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The Definitive Guide to Choosing the Venue

Choosing the right venue is one of the first and most important elements of your wedding planning. The venue will set the theme for the whole day and needs to be chosen carefully. There are some wonderful and unusual venues available throughout the UK.


Although it is not yet possible to get married outdoors in England & Wales (the law requires a “permanent structure”), this may change at some point in the future. However, there are a few venues that are licensed for “Gazebo” or “Walled Garden” style weddings, which can make a wonderful setting providing the weather is good.


Wedding Planning Editor, Susanna Richardson Grand_Estate_Building_Venue_Article_2_.jpg

Make sure that you do your research and think about the key elements that you want from a venue, such as guest accommodation and civil ceremony license. It helps to think about weddings that you have attended and make a list of anything that you liked or disliked about the day.

Make a list of venues and visit as many as you can.  When you visit make sure that you meet with the person that will be dealing with any queries you may have. As with all suppliers it is very important that you have a good relationship with this person as you will be communicating a lot during the preparations and it really helps if you get on well and they are flexible to your needs. Make sure that you always get a copy of everything in writing throughout the planning.  If you deal with one person and they leave, you need to be able to show what has been agreed.

Once you have decided on the venue it is a good idea to visit at different times of the day. This helps to give an overall idea of how the venue changes with the lighting and what it will look like during the evening. If at all possible visit the venue at the time of year you are getting married, a venue can look very different in the winter to how it did in the spring. If you are going for an exclusive hire venue, make sure that you see all the rooms. If you are asking guests to pay to stay overnight you’ll want to make sure the bedrooms are of a good standard. It is normal for a venue to offer you a food tasting and it can also be a good idea, if they have a restaurant go for dinner one evening and observe the service and overall quality of food. If you are marrying at a different location make sure that you do a dummy run from the ceremony venue. This will help on timings and give an indication of how long it will take guests to arrive. You should really be aiming for a 30-minute drive maximum.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate over price.  Make sure that you look at other venues and if you feel that the one you want is more expensive talk to them about ways to save money.  Ask for a special rate for accommodation and ask if they will include the Bridal suite in the rate.  It is unlikely you will need an evening buffet for the number of guests attending, many venues now offer a reduced number option (70 %– 80% is about right), so talk to your venue about this. After all, you don’t want to pay for wasted food.  The same goes for table wine - ask if wine can be opened as you go during the meal, that way you will only pay for what has been used.  If they insist on you buying a fixed number of bottles beforehand, make sure that you can take the unused wine away with you, it will be a lovely treat to come home to after your honeymoon. 

Questions to ask when visiting a venue:

When will the venue be available from and until? If your florist needs access to the room the day before it needs to be available.

Will they provide a “bad weather” plan? This is a must if you are planning drinks or photos outside.

Will the room need to be turned over? Often the whole day will take place in one room. This means that you have to allow time for the room to be turned over. It’s not a huge issue but you need this to be clear as it can affect momentum and timings. Where will they put you while this is happening? Are you happy with their suggestions?

Can you go and see a room laid-out? This is quite important as many times venues oversell the number of guests they can fit in. This can leave a room cramped and uncomfortable. Make sure you are happy that they can easily fit in the number of guests you have.

Will there be a room available for the bride and groom? If you are not staying at the venue it is a good idea to have a room that you can freshen up in throughout the day, or even take a quiet 10 minutes away from the action

Exactly what is included in the price? It is very important to find this out and get a written quotation detailing everything, from decorations to drinks.

Can you supply your own wine and if so what is the corkage charge?  If you have a friendly wine merchant or are planning a trip abroad you could save yourself a lot of money by supplying your own.

What are the parking arrangements? You need to make sure that they have enough spaces and that they don’t charge a fee for non-residents.

Will the venue provide a room/safe place for presents?  It is important that this is taken care of.  If you will be receiving vouchers or money ask if they can be locked in a safe. You don’t want to have to worry about this during the day,

Do they provide a “nanny” service? This can be a good idea if you are having lots of children.  Many larger venues are able to offer this service and may be able to provide baby sitters to sit in the rooms with young guests whilst their parents carry on partying. Make sure that you assess the venue is safe for children.

 Can they accommodate a marquee? This can be a great way of creating extra room for evening guests.  Make sure you look carefully at the prices, as this can prove expensive. Some venues charge a “ground hire fee” that can be up to £500 a day including assembly/disassembly.

Is confetti allowed? Many venues do not allow paper confetti and you will need to advise guests of this.  If this is the case it can be a nice idea to provide rose petals or bubbles for all guests.

Who will manage the arrangements? If the venue has an in-house wedding planner will they oversee all the arrangements? Will they be there on the day itself and if not, who will?

Do they offer a reduced rate for guest rooms? If you think guests will want to stay make sure you choose somewhere that isn’t OTT on price. It’s a good idea if you get a special rate as this will keep their costs down as wedding an expensive business for guests as well as the happy couple.

Four most important aspects

Are there good photo opportunities? It is very important that the venue has good surroundings for photographs, both inside and out. This will be the main focus of all photos and you need to get this right. Ask to see copies of photos from previous clients, most venues will have a portfolio, this will give you a good idea. If you have already chosen your photographer ask him/her to visit and offer an opinion.

Is it versatile? - Don’t pick a venue just for the grounds.  If it rains on the day you won’t be able to use them. You also need to make sure that all the rooms you will be using are suitable for the type of wedding you are planning.

Is the ambience right? - Chances are that you will instinctively know when a venue is right for you. A venue should make you and your guests feel comfortable and at ease. Try to assess how the mood would change as day progresses into evening. Lighting and décor play a big part in this so pay attention to detail.

Does it tick all of the boxes? -  Make a list of all the things you require from a venue and any special needs of guests. Take this with you and run through it with the Event Manager. Everyone has different needs and it is important that yours are met. However, try to be a little flexible, it may be that your perfect venue doesn’t exist but by looking at alternatives you may find a venue that is truly wonderful.

What to consider before booking

Is there a clause regarding suppliers?  Many venues will only allow suppliers from their agreed supplier list; this can often restrict you and can work out more expensive.

Is dancing permitted?  Many stately homes will not allow dancing inside the house.  If you are planning a wild party this won’t work for you.

Will the venue be hired on an exclusive basis? You don’t want to find that it is open to the public and they are wandering around throughout the day.

Are they planning any construction or gardening work? – It is important to have this clarified and put into the contract. You don’t want to arrive on the day to find builders on site.

Are there any restrictions on decorations? Make sure you ask about any decorations you are planning. Some venues do not allow candles or anything to be attached to ceilings and walls.

Are the costs fixed? If you are marrying in 2012 but booking in 2010, they should really honour the prices at that time. If they won’t you could be in for some nasty shocks when it comes to the final bill.

Is the registrar available? Never book a venue until you have checked that the registrar is available. Without a registrar the wedding ceremony cannot take place.

What areas do you get to use? Make sure they are very clear on the areas you have access to. If you are booking a venue for the amazing terrace, make sure it’s part of the package and not just for hotel guests. Some venues will restrict non residential access.


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