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1: A wedding breakfast reception - what is it?

Put simply, it's just like a conventional reception only shorter. Basing the reception entirely around the wedding breakfast puts the emphasis on the social nature of eating and drinking - something ideally-suited to a wedding with a small, select, group of guests. 

2: Are there rooms where guests can change?

As Friars Court is a private residence, rooms in the main house are not available to the general public. The wheelchair access loo offers the most space and privacy for any guests in need.

3: Can cars be left overnight?

Yes, cars may be left overnight at their owner's risk. We'd like to see cars gone between 8.00am and (no later than) 11.00am the next day as we may well be hosting another event. Please note there are security gates on the drive which may automatically close and lock at any time.

4: Can I get ready at Friars Court?

A room can be made available for the bride to get ready before the wedding ceremony and for the bride and groom to change or freshen up (or simply to have a break from it all) after. Friars Court is unable to allow guests, or any other members of the bridal party, access or use of the room at any later time.

5: Can I reserve a date?

Of course you may reserve a date however but we won’t accept a booking (or take a deposit) until after you have visited Friars Court and had a chat with us. We usually hold a reserve for 14 days, after that it is your responsibility to contact us if you require more time. Should another couple express (firm) interest in the same date and are able to visit us before your appointment we’ll contact you.

6: Can I view Friars Court at any time?

Viewing is, certainly, the best way to get a true feel for whether Friars Court is the right venue for you and we do welcome viewings but, as Friars Court is also our home, we do ask that all viewings and meetings are strictly by appointment.

7: Can we have a large reception at Friars Court?

No, unfortunately not - we only host civil ceremonies for up to 80 guests and small [daytime] wedding breakfast receptions up to 40 guests. We no longer host large or evening wedding receptions.

8: Can we have confetti?

Yes and no. We allow confetti as long as it is biodegradable: dried or fresh petals, lavender or made from rice paper. What we really hate is 'silly-string', streamers, "table-confetti" or anything that involves picking it out of the gravel or getting a vacuum cleaner to clean it out of the grass... you won't like it either as we will make a clean-up charge for doing it.

9: Can we have firepits, fireworks or sky lanterns?

Unfortunately the direct answer to that is "No". Our insurers have expressly forbidden firepits (we asked them nicely) and the risk to farming neightbours with livestock, the risk of fire for us and risk of upsetting the nearby RAF base at Brize Norton means we cannot allow fireworks or sky lanterns (including "bio-degradable" ones).

10: Can you send me a brochure?

The short and simple answer is "No". As probably 93.75% of couples find us via the internet we've made this website our brochure. As we offer a wider degree of flexibility than many, a printed brochure would be too massive to post and too costly to print. Hopefully, this section should answer most of the standard questions couples ask when comparing and researching venues. If it doesn't, do get in touch via the ‘Contact’ form and I'll endeavour to reply as soon as possible. Just bear in mind that in peak season it may take awhile but we will get back to you.

11: Can you tell me how much a wedding at Friars Court will cost?

That's a little bit like asking "how long is a piece of string?". It all depends on what you want for your wedding. There are the fixed costs for hiring Friars Court as a venue for your ceremony (for those, refer to our Venue Rates page) and you’ll also need to book the registrar or celebrant, after that the rest is up to you. A lot of couples just use Friars Court as the location for their ceremony so there shouldn’t be any additional cost attributed to us, although if you did want to have any flowers brought down, food or drink this is something you’ll have to factor in and the choice of caterer, florist etc, etc, etc is up to you. We don’t however leave you to the tender mercies of sticking pins in the Yellow Pages, we'll listen to and explore your ideas (hopefully suggest some new ones) then recommend appropriate suppliers if needed - our aim is to make the process as painless and enjoyable as it can be.

12: Charges - are there any hidden extras?

We try to keep costs as simple as possible. The price you see on the Venue Rates page will be the price you pay (we're not registered for VAT) but, sometimes, extra charges may apply if you're adding something extra so, for instance, your caterer decides they DO need to use our kitchen areas in the main house (when you thought they wouldn't!) then there’ll be a hire charge for that or you may decide that dressing the venue is going to be too much for you so you ask me to step in. Any extra charges will, usually, be discussed before the event and if we can, we'll deduct them from the Security Bond you'll pay on booking. Sadly, we do have to deduct any costs incurred by your guests or suppliers for damage or theft, be it wilful or accidental.

13: Do I have to use your suppliers?

No, you don't. Since Silver Pear's start in 2002, we have now hosted over 500 weddings and met a wide variety of caterers, florists, barmen, marquee firms, musicians, DJs and photographers. Yes (as people ask) there have been a few I'd happily never wish to see again; others, if we like what we see, may make the recommendations list and find their details passed to new couples. So the list does expand. Working with a recommended supplier should give you confidence because they'll be tried-and-tested, if a supplier isn't reliable, hard-working, conscientious and good-humoured I don't recommend them. They'll already be familiar with Friars Court, they may well be working alongside others from my list which can create a brilliant 'team spirit' - as one recent bride put it "the wedding planned itself"; if there are suppliers of your own that you really would like to use that should be fine, that's how I've met many of my recommendations. It's worthwhile having your supplier visit us (especially caterers) so they can get an idea of the access and the layout.

Please note suppliers are recommend purely on merit and not because they are slipping us a well-stuffed brown envelope. We neither charge nor accept commission (although caterers have been known to give us left-overs, some florists pop in with the occasional bunch of flowers and last Christmas a taxi firm gave us a huge tin of Celebration chocolates which we thoroughly enjoyed).

14: Do we have exclusive use?

As Friars Court is privately-owned we have control over and/ or knoweldge of who could be here, when they'll be here and where they'll be when they are here, that information should enable us to arrange the diary in such a way as to ensure we are able to offer exclusive use to every event. Very occasionally we may have consecutive functions booked for the same day, these are rare and always arranged on the understanding that the first event will have left before the second arrives.

15: Do you charge corkage?

As a venue we'll only charge corkage if we are the ones pouring the drinks; outside caterers will almost certainly make some sort of corkage charge (but not at hotel rates) for serving whatever wines/ drinks you have arranged to supply. Corkage charges may well include an element of staffing cost but the majority of it will be to cover supplying, delivering and collecting all the associated infrastructure: the 'fridges, freezer, ice provision, bar equipment and bar stock as well as supplying enough glasses to cover the drinks reception, wedding breakfast and, possibly, evening too all of which will have been hand-polished beforehand.

16: Do you charge extra if I bring in my own suppliers?

No. There is no difference in hire charge. However, if the suppliers require additional space to that already included in your original hire, this may incur additional cost so we strongly recommend any ‘new’ supplier makes a site visit well before the event. And, just in case you’re wondering, we don’t expect or accept commission payments from any supplier.

17: Do you have a kitchen we can hire?

As catering requirements vary from event to event and as our season only extends to a few months each year we made a conscious decision not create a dedicated catering kitchen so there are no ovens or 'fridges available (but there is access to (cold) drinking water). Some caterers may prefer to supply their own equipment, others will arrange to hire what they need specifically for your event. If you are using caterers who've not worked at Friars Court before we strongly advise a meeting well-before the date so they (and you or us) don't have any sudden unpleasant surprises on the day.

18: Do you have accommodation for guests?

As a private family house, Friars Court doesn’t offer overnight accommodation however we have a riverside cottage which sleeps 6 people 1 mile away on the banks of the Thames - visit the Friars Court webside for more information. In addition as we are in an area that is popular with visitors there is plenty of other local accommodation. If you click through to the 'Guests' section of the Silver Pear Weddings website there's a section which lists many of the B&Bs, Air B&Bs, pubs-with-rooms and hotels in the immediate area.

19: Do you hold more than one wedding at the same time?

No, although we do, on very rare ccasions, sometimes host consecutive or successive bookings, such as a civil ceremony for one couple in the morning followed by a reception for another couple later in the day. Have a look at ‘Do we have exclusive use?’ for a little more on how that might work.

20: Do you include tables and chairs in the hire?

Friars Court is hired primarily as a venue-only 'blank canvas' but some furntiure is included: armchairs and sofas in the Old Laundry; benches and chairs in the grounds; 8 x 6' x 2' banquet tables and 60 x natural beech ballroom chairs with dark brown seat pads for use in the Garden Room. Chairs suitable for an outside ceremonies and round tables for use in the Garden Room have to be hired. We can suggest event hire suppliers especially if you're looking for something different to the norm.

21: How can I find out if the date I want is available?

Just follow the link to the website's Booking Calender and that'll show which days are available, reserved, booked or unavailable. It's worth mentioning a couple of points: if the date you have in mind is marked as "reserved" do get in touch as the booking could prove to be one we can work something else around; an enquiry from you could be just the ideal excuse to check progress with the couple who have it on reserve as, sometimes, reserving couples don't always let us know that they've decided on alterntaive plans. If the date you are interested in has a booking before and/ or after it's worth contacting us to explore and discuss how access/ set-up/ take-down might/ might not work.

22: May we borrow or hire a ladder?

That might, initially, seem to be a bizarre question for a wedding venue but the opportunity to add decorations to the Garden Room or grounds could mean needing to access heights. As we have to comply with legal Health & Safety regulations our insurers strictly forbid us from lending or hiring any form of ladder to clients. There are ways to address this: clients are permitted to use their own ladders at their own risk or clients can hire me to style and dress the venue for them (which then includes access to my 'library' of props). 

23: The bar! (An important factor!)

We are fully licensed for the sale of alcohol so the options could be either stocking up in France or bringing in a mobile bar but, in practice, the majority of couples opt for any bar to be run by the caterers, that route may well save you money and it'll certainly save you time and hassle as takes away estimating quantities, shopping, storing, delivering and collecting and wondering what to do with the left-overs or it's one less supplier to source, arrange and manage. Most caterers are usually happy to serve whatever drinks you've agreed to supply although it's worth bearing in mind they're likely to make some kind of corkage charge to cover handling, chilling, glasses and staffing.

24: We have guests with mobility issues...

We hope Friars Court will be accessible to everyone, but that is as accessible as it's possible to be with a very old house in established grounds. There are plenty of level paths, no steps and just one very tiny threshold which can be avoided. We have a dedicated wheelchair access lavatory in addition to those for men and women. It is worth bearing in mind though that the grounds do include large areas of lawn around the house as well the large area of shingle directly in front of the house so some areas might present a challenge to some guests and some wheelchairs. Our suggestion is to contact us to talk through the specific need(s) of your guest so we can work on vehicle access/ parking, best routes and, perhaps, planning of the day as well to ensure the guest can feel included in everything.

25: We'd really like an out-door civil ceremony but what if it rains?

Hopefully it won't but... this is England after all. In licensing the out-door ceremony locations the registrars stipulation is that a suitably-sized indoor ceremony location be available at the same time - usually that's the Garden Room. For weddings larger than the Garden Room's 80 person limit if use of the Stone Barn is not possible (because it's out of season or set up for a reception) some sort of small marquee or pavilion should be erected over the Garden Room terrace to ensure the 'over-flow' can be under cover to watch the ceremony.

26: What about a free bar?

A free bar may seem a generous and appropriate gesture of welcoming hospitality for your guests, but there are draw-backs: unless you've worked in catering or have bar training, working out how much to buy of what could be a challenge plus budget tied up in bar stock will only be refunded after the wedding when it could have gone towards special, memorable finishing touches and 'treats'. You'll need to pay for staffing as manning a bar with volunteers conflicts with our alcohol licence which requires a 'responsible person' to be in charge. Couples often go into a pre-wedding panic fearing that they'll run out so promptly over caterer to an extreme degree. Some sealed bottles can be returned but some can't so you may be left wondering what to do with half a barrel of 'Old Rank' real ale bitter' after the wedding. It's also difficult to second-guess what people will drink on the night so you may run out of red wine half-way through the evening because it's suddenly been everyone's drink of choice. Along with storing it, delivering and colleting there's also the issue of 'fridges, ice, freezer, bar equipment and glasses too. Personally, I'd say the simpler and less arduous route is to hand providing the bar to your caterers and then have a discussion with them as to whether it's free, subsidised or fully cash...

There's also another less-than-charming aspect of offering a free bar, one which is rarely discussed and often dismissed as "not how our guests will behave". The right level of alcohol can 'make' an evening but too much will, sadly but usually, achieve the exact opposite. The other side of a fair number of drinks can free some guests from how they'd usually behave and they'll then forget that the event does not have corporate sponsorship. On the (thankfully) few occassions when there's been "mess", damage (which may be charged to the bridal party), unconscious guests, arguments and even aggresion there's always been a free bar in the background. It's a disappointing spectacle at any time but even more so if the bride and groom happen to witness it on what should be the right sort of memorable wedding day.

27: What about catering?

Arranging catering here, at Friars Court, is a fairly open-ended choice. Couples have the option to source their own caterer but most stay with one my recommendations from our "Tried-and-Tested" list. My aim is to 'match-make' each couple to the caterer I feel will understand both the couple and the "feel" they want for their wedding. As the caterers will, effectively, be 'running the show' on the day I can't stress enough just how vital it is for a couple to have total trust and faith in their chosen caterer.

Working with an outside caterers gives a couple the broadest scope in chosing the menu and type of service for their wedding breakfast be that a three-course plated meal, a gourmet BBQ, a spit-roast, cold buffet, picnic, afternoon tea, curry or something totally vegan. Working with outside caterers also allows more control over costs although bear in mind that you do get what you pay for.

As an approximate budgeting guide, work on canapes at between £5 - £7 per head, a three course sit-down meal at £25-£35 per head and evening food between £7-£15. Caterers will price differently, some may include cutlery, crockery, tablecloths and napkins in a 'package' price while others may detail out separately to allow for variables such as alternative china or cutlery, coloured table cloths or paper rather than fabric napkins. As a rough guide, place settings are likely to add up to around £2 per guest, a linen tablecloth will be about £10 each and a fabric napkin around £2.50. Staffing is usually charged after the event (once numbers and worked hours are known) but a good caterer should have the experience to give you a pretty good idea of staffing costs for your budget plan.

28: What are the costs for a Civil Ceremony?

Our ceremony hire (which can be found here) is charged at the same rate across all days of the week on the available dates throughout the year; the fee covers a 3-hour period which, for legal reasons, must start 1 hour before the Ceremony itself. If the reception is taking place at another venue three hours should allow time for guests to mingle and have photographs in the grounds after the ceremony.  

Please note that the Registrars are strict with their rule that no food or drink is permited within or around the licensed area for the hour both before and during the ceremony.

Our ceremony facility fee does not include the fee charged either by the registrars or an independant celebrant.

29: What is the booking process?

To secure a reserved date we’ll email you the current Terms of Agreement, once you've read them through need to be filled in, signed and that autographed copy delivered back to us for filing. The second part of confirming a booking is payment of the Security Bond. The Bond is not a part-payment towards the final cost of wedding hire, it operates more like the holding deposit that's paid when renting a house or car so it's there to cover unexpected extra costs or to off-set loss or damage. Full payment for the hire is due a couple of months before the wedding with the Security Bond refunded within the two weeks after the wedding (hopefully without any deductions!).

30: When can we set up and/ or clear up

Unlike many venues we allows couples a greater degree of freedom when it comes to setting up, actual times will be something to discuss (as we could be hosting other events) but, usually, access is fine the day before, sometimes even two two days before. Hopefully extra time will make setting up an enjoyable part of the run up to the big day and a soothing one too as couples head off knowing (almost) everything looks as it should be. Couples usually return on the morning after the wedding to collect any props, drinks, gifts, flowers, cake etc, etc, etc or we can arrange collection at a later date.

We may be hosting events on the days before and/ or after your wedding so exact times/ days is something to discuss.

We cannot accept responsibility or liability for loss, theft or damage to items left here overnight.

31: When does a reception have to end?

Carriages for a wedding breakfast reception should be arranged for 8.00pm. For a list of local taxi firms head to the 'Guest" pages of the website and look for the 'At the end of the reception' section but do bear in mind that taxi firms do come and go so some listings may no longer be active.

32: Which areas are licensed for Civil Ceremonies and do we have to use them?

If the marriage service is a legal civil ceremony conducted by Oxfordshire Council's registrars then, yes, the ceremony must take place "within the confines of a licensed space". If you are contemplating a personal ceremony - one conducted by an independent celebrant - then couples may use a licensed location if that happens to be the prefence. As a personal ceremony (currently) has no legal standing couples are freed from the registrars' regulations so the main constraint on location would purely be practical considerations. We've hosted celebrant ceremonies beneath specific trees, in the middle of a lawn and often under a decorative open pergola by the moat: a celebrant-led ceremony gives couples more personal freedom on ceremony content, timing and location.

We have a total of 7 locations licensed for civil ceremonies: 4 inside and 3 outside (we were the first venue in Oxfordshire to have a genuinely outdoor licensed location). The inside locations are (with total capacity in brackets): the Entrance Hall (15), Red Dining Room (20), Winterhalter Conservatory (20) and the Garden Room (80). Outside are the Entrance Porch, Swedish Summer House and the Rose Arbour.

Technically outdoor ceremonies have no restriction on guest numbers but as the registrars' stipulate that an indoor wet weather back-up must be available (the registrars have a duty to ensure that the marriage register is kept safe and dry) guests numbers should be kept to within our maximum indoor capacity.

Your Questions Answered

Researching and comparing wedding venues inevitably raises lots of question some of which might not be that obvious; here's where you'll find answers to all the ones which crop up most often. It is a fairly long list in no particular order but worth working through, just click on a question and the answer will appear below. Should we have missed anything do contact us.

For availability head to the online calendar and for hire rates please see our hire rates page.