Venue Showcase: Ashmolean Museum

Set amongst the cityscape of Oxford’s dreaming spires, the Ashmolean Museum is a magnificent venue for your wedding, civil partnership or celebration.

A wedding venue like no other. Founded in 1683 the Ashmolean is the oldest public Museum in the world. Displaying half a million years of art and history, the spaces provide a stunning backdrop for a very special occasion. All our galleries are licenced which means we can offer intimate ceremonies at any time through to impressive evening receptions, dinners and dances combined with outstanding hospitality and entertainment.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself

I love everything about weddings, and I am currently planning my own special day, so I can empathise with couples in a very real way. I realised my passion for event and wedding planning very early on when I helped four of my older siblings plan their weddings. Coming from an Asian cultural background I grew up surrounded by the excitement and buzz of large family gatherings and weddings, involving a series of celebratory events that can sometimes stretch out for a period of two weeks before the actual wedding day!

Weddings are such incredible events, from the moment we first connect with couples, to when they make their vows and onto the reception – there is just nothing like them.

What an emotional rollercoaster this past year has been! I have had to postpone our wedding date three times now and I know first-hand how overwhelming this feels. Not only have couples had to navigate through the financial implications on paid deposits, they’ve had all their enjoyment curtailed by all the stops and starts with (re)arranging. It also became very clear that couples were not only having to process their own emotions but were also having to manage questions and disappointment from families and friends.

In my spare time, I love to travel and read up on the latest archaeological discoveries! I studied Archaeology so any chance I get to visit and immerse myself into different cultures, I just have to grab it! I am a big foodie and I love experimenting with our in-house chefs on how we can push the boundaries to create an exceptional new culinary experience.

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What drew you to the wedding world?

My role at the Ashmolean combines two of my passions; history and delivering incredible bespoke events to each couple. When I moved back to the UK from Israel and had the opportunity to return to the museum it was a dream come true. I was in awe of the weddings hosted at the Ashmolean so when there was an opening in the team I jumped at the chance. To me there is something absolutely enchanting about getting married in a city like Oxford, so steeped in tradition, and there is something even more magical about getting married amongst half a million years of human history.

No two couples are the same and so none of the Ashmolean’s weddings are the same either. The team and I pride ourselves in carefully curating each wedding so it is a truly unique reflection of each couple. My favourite part of being a wedding event manager is getting to know the couple and finding elements from our enriching and stunning art and archaeology collections that can be incorporated to personalise their day. The team and I strive to carefully tailor each wedding so that guests feel every element is a reflection of the couple’s love story, from the galleries we use through to the catering that reflects their backgrounds, flavours and favourite dishes from their childhood.

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What do you think makes The Ashmolean Museum unique?

The Ashmolean is the oldest public museum in the world. Displaying half a million years of art and history, the spaces provide a stunning backdrop for a very special occasion. All our galleries are licensed which means we can offer intimate ceremonies at any time through to impressive evening receptions, dinners and dances combined with outstanding hospitality and entertainment.

What sets us above and beyond other venues is our exceptional attention to the guests’ experience. Our friendly and professional team of wedding event assistants have been trained to deliver the highest quality of customer service, so wedding guests feel special and well looked-after by our team during their time with us. The team are also knowledgeable about our world-class collections and are able to entertain guests on the incredible objects and pieces of art around them. They are great at revealing the sensational and fun or quirky facts not mentioned on the labels!

Planning a wedding can be one of the most stressful times in a couple’s life. As the dedicated wedding manager, I work with the couple and their family to make the experience stress-free and enjoyable. I support them through the emotions they feel during the process and offer them my professional experience and practical guidance to help plan their special day.

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How do you get to know your couples before the big day?

The Ashmolean boasts a team of passionate and experienced event and wedding managers. They are dedicated to playing their part in making your wedding or celebration truly memorable.

We have regular meetings with our couples so we know what makes them tick; this is vital so we can ensure that weddings go smoothly. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to listen to what couples envision for their day. It is only through listening that we are able to pick up on a common thread or theme and get to the heart of the emotion and aesthetics they are trying to portray for their day. Once we have that we can suggest creative ideas and themes that incorporate this beautifully.

My favourite part is getting to know the couple and their unique love story and weaving in galleries and collections that are relevant to their story. With a treasure trove of the most beautiful old master paintings and ancient objects we are spoiled with choice. For example, we had one couple where the groom had a Scottish background and the bride a Coptic Egyptian background. To make the day unique to them we incorporated a blessing ceremony in the Egyptian galleries followed by a bagpiper leading guests from the ceremony gallery, all the way up to the wedding breakfast via the museum’s impressive cascading staircase! We also worked closely with the couple to offer a tantalising menu that reflected the couple’s favourite Scottish and Egyptian dishes. In the past we have offered ‘night at the museum’ tours, taking guests to view collections from areas of the world the couple had travelled to.

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What do you think makes for the perfect wedding?

Chemistry. Chemistry between the couple of course, but also between the guests and all the different suppliers. There are so many moving parts that need to be on point on your special day and having suppliers that have great rapport with one another makes everything work smoothly.

Over the years we have developed relationships with trusted suppliers to support events at the museum. This means we can offer our clients a curated list of suppliers and creatives who share our values and meet our high standards. Their familiarity with our event spaces means they can work with your ideas and bring them to life in the museum.

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What’s the most memorable wedding you’ve had at Ashmolean Museum?

We had a couple where the groom’s family were from Germany and the bride’s were from Japan. Both families flew in for the occasion and arrived in the city of Oxford for the week of the wedding. As this was the first time many of the extended families had met, we thought what better way to introduce their guests to one another and ‘break the ice,’ than to host an informal rehearsal dinner in our rooftop dining room. We treated the group to a fun and engaging ‘night at the museum’ tour, incorporating highlights from our Germanic and Japanese collections. Later that week for the actual wedding day, both couples incorporated traditional wedding customs from both sides including having a Japanese tea ceremony in the museum’s very own Japanese tea house.

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Why should a couple book Ashmolean Museum?

The Ashmolean has been telling stories since 1683 and we want you to add yours to our collection. We understand that every wedding is different which is why our expert team are on hand to tailor your day. An experienced team supported by an exclusive catering partner and handpicked suppliers will bring your dream celebration to life. Whether you decide to make a grand entrance, have an intimate exchange of vows in the presence of a few loved ones, dine like royalty or party the night away, the Ashmolean offers the most magnificent backdrop to your occasion.

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What is your #1 wedding planning tip for couples?

Stay true and authentic to who you both are and trust your instinct! Just because something looks incredible and is currently in vogue doesn’t mean it is right for you. Each couple is different and what may suit one will not be appropriate for another. So, as much as someone tries to convince you that you ‘need’ a particular wedding item, theme, dress, flowers etc., remember to check in with yourself on whether that actually is your taste and a reflection of you. In a world of Instagram, Pinterest boards and wedding blogs, it is easy to get carried away with following the latest trend and before you know it, your wedding starts to look like someone else’s day. Social media platforms and blogs can be great to get a feel for what you resonate with and it’s fantastic to find wedding suppliers that match your tastes. It is also very easy to fall down an endless rabbit hole and lose a sense of what is most important about your special day. Which is the both of you, who you are and celebrating your love and commitment to one another, in a fashion that is true to your union.

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What’s the best photo spot at Ashmolean Museum?

The Forecourt – The imposing façade will not fail to impress your guests as they arrive at the museum. The iconic portico and neo classical architecture offer a fantastic opportunity for photographs. It’s also a great space for a welcome drinks reception on a summer evening and is one of the few historic venues in Oxford to permit biodegradable confetti outside. All under the watchful eye of the Greek god Apollo, who perches on the centre of the pediment of the entrance. It is only fitting that wedding guests are welcomed beneath a statue of Apollo as the western tradition of having a wedding band placed on the left hand ring finger came from the Romans, who inherited it from the ancient Greeks. This finger was referred to as Apollo’s finger as he was associated with marriage. The Greeks believed there was a vein that ran from this finger straight to the heart.

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What part of your business are you most proud of? 

Our ability to adapt. We were one of the first venues in the UK to be COVID-secure and offer hybrid weddings. Not only offering live streaming but embracing the challenges presented by social restrictions, looking at creative ways to work with suppliers and couples on how to re-imagine their wedding whilst keeping it special and memorable, within the guidelines.

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How do you feel technology is changing the industry?

It is a very innovative and exciting time to be an event professional and we love to be the first to incorporate new technologies to enhance our clients’ experience. At the Ashmolean we know how important your wedding is and understand that for many reasons some guests may not be able to be with you on the day. Now everyone can take part. We can help you to share this special time with your friends and family, wherever they are in the world. Our discrete and professional live streaming service is the perfect way to include all your loved ones and to ensure that they don’t miss a moment. They can join in the excitement and emotion as if they were with you in the room. The final bonus is that couples get a copy of the stream to keep forever; a wonderful way to save the memory of your perfect day! We have the experience, so leave it to us to arrange it with our technology partner.

Hybrid weddings are definitely here to stay! We have worked with our couples to consider how they can enhance the experience of their guests who are tuning into the live stream so they feel involved in the day. Our caterers can even arrange to send virtual guests a wedding meal, bottle of fizz or slice of wedding cake to enjoy during the ceremony to enhance their interaction with the couple and attending wedding guests, even sharing messages and photos with the couple live during the reception.

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What is the one piece of advice you would give to couples that are currently struggling amidst the COVID-19 crisis?

Keep the faith. The recent announcements on the easing of lockdown measures are very encouraging. As a bride-to-be I have experienced the stress, random panic attacks and the worry that important family members won’t be able to take part in the day, but I am hopeful that normality is coming back very soon.

It is very easy to get swept away with all the wedding planning and trying to make your wedding day reflect a certain vision you have always had. But it is important to remember that just because you always thought you wanted a certain type of wedding years ago, once you strip all of that back, the only thing that really matters is that you get to express your love and enduring commitment to the one you love.

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What do you love about Bridebook?

Bridebook have been fantastic to us – they named us as one of Britain’s top venues which gave a welcome boost to the team. Their account management has been second to none. Kane, who is our main contact, has been very supportive during this period.

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Final Comments

If you want to experience the magic that the Ashmolean has to offer, we would love to hear from you. We will also be hosting future virtual wedding fairs, where our most trusted and hand-picked wedding suppliers will be giving you their top tips when planning a wedding. Our first one was a huge success; you can watch the highlight video here.

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Suppliers: Wedding Hair Stylist: @oxfordshire_bridal_hair_|Wedding Make Up Artists: @phoebehaytermua|Wedding Gowns & Shoes: @Cotswoldfrockshopbridalgallery | Event Styling: @etiquetteeventstyling |Lighting: @tec_oxford |Wedding Cake: @cherrytreecakerie |Photographer: @mtstudio_weddings |Filmmaker/Videographer: @oojamaflick |Florist: @fabulousweddingflowers |Jewish Groom Wear: @Contemporary Judaica |Smashing the Glass Pouch: @smashingtheglass |Ketubah: @byLivandLuc | Celebrant: @perfectwordsceremonies

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