Category:Wedding Venues

Crucial Questions To Ask A Wedding Venue

Wedding Venue Checklist

Having drawn up a short-list of potential wedding venues, it’s time to pay them a visit. But before you head off blindly into the lion’s den (for that is indeed where you are heading!), arm yourself with a printout of our crucial questions to ask a wedding venue. It will enable you to discover all the fees and conditions that might apply if you book the venue and demonstrate that you are not the atypical, ‘green behind the ears’ couple in the early stages of the wedding planning process!

Make A Provisional Booking

Before you inspect a venue it is essential that you ask for a provisional booking to secure your wedding date. This simply holds the date for you, usually for a week or so, and allows you time to book a viewing and consider your options. There is no charge for doing so and most venues will permit you to do this, however there are an increasing number that won’t hold any dates until you physically attend a viewing. Beware – this is a highly effective ploy to reel you in, get you on-site and then hard sell the property to you by stressing an urgent need for you to make a quick decision due to the interest shown by other potential clients in your preferred wedding date! Unfortunately you are not going to know if they really do have other couples interested in the same date as you. But it is a decision you should be prepared to have to make if push comes to shove.

Remember, It’s A Two-Way Business Negotiation

The first meeting is the best time to raise all the most important, probing questions to ask a wedding venue. The in-house coordinator will be keen to secure a new booking and will be far more compliant and willing to compromise at this stage. Understand that it’s a 2-way negotiation and there are likely to be a number of points that the venue will be willing to move on in order to secure the booking, even if their website, brochure or T’s & C’s suggest otherwise.

TOP TIP: play it relatively cool – if they know you love the property and are close to booking, you are less likely to secure any extra concessions that might otherwise be available.

Start by asking for clarification of all potential fees and charges that might apply should you book the venue. And take brief notes of all the important points. Sometimes there may be a number of undisclosed fees that only become apparent after you have booked, with the excuse being “oh, I didn’t realise you wanted a late licence/early access/to provide your own alcohol… you should have mentioned it!”

Important Costs to Clarify

Some of the most important and significant fees that couples often fail to fully appreciate or factor into their budget include:

  1. Late licence fees: if you intend to party until 1am, late licence fees can add hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of pounds to the venue hire fees. These are not usually negotiable but it’s best to know the costs ASAP so you can budget accordingly.
  2. Likewise the cost of a 3 course menu… this is going to eat up a sizeable slice of your wedding budget (excuse the pun) so it is immensely helpful to have an accurate idea early in the planning stages about how much the food is going to cost.
  3. The price of champagne, sparkling wine and house wine: there are plenty of venues that have very reasonable venue hire fees to attract client’s interest and look to recoup their money through other means such as over-priced drinks. A bottle of house champagne might be £45 in one venue and £80 in another!
  4. Ask if corkage is an option – this allows you to source and supply the wine whilst the venue/caterer serves it, for a fee of course. Opting for corkage can again save hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, but corkage fees do vary considerably.
  5. Ask how much the canapés cost – again these can be eye-wateringly costly and increase your bills by hundreds of pounds.
  6. The price of drinks behind the bar – a free bar can be very expensive!
  7. If there is accommodation onsite, find out if there are a minimum number of rooms you have to take on the wedding night and clarify how much the rooms cost per night. If you are expected to book and pay for bedrooms consider asking if the venue will allow your guests to book and pay for the bedrooms directly as opposed to you footing the bill.

TOP TIP: Getting a grip on such costs early on not only leads to better financial management of the budget but also helps to reduce stress!

Other charges you might incur are:

  1. Ask about guest and supplier parking – is it free or chargeable. Can cars be left overnight without charge?
  2. Late leaving fees can for obvious reasons leave a sour taste in your mouth. Often hidden in the small print they may be applied if guests have not vacated the premises on time. Be warned.
  3. Security fees are also usually hidden in the T’s & Cs – some venues expect you to hire their security for the duration of your wedding, whether or not you want or need it!
  4. Cleaning fees, such as if a guest is physically sick onsite or knocked over a bottle of red wine on a carpet. It all adds up.
  5. A menu tasting is essential as it helps you to decide upon your preferred meal. It will be prepared and cooked by venue’s caterer. Many venues and caterers incorporate the cost into their menu or package fees but some choose to apply these fees separately, as if a menu tasting is an optional extra that might not be needed! If so, what’s the charge? How many people can attend? And does it include sampling the wine and champagne too?
  6. Your suppliers, notably planner, photographer and cinematographer will need a meal on the wedding day. Find out how much the venue charges for supplier meals.
  7. Child menu prices are also helpful to know.

TOP TIP: Be aware that your venue and catering costs will account for an eye-watering 40-60% of your TOTAL wedding budget.

Other Factors To Consider & Questions to Ask a Wedding Venue

Aside from finding out about costs, you also need to clarify a host of other important points as follows:

  1. Find out if there are any other weddings or events at the venue on the same day as your wedding. If there are, ask to see where they will take place and assess how they might impact on your own wedding.
  2. Wet weather contingency plans – where will the drinks reception take place if it’s raining? Most venues will have a suitable plan in place, utilising an additional internal room or suite. It’s worth asking if they have a gazebo or marquee you could use for free if it’s raining. And beware if the wet weather plan involves ‘turning a room around’ – what happens is that after the ceremony and during the drinks reception the same room is cleared and the tables and chairs are laid for dinner. See footnotes.
  3. Check if there is a recommended supplier list you have to use. This can drastically limit your choice of suppliers. Moreover, such lists can be extremely lucrative for the venue since many only recommend suppliers who pay them a commission for being recommended in the first place. Just be aware.
  4. If you can bring in suppliers of your own choosing, ask if there are any charges for doing so. For example, venues who allow you to use your own caterer might recoup their losses by charging extortionate fees for using their kitchen.
  5. Check if the coordinator you are meeting with will be your sole point of contact at the venue throughout the planning process. It’s important that you are compatible and get along, for obvious reasons.
  6. Then find out if they will also be the coordinator on your wedding day. Will they cover the entire day or only part of it?
  7. Ask how long they take on average to respond to questions via email. Also ask how easy they are to get hold of during the day by phone or email. Getting them to commit to a timeframe early on helps to ensure they prioritise your communications moving forward.
  8. Ask if items can be delivered to the venue and stored securely for free a few days prior to the wedding if necessary, and then collected a day or two after the wedding if required, for free.
  9. Ask about access times on the wedding day – the earlier you and your suppliers can access the venue on the wedding day the better.
  10. Also find out about post-wedding access times – you and your suppliers may need to pick up various items after the wedding.
  11. Can you access the venue the night before to start setting up? It’s helpful if you can!
  12. Real candles, tealights and naked flames, are they permitted? Are there any limitations?
  13. Loud fireworks, are they permitted?
  14. Is confetti permitted onsite?
  15. Are there any limitations on moving furniture around if you see fit?
  16. Ask to inspect the bathrooms.
  17. Do they have a cloakroom your guests can use? Inspect it if they do.
  18. Do they have a secure private dressing room you can use for changing, or for some quiet reflection on the wedding day or for storing wedding gifts?
  19. Check to see who is responsible for cleaning up at the end of the night. If additional fees are applicable, how much are they?
  20. Can the venue be used for a rehearsal a week or so prior to the wedding, at no extra charge?
  21. Ask to see the standard chairs and tables, cutlery, crockery and linen. Ask if any upgrades are available and get prices.
  22. Do you or your suppliers need a certain level of public liability insurance in order to hire the venue? Unfortunately some venues cut their overheads by passing on the cost of event insurance to those hiring the property rather than pay for it themselves.

TOP TIP: Take plenty of photos/film clips of the venue interior and exterior for reference.

  1. Once you have covered all these points you should ask the venue coordinator to put together a tailored quote based on your projected requirements. The quote will account for your chosen number of guests, catering and venue hire, as well as any other fees that might be applicable to your circumstances.
  2. Ask about their deposit and payment terms. And if it helps, also ask if you can set up an interest free monthly instalment plan.
  3. Then ask them to email you the minutes of the meeting so you have it all in black and white. Note you might need to chase them up for this. Or if there is a lot of information and you want to be thorough and get things moving quickly, it might be better for you to draw up the minutes yourself and email them over for the venue coordinator to agree to and sign off.
  4. Finally, before you depart the meeting ask for a copy of their booking form with terms and conditions. Then read it thoroughly on your way home just to make sure you haven’t missed anything!

NOTICE: the aim of this checklist is to highlight the most important factors that couples often fail to consider. We have therefore assumed you have familiarised yourself with the venue’s website/brochure and have an understanding of the basics such as:

  • the venue’s style, location and accessibility
  • exclusivity
  • room layout and capacities
  • if you will be required to ‘turn a room around’ (note: lots of small and some medium venues only have one large internal room that they use for both the ceremony and dinner and dancing, ie after the ceremony the room is cleared and the tables and chairs are laid for dinner)
  • music and dancing policy
  • if dancing takes place in the same room as dinner or in a separate room
  • local accommodation and transportation

For your convenience a printable copy of our wedding venue checklist is below:

questions-to-ask-a-wedding-venue

Enchanting Orangery Wedding Venues – UK

Many of the most fashionable country houses and stately homes of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries had an orangery to house their citrus trees during the cold winter months. Fast-forward two or three hundred years and we find there are few better places to tie the knot or celebrate a wedding than in one of the incredible venues we present to you today.

We have dozens of similar styled properties beside these, from all across the UK. For more information on any you see below, as well as many more you don’t, just drop us an email. We may just have the perfect venue for your wedding!

So, in no particular order…

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Breathtaking!

17th century, Grade 1 listed orangery surrounded by landscaped park by Capability Brown. East Midlands.

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Timeless!

This impressive space is part of an equally impressive 18th century stately home in Oxfordshire.

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Italian Inspired Glass-House

Unique, 18th century Italian inspired glass-house in Greater London.

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Understated

Arguably one of the finest in the country. Located in Greater London.

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Exquisite Glass-House

Exquisite London glass-house is the perfect backdrop for any wedding.

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Baroque in Style

18th century Baroque styled London orangery plays host to countless parties of the rich and famous.

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Wrought Iron & Glass

Utilised by Kings and Queens of England, this London orangery caters for up to 200 wedding guests.

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Georgian Conservatory

With a framework of iron and timber, this beautiful 19th century glass-house is part of a highly regarded hotel in the East Midlands.

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Impressive!

A very pretty orangery in the East Midlands that opens out onto manicured lawns, perfect for a champagne drinks reception, a few canapés and some croquet!

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Charming Georgian Orangery

The magnificent glass ceiling of this elegant country house in the SW sets it apart from many others in the UK. Book early to avoid disappointment!

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The Finest Orangery?

Yet another fine orangery situated in the East Midlands! The stately home was build in the 19th century and currently serves as a hotel.

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Intricately Ornate

Although the property dates back to the 17th century, this intricate orangery in London was added in the late 1800’s.

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Uniquely Styled!

One-of-a-kind in the Cotswolds caters for weddings for up to 100 guests. You can also stay onsite if you wish.

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Impeccable, Grade 1 Listed

Grade 1 listed East Midlands Orangery with impeccable lawns designed by capability Brown, this stunning venue hosts year round events. Early booking is strongly advised.

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The Perfect Wedding Venue?

Elegant and ornate, it’s the perfect location for a wedding ceremony or reception. And the lawns are to die for. East of England.

For more information on any of the venues you see today please contact us.

Wrotham Park Weddings

Wrotham Park (pronounced ‘Rootam’) is a truly exceptional wedding venue. The neo-Palladian stately home is located in Hertsmere, Hertfordshire and is only 17 miles from Central London. Designed by Isaac Ware in 1754 the property sits on a whopping 2,500 estate and happens to be one of the largest private houses inside the M25.

Wrotham Park
Wrotham Park

The property is available solely on an exclusive use basis and can cater for up to 120 guests in the Drawing Room for a dinner and dance, with the Entrance Hall, Saloon and Staircase Hall for pre-dinner cocktails.

Wrotham Park exterior at night
Wrotham Park exterior at night

With guest numbers above 120 a marquee is possible. Alternatively, a standalone or glass house marquee can provide a spectacular alternative. Venue hire fees, including erection of a marquee from £75,000+.

Wrotham Park glass house wedding
Wrotham Park glass house wedding
Wrotham Park Glass House
Wrotham Park glass house

Wrotham Park does not hold a marriage licence, so you cannot legally get married there, however there are plenty of approved premises or churches nearby which could be used for a ceremony.

There is also a beautiful private chapel within the Estate where you may hold a Blessing for up to 150 guests.

Wrotham Park Chapel
Wrotham Park Chapel
Wrotham Park exterior
Wrotham Park exterior

Click here for Wrotham Park Website

Choosing the Best Wedding Venues

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle

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

Wedding date

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.

Venue style

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?

Conclusion

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!

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