This is the first in a new series of blog posts reviewing wedding venues in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Before I was a wedding and portrait photographer I was a Registrar and I conducted over 2000 weddings in and around the Newcastle area. It therefore seems fitting that I start with Newcastle Register Office.
Newcastle Register Office is based in the Civic Centre building on St Mary's Place in Newcastle City Centre. There are several rooms in the Civic Centre where you can get married but the Register Office is only responsible for two of them - the Haymarket Room and the Register Office itself (also known as the Glass Room).
The Haymarket Room
The Haymarket Room is the most popular venue in Newcastle Register Office. It has recently been refurbished and has a new carpet, new chairs and new curtains in a neutral colour scheme. You should bear in mind that there is no option to dress the Haymarket Room ahead of your ceremony.
The Haymarket Room can seat 70 people comfortably, with room to spare for your photographer to move around. You should schedule 45 minutes for your ceremony in the Haymarket Room. The wedding ceremony itself will take up to 30 minutes and you will have up to 15 minutes afterwards for photographs in the room.
There is a relatively long aisle which means you can have music for the bride to enter to and music for the couple to exit to.
The Haymarket Room is available for weddings from Monday to Saturday, with Fridays and Saturdays being the most popular. This is reflected in the prices. Monday to Thursday the room is £155 while on Fridays and Saturdays the charge is £165. A £25 booking fee must be paid in addition. This covers the cost of the room and for the Registrars to attend the ceremony.
When you consider that the minimum price for the Registrars to attend a wedding at an external venue starts at £340 and can rise as high as £480, then you have to add room hire on top of that, you can see that the Haymarket Room offers good value for money.
You cannot hold your wedding breakfast or reception in the Haymarket Room, so once the ceremony ends you and your guests will need to move to a second location. As the Haymarket Room is in the city centre this means that there are a lot of options and many brides and grooms opt to let their guests make their own way to the reception venue. The city centre is well served for public transport so travelling about via Metro, bus or taxi is straightforward.
Alternatively, some couples hire a bus or coach to get their guests to the reception venue. There is limited parking at the Civic Centre, so if you have a lot of guests you may want to bear this in mind.
The Register Office
Every local authority in England and Wales must offer a basic wedding ceremony in a Register Office at a very low price. This is to ensure that a wedding can be afforded by anyone - poverty is no barrier to marriage. Newcastle Register Office has a better room than most others, but there are some major caveats to bear in mind if you are thinking of using this room.
The Register Office is also called the Glass Room as two of the walls are made entirely of glass. Long venetian blinds offer some privacy from the main reception area. It was refurbished at the same time as the Haymarket Room and has similar furnishings.
The room is small and the maximum capacity is just four people and that includes the bride and groom. If you are thinking about having a photographer take photographs during the ceremony then you should contact the Register Office in advance to ensure that he or she will be allowed in!
Any ceremony taking place in the Glass Room will be fairly basic. There is no aisle for the bride to walk down, there is no music, and no space for readings in the ceremony script.
The Register Office is suited to people that don't want a big celebration of the ceremony and view the ceremony as a legal necessity. Foreign students often book the Register Office for their wedding, for example. They have the ceremony here in the Civic Centre and then return to their own country and have a wedding celebration with their friends and relatives which they regard as their 'real' wedding. Another common wedding in the Register Office is between two older people who have been together for many years and want to make their relationship 'legal.' They typically don't want much fuss and will just bring two close friends to act as witnesses.
The main benefit of using the Register Office is cost. The ceremony costs just £49 and that includes one marriage certificate. The room is available between monday and Saturday, but the times are restricted on busy wedding days such as Fridays and Saturdays. The £25 booking fee is paid on top of this.
You should schedule up to 30 minutes for your ceremony.
Although it is in the city centre, Newcastle Register Office does offer some attractive locations for photographs of the bride and groom and the group shots of the guests.
The entrance to the Register Office is via a steep set of steps (there is also a ramp for wheelchair users) and these steps can be utilised for large group photographs, ensuring that everyone is visible.
Smaller groups photographs and bride and groom shots can be taken on the grassed areas opposite the entrance. The busy main road is screened by trees and bushes surprisingly well.
You can also go around the corner and use the five swans in the quadrangle of the Civic Centre as a backdrop. You get there by walking underneath some brick arches which are quite photogenic in themselves and especially useful when it is raining.
Speaking of bad weather, you might want to take photographs inside the Civic Centre. There is a spectacular Grand Staircase with red carpet and a massive chandelier for example. You can only use other parts of the building if you have made prior arrangements and they aren't being used for something else.
Finally, you can also use the grounds of St Thomas' Church which is adjacent to the Civic Centre and offers spacious natural areas of flowers, grass and trees.
In summary then, Newcastle Register Office is somewhere to consider for your wedding if you have specific needs. If you're looking for somewhere low key, and are on a tight budget, it may be for you.
If you want to contact Newcastle Register Office to book a wedding you should telephone 0191 2787878 and ask for 'Registrars.'
- Easily accessible city centre location.
- The cheapest wedding ceremony venue in the city, but you will need to find another location for your reception.
- Surprisingly good options for photographs before and after the ceremony.
- Limited parking spaces for guests.
- No option to personalise either room.
- Photographs taken during the ceremony will have fairly unexciting backgrounds.