Your wedding venue is the backdrop to your day.
Choosing your venue will help you with every other element going forward.
Before you start researching check in with your original vision, ideas, Pinterest board, thoughts and feelings as your venue really forms the foundation of everything else you will choose in terms of décor, accessories, flowers etc.
It also helps you decide upon the suppliers who fit the venue and your style.
Where will you get married?
Are you planning to marry abroad, in your back garden, a couple of counties away, or have you yet to decide?
Venue Style or Type
What sort of backdrop do you envision?
Are you planning on a stately home, a barn, a marquee in a meadow, a hotel by the sea or something completely different?
Will your whole day be in one place? For example if you are having a civil ceremony in a licensed venue. Or will you be travelling between Church/ Register Office/ Ceremony Venue and your Reception?
To what degree does it matter how many guests your venue can hold?
Are you having a large number of guests, a small intimate affair or something in between?
Think about the maximum number a room/ space can hold but also bear in mind, for smaller weddings, that sometimes there is a minimum number, below which you will still have to pay for the covers not attending.
Your Wish List of Venue Attributes
It’s important to come up with a list of attributes you would like your venue to have.
One of the most important is to establish whether or not exclusivity is key for you.
If it is, you may well have to pay a premium, however some venues will only book, or can only manage, one wedding per day.
Start with your ‘must have’s, then look at the ‘nice to have’s which might be up for negotiation or compromise.
For example, you want as many of those guests staying the night as possible to be together.
Would it be acceptable if the stately home you desire offers 10 bedrooms, but there is a hotel at the end of the drive which can sleep others?
Venue desk research
Visiting venues takes time, which is precious during your wedding planning, so start by setting aside some blocks of time for desk research.
Recently married friends will have researched and visited various venues so ask their opinions.
If you have booked other local suppliers, there is no harm in asking their advice. They will have worked in various venues and may know of some you haven’t found.
Once you have shortlisted perhaps 4 or 5 venues, organise site visits.
Make sure they can accommodate you on your date if you have one in mind.
Also ensure that your ‘must have’s are possible before visiting.
If you have some specifics on your list and you cannot tell from the brochure whether they can accommodate these, it’s worth asking before you undertake to visit.
Ask for their Terms & Conditions so you can read through these in advance and make notes of anything you need to query or don’t understand.
Take a list of questions so you don’t forget to ask the sales person or venue coordinator everything you need to.
Preferred Supplier Lists
Many venues have Preferred Supplier Lists.
Suppliers on a venue’s list have generally been chosen because the venue staff like the way they work and feel they suit the type of weddings they hold at their venue.
These suppliers also ‘know the ropes’, the in house staff and any venue specific timings and peculiarities, which is useful.
Most Preferred Supplier Lists are exactly what the title suggests, however in some cases a Venue will insist that only certain suppliers are used.
This rarely covers all supplier types, but may well apply to caterers in particular.
Aside from minimum numbers, other main Venue restrictions to look out for include:
- finish time
- for amplified music
- for guests to be off site
- sound limiters
- some Venues have limiters set to a certain decibel, above which a band will cut out
- most bands can work to this, but do need to know in advance
- guide dogs only
How will your wedding flow?
It is important to ‘walk through the wedding’ as it would happen on your big day, were you to book a particular venue. This way you find out whether it flows naturally, or you might need some signage or a couple of ushers to guide guests.
I like to keep the communication going with the venue via email, so you have everything in writing.
It’s also useful to meet with suppliers at the venue, where possible. If they have questions you cannot answer, a member of the venue staff may be able to assist. Suppliers also get to see the spaces they’ll be working in.
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Image credits: Max Burnett, Dasa Wharton, Studio M, Kate Nielen, Mark Wallis.