Choosing the right wedding venue is perhaps the most important decision you’ll make in your whole planning process.
There are so many things to think about when it comes to finding your perfect wedding venue, that it’s tricky to know just where to start.
So here’s my top tips to help you on your way to finding the venue of your dreams.
There are so many styles of venue to choose from… classic country estate, iconic hotel, rustic barn, tipi in a field, town hall, boutique hotel, farm yard weddings, woodland weddings , urban industrial weddings, castles, stately homes or a chateaux in France. See what I mean? It’s a minefield! So it’s important that your wedding is a reflection of you both as a couple.
If you like hanging out at Glastonbury festival or love the great outdoors, then a festival styled rustic barn, woodland wedding or a laid back tipi in a field is probably up your street.
If you’re more a classic traditionalist who dreams of a vintage motor, champagne in crystal flutes, a string quartet and tuxedos, then a more stately home or a sumptuous castle might be more your thing.
If you’re a party animal who loves a bit of brutalist architecture, enjoys a craft beer or two and is rocking a tattoo, then an industrial warehouse or city centre boozer could be more your style.
So first things first, figure out what kind of style you want.
Once you’ve nailed your style, then start the hunt for your ideal venue. Google is obviously your friend here, along with Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t worry too much about location – I have couples who choose their venue because they fell in love with the place – your friends and family will move heaven and earth to be with you wherever you get married so don’t panic if your venue is in Scotland but you live in London. Find the venue for you. Then book viewings with all your favourite venues and go check them out.
The ceremony should be a big part of your consideration when it comes to choosing your wedding venue. Some venues have space for the ceremony, whilst others can only accommodate your celebration. If you want to get married at a venue that isn’t licensed for weddings (or you want an outdoor wedding in a field for instance), you’ll also need to find a celebrant to conduct your ceremony. If you want something personal, check out the amazing Zena Birch.
Don’t forget to ensure there is enough space to seat all your guests in the ceremony room as well as for dinner too! And if you want a confetti shot, check that your ceremony venue allows confetti and which type – though personally I’d always go for something that is bio-degradable cos, ya know, we love the planet!
We all love cocktail hour (or a drinks reception… whatever you’d like to call it). This is the bit where your venue will crack open the champagne (or whatever booze you choose), and we stand around shooting the breeze whilst we do photographs. If you’re hoping for a lovely summer wedding so your guests can stand and soak up some afternoon rays whilst they sip gin, make sure the wedding venue has an appropriate outdoor space. If you’re having a more rustic wedding, such as a tipi wedding, make sure you have a wet weather back up plan otherwise we’ll all be a big soggy. If you’re planning on supplying your own booze, check whether your venue charges corkage, and then consider whether you need to hire an outside bar (Yorkshire Bartender are amazing), or whether you’re going down in the diy route in which case, don’t forget to hire glasses!
Depending on your wedding venue, there are lots of options for catering. Whether you love Indian street food, pizza vans, an 8 course tasting menu, sharing platters or posh hot dogs, there is a caterer for everyone. However, some venues will only let you use their in-house catering team, whilst others have a short list of caterers they recommend. Be wary of getting in anyone inexperienced however, as catering for 90 wedding guests is totally different to serving 20 covers in a small restaurant. Try and visit each caterer at a wedding fair as they will usually have some nibbles on offer, talk to them about their approach and where they source their ingredients, what kind of service you can expect and more importantly, if they can create the menu to suit your style. For me, hands down, the best wedding caterer is Hog and Apple.
Don’t forget that if you’re thinking of having a marquee, a sperry tent, a tipi or anywhere that isn’t a fully fledged venue, then you will have the added addition of bringing in some for of heating to keep your guests warm (especially if it’s early or late in the year. Not to mention having somewhere for the catering company to do their thing, along with a generator to keep the lights on, and some posh loos so we can all spend a penny after drinking copious amounts of craft ale.
Some venues will of course, have onsite accommodation for your guests. Other wedding venues might offer alternative accommodation such as Fforest Farm in Wales, who do a lovely line in biomes, garden rooms, and wooden huts. For laid back festival weddings, check to see if your mates can pitch their tents or camper vans in the field, or check for nearby B&Bs, hotels and places to rent for you and your guests on the wedding night.
Some wedding venues have special rooms for a bride or a groom to get ready in. Check what time you can have access to the room from and what’s included, but an onsite prep room can save you pennies on driving to the venue in a swanky motor or ferrying your ten bridesmaids in a mini bus.
If you’re a party animal, check what time your venue is licensed til. Some venues will insist your music stops at 11.30, others are happy to keep the bar open til 4am, so if you plan on partying until dawn, find a venue that will accommodate your all-nighter.
Check what is included in the venue fee. Some venues will appear cheaper than others at first until you realise that they charge you for turning on fairy lights (yep, that’s right!), supplying tables and chairs and even insist you use their in-house caterer. So ask what the fee includes. Don’t forget to check on restrictions too – some venues don’t allow you to have open flame candles or may not have a live music licence.
Parking is essential for a lot of wedding guests so make sure you ask how many parking spots there are, or if you’re having a city centre wedding, see if the venue does a reduced rate at a nearby multi story car park.
There’s a massive difference between a wedding planner and a co-ordinator. A lot of large venues will have a co-ordinator who can facilitate your wedding down to the minutest detail. Others have co-ordinators who are there to do the basics so ask your venue what they provide. If you’re having a DIY or outdoor wedding, you might need to find yourself a great planner who can arrange everything for you and provide on the day co-ordination too so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
Phew, that’s quite a few things to think about. So now it’s time to go wedding venue hunting. Don’t forget, popular wedding venues get booked up quickly for spring and summer Saturday weddings, so if you have an August Saturday in mind, you might need to book a good 2 years to 18 months in advance.