Wedding Venue of the Month – Royal Hospital of Chelsea
Written by Eva Rutland, 01.07.16
I am in the completely privileged position of being able to visit and work in some of the most breath-taking venues in London – if not the world. Most of them have a story but few are as humbling and uplifting as July’s wedding venue of the month: Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The story of Royal Hospital Chelsea begins over 300 years ago during the reign of King Charles II, whose vision for a home for veteran soldiers was brought to life by Sir Christopher Wren. But it’s not just the buildings that have survived into modern times. King Charles II’s understanding that the country owes a debt of gratitude to its war veterans informs the spirit of the Royal Hospital today. The residents of the Royal Hospital – known the world over as Chelsea Pensioners – have all served as ordinary soldiers in the Armed Forces at some point in their live. Since 1692 Royal Hospital Chelsea has offered care and comradeship for veterans in recognition of their loyal service to the Nation.
It is timely that as we commemorate 100 years since the battle of the Somme, we honour this iconic venue and everything it stands for. It’s also gratifying to know that all profits from wedding bookings go towards the charity to ensure the future of the venue and the veterans they care for.
Whilst this is all completely lovely and a wonderful cause to get behind, I appreciate that your decision to hold your wedding here is not going to be based solely on that. Happily there are a myriad of other reasons why this is such an incredible location to celebrate the biggest day of your life. Wren’s Baroque Chapel is absolutely stunning and no bride could fail to feel like royalty gliding down the aisle in such a sublime setting. The State Apartments are as ornate and beautiful as they are versatile, and paradoxically can feel both intimate and spacious. Entering The Great Hall felt a bit like being an 11 year old who had just got her letter from Hogwarts. All it needed was some floating candles and a very old man with a very long beard stood at the front (actually, if you ask one of the Chelsea Pensioners very nicely………..!)
All this and we are yet to even begin on the outdoor space that welcomes the world famous Chelsea Flower Show every year. On entering Ranelagh Gardens it’s like you have travelled hundreds of miles away from the frenetic pace of London life. With the option of an alfresco wedding breakfast or hosting the entire reception in a marquee, the gardens offer more options than you can imagine. Just walking through them is an experience in itself and there are some magical photo opportunities here just waiting to be utilised. Figure Court affords you views of the south side of the garden – directly outside the main event spaces, this is a fabulous option for post ceremony drinks.
As you can see, Royal Hospital Chelsea offers a multitude of diverse options of locations within locations (try saying that after a few glasses of Champagne in Figure Court!!!). What else would you expect from a venue that has been immortalised on celluloid in some of British TV’s all-time classics such as multi-award winning, every-scene-makes-me-want-to-cry-it’s-so-pretty, Downton Abbey and uhmmmmm……………. the Compare The Meerkat advertising campaign (okay maybe not quite the aesthetic treat for the eyes that is Downton but……the smoking jackets, the accents!!!)
For me though, it’s all about the boys (is that my Dad I can hear sighing in despair…..??!) They bring heart and soul to a beautiful venue and I walked away with a definite spring in my step and smile on my face from the sheer volume of twinkling smiles and pleasantries exchanged with these truly remarkable gentlemen. I can do no better than use the words of Ted Roberts – a Chelsea Pensioner who recently starred in a short film as part of the 1000 Londoners project. According to Ted, “Life’s too short. If you can make someone laugh every day, then you’ve cracked it. That’s probably why I didn’t get promoted.”