How to choose the perfect wedding venue
So you just got engaged and you can’t wait to go and find the perfect venue for your dream wedding. Choosing a venue is arguably the biggest decision you will make during the wedding planning process. The venue you pick will have big implications for the style and cost of your wedding. Even though I’ve worked in the wedding industry for many years, choosing a venue felt daunting.
Typically couples book their venue 12-18 months before the wedding. This might sound like a long time, but a lot of popular venues accept bookings two or even three years in advance and can fill up quickly. That said, it is entirely possible to book a great venue at much shorter notice, especially if you are prepared to consider a midweek date. We knew we wanted to get married in August 2021, which meant we had to start looking for a venue pretty quickly. August dates tend to book out quickly anyway, and because of Covid-19 most of the weddings that were due to be held this summer have been moved to next year, which means that a lot of venues are already almost fully booked during peak season. We knew we would probably have to book a midweek date and decided this was something we were prepared to compromise on for the right venue. Most venues also offer a substantial discount on their hire fees if you book a midweek date, so if you’re working to a tight budget this is worth bearing in mind. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and are wondering how you will ever decide which venue to book, here are some useful tips to help you narrow down your options.
1. What size venue do you need?
Make a rough guestlist so you can immediately discount venues that are too big or too small. If you know you will be inviting 100-120 people, don’t waste time looking at venues that can only accommodate 60. Equally, if you’re planning a small, intimate celebration, a huge venue that is designed to hold 150 guests probably isn’t right for you, however beautiful it might be. I have a big extended family, so we quickly realised we were looking at inviting at least 100 guests.
2. Think about location.
If your guests are going to be travelling to your wedding, make sure you think about accommodation options. Try and choose a venue that has accessible, or onsite, accommodation. If you do decide to book somewhere that’s more remote, consider booking a bus to transport your guests back to the nearest town at the end of the night.
3. Decide on a budget.
Regardless of who is paying for the wedding, it is really helpful to sit down and work out a rough budget before you go venue hunting. Wedding venue hire fees can cost up to £10,000, and that’s not including any food or drinks for your guests. We set a pretty firm budget for venue hire and were actually able to come in below what we had planned.
4. Work out any non-negotiables.
These could include:
Catering: If you know you want a certain type of food, make sure you check that the venue can provide it. A lot of venues insist you use their in-house caterers, often at inflated prices. If you’re considering venues like this, make sure you take this into account before you book. I knew from the outset that I wanted to book a venue that allowed me to use a variety of caterers, as this would give me more flexibility with both the style and cost of the food. This helped me rule out several venues I might otherwise have considered.
Suppliers: If you have friends who have offered to bake the cake, arrange the flowers etc, make sure you check that your venue allows this and that you don’t have to use their recommended suppliers.
Live music: If you want live music, especially outside, check that the venue will permit it. The same applies to all other forms of entertainment, especially fireworks.
The wedding ceremony: If you want to do the legal ceremony at your venue, check they have a license for civil ceremonies. We’d decided we didn’t want a church wedding so knew we needed a venue with a license for civil ceremonies so we could do everything at the same location.
5. Does the venue suit the theme of your wedding?
Think about what style of wedding you want. Go on Pinterest and see what catches your imagination. Even within Shropshire, venue options range from Georgian stately homes, to castles, to barn conversions. There is so much choice that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Thankfully, I had a pretty good idea of what I did and didn’t want. Despite a shared love of Georgian architecture, a stately home just wasn’t where either Josh or I pictured ourselves getting married. We quickly agreed that a more informal wedding venue was much more ‘us’, which narrowed our search down immensely.
6. Go and have a look!
So you’ve worked out a rough guestlist, you’ve got your budget spreadsheet sorted, and you know what kind of venue you want! Now you’re ready to go and do some viewings and find a venue you love. It does help if you also have some potential dates figured out just so you can check availability, but this isn’t essential. You can also just ask your favoured venues for a list of available dates. Josh and I actually only viewed two venues before making a decision, but I’d expected our search to take much longer.
Our first viewing was at The Courtyard Venue, a stunning barn conversion just outside of Oswestry. We loved the character of the venue, and the way it had been so lovingly restored. It had the right amount of space for our numbers, but the venue hire was at the top of our budget, and we had to buy all drinks through the company that was contracted to run the bar. The Courtyard Venue offered a choice between three preferred caterers at different price points, but overall we felt the venue wasn’t quite right for us.
The second venue was another barn conversion, Camlad Barns in South Shropshire. I did a first viewing with my mum, and despite the rain was absolutely wowed by the incredible views across the Shropshire hills. The venue was also spacious, with an enclosed courtyard, a lawn for drinks, and the use of two separate barns for the ceremony and reception. The venue hire would give us use of the venue for three days, which we really liked as it meant we would have plenty of time to prepare and clean up. There were no corkage fees and we would be able to bring in any caterers we liked. Guests could camp in a field on the farm, and we could even bring the dog if we wanted. To make it even more tempting, the venue hire fee for a midweek wedding was half that of The Courtyard Venue.
After doing a second viewing at Camlad Barns with Josh, we decided to go ahead and book without seeing any other venues. It offered us everything we wanted at a fantastic price and the only compromise we had to make was booking a midweek date.
How did you find booking a venue for your wedding? What else would you like to know? Let me know in the comments!