You’ve probably been told multiple times that your wedding venue search ought to be the top of your priority list when planning your big day. There’s a very good reason for this: your wedding venue will inform when and where you get married, your guest list and maybe even the style of your wedding.
At Parallel Venues, we coach couples through all of these issues and a myriad of other quandaries as they prepare for their own weddings. Over the course of this series, I hope to bring you some useful advice to help inform your choice of wedding venue, based on my own experiences of both getting married and running two wedding venues.
From the pertinent but often overlooked questions that you ought to be asking, to the logistics of getting the most out of your wedding venue, you might be surprised at some of the things that couples are misled about. Luckily I have the vehicle of Love My Dress to help try and steer you away from some very common pitfalls that many brides and grooms succumb to!
So let’s start with the basic criteria you need to think about when deciding where to get married with a handful of questions to ask yourself.
Image by We Heart Pictures
1. Where in the world do you want to get married?
The days of having to get married in your hometown in the local parish church are long gone. The world is literally your oyster. Do you have a place that is special to you both? Do you want somewhere equidistant between your two families? Would you rather take a handful of people to some sun-kissed foreign shore?
It’s worth bearing in mind that although legal restrictions in Britain have been relaxed in recent years regarding the location and time of your wedding, there are still certain rules that you have to play by. For example, if you are hankering for an outdoor wedding, you will also need to pop down to the registry office to make it legal, as UK weddings must take place in a permanent structure with a roof.
Some places have gazebos or similar structures to facilitate outdoor weddings, but if you were hoping for mountaintop or beachside nuptials, you need to make sure you have completed the legal ceremony as well. Celebrants are a great alternative to registrars, at both civil ceremonies and quirky locations, as they tend to be more personally invested in you as a couple and your wedding.
From museums to barns, boats and theatres, there are a whole host of licensed wedding venues throughout the UK these days. Stately homes and country houses continue to be a popular wedding venue option, thanks to their romantic settings and ability to accommodate large numbers of people.
2. Do you want to have your ceremony, reception and accommodation all under one roof or are you looking to utilize a variety of different locations?
A church wedding followed by your wedding reception elsewhere and finished off with a night in a neighbouring hotel will suit many people, whereas for others they will want to minimize the transit time and keep everything in once place.
Licensed hotels or wedding venues with accommodation are the perfect solution for those who don’t want to bother travelling and also cater for those with elderly or infirm guests who would benefit from not having to worry about travelling.
On the other hand, I personally think that whilst a house party is nice, I really like that when all our wedding guests went back to a hotel together after our wedding reception at Fetcham Park, I didn’t feel the pressure to stay up until the final guest called it a night as we were no longer playing ‘host’. The other major benefit was that a hotel bar has to stay open until the last guests leave, so the after-party could carry on indefinitely and it doesn’t have to be on your tab!
Image by Sophie Duckworth Photography
3. How many guests are you hoping to invite? Does the size of the venue accommodate that many people?
It’s helpful to have a rough idea of who you want to have at your wedding. You obviously won’t have final numbers until your invitations have gone out, but there’s no point at looking at venues with a capacity of 100 if you know there are 150 people you want to invite.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to visit somewhere, fall in love, and then spend the rest of your time trying to cull your loved ones from your guest list so that you can host your wedding there. There are thousands of wedding venues; I’m fairly certain you don’t have to compromise in order to find your dream one.
Don’t forget it’s not just how many people a venue can accommodate that you need to check, but also their entourage. Not many people think to ask about parking facilities at a wedding venue, but many locations only have small car parks as they don’t have huge numbers of people onsite on a daily basis.
City centre venues may not have any parking at all and your guests might be forced to feed parking meters on a bi-hourly basis. Think about whether your guests are going to be happy leaving their vehicles in surrounding side streets or nearby premises.
4. How easy is it to access?
We may live in the age of sat nav, but if it’s going to lead your guests down a single track country road and get them lost, you’re going to end up with a stressed out wedding party when they finally arrive.
Not everyone drives, so make sure you know how easy it is to get to from public transport. If you’re considering using coaches or minibuses to ferry your guests between your venues, make sure they have an easy to navigate route.
Access considerations apply to urban and rural weddings, as it’s just as frustrating to be stranded in an unfamiliar city as it is in the countryside. Just because you know where you’re going, don’t forget that it’s likely nobody else will have been there before.
Image by Emma Sekhon
5. Does your preferred venue have availability at the time of year you would like to get married?
Obviously wedding venues get booked up quite quickly for the peak months during the summer season, so it’s worth having a couple of dates in mind if possible to give you more flexibility. Your budget may influence your decision in terms of choosing a winter wedding to save money and, likewise, you may find there is a deal to be done if you can get married on a weekday.
You’ll also need to check with your registrar or officiant that they have the same availability. I’d always recommend enquiring about availability before you fall too much in love, as there’s nothing worse than having all your boxes ticked to find that they only have one Tuesday free for the rest of the year!
Most importantly, remember that a venue is only ever the backdrop to your special day. It might sound strange as I run two venues, but I truly believe that your wedding is the most important thing about the day – it will be wonderful wherever you are so don’t feel you have to book years ahead just to secure that date in June. Firstly, because the English weather is so unpredictable, and secondly, as every bride will tell you, the weather and venue really aren’t that important; it’s the getting married bit you should be focused on!
Images by Mark Bothwell
I hope you’ve found this feature helpful. I’ll be publishing a new article every fortnight from here, focusing on;
- Money Matters – covering all issues relating to finance, including corkage and cash bars, minimum spends, exclusive use/separate costs, commissions, over-priced bars and payments by direct debit
- Planning Your Day – the role of the co-ordinators and catering managers, flexibility at weekends and evenings, celebrants vs registrars, recommended supplier lists and what that means to you (and why I don’t believe in them)
- Logistics – midnight finishes, the bridal dressing room, moving furniture, alcohol allowances e.g. one glass of champagne for a reception (ridiculous!), option to have the ceremony only, childrens policy/facilities and the added extras you don’t really need, like chair covers
- And Horror Stories – includes some crazy stories that I’ve heard in my time, including crazy corkage fees, ridiculously overpriced bottled water, no edible favours, and venues that require you to auction off rooms to guests!
I hope that by the end of the series, I’ll have pretty much covered everything there is to know in order to assist you in finding your own ideal wedding venue and make sure it works for you
Have you started the search for your wedding venue yet?