This morning, Laura Caudery of Parallel Venues shares the 3rd instalment in her series of features focussing on wedding venues. So far, Laura has addressed how to find the ideal wedding venue and what to do once you’ve found it, she has spoken openly and honestly (no holds barred!) about corkage fees, catering costs, recommended suppliers and other money matters, and today, Laura is turning her focus to 4 hugely important issues that you really must pay attention too when booking your own wedding venue; the who, what, where and when…
So far in this series, we’ve talked about your initial considerations when choosing a wedding venue and the associated financial costs. In today’s piece, I’d like to start refining the key logistical points you should be asking of your venue in order to help you get down to the essentials of your wedding planning.
The first thing to find out is who will be your point of contact throughout the wedding planning process. Will the person you meet at your viewing be the same one to welcome you through the door on your wedding day?
Image Credit Paul White Weddings
I was disappointed to find out that the majority of venue coordinators or in-house wedding planners are, in fact, a sales team and after they have secured your booking, you will hear nothing more from them until a few months before your wedding. It seems a bit like grab the money and run, doesn’t it?!
Some venue co-ordinators can be really on the ball and will be with you from your first enquiry till your last dance. Others are employed to sit in an office from 9-5, Monday to Friday, and simply answer your questions during that timeframe. They don’t work weekends and won’t be around on your wedding day. In this instance, an event manager or banquet manager, whom you may or may not have met before, might handle your actual wedding day instead.
Whilst I can’t be available all the time, I do recognise that the majority of couples only have time for wedmin out of office hours which is why I’m often online in the evenings or weekends. Thanks to my trusty iPhone, I’m online pretty much all of the time because I remember from my own planning how frustrating it is to send an email in the evening, wait for a reply for the following day etc. and then a conversation can take a week to reach a conclusion! I explain to our clients that whilst I’m sorry it’s a short reply from my phone, hopefully it’s better that having to wait days for an answer.
That’s not to say that I can answer everything within moments but I do try to react quickly if something is being held up or it can be answered quickly. Whilst most queries aren’t urgent, I do appreciate how time-consuming planning is and try to make it a little easier for clients. Whenever we start working with a couple we always ask how and when they prefer to be contacted, that way we can do what’s best for them. We’re a little unusual as most venues operate the other way round so just make sure to ask so that you can manage your expectations.
It’s also important to find out who you’re dealing with at every part of the planning process. Not only that, but will they be around at your menu tasting? Can they show your suppliers around on a venue visit if you can’t be there? Will they actually coordinate anything or are they simply the venue’s allocated representative to deal with your admin?
What are your options when it comes to deciding on the logistics of your wedding day? Does your venue offer you a timetable for the day that you mustn’t deviate from, or are they flexible to accommodate your plans? Ask yourself what you want from your day and make sure your venue want that for you too.
I mentioned briefly about the role of celebrants in my first article on Love My Dress and it seemed a topic that many readers were very keen on. If what you want from your wedding is a truly unique celebration that is personalised to you and your partner, then I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending a celebrant to conduct your ceremony.
In England and Wales, it is currently only registrars who can legally complete your marriage documents and it seems like this monopoly they have on non-religious wedding ceremonies has made the whole process incredibly impersonal. Having been introduced to the concept by One Life Weddings, I love the idea of having your legalities carried out separately and having someone like them conduct your wedding.
Image Credit Damian Bailey
These ceremonies are built around you as a couple, the officiant comes to personally know you (rather than seeing you for 5 minutes before your ceremony and leaving almost before you’ve left the room) and it also allows you total control and input into the content of your wedding service. It also means you could have your ceremony outdoors – it really is totally up to you!
Aside from finding out when you can hold your wedding in terms of days of the week and public holiday exemptions, you also need to specify when the venue is actually available to you. When can your suppliers get in to set up? When must music be switched off by? When must guests vacate the premises by? When can you collect any items left overnight?
Don’t be put off by a midnight finish. I remember I was initially, but then I realised how long the day would be once I did my timings and it’s ALWAYS better to end on a high, rather than the last couple of hours of any night out when you look back and wished you’d called it time sooner! Remember, a large portion of people will have been drinking since before your ceremony – you may even have started the day with a champagne breakfast – so midnight may be preferable to the wee hours!
Image Credit Damian Bailey
In addition, you might also want to enquire when other weddings are scheduled before and after yours, so that you know if there will be any overlap. If you don’t have exclusive use of your venue, make sure you check how many other weddings they are prepared to host per day/weekend – do you really want to cross paths with another bride and groom?
Prior to the big day, make sure you know when your venue is at your disposal in the run up. Do they have a policy on when your contact will reply to your queries? For example, at Parallel Venues we will always respond to our clients within 24 hours, no matter what. You may think this a trivial thing to ask when you’re looking around, but it’s far preferable than waiting weeks for a response.
Also check if the venue is flexible about when you can visit – you might want to go back and show your parents around or have a walkthrough with your wedding suppliers. If they only let you visit during the working week rather than giving the option of evenings and weekends it will make your life a little more complicated. We try to be available at a time to suit our couples and, just like with our weddings, there are no ‘set times’.
I know I mentioned it before, but I have to reiterate how important it is to ask where recommended suppliers have come from on a venue’s supplier list. Are they people that have genuinely got a working knowledge of the venue? Are they suppliers who the venue actually rate? Are they paying commission to be recommended to you?
Whilst there are definitely benefits of working with people who know your venue, I’m always keen for our clients to introduce me to suppliers they may already know. As such, whilst we can match make suppliers with our couples if they ask for our help, we never insist that they have to use people (aside from our caterers) if they don’t want to. Always make sure you know exactly what using their supplier list means – do you have to work with them?
The reason that our caterers are the only supplier we insist our couples use is because I genuinely believe that they are one of the most important parts of your day. Their contribution is key to the smooth running of your reception and the Herculean efforts of these unsung heroes is the difference between ‘another wedding’ and ‘the most amazing day’ that your guests will remember for a long time.
Image Credit Eddie Judd Photography
Our caterers have been sourced based on my own extremely exacting standards. Our properties can be a little tricky to negotiate for caterers who are unfamiliar with their historic layouts, so the first reason we recommend them to our couples is that they are used to the nuances of Fetcham Park and Cams Hall.
Furthermore, they need to combine not only top class menus and excellent produce but also the kind of attention to detail that will add the wow factor to every single element of your day, from the way they pour drinks at your reception to the presentation of their canapé trays.
Finally, our caterers offer the option of a full menu tasting prior to your wedding, along with tableware samples and settings if you require it so that absolutely nothing is left to chance on the day. In the midst of all this, they will have established a personal connection with you that means on your wedding day you can sit back and feast like kings, knowing that everything has been taken care of by people who are not just incredibly good at what they do, but also personally invested in making sure you get just what you want.
Hopefully you’re beginning to build up a big fat checklist of things to look for and question in your venue search. In my next post, I’ll get down to the nitty gritty things that might make you feel like you’re teetering on the edge of Bridezilla territory but will definitely put the fear of God into any venue that might be trying to be anything other than transparent with you!
In the meantime, I’d love your feedback on this feature and respond to any queries in relation to venues that you might have, be you a bride, groom or member of the wedding industry. You might also wish to read the previous two features in this series;