One of the most daunting decisions of organising any wedding is the venue. At wedding fairs we are often asked to recommend venues. We have pulled together 10 things for you consider from our experience as wedding photographers before you book that date. Check out our ‘Popular Venues’ page for inspiration.
1. Budget Blues.
Blowing the budget is not a great idea at the first stage of your wedding planning. Create a spreadsheet of all of your must-haves and guests you would like at your wedding. Once you have guest numbers and your allocated venue budget, you can prevent any remorse and avoid being financially overstretched. Watch out for hidden costs. Some venues include chair covers and table cloths, some are at an additional charge.
Check which room you will have access to and ask for their venue specific rules. If the wedding venue has a chapel or outdoor ceremony area, can you legally get married there or just a blessing? Do you require an additional civil ceremony in another room?
2. Home or Away?
Distance can be something to consider whether 5 miles or 3000 miles away. You may find your perfect venue. Will it feel so perfect if it is too far for your Great Grandfather to attend? Consider the needs of your most important guests and your personal priorities. Will they need to return home between the wedding breakfast and evening reception for personal commitments?
If you are planning an overseas destination wedding, do not be disappointed if guests are unable to attend. Work, family and financial commitments can prove a struggle. One solution is to plan a party on your return home to ensure all your nearest and dearest can celebrate with you.
3. The Wheels on the Bus.
Let’s face it, many of your guests will be enjoying a tipple or two. In the majority of cases, the alcohol provided as part of a welcome and toast drink is enough to break the driving limit. Is public transport practical? Would a taxi be incredibly expensive? What time is the latest train? Are there plenty of parking spaces? If you have many guests living in one location, perhaps your home town, consider providing a coach pick up and drop off. Coach transport can be particularly helpful when your ceremony and venue are a distance apart too. A vintage double decker bus always looks fantastic in photographs!
4. Stay Another Day.
As life moves on, friends may spread across the country or globe. You yourself may have moved away from your home town or your partner may be from a different part of the world. This may result in a lot of guests without family ties and therefore requiring accommodation near your chosen venue. How many rooms does your venue have? What are the prices?
Many country houses and 5-star hotels may charge upwards of £250 per room per night. Guests may need accommodation for two nights if they are travelling a distance. Whilst you have saved years for your wedding, it may be an unexpected expense for guests. Search for budget chain hotels, B & B’s and even negotiate a discount with the wedding venue for your guests. Remember to place your recommendations in the invitation to help your guests to plan their stay.
5. ABC easy as 123, as simple as…
The guest list is never simple. Unless you’re eloping with your spouse to Gretna Green, it will always take a great deal of shuffling, negotiation and a headache or two. Avoid this by ensuring the venue number limitations are not a mismatch with your own, in terms of capacity or budget.
Decide on your budget first, followed by your guest list. Once armed with this information, you can begin to calculate venue cost based upon price per head or whether your wedding party can be accommodated. Be mindful. Some venues also have minimum numbers. If you’re planning an intimate wedding, be sure to ask that question or the excess charges may be costly.
Key advice… do not visit venues you can’t afford. This is true of all wedding related purchases. Do not try on gowns you can’t afford. Whilst it is a special day, it is one day. Do not place yourself in financial difficulty to afford your wedding. Your wedding is about yourself and your partner making a lifelong commitment. When choosing between champagne or sparkling wine, we promise your guests won’t mind at all.
6. A new take on Bride Squad?
Wedding venue terminology and descriptions can be confusing so be sure to clarify what you are booking. ‘One wedding per day’ and ‘exclusive use’ may not be the same thing. Many couples have been shocked to find hotel guests enjoying afternoon tea in the library when they falsely believed they had exclusive use of the entire venue. Worse still was the moment two brides unexpectedly bumped into each other in the corridor.
Multiple weddings on the same day are fine when the wedding couple are aware, but can be a rather big shock if unanticipated. Most venues run like a well oiled machine and it is never a problem. If you do bump into another bridal party, high 5 them! We have captured some amazing images when couples meet. If you have fallen in love with certain photographs at your venue, make sure you have contracted use of that location to avoid disappointment.
7. Season’s Greetings.
If your wedding is in the winter, visit your venue in the winter. Marrying in summer? Visit in summer. If you’re in love with the spring blossom in the orchard, but you’re marrying in November, the scene will be somewhat different. If this isn’t possible, ask the venue what seasonal changes are made or whether they have photographs from that time of year. Consider the season when discussing your vision for the day.
Whilst British weather is like a game of Russian roulette, you can be certain that a February wedding is unlikely to yield a climate suitable for an outdoor barbecue and croquet. Likewise, if your heart is set on fireworks or sparklers, consider what time the sun will set. Booking a wedding midweek or outside of peak wedding season can give you a mighty discount to release funds elsewhere. Discuss with your partner your dream day before visiting any wedding venue.
8. The Golden Rulebook.
When deciding on your wedding wows (not vows)… Chocolate fountain? Fireworks? Confetti? Fish and Chip van? Don’t book any suppliers until you know the restrictions. Some wedding venues do not allow external catering and may not give permission for fireworks, especially if close to residential areas. Decide what are your deal breakers before booking a venue.
It can be that you can negotiate conditions such as silent fireworks (yes companies do exist!) or that the venue may provide fish and chips for you as a menu option. A common rule is that confetti must be biodegradable and used in a specific location. Wedding venues such as museums, with exhibits, may not permit flash or may have protected spaces. Listed buildings and National Trust properties often have specific requirements. Do not blame your wedding coordinator. These decisions are often vastly above their pay grade.
9. Where Suits your Wedding Wonderland?
Is your venue a good canvas for your theme? Would a barn be better for a festival fiesta? A castle as a backdrop for your Harry Potter plans? Each venue has a different feel. Within the North East alone, you are spoilt for choice. Many quirky options are available from the Centre for Life, marrying inside the planetarium to the Tyneside Cinema, marrying on stage.
Do you want and indoor or outdoor ceremony? You are unlikely to be able to have a picnic on hay bales inside a grand hall but it may be possible in a rustic barn. Some wedding venues provide multiple options and have marquees and tipis within their grounds giving you a bigger choice. Be mindful of seating and accessibility for guests who have additional needs.
10. Lights, Camera… No Action?
It might be surprising to you, but some venues have restrictions regarding photography and videography during parts of the day or at locations within the venue. For example, if your venue has a chapel and you would love to have images inside but you are marrying at your village church, ask do not presume. Some venues only allow images in a particular room or garden if you have been married in that room. They may use the room for conferences, events, hotel guests, additional wedding bookings or restrict for financial reasons.
Certain wedding venues do not permit flash usage or videography. Additionally, venues may require a photography or videography permit to be purchased in advance of the wedding date. This is also true of religious venues. Restrictions can be imposed such as three photographs only during the ceremony or that the photographer is not able to change position. We are unable to bend these rules, so do ask your venue ahead of time.