More than any other wedding service or supplier (aside from a wedding planner that is) it is the venue that plays one of the most pivotal roles in every single wedding that takes place. The choice of wedding venue is therefore one of the biggest decisions you have to make when planning a wedding. After all, it’s where your marriage and subsequent celebrations will take place, if opting for a civil wedding that is. And if you are getting married in a House of God, it’s still the focus of the subsequent jubilant party.
And let’s not forget the small fact that the average spend on the venue hire and associated catering will absorb around 50% of your total wedding budget. It is by far the largest expense of the majority of weddings. Therefore, when looking for your perfect wedding venue it is not a decision you should rush or take lightly.
Where to Start
So if you are planning a wedding without the aid of a wedding planner, your first concern should be to find the wedding venue.
Naturally, the style of venue directly impacts on the style of wedding for it will shape the entire style, theme and décor of the whole day’s proceedings. So after having set a date and a budget (actual or approximate), you need to decide what style of wedding you are after. No doubt some brides (and grooms!) will have been dreaming about their wedding for months or years before they are engaged and will have an idea about the style of wedding they want.
However, for most newly engaged couples the task ahead can sometimes seem daunting. For many, the first port of call will be the internet where you can practically lose yourself in a maze of wedding resources. We suggest you spend an hour or two online together and immerse yourselves in this strange new world of weddings. Confetti (www.confetti.co.uk) and Hitched (www.hitched.co.uk) are useful UK resources, among many others, whilst Martha Stewart and The Knot are excellent sites that focus on the American wedding market where lots of our trends first originate.
Wedding blogs are another useful online resource and nowadays, more and more couples are turning to blogs such as Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, OnceWed and Rock n Roll Bride for their wedding inspiration. They are well worth investigating.
After only a short time online you should have a pretty clear idea about your preferred style as well as the avenues you want to explore. Some of the most popular ideas that start to evolve might for instance include classic, vintage, rustic, contemporary, chic, retro, funky or seasonal.
Then, from this position you can start to focus your search on wedding venues that befit the general style or styles(s) you have in mind. For instance classic or vintage would tend to lead you toward old historic venues, such as castles or stately homes. Whereas contemporary might lead you toward venues that are more of a blank canvas, such as art galleries. And if you are considering funky or maybe chic, you might focus your search on appropriately styled boutique hotels.
There are several websites dedicated solely to the promotion of wedding venues. Most feature dozens of venues in a wide range of styles of varying quality. However, there is only one website that individually assesses the quality of the venues featured, to ensure that they only showcase the country’s very best wedding venues. It’s called Best Wedding Venues (www.bestweddingvenues.info) and it’s an excellent place to start your search.
When it comes to selecting the style of venue, your personal and individual personalities, likes and dislikes will dictate to a large extent. For instance, a flamboyant couple will be drawn to venues that have an immediate ‘Wow Factor’ such as a large and elaborate stately home in the country, whereas a more conservative couple might want to consider guest practicalities and opt for a country house hotel close to a city.
There are a wide range of different styles to choose from, from restaurants to rustic barns or boutique hotels to former palaces. Be warned that unfortunately, as is so often the case, you tend to get what you pay for. Furthermore, peak season Saturdays will usually be booked up 9 months or more in advance, so in order to secure the best venues it is important to either be flexible with the wedding date or start your venue search a year or so in advance. Be warned!
If using a site such as Best Wedding Venues to help you find a venue a venue search should be extremely straight forward. Having decided on your style and preferred location, you are presented with an extensive range of additional criteria to consider so that you may narrow down your shortlist. For instance, whether or not you want exclusive use; or a chapel onsite; or a late licence or even an outdoor ceremony.
Therefore, by selecting the most appropriate options you can then focus your venue search in order to swiftly find the best venues that match your bespoke requirements.
Primary Considerations for a Wedding Venue Search
The more flexible you are, the greater your choice of venues. Remember that Saturdays in peak season get booked up quickly so consider Sundays or even Fridays. You will benefit from lower prices too. Note that Bank holiday Sundays also tend to book up quickly.
Type of ceremony
Typically your options will as follows:
- Civil – 25 minute legal ceremony that will take place in a registry office or in approved premise, such as a country house hotel.
- Religious – 50 minute religious ceremony in a House of God.
- Civil with blessing – civil ceremony followed by a separate religious blessing
- Civil with humanist – civil ceremony followed by a separate humanist blessing
Note, if you want a religious ceremony, you should already have good links with your local church. Alternatively, if you want to get married outside your own parish you might be able to register with an alternative church if you are prepared to attend mass regularly before your wedding.
Also note, if opting for a religious ceremony, for convenience your reception venue should be reasonably close by, ideally 5-10 minutes away, up to a maximum of 20-25 minutes.
Number of guests
Naturally, if you expect 100 guests you need to identify venues that can accommodate 100 guests and ideally more in order to avoid the possibility of squeezing tables together.
Total wedding budget
As indicated, allocate 50% of your total budget to your venue and catering costs. However this could be from 40%, or up to 60%.
Preferred geographical location(s)
Clearly the wider the geographical area you consider, the greater your choice of venues.
There are a wide range of styles to consider, from boutique hotels to country clubs, or stately homes to livery halls.
Exclusive use of the venue
Decide early on if this is essential to you. Many venues only offer exclusive use as standard but others, such as large stately homes and hotels will have the space to accommodate 2 or more weddings at the same time. Usually they will be kept separate but sometimes it is not always the case. In such venues, exclusive use might be an option, for an additional fee.
Do you require guest accommodation onsite?
If so, how many guests and for how many nights? Note sometimes you might be expected to take a minimum number of rooms on the wedding night.
Would you consider a marquee?
Again, keep your options open in order to maximise your shortlist of venues especially if you expect more than 100 guests. Unfortunately there are many, many excellent venues across the UK that can only accommodate up to 100 guests internally, within the walls of the property and therefore a marquee is the only option for larger weddings. That being said, the design and style of marquees has come on enormously over the past 5 years and there are some super-modern styles available for hire.
Would you consider separate rooms for your ceremony, drinks reception, dinner and dancing? Or mind having the ceremony and dinner in the same room?
The venue’s room format is an often forgotten consideration when venue searching and can lead to huge disappointment, especially if you have travelled to view the property unaware of such considerations. It is sometimes the case a venue requires you to have both the ceremony and the meal in the same room. In such instances the room will be ‘turned around’ whilst the drinks reception takes place in another room, outside or in an annex, so you won’t be able to see the tables laid after the ceremony.
Alternatively, it might be that dancing cannot take place in the same room that the meal is served in and this can lead to segregated guests.
Or if you have filled the room to its dining capacity, it is often the case that in order to make space for a dance floor, 2 or 3 tables have to be removed.
Some Additional Considerations
Fireworks, confetti, candelabras/naked flames/tea lights, garden/outside area, late licence…
Again, all these elements can limit your choice of venues so do try to keep your options open! For instance, do you really want to lose out on what might be the perfect venue that happens to calls last orders at 11pm, just because you like the idea of celebrating until midnight or 1am?
Or will you really reject what could be your ideal property simply because they don’t permit fireworks?
We have seen that when searching for a wedding venue it is vital that you try to be as flexible as you can with regard to your preconceived requirements. And clearly choosing a venue can be a difficult and time consuming task. However, if you bear the considerations in this article in mind your chances of finding your perfect wedding venue will be greatly enhanced, and the time it takes to find a venue will be dramatically reduced!