Beautiful countryside style Weddings in the heart of London? Let’s discover The Queen’s House Greenwich with Sophie Linin, Wedding Coordinator extraordinaire!
Listen to Sophie on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…
Sophie Linin, Weddings & Events Coordinator at The Queens House, Greenwich
Rachel [00:00:05] Hi Sophie, Welcome to Wedding Espresso. Good to have you here.
Sophie [00:00:11] Thank you.
Rachel [00:00:11] You are welcome. Well you are Sophie Linin.
Sophie [00:00:12] I am!
Rachel [00:00:12] From the Royal Museums Greenwich which has four absolutely amazing venues which are The Maritime Museum, The Cutty Sark, which I’ve only just found out what a Cutty Sark is.
Sophie [00:00:35] Haha yay!
Rachel [00:00:35] Yeah. We were away at the weekend and there was this poem by Robert Burns that had the explanation of it.
Sophie [00:00:39] Yes indeed.
Rachel [00:00:39] And I was like “Oh right OK, cool”. I always thought it was some sort of maritime thing, but it’s a short petticoat.
Sophie [00:00:50] Yeah it’s like a kind of tea dress negligee, the figurehead of the Cutty Sark is Nanny, and she’s wearing one, and that’s mentioned in the Tam O’Shanter poem I believe, but I didn’t know that until I worked here.
Rachel [00:01:01] You’ve also got the Queen’s House obviously and the Royal Observatory. But we can’t be greedy can we? so we can’t get too carried away.
Sophie [00:01:16] Yes, one at a time.
Today we’ll talk about the Queen’s House, Greenwich and basically focus on that because it’s got world history, an amazing staircase, we have to talk about the staircase!
The floor in the Great Hall, that’s cool as well.
Sophie [00:01:36] Yeah.
Rachel [00:01:37] And obviously you’ve got your vaulted Undercroft for your cool party afterwards. So yes I think we should crack into that.
So the theme I want to cover with you today is “Weddings in a Former Royal Residence at the Queen’s House Greenwich”.
I know that’s a bit of a tongue twister there but it’s kind of covering what we’d like to talk about. So would you like to explain a bit more, because obviously you know it inside out.
Sophie [00:02:18] Yeah. So the entire kind of area where the majority of our museums are today, and also a couple of other bits in Greenwich, which used to be an old Tudor Palace. It’s where Henry VIII spent an awful lot his time and he was born there. Elizabeth I was born there and sadly over the following couple of hundred years bits and pieces of it were taken away. The one bit really that we have left standing is the Queen’s House, which is slightly after the Tudor period. It was built in 1616 by Inigo Jones who later goes on to design Somerset House. And he builds it for Queen Anne of Denmark, who is the wife of James I, but sadly she died a couple of years after it was being built.
Sophie [00:03:07] So it was Queen Henrietta Maria actually the later Queen of Charles who kind of made it her own really. And it’s known as a house of delight, sort of a weekend getaway. She used to go down with the girlfriends and crack open the Rose.
Rachel [00:03:20] Cool.
Sophie [00:03:20] Yeah it was where they went for fun. Sort of a very beautiful hunting lodge. It was the first classical building built in Britain with the first cantilevered staircase which we mentioned a little bit already, which is the wonderful Tulip Stairs, and it’s in virtually its original format.
Everything on the house is as it was, the black and white marble flooring in the Great Hall is original.
Which is black Belgian marble and white Gardigilio, which means Italian marble I believe. As well as a beautiful gallery with wood. The Orangery and the South Parlours, again that beautiful marble floor, so lots and lots of original features.
Rachel [00:04:15] Yeah. So how does it work getting married in technically a Museum? Do you close it for the day or are there certain times? How does that work?
Sophie [00:04:25] We’re actually really lucky in the way that the house is built in that the main event spaces are the Great Hall, which you get to use as the Ceremony and the wedding breakfast. The Orangery and the South Parlours which are usually used for the reception space, or indeed smaller ceremonies and smaller wedding breakfasts. And the Undercroft downstairs. In the daytime obviously the museum is open as an art gallery from ten till five, but the event spaces that we use can be shut off and on a separate route from the daytime guests.
Rachel [00:04:56] Okay cool.
Sophie [00:04:57] So we can still open up to daytime guests.
So there’s no other events happening, it’s still an exclusive hire for the couple, but the daytime public guests go on a separate route and the two groups of people will never cross.
We keep them away, one door away from the Great Hall, so you don’t get any noise or any kind of risk of anyone walking in on the Ceremony. They are just two separate entities, which means it’s a lot easier for us to juggle both sides of Her use. And then obviously once we get to the evening, then it’s completely yours.
Sophie [00:05:35] And then we can do a buy out with the whole house if you want, so that’s usually for people who are really quite particular about having nobody around, potentially famous people and that’s sort of stuff. And so we can, a couple of times a year, we can do a complete buyout.
Rachel [00:05:58] Yeah. All right cool. Because when we were getting married I did look at a few… We went and got married in Scotland, and I looked at a few castles, but they were like “you can’t get married till five o’clock”. So I wondered how your’s would work, so that’s really cool.
Sophie [00:06:17] Yeah that makes it a lot easier. When she was restored in 2016. And then when we reopened Her, there were a lot of discussions about what those timings were going to be. And there was a year where we said “oh yeah, you can’t get married until later”. And we juggled it about a bit. We usually do an exclusive…
if someone wants to have a whole wedding at Queen’s House, we usually do it from 2:00p.m. So that gives us the morning to set up, but also that we can let the public into the Gallery at the top of the Hall so they can still see the spaces.
And that works quite well, as well. So that we’re not closing those areas of the venue to the general public the whole day and that there’s opportunity for people to come in and see.
Rachel [00:07:06] Do couples get ready at your venue or do they come ready? Do you have rooms?
Sophie [00:07:15] Sometimes. We don’t really have that many rooms that they would potentially want to get ready in. Sometimes we’ve had people want to get ready in the Orangery and South Parlours, but because of the nature of the buildings, we can’t really do hairspray and Make Up in there, that sort of stuff. Usually we’ve got the DeVere Devonport House just literally next door, so that hotel works really, really well. We’ve also got the DoubleTree by Hilton in Greenwich Centre, and then some people also want the five star luxury of The Intercontinental at the O2. So there’s a couple of different options for people to utilise nearby and then come together. I think sometimes you get people who want to do the finishing touches there.
Rachel [00:08:05] Right. OK. So in nearby amenities then that’s covered off with quite a lot of hotels actually.
Yeah I mean Greenwich is such a wonderful destination in and of itself. A lot of our couples use Greenwich as the pull, and there’s so much else that they can do in Greenwich.
Sometimes people just want to have the Ceremony with us at Queens House and then get on a boat. Or there’s lots of different options that people can utilise to really take full advantage of the whole area because it’s so beautiful. It’s like a little kind of Zen retreat in and of itself.
Rachel [00:08:46] Yeah I read that it’s got views over a very leafy park area and things like that, which must be quite rare in a city. I always imagine that it’s built up, but if you’ve got green leafy spaces around that’s amazing.
I think actually it’s one of the real selling points of Queen’s House. She’s situated on a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Maritime Greenwich). She is in ten thousand square meters of green lawns that we look after as Royal Museums Greenwich.
And then she looks out over Greenwich Park in one direction and up to the Royal Observatory. And then on the other side she has this spectacular view straight down to the river through the old Royal Naval College. And then on the other side of the river you’ve got all the skyscrapers of the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf. So you have this really wonderful juxtaposition of “you’re in London, yet you’re in the middle of the countryside, in this beautiful green leafy zen, quiet, very chilled area” and yet you see London, it’s right there. So it attracts the London Bride quite a lot who wants that sort of castle/country Wedding, but wants to stay in London and doesn’t want drag all her guests out to the countryside, and have them all have to stay. It’s very easy to get to if you live in London, most people can get to us, so it works quite well for that.
Rachel [00:10:22] So for guests, they wouldn’t actually need to be thinking about staying over unless they really wanted to. They could just go home.
Sophie [00:10:31] Yeah exactly. You can you can just go home. It depends if they’re London based or if they’re Kent based.
Then again some people will drive in because we’re not in Central London. There are parking spaces available that they can pay for the weekends which works really well.
So sometimes people drive in, that sort of access which you don’t get when you go to a Central London venue gives a whole extended array of options for our couples.
Rachel [00:11:04] Good! So what do couples really love when they come to look round? Because obviously they come and have a look and they’re like….Ooooh!? What is it? Is it the staircase? What is it? Is it just everything?
Sophie [00:11:19] Yeah, it is everything! What the Queen’s House seems to have an abundance of is photo opportunities, particularly in this Instagramable world. Everyone wants that perfect shot.
And a lot of venues have that perfect shot, but only have one of them. Where we have about 50!
So they love the stairs which are these… for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about… they’re called the Tulip Stairs, and they’re the first of a cantilevered staircase without any support. And it’s a beautiful spiral staircase with a sort of blue design, and they’re wonderful. And that’s a great place for a couple of photographs of them going up the stairs from downstairs, or spotting the stairs, or the Cake or the Guestbook.
Rachel [00:12:15] And just looking up, it looks amazing.
The light in the Great Hall and how it plays on the marble, people love that. The ceiling, which is a relatively new addition, part of our restoration in 2016, is 24 karat gold leaf painted onto the ceiling. So when you get uplighting on there it just glitters and dances.
The view from the Orangery when you go to the Orangery for the reception, if it’s a warm day, we want to open the back doors and let people out in that perfect view up of the park. Then you’ve got the Colonnades on both sides and the horseshoe staircase in front of the building as well, where the whole family and all your wedding guests can gather for the party. There’s so many different options that our clients really can visualise how their day is going to go there.
Sophie [00:13:15] I think that’s one of the easiest sells, if they like that, and also because I’ve worked at a number of historic venues. And sometimes there’s a lot of challenges in terms of the actual style, which is beautiful. But you know, you’ve got this carpet that you can’t really do anything about, this quite hideous carpet, or it’s all very dark and you have to put a lot of money into the uplighting.
Whereas actually the Queen’s House actually feels very modern in it’s minimalistic clean white crisp sense. It makes it so much easier to either keep everything very clean and crisp or to really put in your own personality.
And we had a Wedding a couple of weeks ago where they installed a massive elephant in the centre of the Great Hall!
Rachel [00:14:17] Cool.
Sophie [00:14:18] With flowers all the way through it. Really, well we’ve never had anything like that. You’ve got the flexibility to really add that splash of personality into the space.
Rachel [00:14:32] Yes. So it can be a blank canvas as such. Yeah. Awesome. So what do couples typically ask you when they look around?
Sophie [00:14:43] How much is it?
Rachel [00:14:44] Well!
They always worry about the cost, and actually when we usually tell them, they are usually quite surprised, because they think it’s going to be far more expensive.
People love to know about the history. We had a Bride this weekend actually who did the most amazing brochure for her guests in the style of a magazine in the style of Heat or something like that. With lots of articles about the bridesmaids and what they’re up to, and her, and her husband and that sort of stuff. But she did a whole double page section on the history of Queen’s House and all of the different elements, and people loved to engage with that. Because you know, a Bride wants to feel like a Queen and to have that is really special. So people are always really keen to find out about that. And then they always want to know what they can do to add on.
So one of the things that we like to do at Royal Museums Greenwich is talk about experience, rather than just relying on a venue to be beautiful or to look right. So we have a number of ways that guests can enhance things further.
Whether that is with private tours or curatorial talks, which don’t necessarily work for weddings. But something that guests do quite a lot for our weddings is they add portable telescopes onto the Colonnades with our Astronomers from the Royal Observatory. And they come down and they can look at the Moon from the Collanades which is wonderful.
Sophie [00:16:16] Fireworks, things like that on the grounds and lawn games, Croquet that sort of thing. That just creates a little bit of excitement and I think there’s this trend at the moment for more less formal styles of events. And one of the things that we find a lot with Queens House is that people say it ticks the Mother in Law box – the Parents are happy!
Rachel [00:16:43] That’s a really good description!
You know the parents are happy, they think it’s beautiful, but actually because it is still a relatively blank canvas, the couple can really put their personality into it and add some little fun quirky things, add some fun exciting suppliers and that sort of stuff.
So they don’t feel like they’re restricted in a rigid venue that they have chosen for certain reasons, so they are stuck really on personality.
Rachel [00:17:17] Yeah. It’s such a great venue. You’ve got four amazing venues there but obviously we’re focusing on Queen’s House today which is brilliant and oh! we haven’t even talked about the Undercroft.
Sophie [00:17:28] Well very quickly then. The Undercroft is this amazing little place right underneath the Queen’s House which can act as the cloakroom or welcome area, but mainly is the place where everyone gets down dancing at the after bit. So The Great Hall being what it is with the marble flooring and the Orangery and the South Parlours, they’re not really suitable for people doing the Macarena!
Rachel [00:18:10] Heels!
Sophie [00:18:10] Yeah exactly. So we bring everyone downstairs to the Undercroft afterwards. And it’s relatively again, a blank canvas. Lighting works really, really well in there, they can put down a dance floor. It’s a concrete floor, it’s right close to the toilets and also outside, so we can get some fresh air. It’s in three different sections. So what we usually do is recommend that they put the bar in the middle with the DJ/Band, dancefloor et cetera all in one space, and then there’s another space as well for soft furnishings for those people who don’t want to party hard. They just want to sit and relax, maybe have some Port in that little space. Again it’s just really versatile in enabling our guests to have all those different elements of the day all in the same place.
Rachel [00:18:59] Yeah it’s kind of like one of those little clubs that you just stumble on and it’s like “Oh cool!”.
People do some really cool theming down there. So we’ve had people make it like a Narnia place, going through rows of trees, we’ve had Studio 54 themes. Yeah there’s lots of different options that people can do to again just really put their stamp on it and make it personal.
Rachel [00:19:32] Good stuff! We’re running out of time here because we’ve been chatting along so well, but just to finish off our little discussion here, are there any tips from your perspective as a wedding planner that you would give to couples thinking about getting married?
Mine’s a general tip, it can be at our venue but across any venue really, is just to make it your own. I’m very much a believer in your own stamp.
And I think that people can get a bit a caught up sometimes with the traditional elements of the wedding, and what they think they should do, rather than what they want to do. And I think really you can include those traditional elements if you’re happy with them.
Sophie [00:20:31] Lots of people now aren’t doing a receiving line, or they’re not doing favours, or they’re not throwing the bouquet. All of those things…. feel free to redesign the day a little bit and be open to how you actually want the day to go. And I think what we experience at our venues is people are coming because of their personality. And they are connected to one of our venues, and this is across Weddings or Corporates or whatever. They’re connected in one of the venues specifically because of what they’re interested in, or what the Company is, or something like that. And really kind of trust in the elements and go through thinking with that frame of mind rather than listening to what everyone’s telling them.
You must do this, or you must do that. No! You do you, do you! That’s my biggest piece of advice.
Rachel [00:21:23] That is a brilliant piece of advice that “you do, you” I like that! Well thank you so much Sophie for such a great chat.
Sophie [00:21:32] Thanks for having me.
Rachel [00:21:32] You’re welcome, we’ve had such a great time and we’d love to speak to you about your other venues at some point in the future.
Sophie [00:21:41] Yes indeed, book it in!
Rachel [00:21:42] So thank you very much and take care. And we shall speak soon.
Sophie [00:21:51] Thank you very much.
Rachel [00:21:53] Bye bye.