There’s a lot to consider when planning a wedding. But of all the different choices you have to make, where it is all going to happen is perhaps the most critical of all. For one thing, your venue is the single most expensive thing you will have to pay for.
And yes, yes, we know it isn’t all about money. But still… your choice of venue will also determine how many guests you can have, how far you and your guests have to travel, what kind of reception and afterparty you have, what kind of setting you will get for your photographs…
So yes, choosing your wedding venue is a big deal and something you will no doubt spend a big chunk of your planning time weighing up. Here are five things to consider to help you on the way to making the right decision.
Is the venue appropriate for your guest list and budget?
People want different things from their wedding. In fact, it’s possible for individual couples to want different, contradictory things from their wedding. You might, for example, have decided that you would prefer a more intimate occasion with a carefully selected list of only closest friends and family attending. But then you come across an enormous grand old venue and have your heart set on that.
It’s all about being clear about your priorities early on, and making compromises as necessary. Of course, there’s no point going for the great big venue if you only want a modest-sized gathering, and vice versa if you’ve spotted a cute little country place but are planning a party for 150 guests. You have to think about budget, too. Top end luxury is all well and good, but your venue isn’t all you have to pay for.
What about access and accommodation?
One thing that many couples find is that the venues they completely fall in love with are way out in the back end of beyond, requiring guests to drive for hours to get there. That’s ok as long as there are also accommodation options – and the prices for staying over aren’t going to put guests off. If travel is too arduous or accommodation too expensive, what you end up finding is people decide they can’t make it, which pours a dampener on the whole occasion.
The option of accommodation is one of the reasons why hotels, especially big country ones with lots of rooms, are so popular as wedding venues. Just make sure you discuss potential availability for your guests in plenty of time when you first make your enquiries.
What is the deal on catering?
Wedding venues can be divided into two types when it comes to catering – those that offer it as part of the overall package, and those that let you / require you to organise outside catering. Many people prefer the catering-inclusive option because it kills two birds with one stone, saving another big job. But you usually have to go with whatever it is the venue offers, so make sure you check suggested menus well in advance.
If you do go down the self-catering route, bear in mind that any savings you seem to make on hiring the actual venue will quickly disappear when it comes to hiring someone in from the outside – large event catering can be a costly business. Also check that your uncatered venue is licensed for the consumption of alcohol.
What is provided in terms of furniture and furnishings?
Again, a little like the catering options, you’ll find most venues that offer formal wedding packages will also take care of essentials like tables and chairs, as well as decor. If you have fixed ideas about how you want your venue decorated, speak to the venue early. Many will have dedicated wedding planners who will work with you on that.
For venues that are perhaps not so often used for wedding parties, you may need to arrange to bring in furniture from elsewhere, as well as decorate it yourself. Make sure you ask the venue about all facilities available before you confirm a booking.
How weather flexible is the venue?
Finally, many people understandably picture their dream wedding taking place in glorious sunshine outdoors in beautiful natural surroundings somewhere. That’s a great dream to have, but the realities of the British weather are that you just can’t bank on that happening, even at the height of summer.
If you do have your heart set on an outdoors party, go for it – but don’t throw all your eggs in one basket. Look for a venue that can offer a flexible mix of indoor and outdoor spaces to cover all eventualities, whether that means providing access to both garden areas and indoor function rooms, or having the option to erect marquees and other forms of shelter outdoors.
Ready to take the next step? Why not enquire about availability and arrange to take a tour around Hawkstone Hall, a stunning luxury wedding venue in an 18th century stately home in the heart of the Shropshire countryside.