When it comes to wedding planning, choosing the right venue is one of the most important first steps – with a number of considerations to take into account, we’ve pulled together our top tips to help you find your dream wedding venue. Whether you choose to work with a wedding planner to help you find your dream venue or are going it alone, there are plenty of things to think about to help you find ‘the one’…
Before you get started….
Before you begin, there are a few key things to think about…
First and foremost, you need to be clear on your budget – how much you want to spend overall, and how much of that you can then afford to allocate on your wedding venue (whilst of course ensuring you have sufficient budget left for your other wedding suppliers).
When it comes to costs, some venues are run on a dry-hire basis, and you will need to hire in things like table linen, crockery, glassware, tables and chairs, which will add to the cost. Others, whilst perhaps initially appearing more expensive, might have much more included within the price (though you may well still want to source your own tableware etc anyway to create the look you’re after and tie in with the overall styling of your wedding).
Things like corkage or sound/lighting etc can also have a huge impact on price, so it’s important to be really clear on your budget from the outset, and go through the details of each venue’s offering carefully to find out what is/isn’t included for the price.
Whilst it may change a little over time, drawing up an initial guest list is one of the most important first steps to give you an idea of numbers. When you’re looking for venues, you’ll want to check their capacity for both the ceremony and wedding breakfast, as well as the evening reception, to ensure there’s enough room for everyone.
Whether you are looking to marry in the UK or head overseas for a destination wedding, when it comes to choosing your wedding venue narrowing down the location will help you refine your search. Whilst for some the location might be an easy choice (whether you want to get married locally, or somewhere special to you), if you’re open to ideas then you may also want to think about things like:
- Is it easy for you and your guests to get to?
- Are you able to easily get there for site visits etc?
- Are there good transport links? (especially important for destination weddings or for UK weddings with many inbound overseas guests)
- If you have a set time of year you’re looking to get married, is the weather going to be what you’re looking for?
- If you’re looking for a church wedding, you’ll need to check you’re eligible to marry in that parish as this may narrow down where you can marry
- Likewise, for destination weddings, you’ll need to do your research as to where you can legally marry overseas, and what any criteria you might need to be aware of (such as particular paperwork required and minimum stays)
Unless there’s a particular special anniversary or special occasion you want to mark, it’s best to try and be flexible with dates. That being said, it’s helpful to have a rough idea of when you want to get married, factoring in things like:
- Whether there’s a particular season you’d like to get married in
- How long you might need to save up for, if needed
- What day of the week you’d want to get married
- Any other restrictions which might affect you or your immediate family/bridal party (e.g. teachers) being available
- Any black-out dates you definitely can’t do, whether through work or personal commitments
Compile a list of ‘must-haves’
It’s important to think about what you want from your wedding venue – firstly, in terms of style (for example, do you want a feature-packed country house, or blank canvas orangery?) but also as well as features (e.g. do you need accommodation on-site, and do they have a late license?). Note down the ‘must-haves’ but also the ‘nice-to-haves’, and be aware that there may be small elements you need to compromise on to help you get your perfect venue.
Finding Your Venue
Do your research & plan your visits
When it comes to finding your venue you’ll likely need to do extensive research. Google and Instagram are of course great resources – browse through images of past weddings, look at the spaces available and ensure they tick all the boxes. There are also plenty of great blogs and directories to look through for inspiration. Coco Wedding Venues is a great resource for starting your venue hunt, compiling many of the top wedding venues in the UK as well as a selection overseas.
Once you’ve found some venues that meet most of your criteria, it’s time to start narrowing them down so that you can start planning your visits! Typically, we’d recommend seeing 1-3 venues in person. Whilst some couples fall in love with their venue at first sight, others like to see a few to give them something to compare against and really get a feel for them. Beware doing too many though as it can be time-consuming but also can quickly become overwhelming.
It’s worth bearing in mind that many venues have also started putting virtual viewings online, with 3D tours and walk-arounds to give a feel for the space available – this can be a great way of whittling down your selection without needing to commit the time to travel to see them in person.
Getting the Most From Your Venue Visit
When it comes to choosing your wedding venue, there are certain things to think about or look out for when walking around for your venue visits.
Space and flow
As you walk around, be clear on all of the rooms available and how each would be used throughout your day – making sure to have a wet weather contingency too, if you’re planning on holding any of the celebrations outside. Think about where your guests will come in, where you’ll hold the ceremony, where the drinks reception will take place, where you’ll hold your meal and where you and your guests will party the night away. If any parts of the day are to be used in the same room, ask how long the venue would need to turn the room around and get it ready to ensure that would work for you.
It’s also worth thinking about the spaces from a photo perspective, ensuring there are lots of places inside and out for your photographer to capture some great shots.
Food & drink
Some venues have their own in-house caterers, whilst others have a selection to choose from. Whilst you may be ok with this, if you’re looking to bring in external caterers there may be additional fees incurred so it’s worth checking what the deal is. In regards to drinks, it’s also worth checking whether there’s a corkage fee for bringing in your own, or what their drinks policy is.
Like with catering, check if there are any restrictions on other suppliers which you can use. Most will allow you to choose your own, but it’s worth checking to make sure (catering, marquees and production are the most likely suppliers to be pre-determined).
Accommodation & logistics
On-site accommodation is now a key requirement for many couples when choosing their wedding venue, with more and more wanting weekend access and the ability to spread their celebrations over several days.
Is there accommodation on-site? If so, when do you get access (can you use the bridal suite to get ready the night before?)? If not, are there plenty of nice places nearby for you and your guests to stay in, that are easy to get to?
Are the accommodation costs included in the overall price, or are there additional fees? And if so, are these things you can afford to cover, or do you want your guests to contribute?
It’s important to be clear on when you can get access from, and when you need to be out. If you’re hiring a property exclusively for the weekend then this allows you and your suppliers plenty of time to set up, but if you’re only getting access on the day you may need a bigger team of suppliers to turn things around on time.
It’s also worth noting what time the music needs to be turned off, and whether late licenses are available. Whilst a handful of venues benefit from after-party cellars allowing you to keep the party going til the early hours, others have tighter restrictions calling for an earlier finish time.
Be really clear with the venue as to what is/isn’t included in the price – from furniture to tableware to lighting/sound production and staffing – and make sure it works for your budget.
Take plenty of photos and notes
Make sure to take plenty of photos, videos and notes as you go round! It’s easy to forget some of the details as time passes, and is a helpful way to sit back and compare venues after your visits. Whilst the time of year may differ between when you visit and when you plan to marry, it’s still important to capture as many of the details as possible to help with decision-making along the way.
Trying to find your venue but struggling to find the one? Whether you just need help choosing your dream venue or want wider help with wedding planning, you can get in touch here for more help.