We have lots of lovely expert voices on this blog, but it’s been a little while since I put pen to paper on the venue search myself. If you’ve browsed the Plan section of the site (found in the menu) then you’ll see we have a whole page dedicated to questions to ask venues alongside helpful budget tips. If you’ve found our digital magazine, The Annual, then you’ll know we go deep on the venue in chapter two!
But even with all of this advice, what are the key factors to really finding the best wedding venue for you?
Consider your style
Understand your vision – How do you see your big day? A fancy fairytale or a relaxed gathering? Do you want guests to be wowed by the grandeur, or do you want there to be lots for them to experience and do? Do you want a formal feast or street food style catering? Do you prefer dressing for winter or summer? That last one is a serious question folks, I’m definitely more autumn/winter but ended up marrying in August and still to this day I don’t know why!
I guess what I’m trying to get at here is what’s your individual style as a couple – where do you like to eat, what films do you love, what’s your perfect date, how have you decorated your home? All of this will have an impact on what kind of venue you will be drawn to so take some time to really talk about your style and consider the right season and venue.
If you’re still really stuck, then check out some of the real weddings at our venues, you might find yourself drawn to a specific style. You can also find more things to consider here on our Planning Tips page by our resident wedding planning expert Katrina Otter Weddings.
Know your guest list
How many people will you be inviting? This is a toughie, I know. But before you start trawling the internet for venues it’s probably a good idea to have a rough list of who you will be inviting. It doesn’t have to be exact, but this initial guest list will certainly help when whittling down the possible locations. For example, if you’re maxing out at 150 then a beautifully intimate country house that hosts 90 isn’t going to be the one unless you’re willing to make some cuts. Equally, if you’re after something more intimate for 50 guests then you might find yourself rattling around in a big barn. So consider the spaces available and the capacity options when checking out venues. We have a helpful Quick View function on the Venue Finder so you can scan these numbers easily.
Set your budget (but be flexible)
No one likes this topic… but it’s an essential conversation to have right at the beginning. Most of your plans will take their lead from your wedding venue, but before you can commit to booking somewhere, you need to know how much you can realistically spend.
This is probably going to be the first party/event you’ve organised on this scale, so it’s completely normal to not know how much a venue or indeed an entire wedding costs. This is where the flexible part comes in as it can all be a bit of a surprise when you start researching. Along the way will find many a wedding survey with lots of average costs to help you, but my advice is to take these with a pinch of salt because it’s an AVERAGE and wedding budgets are super personal to you, your circumstances and what you want to spend.
A wedding can cost whatever you want it to cost and my only real advice here is to always feel comfortable with how much you’re spending. Start by making a list of your incomings and outgoings and work out how much you can (and want to) save. If anyone has offered to contribute to your wedding, now is the time to nail down the details! Calculate your total projected savings plus any gifts from family, and you have your big day budget.
Deciding how much of your budget to allocate to your venue is another dilemma, and will depend on a lot of other factors, so you’ll need to start prioritising early. This will mean sitting down as a couple and making some tough calls – which aspects of your wedding are most important? The food, the location, the venue, the music, the décor, the details… What’s essential and what’s just nice to have?
As a rough guide, your venue and catering usually comes in at around 50% of your overall budget.
Your guests’ experience
Couple’s today really want their guests to have a wonderful experience at their wedding. Their comfort, happiness and satisfaction is high on the list of #weddinggoals. In all honesty, if a guest is well-fed and watered then generally you can guarantee they’ll have a good time but if you’re looking for more specific advice then consider the following:
- Location can be key if you have guests coming from all over the UK/the world! Consider location and proximity to the nearest airport and mainline stations.
- If you’re inviting friends and family with children then have a chat to your venue to see if they have any recommendations for creche services or entertainers. This means parents can have a little down-time and enjoy the party!
- You might want to be able to offer accommodation to all of your guests or perhaps just the wedding party and immediate friends/family – you can view our venues with accommodation on-site here.
- If a guest has any special requirements then mention this at your showround to see how they can accommodate – this could be access to the venue, disabled facilities onsite or food requirements.
- Along similar lines, consider your venue and any elderly family members that might be attending – will they be happy glamping it up in a Bell Tent and dancing the night away in a Tipi? If the answer is YES then go for it!
- Keep things simple – the easiest way to ensure your guests are happy is to keep the day’s logistics simple. Choosing a venue where you can host the ceremony and reception means a little more time for guests to relax, catch up with friends and family and enjoy the surroundings.
- Favours and details are nice to have but they won’t be remembered, so put your budget and focus into another part of the day.
- 2-3 day weddings are on the rise and they are a great way to spend time with loves ones – from organising a dinner the night-before to a post-wedding brunch or BBQ, extending the celebrations to your closest circle is a lovely way of prolonging the festivities.
DIY/dry hire or the whole kit and caboodle? Venues come in all shapes and sizes, and each one will probably offer something different within their hire fee so it’s time to understand those nitty gritty details. Do you want a blank canvas venue or one that comes pre-styled? And are you happy to plan, set up and style your wedding by yourself or are you hoping for help from the venue staff? While some venues are fully staffed, others are venue hire only, which means you’ll need to make all of your own arrangements and have people on site to set up on the day.
Understanding this and how it will affect the run-up/on-the-day is super important. A dry hire venue could have a further impact on the budget as you might need to hire additional furniture and/or a stylist to help coordinate on the day. The pros of having a blank canvas venue is that you can create something completely bespoke to you! Tables, chairs, linens and crockery hire are all big news right now and you can find some fabulous suppliers here.
Get out there!
The best way to know if a venue is right for you is to actually get out and start visiting – whether you’re booking for 1-2-1 show rounds or popping into an Open Day (you can find all the best ones in our Event Diary!) it will make all the difference actually seeing a venue IRL.
With so many details to consider, organisation is your friend. Start by creating a spreadsheet of venues to visit – I think 4 in one day is the max as it can become overwhelming. And don’t be tempted to take an entourage on visits, this is about the two of you, and too many opinions can be really confusing. After you’ve got a shortlist, then it’s a great idea to talk to the people who really get you. Print out this Venue Checklist to take with you, it will help to sort through your initial thoughts.
When it comes to choosing/visiting your potential wedding venue, this should absolutely be a joint task. As planning goes, it’s the biggest commitment you’ll make early on and you should both feel excited and connected about the place you choose. So, enjoy these precious moments together and have fun on your super romantic road trips!
Understand the T&Cs
Check the fine print – Nobody likes talking business, but this one’s important. If you can, take home a copy of the venue T&Cs after your first visit so you can consider your decision with your heart and your head. And make sure you’re both completely clear on the costs of the venue before signing on the pretty dotted line.
We have a whole blog posts all about Wedding Contracts, T&Cs, Deposits and Insurance.
Get expert advice
Do you need a Wedding Planner? If you’re still feeling a little stuck, then you can enlist some expert advice as some Wedding Planners offer a venue search service. From guiding you on what would fit to your budget, right through to assisting with on site-visits for time-poor couples. You can find a list of our favourite planners on our Suppliers We Love page but do check their list of services to see if they offer this option.
Venue Lartington Hall
Photography Jacob & Pauline
Flowers Lucy MacNicoll Flowers
Creative Consultancy Coco & Kat