Spotlight On… Bodleian Library

Choosing the Bodleian for your Wedding

I’ve been working at historic venues across Oxfordshire for many years. One of my favourite is the Bodleian Library. It’s beauty is undeniable, but what makes this venue stand out amongst the plethora of historic buildings in central Oxford? For me it’s the feel of the place, the rich history and that ceiling! It still to this day takes my breath away.

I spoke to the Weddings & Event Team at the Bodleian to find out more.

 

What is it about the venue that makes it stand out?

The Bodleian Library is an historic venue located in the heart of central Oxford, surrounded by iconic landmarks such as the infamous  Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Bridge of Sighs, all of which add to the romantic setting.

Upon entering the grounds of the Bodleian, you will walk through the breath-taking Old Schools’ Quadrangle, filled with intricate stone carvings. This is where dreamy wedding drinks receptions are hosted before guests are called to dine.

The Bodleian is a working library, which means that students from the University of Oxford will spend a great deal of time accessing the books in various reading rooms. One of the most impressive spaces is the Duke Humfrey’s Library. Previously, this space has been used to host private wedding tours and there is a chance for couples to have exclusive access of the Duke Humfrey’s for their more intimate wedding photos.

As well as readers, the appeal of the Bodleian’s history, has meant that there is a huge interest to visitors from all over the world. By day, hundreds of visitors will explore the main spaces of the Bodleian, but by 4pm the main spaces (excluding the Quad and Proscholium) are transformed as the wedding set up starts.

 

 

What spaces can people hire for their wedding?
Divinity School

It is difficult to resist the impressiveness of the Divinity School. It was originally built to teach and then examine students of Theology and Divinity from 15th – 19th Century. This room was also designed to celebrate the importance of the University: which was, and continues to be one of the world’s most established Universities. Today, the Divinity School is used to celebrate the union of wedding couples, many of which previously met and studied at the University. For many, the Bodleian marks a memorable part of a couple’s student experience at the University of Oxford and what better way than to dine in Divinity and reminisce with fellow Alumni?

On the other hand, couples (whether they are Alumni or not) are often attracted to the Bodleian for the sheer aesthetics. It provides a stunning backdrop for an intimate small wedding ceremony, or an extravagant wedding reception.

The Divinity School typifies the magnificence of late-gothic architecture through the warm stone carvings and large arched windows. In the late Spring and Summer, the sun floods through the windows providing a natural glow, enhancing the warmth and romance of the space.

Historic Wedding Venue Oxford

Photo by Allister Freeman

Convocation House

Adjoining the Divinity School is Convocation House. By day, this room hosts wedding ceremonies, while by night, caterers use it to prepare the food for the wedding breakfast.

Convocation House is a significant space, as it was originally used as a governing house constructed for the use of the University’s supreme legislative body. The deep rich wooden panels and light fan-vaulted ceilings create contrast, atmosphere, and drama, while the long-varnished benches are designed to replicate chapel-style seating for up to 100 guests.

Fun fact: Convocation House has also been featured in several BAFTA award- winning films including The Favourite (2017) – featuring Olivia Colman and Emma Stone and Aeronauts (2019) featuring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

Historic Wedding Venue Oxford

Photo by MT Studio

Chancellor’s Court

Chancellor’s Court is the anteroom to Convocation House. Up until the 20th Century, this room was predominantly used for student jurisdictions. However, today, Chancellor Court provides private access for guests and the bridal party. It’s also an option for a post-ceremony drinks reception.

 

As the venue is open to the public, what are the average timings for a wedding?

At the Bodleian timings vary depending on the space(s) you are hiring and how long you’re hiring them for. Below is are some sample timelines.

Ceremony only

Up to 100 people | Available any time during the week (09:00-15:00). The most common slot is 12:00-15:00

12:00 Venue opens and suppliers arrive for set up

12:10 Groom and registrar arrives. Interview takes place in Convocation House

12:30 Guests arrive

12:50 Bride arrives for interview with registrar in Chancellor’s Court

13:00 – 13:30 Ceremony

13:30 – 14:15 Drinks reception in Chancellor’s Court (optional)

14:15 – 14:30 Photographs

14:30 Guests leave the venue

15:00 Venue to close

Ceremony and Reception

Up to 100 people for a ceremony or 120 people for a seated reception | Available 16:00 – 01:00 Saturdays and Sundays

16:00 Venue opens and suppliers arrive for set up

16:10 Groom and registrar arrives. Interview takes place in Convocation House

16:30 Guests arrive

16:50 Bride arrives for interview with registrar in Chancellor’s Court

17:00 – 17:30 Ceremony

17:35 – 19:00 Drinks reception in Old School’s Quad

19:00 – 21:30 Wedding breakfast with cake and speeches

21:30 – 00:00 Evening reception (23:30 last years)

00:00 – 01:00 Event clear down, suppliers leave and the venue to close

Reception only

Up to 120 people seated or 200 people for a standing buffet | Available 16:00 – 01:00 Saturdays and Sundays

16:00 Venue opens and suppliers arrive for set up

17:30 Guests arrive (option to arrive later if they are arriving from another venue)

17:35 – 18:45 Drinks reception in Old School’s Quad

19:00 – 21:30 Wedding breakfast with cake and speeches

21:30 – 00:00 Evening reception (23:30 last years)

00:00 – 01:00 Event clear down, suppliers leave and the venue to close

What other options are there?

If couples are looking to extend their exclusivity at the Bodleian, the Weddings team are very happy to suggest the following options:

  • Extend hire time by 1 hour, meaning that the overall hire time would be 16:00 – 02:00. Any excuse to extend the party!
  • Invite additional evening guests after the wedding breakfast has finished (max 60 people)
  • Hire the Sheldonian Theatre for a drinks reception, or a place to have the evening reception. Also, the Sheldonian is an impressive wet weather alternative.
  • Have your ceremony in the Divinity School. 150 guests max.
  • Take a group/s of your wedding guests on a tour in the Duke Humfrey’s Library
  • Couples to have exclusive access of the Duke Humfrey’s library where they can have a private photoshoot with their photographer
  • Have your wedding on a Friday. (Outside term time) Hire time would be 17:00 – 02:00
  • Have a wedding lunch in the Divinity School. This would be an exclusive private dining experience for 10-30 guests. Hire time: 11:30 – 17:00. Further option to also have a wedding Ceremony in Convocation House followed by lunch

 

Luxury Wedding Planning in Oxford

Photo by Weddings by Nicola & Glen

Tell us a bit about the team and how you’re currently working

Currently, the Bodleian Weddings team are made up of a team of three: Kate, Megan, and Martha. Kate and Martha mainly engage with couples at the enquiry and booking stage. Once a couple book, Megan arrange wedding details meetings with both the couple and their chosen suppliers,  to deliver a seamless wedding day. On the wedding day, one of the team will oversee the day.  The team will always share the couple’s vision and look to find effective and creative ways to deliver their dream wedding.

Considering the current circumstances, (Covid-19), the Weddings team are all working remotely. They will continue to work from home until the library has reopened to readers and visitors. In the meantime, the Weddings team are aware that staying present, visible, and available to their clients is crucial, which is why they regularly reassure and update their 2020 couples and prospective couples as much as possible. The team have achieved this by creating a virtual tour (a 360 video) which walks the viewer through the main rooms and spaces at the Bodleian. They have also designed a virtual show round over a thirty to forty-minute video call which is a great option for couples who are keen to learn more about the Bodleian. It’s also a great chance to get to know the team.

 

What’s in store for 2021 at the Bodleian?

2021 is shaping up to be a busy one for all venues and the Bodleian is no different. Their peak wedding season will start in early March and continue until the end of October. All Saturdays have been booked (between March and October), but they do have Fridays and Sundays are available at the moment. Get in touch now with the team as dates are sure to fill up soon!

 

Post written by Megan Ratcliffe – Events Coordinator at the Bodleian Library.

Find out more on the Bodleian Library weddings website: https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/venue-hire/weddings
Email: weddings@bodleian.ox.ac.uk You can also follow them on Instagram and Pinterest.

 

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