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How to find the perfect wedding venue

Expert advice is invaluable when you’re planning a wedding. I had an email a few weeks ago from a bride who’d booked her venue and then realised it wasn’t big enough for all of her guests for both the ceremony and reception – she was desperately looking for a ceremony venue at the last minute, and I did my best to help. So I’m hugely grateful to lovely Gabrielle of Blue Bouquet Bride, who works at a luxury wedding venue, for writing today’s feature. Searching for a wedding venue – and getting everything right – isn’t easy. Gabrielle knows all the questions to ask, and shares her advice with us here today. Her list of 15 essential questions could be invaluable for you if you’re deciding on your wedding venue.
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sperry tent weddings uk

Sperry tent weddings by PapaKata – Image credit Dominic Wright Photography

“I work at a luxury wedding venue in Surrey, England and I speak to lovely brides and grooms who are searching for the wedding venue of their dreams on a daily basis. Finding and choosing the perfect venue for your big day is probably one of the most important (and most stressful) parts of planning any wedding. With so many factors to consider and a saturated market of hotels, country houses, and other event spaces, it can be a little overwhelming. So with what I know of the industry and finding venues that match the vision of your wedding, I’ve put together my best tips to help you to get the wedding venue that’s perfect for you.

wedding venues on the English Wedding Blog (1)

Northbrook Park wedding venue – image credit Sophie Duckworth Photography

Many brides underestimate the impact that their choice of wedding venue has on so many aspects of their big day. That’s why it’s so important to get a clear picture of what you want and what you’re expecting from the venue you choose.

What type of venue are you looking for?

The obvious choices are hotels and country houses and there is no shortage of choices on that front. The plus side to these well-established wedding venues is that they usually have a well-rehearsed set package that works. The downside is that they can be a little inflexible and don’t always allow for too much creativity. I work at a large country mansion that was originally built by King Henry VII, so as much as we try to cater individually to each couple’s ideas, there’s only so much we can allow for customisation and creativity.

There are so many other venue types available: restaurants, pubs, warehouses, barns, marquees – to be honest any space that you can think of can probably be turned into an event or wedding space. So be creative and look for hidden gems that could turn out to be your perfect venue. You’ll often find that the less traditional choices have more room for flexibility. It’s worth remembering that some event spaces like marquees that allow a lot of creativity also take a lot of work as without a structured package, you usually have to hire in most things yourself.

wedding venues on the English Wedding Blog (2)

Imogen and Liam’s Harrogate Sun Pavilion wedding – image credit Sansom Photography

What should you expect from your venue?

I have brides and grooms calling and emailing me all day with different questions about their day and how the venue can accommodate their requests. All too often, I have couples asking things 2 weeks before their wedding day, that they should have asked before even booking the venue and on many occasions they are disappointed when we can’t meet certain requirements- Don’t make that mistake! Plan ahead and ask all the questions BEFORE you book your venue.

theatre wedding

Theatre wedding at Kings Hall and Winter Gardens in Ilkley by Paul Joseph Photography

It may look like your dream venue but if you can’t have your own caterer, decorations, bar etc…. then it may not be the venue for you. So here is a list of questions that you need to ask of your venue or ask yourself before you commit:

  1. Is the type of venue I’m looking for? (marquee, castle, hotel etc..)
  2. How many guests can it hold?
  3. Can I have my ceremony and reception at the venue?
  4. Are there several rooms/spaces available and if so are they included in the hire price?
  5. How does the pricing structure work? (Is it price per head, room hire, or minimum spend packages?)
  6. Can I use my own caterer or do I have to use an in-house caterer?
  7. Do I have to use their preferred list of suppliers?
  8. Is there an extra charge for using my own suppliers/caterer?
  9. Are there sample menus available and can I arrange a food tasting?
  10. Will I get exclusive access or will there be other events/guests on site?
  11. Will there be an Events Manager/Wedding Planner/staff available on the day?
  12. Can we bring our own drinks or will there be a corkage charge?
  13. When can we get access to the venue before and after the wedding (for set-up, caterers access etc)
  14. How easy it is it get there by public transport/car?
  15. Is there parking available?

This is by no means a complete list of questions but it’s a very good start. It’s so important that you ask these questions well in advance. There’s nothing worse than booking a venue that doesn’t end up fitting with how you see your wedding playing out – So cover all your bases.

Ox Pasture Hall wedding venue

Anna and Liam’s Ox Pasture Hall wedding by Colin Murdoch Studio

BBB Top Tip:

If your caterer/supplier isn’t on your venues preferred supplier list then get them to approach the venue and ask to be considered for the list. If the supplier/caterer is of the same standard as the venue then they may just add them to acquire your business. We do that for some of our favourite clients at the venue I work for– So try asking. It doesn’t hurt. You could end up saving yourself a ton of money on fees!

[However – some venues will charge suppliers an extortionate fee to be included on a ‘recommended supplier list’. Ask your venue to be open about this: are they only recommending the suppliers who pay them? – Claire]

Once you’ve asked all the questions, narrow yourself down to a shortlist of venues. I’d say between 5-10, so that you’ve got a wide scope for comparison but also enough time to visit and make inquiries for all. Once you’ve got a shortlist, It’s now time for visits or show-arounds. Be prepared that this will take up a lot of weekend/evening space as this is when most venues are open for visits.

Take the time to visit each venue and really assess whether it’s a right fit for you. Some venues offer unassisted visits (where you can look without an events manager assisting you) but it’s always good for your first visit to have an Events Manager or Wedding Planner available to talk you through it. While you’re visiting make sure to check out the little things like where guests will arrive, what the bathrooms are like and the overall experience.

Make sure to ask the Events Manager/Wedding Planner how they usually manage their wedding days and make sure you know who will be your contact or representative of the venue on the day (don’t always assume there will be one).

wedding venues images Liam Smith Photography

Image credit Liam Smith Photography

Don’t make a commitment to the first venue you see (even if you’ve fallen in love with it)! Make sure to visit all the venues on your shortlist and ask all the questions before committing.

Once you’ve decided on your dream venue and you’re ready to book make sure you read over any document or wedding contract that they ask you to sign. Check the VAT and payment structures and any other small print (there almost always is). Once you’ve signed on the dotted line it’s legally binding and changing your mind or realising a detail that you’ve missed after signing could be an extremely costly mistake!

Choosing your dream wedding venue above all is supposed to be enjoyable! So don’t get too bogged down in spreadsheets and pros and cons lists but don’t be blinded by love at first sight either (it’s very easily done!).  Ask the right questions and be smart and you’ll be well on your way to the wedding of your dreams!

Gabrielle

xoxo

Image credits: Dominic Wright, Sophie Duckworth, Sansom Photography, Paul Joseph, Colin Murdoch, Liam Smith

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Blue Bouquet Bride is a new Wedding Inspiration and Planning blog with everything to do with unique, interesting and pretty weddings that are full of character. Gabrielle Hasdell is the owner and editor of Blue Bouquet Bride and lives in London, England. She’s always had a passion for weddings and works at a wedding venue, where she gets to see beautiful brides and weddings on a regular basis. Her Blue Bouquet Bride blog is the musings of an English girl in love with weddings… read it here http://bluebouquetbride.com

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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