Booking your wedding venue is probably the biggest decision you’ll make in the lead up to your big day (aside from actually choosing to get married that is!) and unlike other items that you can choose to have or not – you will definitely need a place to choose where to get married and celebrate the big day!
Every couple’s idea of the perfect wedding venue will mean different things. Whether you're looking for somewhere to hold the ceremony; or just a venue for the reception; or whether you're planning for a few days of celebration and will need accommodation for everyone, too, everyone's requirements and priorities are different.
With hotels, barn halls, country houses, local sports clubs, restaurants, cinemas and open spaces to choose – the options are truly endless. And even if you're lucky enough to have the perfect venue at home - like my gorgeous couple here in their amazing garden - there are a few things to keep in mind.
Photo courtesy of: Philip Bedford Wedding Photography, www.pbweddingphotography.com
So here are some ideas, and also some tips from some of my wedding industry colleagues, to help you pick your perfect wedding venue.
Get to Grips with the Guest List
To choose your ideal wedding venue, you'll need to have an idea of the number of guests you'd like to invite. It doesn't have to be a full and final list at this stage, but your numbers are going to determine the type of venue to look at. You don't want to spend time looking at a gorgeous historic building, for example, if it can hold only 30 people and your guest list is currently 100!
One tip is tip is to actually write down a rough guest list as many couples have found that their estimate suddenly became much higher than they originally thought once they began writing down names.
Smaller numbers can quickly escalate if you are inviting wider family, neighbours or work colleagues from both sides and similarly they can drop significantly if you both decide to have immediate family only – completely changing the type of venue you’ll be looking for.
As Manny from Two Become One Wedding Planner Ltd, Essex, says: "Before you even start booking in venue viewings, create a list of your venue priorities: what they must have. Consider the minimum and maximum capacities. You want to only shortlist venues that can accommodate your maximum guest numbers safely and comfortably. Consider minimum numbers too, as you don’t want guests to feel like they are floating in a huge space with no sense of intimacy.”
List Your Non-Negotiables
Whilst many wedding venues may offer a similar sort of space and service, not every venue will be suitable for your vision for your day.
Perhaps you want to be married outside, wish to be married abroad, have always wanted to have a live band, or you’d rather hire a food truck than a sit down dinner.
It’s best to sit down and draw up a list of the things that you are going to want from your wedding venue, that are 100% non-negotiable. Here are some of the main considerations that could make their way onto your list:
Exclusive Hire – If you want to host your wedding in complete privacy, with just you and your guests present, then you’ll need to opt for a venue offering exclusive hire.
Venue: Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa
Religious, Registrar or Celebrant Ceremony – When it comes to the wedding ceremony itself, you'll need to decide whether to look at a church (or other religious setting), a venue which is licensed for marriages, or if you choose a Celebrant-led ceremony, then you can be married anywhere at all (and do the legal part separately at the Register Office. See related blog posts: What's the Difference Between a Celebrant and a Registrar?, How to Do the Legal Stuff, What's the Difference Between an Independent Celebrant and a Celebrant Registrar?)
As my fellow Celebrant, Bryoney Cook, puts it: “Many couples don’t know that if they choose a celebrant for their ceremony then they are not restricted to approved/licensed venues, or if your dream venue has the perfect indoor space the room you love isn't licensed, you can have a celebrant-led ceremony at your dream venue! So think about what and where is important to you – that way you have FULL control over your vision of the day!” Independent Celebrant, BC Bespoke Ceremonies, West Midlands
Accommodation – Will you need any onsite accommodation to host guests who are travelling from further away?
Weekend Hire – You may be wishing to make a weekend of your celebrations and a growing number of wedding venues now offer exclusive, weekend hire, helping you to really make the most of your occasion.
Eco-Friendly – If being environmental awareness is important to you as a couple there’s no reason why this can't also apply to your wedding. Many venues are now doing more and more to be more sustainable.
Pet-Friendly – Including your dog, cat, horse or other furry friend is becoming more and more common and there are a growing number of venues allowing you to include your well-behaved pets on the day and it also makes for some amazing photographs too!
Photo: Craig Payne Photography
Fireworks – If you’re planning on rounding off the day with an epic firework display you’ll need the permission from the venue. Some venues have strict policies banning their use; so do check with your venue to make sure you won’t be disappointed.
Supplier Policy – Some venues will have policies and conditions of your booking stating that you using their caterer, stylist or DJ as part of their hire. Its always worth asking the venues whether they can make recommendations on other vendors you can hire but it’s worth checking whether you’ll be tied in to using any. “ Ask if the venue have a list of recommended suppliers and how they have chosen them, for instance do suppliers pay to be listed or are they recommended because they have supplied the venue before, have provided exceptional service and the venue are happy with the standard of their work” Vikki Schofield, Cake Artist, The Mouse and The Cake, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire
Talk to a Wedding Planner and other Suppliers
Local wedding planners know all of the best spots! Plus they are incredibly familiar with layouts, the capabilities of what the space can hold and what additional items or services you may need to consider to bring your vision for your day to life.
And don't forget that you will come across other suppliers early in the planning process who will also have a lot of information about local venues, such as your Celebrant, Photographer, Florist, Stationer etc. They will have worked at local venues and and may be able to give you the inside scoop on what the teams and staff are like too!
If you are thinking about having a particular type of entertainment at your wedding it’s worth speaking to the suppliers you are considering, as they may have performed at the venue before and will know the best spaces and if there are specific requirements that you may need to keep in mind. Dougie from Schuggies-Ceilidhs says “If you want social and inclusive entertainment to celebrate your big day you'll want to make sure there is space available to ensure your guests are all up dancing and laughing together until the wee small hours. Schuggies-Ceilidhs have hosted weddings in all sorts of venues from cosy wee halls and intimate restaurants, right the way through to the likes of Warwick Castle and even London Zoo. We can bring an atmosphere that guests remember years later.”
Talking to wedding suppliers who are creative by nature will ensure that you are armed with knowledge of everything from the best photo spots to hidden areas at the venue, and open you up to ideas you may not have otherwise considered.
Look at Real Weddings of Your Top 3 Venues
Unless a venue is totally brand new to weddings, other couples will have been married there, and it’s really helpful to see how your potential venue looks during an actual wedding day. Check out your venue on Social Media and do a quick Google search to find photographers who may have worked there. Real wedding photos will give you an insight and inspiration on how the space is used at a real wedding rather than just at a styled shoot or in the venue brochure.
Consider The Costs for Your Guests
“Something often overlooked are the costs to your guests. So when looking at your venue, see if it has affordable accommodation close by and if you don’t have the luxury of putting money behind the bar for your guests, then take the time to check what the venue’s drink tariff is like to make sure it’s not overly expensive or you may end up with a lot of unhappy and sober guests on the day” Sian, Wedding Planner, Busy Brides, London and Home Counties