Andri has worked with lots of couples just like you, to plan beautiful, thoughtful weddings in wedding venues around the UK and beyond. Lucky for us she's sharing her juiciest tips to help with that all important venue hunt.
This is the kind of stuff I wish I'd known before Zee and I chose our venue. Seriously. We only saw about three venues, rushed into our decision then regretted it soon after when I fell in love with another venue. Whoops!
Finding Your Perfect Wedding Venue
Now that you’ve answered the basic questions and agreed on your wedding budget, the next step is to find your venue. From the styling of the space to the timings on the day, the majority of your decisions will ultimately hinge on your choice of wedding venue.
What kind of venue are you looking for?
Traditional venues such as hotels and country houses dominate the wedding market and with their set packages, they are well rehearsed at holding weddings.There are, however, also a host of non-traditional venues out there: from art galleries, museums and theatres to restaurants, pubs, boats and warehouses. There are some real hidden gems that can be worth the extra effort to find, so don’t limit your options to all the usual suspects. Often these quirkier venues offer a lot more flexibility, as they are not so set in their wedding ways.
You also have the option having a marquee wedding, which gives you ultimate flexibility in terms of décor and styling but bear in mind it really is a blank canvas so everything from tables and chairs to lighting, flooring and more will need to be hired in.
What do you want from your wedding venue?
Decide what your priorities are for your venue and then create a spreadsheet that lists all these important points, allowing you to keep track of each venue’s suitability as you do your research. Do an online search and start with a long list of venues you like the look of in your chosen geographical area before contacting them for further information.
You’ll be able to start narrowing down your search right away as you go through your list, considering:
– How many guests can it hold?
– Are there different capacities for different rooms?
– Can you have your ceremony and reception there?
– Will there be onsite accommodation for your guests?
– How does the pricing structure work?
– Is it based on room hire, price per head, minimum spend or are there set packages?
– Check exactly what is included for the price and what you’re getting for your money. (Ask whether you can upgrade at any point.)
– Is the catering in-house or is there an approved caterers list?
– Do you have a choice in which suppliers you can use?
-Are there any sample menus you can look at and how do their menu tasting sessions work?
– Is there plenty of natural light or will dark conditions make it tricky for your photographer?
– Will you need to hire in any extra lighting?
– Is there plenty of outdoor space?
– How easy is it to access by public transport?
– Is there plenty of parking?
– What chairs and tableware will you use? (If they’re not to your taste, you might want to consider hiring in your own.)
– If you’re not choosing exclusive use, check how many other weddings are likely to take place on the same day/weekend as yours.
– What are the staff numbers for service on the day? There’s nothing worse than slow service!
– What are your bar options and can you see a bar pricelist?
– Can you supply your own beverages and will there be a corkage charge?
– When can you get in and out of the venue to give access to your suppliers on the day of the wedding?
– Are there any particular restrictions such as the use of confetti or candles?
(Here's a free downloadable list of those questions for you to print/save.)
Wedding Venue Visits
Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of suitable venues, you can start visiting them in person. Be prepared for this part of your wedding planning to take the most time – you may find yourselves with some very jam-packed weekends for a while!
When visiting venues pay attention to the little details, like routes your guests will take, what the bathrooms are like, whether there’s ample heating/air conditioning and where the power sockets are for your band / speeches / DJ / ceremony music.
Also discuss with the venue how they normally orchestrate their wedding days. Are they open to your ideas and flexible with timings or are they rigid in the way that things have always been done? If it doesn’t work for you, chat about how you envisage the flow of the day and the use of the rooms.
Don’t commit to ‘The One' straightaway!
Before signing anything, ask to see a full breakdown of all the costs in an itemised list that shows what is and isn’t included in the price. Pay close attention to whether VAT and service has been included or not in the overall price too. Ask what happens to your money in the case of cancellation, whether on your behalf or the venue’s.
It’s also worth questioning the venue about their recommended suppliers. Do the venue, for example, insist that you use their suppliers? Are the businesses they advocate recommended on merit and experience of working at the venue? Or are suppliers paying to be on the list? Will you have to pay extra commission? If they do insist you use certain suppliers (as they normally do with caterers) then I would also get independent quotes from these suppliers prior to booking to check that the total costs are still within your allocated budget.
Finally, do ask who will be your main point of contact throughout the planning process and on the actual day itself. At this stage you may be dealing with the sales team and only once booked will you work with the events team before finally dealing with the banqueting team on your wedding day. For peace of mind you may prefer to deal with one person throughout, but if this isn’t an option you might want to consider working with a wedding planner who can oversee everything for you.
Finding your wedding venue is the crucial piece of the puzzle that will help bring all your ideas together. It’s all too easy to fall in love at first sight, but make sure your head rules your heart with proper and thorough research. This will be the biggest expenditure for your wedding, so you can never ask too many questions!
Many thanks to Andri for these super helpful tips on choosing your perfect wedding venue.
Please bear in mind that an experienced wedding planner, like Andri, can help you to navigate through all of these issues and will have some absolute wedding venue gems up his or her sleeves!
How's your wedding venue hunt going? Have you found the one yet? Got any questions or concerns?
We'd love to hear from you in the comments!