Finding Your Wedding Venue: 6 Things to Consider

File:StateLibQld 1 254469 Wedding reception in the garden, 1909.jpgWe don't want to take the sparkle out of your engagement, but when you're planning a wedding it's important to remember that the wedding industry is just like any other industry.

It's designed to make money. Every venue, every service provider and every small business in between will be promising you the sun, the moon and everything else in our solar system.

Just remember, you're paying them for the privilege of it. The vast majority of those in the wedding industry do have a genuine desire to make your day the best that it can be, but, again, you're paying them to do it.

This makes planning a wedding as much of a business arrangement as buying a car, booking a holiday or fitting a new kitchen, and it's important to keep your emotional attachments (those decisions that you make with your heart rather than your head) in check. .

Over the coming weeks, we're going to be running a feature about how you can keep your wedding on track. So that you can enjoy your planning without losing your sanity (or your credit rating).

Today, we're looking at venues. Here are our 6 things to think about when choosing a wedding venue

1. In the early stages, before you properly start looking at venues, draw up a list of what you might want your wedding to look like. It doesn't have to be anything other than a very rough, very loose collection of ideas but put them on paper. The two most important elements will be how many guests you're hoping to invite and the budget you're willing to spend. Again, don't get too tied up on this at the very beginning, but by clarifying what you're looking for in these early stages, you'll make later decisions easier.

One problem is that choosing a venue can be like choosing a new home: it's emotional. You have to engage your brain. Armed with even the faintest of outlines, you can start to see what will work and what might not work. Write down a checklist of questions that you and your partner have and write down any responses from the venue's wedding coordinator. This will not only remind you of a hotel's strengths and weaknesses later on, but it will also allow you to see where compromises can be made.

Questions to ask:

  • How many guests can the venue accommodate?
  • Will you have exclusive hire of the venue?
  • Can they cater for a theme?
  • Are rooms available for overnight accommodation?
  • How late will the bar be open for?
  • Do they have preferred service providers and are discounts available?
  • Does the venue have liability insurance?

2. If you're starting to get interested in a venue, then don't just go once. Drop in unofficially and get a feel for the place. Even if you're just sitting in the bar. Watch how the staff work, how courteous they are to the guests and pay attention to how smoothly run everything is. It sounds strange, but visit the bathroom. You can learn a lot about a venue from the state of the toilets. If you have a specific time of day that you're looking to be married on, then visit the venue around that time. This will give you a better feel of the place.

3. We put this on the venue question list, but it's here as well because it's VERY IMPORTANT. Ask if the venue has liability insurance. We can't stress this enough. Check what coverage the venue has because you should never assume you're covered for every eventuality. If a fire burns down a venue, then chances are they will not owe you a penny. You could lose your dream wedding and thousands of pounds to boot. Always check that you're protected against this before signing anything. And whilst we're on the subject, make sure you take out personal wedding insurance, too.

4. If you have anything special in mind: fireworks, food vendors, play areas, inflatables or if you want your pet poodle Snookles to attend, then ask the venue for their permission first. Equally, if you want to land a hot air balloon on the grounds, a helicopter on the front lawn or if you want a petting zoo on the patio then ask them.

5. Consider your guests. Now, this might be your big day but, let's be fair, for most of your guests a wedding is just a nice excuse for a party. It isn't their big day. It's yours. The more they feel relaxed and comfortable, then the better the whole thing will be. When looking at a venue consider the following:

  • Do you have any guests with mobility issues? Disabled access could be a problem in older or listed buildings.
  • Are rooms available for guests to stay overnight?
  • Are other hotels available in the local area? Don't expect all your guests to be willing to pay £195 per room per night just for your wedding. 
  • Are there reliable transport links nearby?
  • Will there be enough parking available?
  • Is the venue willing to cater to different dietary needs?

6. Decide whether or not you want exclusive access to the venue. This can be costly, but it does mean there won't be strangers standing at the fringes of your photographs. If you can't get exclusive access, then ask the venue what they can do to help with privacy.

Popular venues are often booked up to 24 months in advance. If you can't get your perfect venue, then don't panic, too much. There will be more than one dream venue out there for you. It can be hard to put things into perspective during the planning, particularly when there's disappointment, but remember that you're getting married because you love your partner. The venue is important, but it isn't more important that that.

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