If you’re a newly engaged couple or just starting your wedding planning journey, congratulations on this wonderful chapter in your life. With your partner, you may have already considered what your wedding vision is, or you may be starting with finding the perfect venue and then letting everything else fall in to place. If the latter is you, this blog is here to help…
Finding the perfect wedding venue isn’t an easy task and there are lots of things to consider when ensuring you find the perfect setting for your special day. After all, it is once in a lifetime so it has to be right!
Will you look for a traditional church ceremony and manor houses or marquee reception? Or are you looking for modern hotels and orangeries? Does city chic feel right for you or are rustic country barns more your personality? Do you want a venue that hosts the entire day or are you looking to split your ceremony and reception? There are endless options to consider and these top tips should help the process of choosing the perfect venue for you.
As with every component of your wedding, its super important to set a clear budget for your venue – read more about this in a previous blog– and filter your search accordingly.
The worst thing that can happen is you fall in love with a venue that isn’t affordable, and some couples then end up disappointed when comparing every other venue to it.
The ironic thing is this heartache or disappointment is unnecessary… the most memorable weddings are those which are enthused with the couples’ personalities throughout all of the little details, so think of choosing the venue as your blank canvas and the other components you go on to plan will help to make the day feel magical and memorable.
This is a really important criteria to get right. Each venue has a capacity and will determine how many guests you can invite.
If you haven’t done a guest list already, make sure you make a list of who you cannot imagine getting married without and this is your minimum figure. The rest is what then feels right to you (and your catering budget).
So, if you plan to throw a huge party with all your friends and family, barns and marquees are more likely to suit you. On the other hand, if you picture an intimate wedding then you’ll want to stay away from large spaces, as too big of a room will leak atmosphere and may make you feel lost in the space.
Photographed: The beautiful Grittleton House
Most couples have a year-to-two engagement before tying the knot so use this time wisely. Planning to get married in the summer? Book a visit the summer before. Planning to get married in winter? Again, book a visit the winter before. In doing so, you’ll have an idea of what the external grounds look like and what dressing needs to be done (for example, flowers for an outside ceremony) to make it suitable for your special day.
Then for the inside, are they holding an open day where they dress the venue? Or do they have a real wedding a bride and groom won’t mind you having a look around before their day gets started? These will give you an idea of what can be achieved with the space and may help your vision and creativity to flow.
If you visit when the space isn’t set up and you are struggling with picturing how the space could work, you may want the help of a planner to create a bespoke style or theme for the day. Something like my pay as you plan service is ideal for kick-starting your design process if you want a little help to get going.
Ultimately, your wedding day is all about you and what you want, but the decision on location should consider important members of your guest list too. For example, if there are people you can’t imagine getting married without but travelling to the other side of the country may be difficult for them, then you may want to narrow down your search.
There are lots of reasons people may or may not be able to travel and being sensitive and sensible about this can help ensure the most important people are there to celebrate your day with you.
Then there are other practical items to consider, such as whether there is sufficient overnight accommodation nearby for guests to book? Or if you’re choosing separate ceremony and reception venues, how long the travel time is between the two? It’s important to look after the people you’ll be celebrating with, as they are a big part of making the day unforgettable for you.
Once you have made a shortlist of potential venues, you need to know what’s included in your hire to ensure there are no hidden costs. This will ensure that you’re comparing like-for-like prices before making your final decision.
Things such as furniture, tables, chairs, linen, catering, crockery are all essential and some venues do charge additional fees for these. This isn’t always a negative thing as it can give you the freedom to hire from external suppliers exactly what you wish, but at least you can then account for this when making your final choice.
One component of your day which will be spoken about for a long time is the catering – guests love food! Therefore, you need to discover what type of cuisine each venue offers. Firstly, find out whether they do the catering themselves, or do you have to hire externally? If they do catering, ask for sample menus and look for reviews on websites such as Guides for Brides or WED2B. Even better, if you are able to do a food tasting before you can commit, you will get a true understanding of whether their catering is suitable for your vision (and tastebuds!)
While recommended suppliers are great if you’re struggling to find suppliers of your own, some venues will only allow their suppliers which can be very limiting and frustrating.
Sometimes, if you have a dream florist, photographer or cake-maker outside of their list, you may be able to pay an additional fee to the venue to have them, but this isn’t always the case. Before committing to your dream venue, make sure you’re clear on who your suppliers can be and information on any additional fees you may incur to ensure you’re happy to proceed.
Photo: Ensure you’re clear on each venue’s supplier policy so that you don’t miss out on any dream suppliers. Florals by Joanna Carter Flowers.
Whether its policy or due to licensing conditions, most venues have a finish time. If your day starts at 1pm and carriages are at midnight, you may feel that’s sufficient, but if you picture you and your guests partying late into the night, you may need to make this a factor in your search.
Some venues allow a later finish for a fee, others (if they’re an exclusive hire) may allow any overnight guests to continue in a lobby or other area of the venue. Making sure you’re clear on this and that your venue meets your expectations will help ensure your day is perfect for you.
Most of the above top tips are down to logistics and practicalities. However, this top tip is from the heart: does the venue feel right to you?
If this is the first step in your wedding planning, when looking at a venue and visiting it, you should be able to envisage yourself getting married there.
The style of the architecture, décor and surroundings should feel like they work with your personality as from here, it’ll be a big influence on the rest of your day. From the theme, wedding day styling and even the dress and suits, when starting with the venue in your planning journey, it’ll help a lot of the rest fall into place.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my top tips on finding a wedding venue. Arguably the biggest logistical decision to make, I love getting to know couples and helping them in their quest to finding the perfect venue.
As a planner, I often have hidden gems my couples aren’t aware of, so if you’re planning a wedding and would like some help, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me an email or view my wedding services to find a package to suit you.