As venue choices go, picking the best one for your wedding is probably the most important of the lot. But how do you find the right one? And, more importantly, how do you do so without upsetting your partner or any of the key people you wish to invite?
Consider this the ultimate guide to choosing the perfect wedding venue, for we’ve picked out twenty tried-and-tested tips that will solve all of your worries:
1. Get a good feel for attendance numbers
How many people are coming to the wedding? Do you have a solid idea or more of a hunch (hint: the former is what you need when venue shopping!).
If you have an approximate number to hand, you’ll quickly be able to filter out a shortlist of venues that can at least accommodate that number of people and avoid overspending on places that are simply too big.
2. Decide on a budget
Wedding venues range dramatically in price. From small barns loaned by friendly farmers to sprawling castles, the amount you spend depends on one thing – the budget.
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many couples dive head first into a venue choice without first discussing their budget. Sit down with your fiancé and figure out how much you’re willing to spend and ensure there’s plenty left over for everything else.
3. Take a look at real photos of shortlisted venues
If you head to the website of a venue you have your eye on, you’ll be met with gorgeous imagery that will convince you to part with your hard earned money. Stop!
It might look fab on their website (why wouldn’t it?), but by checking out real photos of the venue on photographer websites and those belonging to wedding planners, you’ll get an unfiltered view of what it looks like.
4. Pick a date
Choose a date for your wedding as soon as you can, because if you’re armed with that crucial piece of information, you’ll be able to whittle down the shortlisted venues far quicker. There’s nothing worse than getting your heart set on somewhere only to find that it’s booked up for the foreseeable future, so pick a date and stick to it.
5. Decide on the style of your wedding
Weddings were once rather standard affairs, whereas these days they come in a huge range of styles. Decide early on what you want the style of your wedding to be, and you’ll be able to focus your venue search on places that befit your vision.
6. Make your colour choice work for the venue
Sometimes, you may have to settle for your second choice venue, but if that’s the case, don’t despair.
There’s a good chance you’ll have already considered a colour scheme for the number one choice, but if you instead let yourself be led by the venue you’ve booked as an alternative, you can still create the perfect space for your big day.
7. Don’t look past rustic venues
As alluded to earlier, barns are a popular wedding venue choice for the more creative and adventurous couples, and even if you don’t consider yourself among that crowd, you shouldn’t look past rustic venues. They’re generally cheaper than their country house alternatives and may just offer an experience that is unusual enough to become one of the most memorable weddings for you and your guests .
8. Going fairytale?
If you’re the kind of bride who wants that classic fairytale wedding, it’s probably best to look past the more unusual venues and focus your search instead on hotels that offer a classic feel.
9. Go eclectic
Do fairytale weddings fill you with dread? If so, what about going for something entirely non-traditional?
Plenty of marriages now take place in eclectic venues such as zoos, on top of mountains or go-kart tracks. Think about what really makes you both tick as a couple – what do you love doing? If it sounds bonkers enough and you’re that way inclined – go for it!
10. Consider renting a holiday home
If you’re planning a small wedding to which you’ll only be inviting a selection of family and very close friends, you could do a lot worse than whisk them all away to a private holiday home. No one says you have to hold a wedding in a public venue, and if you’d much rather get away from it all and get married in a homely setting – this could be the perfect option for you both.
11. Request a full walk-through
You really need to get a feel for your wedding venue before signing on the dotted line. For that reason, it’s essential that you request a full walk-through of the building and grounds. There are very few venues that won’t let you do this multiple times, either – so treat it like buying a new house and make sure you return to the venues that struck a chord the first time you visited them.
12. Don’t fall in love straight away
Your partner may have been love at first sight, but make sure you don’t take the same approach with your wedding venue.
Falling for the first place you see is a common mistake made by soon-to-be-married couples. And it’s understandable due to the levels of excitement – but make sure you take your time and avoid being swept off your feet by somewhere that is too big, small or expensive.
13. Factor in every element of the wedding
Where will the band go? What about the DJ? Is there enough room for the buffet you have planned for the evening? Take into account every element of your wedding, because most will need to occupy some space within the venue itself. Make sure you have room for everything (and room to spare!).
14. Take a photographer along
If you’ve already booked your photographer and they’re willing, take them along to your shortlisted venues. The photos from your big day will stay with you forever, therefore if you can get some professional advice on the venue that will offer the best photo opportunities, you’ll be one step ahead of the game.
15. Document your visits to venues
Smartphone in hand, take photos of the venues you visit and document the parts you love (and dislike). This will enable you to sit back and review your research at your leisure and away from the eyes of the person who is attempting to sell you the space. Does it still look like ‘the one’ when you look back at those images from the comfort of your couch?
16. Speak to past customers
Ask the venues in which you’re most interest for referrals or testimonials. Most should be able to put you in touch with willing couples who married there previously, and there’s nothing quite like hearing it from the horse’s mouth, as it were.
17. Take notes and make sure you revisit them
As your shortlist starts to decrease, you’ll need to revisit the promises and claims made by each venue. You can only do this if you take notes to remind yourself of what you were told during the visit. Revisit those notes and ask for the venue owners to confirm they’re correct. Even the smallest of details should be ticked off at this stage.
18. Consider travel for you and the guests
The perfect wedding venue isn’t the one which takes days to reach for the people you most want to be there. Make sure you take into account travel arrangements when looking at venues that are further afield. If you’re heading aboard, think about who might not be able to come due to a fear of flying or health issues. Do you really want certain people to miss out because you’ve picked somewhere that is inaccessible for them?
19. Think about travel from church to venue
If you’re getting married in church, consider the distance between it and the reception venue. The day is long enough without guests having to travel for hours to reach the party location. As a general rule of thumb, try and keep the travel distance between the two venues to a minimum of forty minutes. Any longer, and you might end up with some very tired guests come dancing time.
20. Have a contingency plan for poor weather
One thing you can’t control come the big day is Mother Nature. For this reason, you should work hard to find a venue that offers a contingency plan in the event of poor weather. Is there adequate cover outside? Is there enough room inside if everyone has to suddenly rush indoors to escape the hail storm? There are no rules to wedding venue shopping. Get creative, be bold, think of others, but – most importantly – pick the venue that is right for the two of you. It’s your day, after all!
For more information visit our wedding venues page.