security team, and a conservator to look after the building. The same teams work on most events, and it’s their knowledge and talent that culminate in creating a memorable experience for guests.”
And although that seems like a lot of people, it’s for good reason.
“The involvement of so many people is essential due to the fragile and complicated nature of our sites. For example, we require 24-hour security teams to help ensure that only invited guests gain entry to the palaces, and a maintenance team to handle any electrical or plumbing issues, should they occur. Our conservators are there to manage the risk to our collections and the buildings themselves, and to ensure that all event activity is carried out safely. And then, there’s our wonderful front of house staff, who have a multitude of roles; not only are they able to tell guests all about the venue’s rich history, but they will also manage any evacuations, directing guests as required and ensuring everyone behaves in an appropriate way!”
But a palace is no ordinary venue; it’s not just one room with an outdoor terrace, nor a hotel ballroom with a bar. So is it really access all areas, or are some rooms out of bounds? And how do guests not stray from the pack?
A key consideration when planning a wedding at one of our palaces is preventing guests from getting lost!
“We rely heavily on our staff to direct and assist guests throughout the evening, which gives a lovely personal touch; it is extra special at the Tower of London, where guests get to chat to our Yeoman Warders.”
“Working a wedding or event like this not only ensures everyone enjoys the day, but it is imperative from a security perspective as well. There are many different rooms in our palaces and the spaces, but not all of them will be open; in fact, the ones that aren’t going to be used, will be locked.
“We discuss which each of our couples’ priorities, and make suggestions on spaces we believe will work best for them. We have such a variety of spaces and options that you could keep coming back to the palaces and have a different experience every time!”
“In fact, what is wonderful about our venues is how unique each wedding simply because of the number of options available to our couples.”
And what enjoyment do the staff who make these magical weddings happen, get?
“We always look forward to seeing the photographs of weddings we’ve held – the photo opportunities at the palaces are incredible and offer the most picturesque wedding backdrop. But for us, the most memorable moments are when a member of our staff gets married at one of the palaces. It is always so special when people who know and love these buildings choose them as their own wedding venue – all the staff come out of their offices as they go around for their wedding photos, all wanting to catch a glimpse of their colleague!”
So, what should you include at your palace wedding? Should you both wear crowns, set up some stocks for anyone you’re not keen on, or arrive in a horse-drawn carriage to the sound of a trumpeting fanfare?
““The palaces have such a wonderful history – incorporate it into your wedding and give guests an insight into what surrounds them. There are simple ways of doing this, through table names, snippets of history on place cards, a creative menu, or looking at our range of favours that are available from our gift department. Some couples also incorporate the history of their venue into their invitations, which is rather lovely.”
“Couples should also consider including something personal. The most special weddings are those that focus on what is unique to the couple and create a special atmosphere by focussing on that. This might be a nod to their different family cultures, or including an aspect of their hobbies.
“Finally, choose your photographer with care! We are hugely passionate about our palaces and they are the perfect backdrop for the all-important wedding photography. Our couples are always so excited about receiving the images after their big day, and they are always so different and varied because of the range of options available. And this is why couples should choose their wedding photographer carefully and use the venue as much as possible for their photography. This also gives them a bit of quiet time to escape from the wedding party and enjoy the first moments of married life. When they get their photographs back, they will love the results.”
Want a Palace Wedding?
Historic Royal Palaces manage six extraordinary venues: The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, and Hillsborough Castle (Northern Ireland). If you’re interested in hosting your wedding in a palace where kings, queens, princes and princesses once roamed (and, in some cases still do), make an enquiry.