Boris Johnson finally celebrates wedding to Carrie as criticism forces reception venue switch from Chequers

Boris Johnson is planning to go out with a bang – behind closed doors. On Saturday, the Prime Minister will hold a lavish and long-delayed wedding reception to celebrate his marriage to Carrie, 14 months after the couple took advantage of relaxed Covid rules to hold a low-key ceremony at Westminster Cathedral followed by a small party in the garden of 10 Downing Street.

The upcoming bash in the countryside has already landed Mr Johnson in hot water: he was accused of delaying his resignation so that he could get married at Chequers, his official country retreat, forcing him to switch venue.

Invitations for the party went out more than five months ago, i understands – meaning that the last-minute scramble to find a new venue forced the Johnsons to tear up their carefully crafted plans and start again almost from scratch.

This time, the couple are taking no chances. Guests at the wedding are understood to be under strict instructions not to discuss details before the event, to avoid an embarrassing leak which would risk putting the nuptials back in the tabloid headlines again.

“We’ve been sworn to secrecy,” one guest said. Even details of a theme, the number of guests and entertainment were kept under wraps. However, the one detail which has leaked out is the venue: to replace Chequers, Mr and Mrs Johnson have been offered the use of Daylesford House in Gloucestershire – ironically, in the same part of the Cotswolds where the Prime Minister’s old frenemy David Cameron has his “set” based around the nearby town of Chipping Norton.

The grade I-listed Georgian manor has a chequered history: it was famously bought by Warren Hastings, the notorious 18th-century Governor-General of India, as an act of revenge because his impecunious grandfather had been forced to sell it to pay off the family’s bills.

Since 1986 it has been owned by Lord Bamford, chair of the JCB empire and a major donor to the Tories – he gave Mr Johnson’s party £4m at the last election and let him hold a stunt photo shoot at his Staffordshire factory where the Prime Minister drove a digger through a styrofoam wall.

Daylesford has become a household name – in the sorts of circles frequented by Mr and Mrs Johnson, at least – thanks to Lady Bamford, who has opened a chain of organic food stores and cafes originally based on the estate and now spread across London too, as well as having its own Daylesford Organics line in supermarkets.

As well as hosting, the Bamfords are said to be helping foot part of the bill for the wedding. No 10 has resolutely refused to comment, saying only that no taxpayers’ cash will be spent; but if the Prime Minister is drawing on the generosity on wealthier friends, it would be fully in character.

He funded the renovation of the Downing Street flat through a donation from Lord Brownlow (later repaid), and had a holiday in Mustique, paid for by the founder of Carphone Warehouse.

The guest list for the party is likely to include many members of Mr Johnson’s extended family, including his father Stanley and sister Rachel. It is unclear whether his adult children with ex-wife Marina Wheeler will attend; friends say their relationship with their father remains uneasy after a bitter divorce. But given Boris and Carrie’s love of putting their young children Wilfred and Romy centre-stage at big events, guests can surely expect the youngsters to play a part in the ceremony.

Mrs Johnson’s close friends include political aides Henry Newman and Josh Grimstone, while a handful of journalists who got to know her when she was a Tory spinner are also set to attend. Mr Johnson has less of a close-knit friendship circle but the ministers who have remained most loyal to him – the likes of Nadine Dorries, Nigel Adams and Jacob Rees-Mogg – are likely to be in attendance.

The Prime Minister’s closest childhood friend is thought to be Hugo Dixon, who attended Eton with him and also went into journalism but ironically spent a number of years as a vociferous anti-Brexit campaigner running a website which fact-checked comments by Mr Johnson and his colleagues.

Once the couple have sealed their nuptials with a grand party, their thoughts will turn towards life after Downing Street. When Mr Johnson left the family home and moved in with Carrie, they lived in a flat in Camberwell, south-east London, which she owns – but given that their neighbours there leaked a story to the press about a noisy argument the pair had one night in 2019, it is not likely they will want to go back.

There are rumours the Johnsons are already house-hunting. Residents of Herne Hill, an increasingly fashionable neighbourhood east of Brixton, report that the couple have been spotted looking for a home on a street where the average property goes for £2m. Given Mr Johnson’s repeated (private) complaints about money troubles, he may have to ramp up his book-writing and lucrative speechifying as soon as possible after he leaves office.

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