A quarter of a century ago, Penshurst Place opened its doors to couples, and it was not only a first for the venue but a first for the county as a whole.
The legislation giving venues licences to hold wedding ceremonies came into force on April 1, 1995.
Up until then all weddings in the county had been held in either a church or a registry office.
Penshurst became the very first new venue in the county to be licensed for couples to say “I do”, getting its licence on July 27, 1995.
Since then, hundreds of couples have made their vows to each other in the splendour of the privately-owned 14th century house and gardens.
But now the venue is forging ahead again, as a further change to the law means that from 2020, it will also open its gardens for humanist weddings.
Restrictions are set to be lifted on al fresco locations, from gardens to beaches, whereas previous outdoor weddings could only be carried out under a structure with a solid, permanent roof.
It means Penshurst’s 11 acres of walled gardens, with their 11 distinct garden areas or ‘rooms’, as well as the surrounding parkland and woodland, will all be open to the non-religious ceremonies.
Whether you want a structured, romantic and or relaxed outdoor space, there’s a spot for it.
The ornate, Renaissance-inspired Italian Garden with its central oval lily pool is expected to be a popular setting, along with the romantic and sweetly-scented Rose Garden. Meanwhile, those looking for more of a countryside feel might like a ceremony under the trees in the Nut Garden orchard, surrounded by a carpet of spring and wild flowers.
The new ceremonies will be officially launched at the venue’s Wedding Showcase on Saturday, February 8 when the team of experienced wedding co-ordinators will be on hand to show guests around and talk through the many settings, styles and options.
Wedding photographer Penny Young will be offering couples a free portrait on the day, plus there will be food and local craft beers to taste, as well as a goody bag full of useful information and tips.
Crowned Wedding Venue of the Year 2019 at the Kent Wedding Awards, Penshurst Place also plans to mark the anniversary of when it first became a licensed wedding venue by inviting couples who married there in 1995 to come back for a celebratory champagne tea.
To mark the anniversary, there is also a 25% discount on summer season venue hire fees for new wedding bookings made before the end of October 2020, valid for summer weddings hosted by October 2022.
To attend the Wedding Showcase register at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Same sex couples have been able to enter into a civil partnership for more than 15 years after an historic Act of Parliament was passed.
From the start of this year, mixed-sex civil partnerships have been available in England and Wales, meaning couples can choose to get married, or, if they prefer, form a civil partnership. The Bill came into force in May, but allowed for further consultation and legislation through to the end of the year. It means both options are available for both couples for the first time - so however you choose to tie the knot is up to you.