Image by Maxi Photography.
One of the requests from our couples that came through on our recent survey, was the ability to see the prices for the venues we list. Whilst we can completely understand this need for immediate visibility, it’s actually a little tricky for us to do this and I thought I’d explain why…
You see, venues come in all shapes and sizes, from a woodland to a grand luxury manor, from a tipi to a town hall. Then you have the additional variances in seasonal pricing and then the small matter of which day you choose to marry. On top of this, you also have dry hire venues where they only charge for the four walls (or less) you see, versus venues where they include everything! From accommodation for the happy couple, through to catering and all that goes with that (chairs, tableware, welcome drinks etc.), you also have the staffing on top and any additional extras such as marquees in the grounds and hell, some even throw in their vintage car as a fancy getaway!
So, as you can imagine, for us to manage all of the above and of course to keep your expectations realistic it’s a little challenging.
But whilst I ponder how I can do this honestly and clearly for future couples, I wanted to give you some advice about what to expect when it comes to navigating the wedding venue and the associated budget. So when you shortlist those faves and you send them a message requesting their pricing and details, just keep in mind the following tips…
We know that 44% of you have about £10k – £20k to spend on your wedding, whilst 21% have between £20k – £30k.
Couples can spend approx 10 – 15% of their total budget on the wedding venue (excluding catering) and yes, because this decision is usually at the beginning of the process it’s certainly the one to make that heart flutter (and not always in a good way!)
So if the average cost of a wedding is £32,000* then that means some couples will spend from £4,800 on basic venue hire (the word basic is important here).
Our own breakdown of costs put our venue at 11% of our total. BUT, remember folks, this is all “average” and most certainly doesn’t reflect how much you will actually be spending! When you add in additional details such as a 2 night stay, perhaps accommodation for friends and family (if you want to pick up the tab) and your catering then realistically your venue/catering costs are a significant slice of your budget – around 50%.
To take our costs into consideration again, our original budget went up by 30% by the end of the planning, so think of all of these stats as a rough guide to assist with your initial planning.
Before you head off and start searching for venues, you probably need to get the budget in play. We have a full post on this which you can read here; but to help, here’s a quick breakdown for you!
- Make a spreadsheet.
- Decide who’s paying for the wedding – are you going alone or are family contributing?
- Set a (rough) date – but remember to be flexible when you start the search!
- Work out how much you can save taking the above points into consideration.
- Allocate you budget – what’s important on your big day and what’s nice to have?
- Get quotes.
- Give yourself a contingency fund – you’ll thank us later.
- Double check everything from the budget, to what you need to buy, to the suppliers you’ll need on board!
To ensure your venue is coming within the budget you’ve allocated, here are some handy tips on what to consider and what you should be asking your wedding venue…
You’ve got the ring, you’ve celebrated with loved ones, you might have even bought that first wedding magazine – now what…? The panic sets in, that’s what.
I’ll often receive an email from a Bride-to-be in this first stage of fear and I totally get it. I was exactly the same and it’s only now with hindsight that I can try to offer some comfort by saying it will all be ok. Because folks, it really will be.
However, initially this panic is brought on because there will be a resounding pressure to book a date and ultimately with this, a venue. But please stop, think and breathe. This is not the time for rushing ahead, signing contracts without consideration and becoming constricted by the very thing that should be the foundations of your joyous day!
So take your time and keep reading…
Save the Date
Peak Season in the wedding world can differ from venue to venue, but as a rule of thumb you’re probably looking at any dates from April through to late September. Typically these months will command a higher charge versus the autumn/winter options.
Wedding venues can be booked up a year in advance, so when searching for your venue please do keep this in mind as a certain level of flexibility may be required if you have your heart set on getting married next August!
Also, do enquire about weekday weddings. If you’re happy to host your party mid-week, then you could save a considerable amount and get that summer wedding date you’re after!
Whether you’re requesting some information over email or you find yourself sitting in a grand Country Manor sipping bubbles with the owners, it’s always a good idea to have a handle on the costs being put in front of you.
When discussing numbers with your venue (or any wedding supplier for that matter!) ensure the figures are inclusive of VAT. If you get used to asking “Does that include VAT?” the figures that you’re inputting into your trusty spreadsheet will start to add up and there won’t be any nasty surprises a little later down the line…
Before you’ve set your heart on anything, make sure you understand the real cost behind it. Once you’re emotionally sold, it’s very hard to back track people.
Don’t rush in, take away all of the information from your venue visits and review costs with those that are involved in the wedding budget decisions.
Catering costs are usually on top of any ceremony & reception hire fees, especially for those venues who have outside/preferred catering companies. If this is the case, once you’ve agreed your venue hire fee, you will then liaise with your chosen caterer regarding costs for your reception. Venues who have in-house catering (most likely hotels, some larger venue and bars/restaurants) will talk you through their packages which may have varying degrees of yummy extravagance.
To help with your initial decision making, have a rough idea of how many guests you are considering inviting to your wedding; firstly, to gauge whether the venue is big (or small) enough to accommodate your party and indeed to start to get a rough cost per head.
When requesting venue hire information, also ask about their catering options and whether they have a preferred/recommended list you can choose from. You can then do some research into these caterers to see who fits into your budget and style of wedding prior to booking the venue.
There are many exciting catering options available to couples these days, especially for those Brides & Grooms looking to keep costs down or wanting to steer away from the traditional Wedding Breakfast! Just make sure that if you like the idea of Street Food Vendors at your wedding, your venue allows this on site.
Corkage & Bar Costs
Ok, let’s talk about the hard stuff – alcohol.
We all want our reception to be a hit with our guests and for some this will equate to fuelling your loved ones with enough wine, beer and bubbles! However, this is another area to consider when booking your venue so do ask for a bar list or prices alongside these specifics;
- Do they charge a corkage fee or are they a no corkage venue?
- If they do charge a corkage fee, how much per bottle of wine and how much per bottle of Prosecco or Champagne?
- If some alcohol is included, how much per head is offered? (Note: this may be one for the caterers!)
- What are the options for your evening reception and bar?
- Is there a bar in-house or will you need to provide this service yourselves?
- If in-house, are they happy for you to have another Mixologist/Supplier onsite?
- Is there a minimum spend or do they offer a Cash Bar option?
With regards to the latter, don’t be worried about having a Cash Bar in the evening, your guests won’t reel in horror and consider you poor hosts for making them buy their own G&T! But, if it does make you feel slightly uncomfortable and you still need to keep a tight grip of costs, then you can agree a set limit or specific drinks which you’re happy to pay for.
As well as wine, spirits and soft drinks, do consider creating batch signature cocktails for your reception too! This can spice things up a bit whilst still managing how much alcohol you’re bulk buying for the reception.
Your venue’s in-house bar or caterers can offer advice on amounts per person required, so add this to the cost per head on your spreadsheet!
Styling Your Venue
Depending on the type of venue you hire, you will need to take into consideration a certain level of decoration.
If you’re opting for a grand stately home then you may only need beautiful florals to compliment the surroundings. If however you prefer a dry hire barn or creative space where you need to customise and bring in everything from tables, chairs, crockery, lighting etc. then you’ll need considerably more help (and budget!) to create the wedding scene of your dreams.
Always book a venue that you love and work with the décor, rather than against it to disguise any areas that niggle. Ask your venues what’s included when you visit, for example Aynhoe Park & Wimbourne House have an incredible array of props and décor to play with! But ensure what you are seeing on your reccce is what will be there on the day.
If you do want to style, then ask your venue what’s is and isn’t allowed, ask to see images from previous weddings so you can see what other couples did with the spaces!
When you enquire with a venue or visit in person, ask if they have a supplier list.
Some venues are super flexible and allow the couple free reign, but others may have a list in place. This could be a preferred list where couples must choose from the suppliers listed, or a recommended list where the venue is suggesting incredible suppliers that have previously worked at the venue.
For me, I really valued a suppliers list as being the first of my friends to get married, the world of weddings was very new so this was the perfect place to start! For busy Brides looking to tick those planning boxes, the suppliers list may also be the perfect timing-saving solution.
However it’s not for everyone and it’s a really important deciding factor when it comes to your venue as too strict a list and the venue may not be able to accommodate your big-day designs. If this is the case, discuss with the team and be open about your plans. If the venue’s Terms & Conditions are too restrictive for you, then simply move on. You want this journey to be as smooth as possible, the venue decision really has to be made with both head and heart.
So bringing this topic back to the budget, a cost to watch out for here is if a venue has a Preferred Supplier list but does allow couples to bring in their own suppliers for a fee. Just make sure you’re asking the questions and fully understand the ins and outs.
Also, if you’re intrigued about a Preferred Suppliers list (the one where you must choose) do ask the venue questions about how they curated their list. A fabulous venue will be all too happy to tell you the whys and whats and will exude passion about their preferred suppliers! As a Bride-to-be I would want to know that I’m receiving the very best recommendations from my venue and not just being presented with a commission based list.
A fine example of a venue that cares about it’s recommended suppliers is Fetcham Park and you can read a wonderful wedding venue advice piece by Laura Caudery and Wedding Planner Anna MacDougall (a.k.a. Bride & Glory) right here.
When considering a venue it’s always best to have an idea of logistics for your guests coming from afar. It’s also good to know if they have a Bridal Suite for your first night and if any of this is included within the venue hire price.
Some questions to have up your sleeve are;
- Is there accommodation onsite, if so how many can the venue sleep?
- If there’s no accommodation, who can they recommend in the local area and is there an affiliated discount?
- Is there a Bridal Suite or Honeymoon Cottage onsite and is this included in the venue hire?
- If you take the venue exclusively, will you need to book a minimum number of rooms?
With regards to the last question, some venues will say that you can sell rooms back to your guests. Now this is all fine in theory if you think this is helpful for your guests, but if you are covering an initial room outlay then ensure this is all within budget and doesn’t rely on your guests ‘paying you back’ so to speak! This could make for some awkward conversations later down the line if guests don’t want to take the accommodation.
Some other costs to consider when booking your venue…
- Exclusivity – is there a premium for taking the venue exclusively.
- Late License – a late license can be requested at certain venues, however this may come at an additional cost so check out what this entails if you fancy partying into the night!
- Insurance – always take out wedding insurance people. A cost that you hope will never come into play, but if it does then you’ll be so pleased you thought of this little expense.
- Pets at Weddings – is there a room charge for having your fluffy ones stay in the venue’s accommodation.
- Service – are staff included in the venue hire fee. If not, is this covered by the caterers or will this be an additional cost.
- Land – you might not think hiring some land could amount to too much right…? If you’re considering a marquee or tipi and want to place it in a field or within an estate, it’s probably best to look for the tent supplier first and then see where they usually pitch or if they can recommend venues and locations they work with. We adore World Inspired Tents, Wedding Yurts, The Pearl Tent Company, The Arabian Tent Company, Blue Fizz Tents & Events and Sami Tipi.
- Marquee & Tipi costs – when hiring these type of venues do ask what’s included – consider toilets, generators, catering equipment, heating, tables, chairs, flooring, lighting and staff.
- Not required thank you! Make sure you are only paying for the items you want or need. For example; if chair covers aren’t your thing then do you need to be paying for them or are they an option?
A whopping 89% of you put the wedding venue search top of your planning list and folks, I couldn’t agree more!
If you’re currently negotiating with a specific venue or there’s a possible sticking point, then ensure you have all of the Terms & Conditions ironed out, have agreed and signed contracts and are happy with all costs involved before you book any other supplier, particularly if they depend on your location and of course the date.
Choosing a wedding venue is a very subjective process and it will be different for each couple. What one couple will love, another might, ummmm, not love. Therefore, if you’ve viewed a venue it’s really important to go with your gut.
If you’ve fallen in love with the location but there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right, then delve a little further into what the issue might be, but don’t be frightened of walking away if it starts to feel too difficult.
It’s an important journey you take with your wedding venue and such a key relationship to a smooth planning process. Fall in love with the team as much as the venue.
I do hope this has been a helpful feature and will guide you some way towards getting the most from your wedding venue search and budget! You can find our basic questions to ask Wedding Venues right here and our full planning series here.
Remember, whilst the venue is the first decision you make and sometimes the biggest decision in the planning process, your actual wedding day will be about so much more. You’ll be marrying the love of your life surrounded by your closest friends & family and that’s pretty darn special.
So always keep in mind the real focus of the planning, oh and keep repeating this mantra… Stop, think and breathe.