Getting your wedding venue right isn't as hard as you might think. We like to think that anything is possible with a little imagination (and some serious planning)
Susie Young – founder of the fabulous award-winning wedding planning company Knot & Pop – took time out of her hectic schedule to share her expert tips on finding the perfect wedding venue and ensuring your big day goes to plan…
Location, location, location: it’s one of the first things your thoughts will turn to when you start planning your big day – after the dress, of course.
After all, finding the perfect venue has a massive impact on the feel and format of a wedding. Location can be the perfect starting point from which to consider the style and flow of the day. And, it should encapsulate your ideal wedding setting whilst allowing your freedom to embellish with your own personal story and ideas.
There’s a whole host of great places to explore for your wedding beyond traditional wedding venues, from warehouses and farms to galleries, restaurants, music halls and exclusive historic homestays.
So, where to start?
First things first: arrange an evening where you and your partner can sit down and chat about your ideas for the day. Here are a few basic things to consider:
Draw up a guest list, as knowing your numbers will feed into the size of venue you need.
Think about and discuss what you have in the wedding pot, what you’ll need to save, or what parents may be contributing. From there, break down the budget and apportion amounts by each supplier to also give you a good idea of the budget you have available for the venue itself.
Barns, bars, urban, boho: the style of your wedding should be in keeping with how you see the day and be reflective of you as a couple.
Is there a particular area that’s special to you? Start the search there.
Time of year
All venues will ask if you have a month and specific date in mind so have a think on this too and remember: it’s always good to have some level of flexibility.
You’ve drawn up a list of what you want, done some Googling and a bit of blog research. You might have contacted a wedding planner to help with the venue search and arranged some recess to get an idea of your shortlist.
Whether you are going solo, or using a wedding planner to help, here are some of the questions you should be asking next:
Is the venue licensed for the wedding ceremony? Are you able to get hitched and party in the same place?
If you’re splitting the ceremony and reception, it’s worth considering logistics at this point. How will you get your guests from one venue to another? Is it part of the experience or just an A-B exercise?
Check the exclusivity of the venue. If you’ve chosen a venue that does allow members of the public access, at the very least you want to know that your ceremony area and reception aren’t in any main thoroughfare.
Capacity: seated and standing. Make sure all of your guests can be accommodated in the space – there is nothing worse than being able to hear the vows, but not actually see the action.
How many weddings do they do a year? Some venues only hire to a certain number of couples a year, meaning that your wedding will be one of an exclusive handful held there and not featured in every Facebook gallery across the land. Result.
With the date in mind, are there any key calendar dates in the venue’s local area that may mean the traffic will be gridlocked, or that getting local guest accommodation would be tricky? Best to avoid booking then if so.
It’s more than likely you’ll want a band or DJ or some form of entertainment that requires amplified sound. Check that the venue allows this and whether there is a sound limiter or cut-off time for music. If your sound curfew is midnight and you want to party until the wee hours, a silent disco might be the answer.
In general check all of the closing times: what time do drinks have to stop flowing; what time do guests need to depart; what time do you have to clear and pack-up?
On the flip side, setting up a wedding venue takes a great team and time. You may need access to the venue a day prior to the wedding so your team can get to work transforming the scene. Check what time/day you are allowed access on to the site and whether there are any extra charges for early access.
You’ve styled up your wedding moodboards and gone mad on Pinterest but can you hang your chosen decs where you want them? Is the venue happy with naked candle flame? Do they allow fireworks? It’s best to check up front and in good time. Are there any restrictions on styling/dressing/the ideas you have?
If you’ve gone for ‘dry-hire’ (simply hiring the space) you will need to consider access: can your marquee company drive their trucks and equipment up to the space? Will you need to install a generator to power your lights, band and caterers set-up? Is there parking and access for the guests, especially any disabled access if required?
Can you bring your own suppliers? You may not want to be tied to using the accredited supplier list. Depending on whether the venue has it’s own in-house catering, they tend to be open to discussion and it’s always best to go for a venue with flexibility on the suppliers you are able to use. If they allow you to bring in your own caterer do check if there are any hidden costs with that (Buy Out kitchen costs).
Check the location of the kitchen and back of house. Your day will need to run seamlessly so ensuring the nitty-gritty can be dealt with out of sight and earshot of you and your guests is important. It’s also something you need to let you caterer know – are their full kitchen facilities on site, or will they need to bring in equipment?
Cleaning and clearing: does the venue assist and manage this or do you have to organise and make sure it is returned as it was given? Most have a cleaning service you can utilise or discuss this with your wedding planner.
Will someone from the venue be on site during the wedding day? Who will be the go-to person for any questions or issues that arise? Again, if your venue is dry-hire only, it could be worth engaging a wedding coordinator for the day to ensure things run smoothly and that you, as the couple, are not the ones bring asked for taxi numbers at the end of the night.
Does the hire fee include security, and if not then do they have an accredited company that must be used, and at what rate?
What are the payment terms and, importantly, what are the cancellation charges? We are not suggesting for one minute that this situation will arise, but as with everything it is best to be fully armed with the info. Make sure you have venue contract, terms and conditions, and copies of Public Liability cover.
Do they have any plans for the venue that might impact on your day? A surprise refurb once you’re chosen the wedding colours could really scupper all that careful planning…
The main thing to remember is to spend time deciding where you feel best represents you and your vision for the day. Ask lots of questions and make sure you’ve visited the venue before you commit.
We like to think that anything is possible with a little imagination…
If you need any help with your wedding venue search then Knot & Pop offer a tailored Location Quest service so get in touch with them to hear more.
Here are five more brilliant wedding venue ideas…
The Barn With A Difference – Preston Court, Kent
Picture this – a beautiful 17th century barn set within rolling countryside with its own church, farm, idyllic lake and steam museum with vintage fairground rides. That’s right, this darling venue, tucked away in the south of England has its own museum, which will create the prettiest, quirkiest backdrop to any wedding photos.
This incredible 900-year-old building takes traditional to a new level. Buried in the heart of the Kentish countryside, this whimsical gem dates back to the Norman times and is full of charm. Think candles, tapestries and an incredibly intimate setting – plus legs of lamb and poultry on the menu. What’s not to love?
The Great Outdoors – Arabian Tent Company
Marquees are old news, right now it’s all about the tent – yes, seriously. The Arabian Tent Company hire out incredible venues that are anything but your bog-standard camping tent. With a staggering nine different tents to choose from – ranging from typical British outdoors wedding with soft beiges and dining tables, to more traditinal Arabian styles with floor cushions, jewel tones and embroidery, there’s no denying these wedding venues stand out in the coolest way possible.
The Earth-Friendly Choice – Plan-It Earth, Cornwall
Not only are you saving the planet (sort of) but the Plan-It Earth venue comes with some of the best accomodation we’ve ever seen, including The Hobbit House and House Of Straw. Set in the rolling Cornish countryside, you’ll have access to song, dance, entertainment and a circus tent as part of a truely laid-back and outdoors-y wedding.
The Treehouse – The Lodge, Scotland
The mesmerising backdrop of Lake Goil is enough to make you want to book the wedding immediatley, but it’s the rustic treehouse that faces onto the water that’s really got us excited.The 5* retreat allows couples to tie the knot in the cute venue, but expect to only bring a few guests along for the ride as the maximum capacity is 24.