Choosing a wedding venue is probably one of the 1st things you do as a newly engaged couple. For us it was the natural starting point that brought together all the ideas we had in mind for our wedding day. It also set us some parameters for what we could and couldn’t do on the day.
Where to begin? Recommendations are a great way to get the ball rolling, our venue was suggested to us by Steve’s parents because they thought it had the right ‘feeling’ for us. They were right, so don’t dismiss those do gooders trying to impart their wisdom, there could be a hidden gem in it. Just make sure the link isn’t too close, you don’t want all your guests getting that de-ja-wedding feeling…
The internet is the obvious choice and chock full of adverts and suggestions for ‘amazing’ or ‘unique’ Wedding Venues, honestly it can all seem a bit daunting (I say amazing and unique tentatively as this can mean many different things to people!). Before you start your research try thinking about what you might want out of your day, otherwise you could end up doing search after search and coming up with nothing inspiring. Some things to consider before you begin your online search are:
- Geography – are you (and your guests) willing to travel? What’s your radius for searching?
- Season – do you want a summer soirée or winter wonderland? The venue garden might be stunning but how much time will you and your guests spend in it in winter?
- Tailor made – Do you want someone to do everything for you or do you want to keep as much creative control as possible? There are venues that take care of everything as standard and some that are as flexible as you want them to be.
- Capacity – have an idea of your minimum guest list, there is no point going boutique if you’re inviting 100’s of people.
- Post party plans – what is the plan for your guests after the evening party? Will they go home that night, or the next day or do you want to party the night away and then into the next day? If so you need to be able to sleep as many as you invite just in case.
Once you have your initial hit list of wedding venues you may think you have it all sussed, a garden wedding with a traditional afternoon tea perhaps, but a bit like dress shopping, it’s worth keeping an open mind and seeing a wide variety of venues. I found some that looked great on the website disappointing in reality and the idea of planning every last detail myself became less appealing personally as we spoke to more vendors. Throw a wild card into the mix as well, somewhere that might not be what you had in mind but looks beautiful all the same. That way you don’t do yourself out of seeing something that could be even better for what you want. You could be pleasantly surprised.
When you visit your short list of wedding venues it’s good to have a list of questions to ask to make sure the venue is really what you want. Don’t go on looks alone. Some useful questions I have found when event planning in the past are:
- Limitations – From big, the street food van idea you have your heart set on simply wont fit down the drive, to small, external suppliers need to be on site by 11am, you need to be aware of any practical limitations that will effect the running order of the day. Don’t leave it to chance it will be easier to sort from the start, less so two weeks before the day.
- Outside catering – they might say they are welcoming but often venues would rather you use in house services, check if there is any compromise to be made – maybe your venue cold accommodate the food style you are after even if it’s not on their package.
- Ceremony options – Is there more than one place to say your vows? Even if you have to nip inside to do the official bits again, it’s worth checking if, like me it is your dream to be outdoors in the fresh air.
- How much can you style up the venue? Often with hotels the outside is lovely but the décor can be limiting with colour schemes and period styles. I’m not suggesting you request a paint job but it’s worth finding out if flowers are the limit or if you can add value with your own DIY decorations.
- Last orders – this was a biggie for us me that we I actually ended up compromising on. If you want after hours partying find out if anything can be done, most places have a licence to adhere to but in some situations alternatives can be thought of. For us it wasn’t to be but the venue was so perfect in every other way it didn’t matter and we carried on drinking at the hotel anyway.
The other most important thing is to visit as many times as you need before you commit. Your venue is possibly the most important (and expensive) choice you will make in your wedding planning and you need to take time to get it right. It’s tempting to book as soon as you find it but try not to get carried away if you have any doubts at all.
Our venue was Hilltop Country House in Prestbury, Cheshire
Photography Joe Gardner Photography