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 – there’s pretty much one guarantee – you’ll need a space to get married! But every couple’s idea of the perfect wedding venue will mean different things. Whether it’s just a reception space, the space you only hold your ceremony or whether you plan to use it for a few days of celebration and everyone’s accommodation too. With hotels, barn halls, country houses, local sports clubs, restaurants, cinemas and open spaces to choose – the options are truly endless. So we wrote this blog and asked a few of our wedding industry colleagues to share their top tips to help you pick your perfect wedding venue.
Get to Grips with the Guest List
To choose your ideal wedding venue, you are going to need to have an idea on the number of guests you’ll want to invite. By no means does this mean it needs to be a full and final list but your numbers are going to determine whether you are searching for a venue that has the capacity to fit your full wedding party whether that’s 50, 75 or over 100 or whether you’re more suited to a more intimate wedding suitable for a Micro Wedding.
It’s best to write out a rough guest list as many couples have told us their numbers suddenly became much higher than they originally thought when 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. There are no rules for who you should or shouldn’t invite for your wedding day but our biggest piece of advice would be for you to think about who you truly would like there on your big day and write those names down.
Talk to a Wedding Planner
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.
It’s worth mentioning that you’ll also get great information about venues from other suppliers you may meet early along in the planning process such as your wedding Photographer, Celebrant or Stationer too. They’ll all have knowledge of local wedding venues and may be able to give you the inside scoop on what the teams and staff are like too!
If you are looking to have a particular type of entertainment at your wedding and if your venue has limited space, 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 what you may need to consider. Dougie from Schuggie Wedding Entertainment says “If you want social and inclusive entertainment to celebrate your big day you’ll want there’s 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.” Dougie, Schuggie Wedding Entertainment, covering UK + Channel Islands. 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.
List Your Non Negotiables
Whilst most wedding venues may offer a similar sort of service and space, 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.
“When it comes to sourcing a venue 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” Manny, Two Become One Wedding Planner Ltd, Essex
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.
Licensed – When it comes to the ceremony part of your wedding and if you are looking to have it legally binding you’ll need to have a venue with a marriage license. Some venues have areas where you can legally marry after your symbolic ceremony; other venues offer the symbolic part only.
“Many couples don’t know that if they choose a celebrant for their ceremony that they are not restricted to approved/licensed venues – if your dream venue has the perfect indoor space but you aren’t doing the wedding legalities on the day, 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!” Bryoney Cook, 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 out of your occasion.
Eco-Friendly – If being conscientious about our environment is important to you as a couple there’s no reason why your wedding can’t. 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!
Fireworks – If you’re planning on rounding off the day with an epic firework display you’ll need the permission from the venue. Many venues have strict policies banning their use; so do check with your venue so 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 there, 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
Look at Real Weddings of Your Top 3 Venues
Unless a venue is totally brand new to weddings, other couples will have got 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 mat end up with a lot of unhappy and sober guests on the day” Sian, Wedding Planner, Busy Brides, London and Home Counties