Perched on the banks of the River Avon and steeped in a vibrant culture, Bristol is a city that offers dozens of small, quirky wedding venues you couldn’t have fathomed in your craziest wedding dreams.
Image by: Danny T Photography
Not every couple wants a manor house wedding, paying thousands to have 800 of their ‘closest’ friends gawk at them. And not every couple yearns to be slap-bang in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by goats and sheep and mounds of manure.
We’ve compiled a list of eight of our favourite alternative Bristol venues to help you out.
The Square Club
Situated between the historic Berkeley Square and Bristol Art Gallery, The Square Club is an entirely unique setting for a small ceremony or reception.
Founded in 1999, the Georgian town house is a private members club, formed to celebrate the arts and creative industries.
Image by: Danny T Photography
Don’t let the gorgeous, traditional exterior fool you. Inside, the club is a striking blend of exhibited modern artwork, contemporary décor and stylish exposed brickwork. The vibrant quirks and colourful canvases make a wonderful backdrop for wedding photos.
You’ll say your ‘I-dos’ at the marble alter in the Square Kitchen in front of a glamorous floor-to-ceiling gilt mirror.
The versatile space can comfortably seat up to 70 guests and is flooded with natural light thanks to windows that overlook the bustling city streets.
Image by: Danny T Photography
You can decorate the room however you want – it is your wedding after all! The dedicated wedding coordinators insist on lending a helping hand with setting up and are always close by to answer any queries you may have.
After your ceremony, you and your guests can retire to the private walled garden to enjoy a tranquil drinks reception.
The Grotto, as it’s affectionately known, is the real hidden gem of the Square, offering a secluded space to relax and unwind under the soft glow of fairy lights.
As the day unfolds, you and your guests will be treated to a fantastic three course meal prepared by expert chefs, a lavish reception in the award-winning cocktail bar and a happy night’s rest in one of the four-star rooms at the Berkeley Square Hotel.
To round off your wedding celebrations, The Square offers an official ‘send off’ for the wedding party, providing an intimate family breakfast, BBQ or even a Sunday roast at £12.50 a head, so you can catch up with your nearest and dearest before you slink off on your honeymoon. They really have thought of everything.
The Bristol Ferry
Why settle for riverside views when you can take to the river itself? Bristol Ferries are available year-round for peaceful receptions out on the water.
Experience the majesty of Bristol’s historic harbour as you cruise down-river to the engineering marvel that is Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The ever-changing scenery will make for fantastic wedding photos and your guests might even be inspired to sing a sea shanty or two.
Champagne and canapés can be served on deck, with the boats seating between 25 and 45 guests. Huddle together with your family and closest friends to enjoy the sparkling views of the city.
Arnos Vale Cemetery
If you don’t like city centres, why not hold your celebrations at Arnos Vale Cemetery? Nestled in 45 acres of breath-taking woodlands, you couldn’t feel further from hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.
The cemetery is a quiet haven, with a distinctive Gothic atmosphere unlike any venue you might have seen before.
Your wedding photographer will be overjoyed by the serene forest backdrop, capturing exceptional photos between the mossy graves and the bold Victorian masonry.
The wooden Underwood Centre can accommodate up to 80 guests and is ideal for couples that truly want to connect with nature. Say your vows surrounded by natural splendour as your loved ones smile at you from the rustic pews.
If you opt for the Twilight Woodland wedding package, you and a handful of guests can enjoy the space by a crackling fire under radiant fairy lights.
Constructed in 1839 as a Non-Conformist Chapel, the Spielman Centre is a wonderful fusion of Victorian architecture and modern glasswork. Make your entrance between the magnificent columns and have your wedding pictures taken on the sweeping stone steps.
The neutral interior acts as the perfect blank canvas for your themes and colour schemes, the high ceilings creating a light, airy atmosphere in the hall. The centre is available for exclusive ceremonies of up to 80 guests.
If you’re looking to hold a simple, more traditional ceremony, the Grade II-listed Anglican Chapel might be just what you’re looking for. The Chapel was originally constructed in 1839 as a pinnacle of sophisticated Victorian architecture that has been lovingly maintained to this day.
Licenced for Church of England ceremonies, couples who say their vows here can revel in the open plan space that’s flexible to their every want and need, with lofty ceilings that allow for exceptional acoustics.
No two weddings held at Arnos Vale are the same. Your devoted wedding coordinator will help you mix-and-match the spaces to best suit your needs, for example you might want a sun-splashed ceremony outside at the Underwood Centre followed by a quiet indoor wedding breakfast at the Spielman Centre.
However you plan your wedding day, you can be guaranteed excellent service from the on-site staff and an entirely bespoke experience.
To further accommodate weddings with fewer guests, Arnos Vale offer their all-inclusive Small and Intimate package that covers up to 20 guests.
This package includes up to four hours of hire time at either the Underwood Centre or the Spielman Centre, a glass of prosecco for each guest and a fresh flower arrangement for your ceremony table.
The Glassboat Brasserie
Turning our attention back to the waterfront, why not hold a humble ceremony and reception on the charming Glassboat Brasserie? Moored alongside the quaint, cobblestoned Welsh Back Road, the restored wooden windows and gleaming glass gallery offer one of the best views of Bristol’s historic floating harbour.
To offer you and your wedding party total privacy, the Glassboat can be hired on an exclusive basis, giving you full access to the main deck and the private lower rooms beneath the gallery.
The main deck can happily seat a ceremony of up to 80 guests, with the glossy hardwood isle leading towards floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the glittering river. For a more secluded service, the private lower rooms are at your disposal, seating between 20 and 40 guests.
The Glassboat Brasserie doesn’t offer priced packages as each wedding held here is tailored specifically to each individual couple.
To offer you the very best service, the staff and crew recommend talking over your ideas with their experienced wedding planner. As the boat is moored only a short walking distance from Bristol Registry Office and the outstanding St Mary Redcliffe church, you’re more than welcome to just hold your reception aboard. The choice is yours.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Glassboat Brasserie’s phenomenal food. A hot spot for foodies since 1986, the restaurant specialises in seasonal menus that utilise fresh, organic, locally-sourced ingredients.
Whether you’re after a sit-down meal or an open buffet, all dishes are brought to life with imagination and flair. If you have a particularly special menu in mind or need to accommodate guests with dietary requirements, the team of expertly trained chefs are ready to talk you through alternative dining options.
It’s also worth a mention that the Brasserie bar comes fully stocked with an extensive selection of fine wines and Bristol gins to help get your reception in full swing.
As the boat is centred at the heart of the city, you and your guests won’t have to stumble far to make it back to your hotel.
Goldney Hall is one of Bristol’s best kept secrets. The hall is hidden just a stone’s throw from the river in Clifton Village and is an idyllic spot for smaller weddings and receptions. Why have so few people heard of it? Well, it’s actually part of the University of Bristol.
Image by: Duncan Mein Photography
Small wedding ceremonies take place in the licenced Mahogany Parlour within Goldney House itself. The room is lined with rich panelled walls that glow under the soft light of ornate candelabras. The parlour can seat up to 40 guests, with a special dressing room adjacent for bridal preparations.
Following your intimate ceremony, you and your guests will be treated to a drinks reception within the private walled gardens. This is a great time to savour a glass of champagne and let your friends catch-up whilst you and your partner slip away with your wedding photographer.
Pictures taken here are as distinctive as they are stunning, the garden offering unique backdrops such as the shell speckled grotto, the glorious rotunda and the intricate canal. Your guests can occupy this time with grotto tours led by staff well trained in the history of the building.
Image by: Duncan Mein Photography
Coming in from the lawns, you and your guests will pass though full length French doors to reach the Orangery, where your wedding breakfast and reception will be hosted.
The Orangery is always awash in a flood of natural light thanks to the ivy-bordered windows that face out onto the garden. You can decorate the room however you wish, or you can select a company that specialise in venue dressing from Goldney Hall’s trusted list of local suppliers.
Whatever you choose, you’ll be served either a delicious three course meal or buffet by the wonderful team at Fosters Events. With over 50 years of invaluable catering experience, it’s really no wonder Goldney Hall have such a close partnership with them.
To ensure you get a menu that’s perfectly tuned to your palate, you can arrange a tasting session with them months before the big day.
No. 4 Clifton Village
Just around the corner from Goldney Hall is the spectacular No. 4 Clifton Village. This restaurant has the capacity to host every aspect of your big day under one roof, whilst retaining a boutique atmosphere.
The interior of the Georgian town house is decorated with romantic deep reds and dazzling golds, adorned with cosy features such as period fireplaces, large sash windows and stripped wood floors.
The spacious Admiral Room is licenced for ceremonies, seating up to 40 guests on classical chapel pews. With the help of your expert wedding planner, you can colour the room with all kinds of different flower arrangements and decorations. Really the only limit is your imagination.
After the ceremony guests are led through to the Gallery, a stylish room with colourful décor and exposed brick walls.
Here your cherished guests can sip cocktails and nibble on canapés. You might also take a trip to the secret walled garden to soak up a bit of sun in the summer months.
Whilst you’re enjoying yourselves, the staff will be busy transforming the Admiral Room into a fairy tale esque setting for your small wedding breakfast. The room can be arranged however you want, seating up to 50 guests under the warm teardrop lighting.
Surrounded by your closest family and friends, you’ll sit down to a magnificent feast prepared by the in-house chefs in the AA rosette award-winning restaurant. No. 4 prides itself on its flexibility, so you’ll have an excellent range of dishes to choose from.
Circling back to the harbourside, The Watershed is an arthouse cinema situated right on the water, overlooking some of the busiest parts of Bristol city centre. It’s recognized by locals for its quirky independent films and colourful, creative atmosphere.
Image by: Wright Wedding Photography
The building is alive with character, enlarging what seem like small spaces with the help of top-of-the-line projection and sound equipment.
The Watershed first opened its doors in 1986, and was then known as ‘Britain’s First Media Centre’. Now you can hold your special day there, the cosy space catering to ceremonies as well as wedding breakfasts and receptions.
Here, you can plan an entirely unique wedding day in a private movie theatre hired exclusively for you and your guests. You can put whatever you want up on the screens, be it a collection of pictures, or your favourite film.
There are three main theatres licenced for ceremonies, each providing ample plush seating for your guests whilst you take your place in front of the screen and say your vows. This is entirely more memorable than tying the knot by an alter or an archway. You and your partner will feel like Hollywood stars at the end of your very own rom-com.
There are also three different function rooms in the cinema and each is able to host a different number of guests. The walls between the three rooms can also be removed, giving you ultimate flexibility in the size and shape of your venue.
You can host a simple drinks reception here, complete with delectable canapés, or run straight into your wedding breakfast and evening reception. However you choose to structure your day, you can be assured superb service from the specialised events team and a fantastic meal prepared by the in-house chefs.
For a hassle-free planning experience, The Watershed also provides flexible wedding packages that differ in price depending on the size of your wedding. Small weddings really benefit from this kind of deal, so it’s worth asking for a tour of the venue as soon as possible.
The SS Great Britain
Though the SS Great Britain was once the longest passenger ship in the world, it’s now the perfect venue for an intimate wedding day with your closest family and friends.
The ship was originally designed by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1843 and now stands in the Bristol dry-dock as an enduring pillar of Victorian elegance and grandeur, having been salvaged and lovingly restored in the 70s.
Holding your small wedding below deck might sound a bit claustrophobic but there’s a surprising amount of room to host beautiful ceremonies without the space feeling cramped.
The Promenade Deck is located at the rear of the ship, offering a 30 meter aisle to help you really make an entrance. Exchange vows under the circular skylight and take in this historic vessel in all its glory.
After your ceremony, take full advantage of the ship and its many rooms. The Weather Deck is perfect for sunny summer drinks receptions, allowing you and your guests to stretch your legs and take in some breath-taking canal views.
Image by: Stewart Clarke Photography
Wedding breakfasts are generally served in the First Class Dining Saloon, which comes complete with trimmings from the height of Victorian luxury, such as marble-styled pillars, flamboyant mirrors and old-fashioned candle lanterns.
The neighbouring Hayward Saloon is a versatile space that comes fully prepared for an evening reception, with a well-stocked bar and a permanent dancefloor.
Some couples might feel out of their depth planning a wedding on a boat but not to worry. Your committed wedding coordinator will help suggest themes and ideas that’ll work best in such a unique space and the Chief Steward on board can act as your very own Master of Ceremonies.
From boats to restaurants, from Georgian town houses to secret university halls, we really hope you’ve found something on our list that’s prickled your interest. Intimate weddings are special and very personal affairs and you deserve a venue that matches that sentiment.
If you have any more suggestions that we might have overlooked, do feel free to mention them in the comments section below. Alternatively, follow the link to our Bristol venues page and start looking for your own quirky Bristol venue.