How to choose your wedding venue

Morning everyone! We had a special request yesterday for a post on choosing your wedding venue – and we like to keep our readers happy! So here’s our little comprehensive guide on choosing a wedding venue – we hope it’s helpful!

Choosing a venue – where to start?

Your venue is one of the most important things you’ll choose as it will shape the rest of your wedding theme and décor – and your venue has the potential to be the most (and the least) stressful supplier to work with over the course of your planning as almost everything rests on them. So before you start, you need to make a few key decisions about what you want from a venue:

What kind of wedding do I want?

Go to WH Smiths – buy every wedding magazine on their shelves. Grab some scissors, a mug of strong coffee, a scrapbook and some glue. Sit down together and, without thinking, just cut out images of things that you’re really drawn to. Don’t rationalise it, don’t think about how expensive the things you’re choosing might be, just go with your gut.

Once you’re done cutting, glue the images into your scrapbook. I’m almost certain you’ll see a theme emerge as your taste will speak for itself. That’s a great way to decide what kind of wedding you want without confusing yourself.

Then start to think about what kind of venue you want based on your choices. For example, if you’ve chosen an English country garden theme, perhaps a marquee venue with beautiful grounds is right for you? If you’ve gone for more rustic-inspired styling, a barn could be the perfect setting. If you’re a lover of all things opulent, a lavishly decorated, baroque-style venue could be the right choice.

Package deal or blank canvas?

This comes down to one key factor – are you happy to hand over control of your big day and limit your options? This isn’t always a bad thing – trust me. If you’re not particularly design oriented, you have a busy life and you just want a nice, functioning event with everything you need taken care of by someone else, a package deal is totally for you. And I promise, it really doesn’t have to be a bland hotel wedding – there are specialist venues that offer really lovely, vintage-inspired packages. For example, Wedding Yurts offers an amazing package deal in the Cotswolds which includes everything, but the styling is beautiful and retro, the surroundings are breathtaking, the food is to die for and the photography is high end and fabulous. Having an all-inclusive wedding doesn’t have to mean your wedding will look like everyone else’s and you can still add your own personal touches.

But if you’re a control freak like me and you really do need to choose (or even make) every little detail, then a package deal probably isn’t for you – but be warned: a blank canvas venue is just that – a blank canvas. It’s a lot more time consuming, stressful and difficult – it’s extremely rewarding but you have to know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. Even if you’re the most creative person on the planet, you have to think of all the logistics yourself, unless you’re lucky enough to come across a really great blank canvas venue with a stellar in-house planner!

I was going to talk about price, but it goes without saying to only look at venues in your budget!


Wedding Yurts – not your average wedding package! Images © 2012 Under the Vintage Veil

How many guests?

Sit down with your other half and make a list of all the people you know and like. Then look at it with realistic eyes. It takes time to get into the wedding invite-who-gets-one mentality. You have to be sort of brutal. As harsh as it sounds, number people from one to four- one being “must invite” (whether this is because they’re your best friend or because it would cause a family rift if you didn’t) two being “would like to invite” (you may not have known them as long but might really like them), three “will invite if there’s space” and four being “realistically we’re not going to invite them” – be brutal – anyone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or who hasn’t made the effort, or who would you only be inviting out of politeness? If you weren’t invited to someone else’s occasion you don’t have to invite them to yours (that’s my rule anyway)!

Once you’ve worked out a rough guest list numbers, you’ll know how big a venue you need and can start to rule out places that don’t meet your requirements. There’s no point booking a venue with seating capacity for 80 if you want a wedding for 150.

Are you having a separate ceremony?

We needed our venue to be licensed for weddings, which did rule out a lot of great places. Not all venues have a civil ceremony license and if you want a religious ceremony it can get more complicated. Before you visit anywhere, make sure they can do the kind of ceremony you want – and in the room you want too – if you’re dreaming of getting married under a gazebo in the garden but only indoor rooms are licensed that needs to be taken into account.

Location, location, location

You’ve found your perfect venue – but it’s in Scotland and you want to get married in Surrey. To avoid disappointment, make sure you establish whether you’re willing to travel, and what that will mean for your guests and your wedding planning. Rule out venues outside of your area if you don’t want to go too far. Once you’ve considered all of these factors, it’s time to start visiting your venue.

Venue visits – what to consider?

Take in your surroundings

There are certain things that will kill your styling dreams dead. Yup, dead. A horrible carpet is one of them. What if all the curtains are red and your colour scheme is baby pink? Take notes about the surroundings, take pictures if you can so you don’t end up trying to cover up elements of your venue later on.

Do your research

Don’t book your dream venue to then find out that you have to book their caterers and can’t afford the food there (we did that) or that you can’t bring in external suppliers or do the things you’d really like to do. Look up testimonials online (not just the ones they show you on the spot) ask around, make sure you get all the important questions out of the way before you book.

Check there are plenty of affordable hotels and B&Bs nearby too. Is your ceremony outdoors? If so does your venue have wet weather provisions?

If you’re planning to bring in your own booze, check you’re allowed to do that and ask if there’s a corkage fee – you could get charged around £10 – £12 per bottle!

Sense the vibe and go with your gut

The people at your venue can make your wedding planning wonderfully easy – or they can make your life miserable for a year or two. If you have a bad feeling about someone, listen to your gut – unless you’re very patient, dealing with a difficult supplier can really suck the joy out of planning and take its toll.

Choosing your venue is one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to make – but make sure you ask all the right questions and consider all of the above factors and it should be plain sailing! Good luck! 

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