You don't need me to tell you how important this decision is. When choosing a venue for your wedding, you are effectively selecting a space to house, for the best part of a day, 100 (or so) of your nearest and dearest, all of varying tastes, ages, need and proclivities. No pressure or anything.
The best way to cope with this Everest of a decision is to cut it down into smaller Snowdon-sized chucks and climb those first - before you know it, you’ll be at the top of the summit, exhausted and dehydrated, eating a piece of Kendall mint cake while looking at a beautiful view. Your first task, should you choose to accept it (you probably should, really) will be to make several key decisions to speed up the selection process. Like Poirot, you’ll need to engage in something of a process of elimination to winnow out the possibles from the probably-nots and the this-is-the-worst-place-evers.
Before visiting venues, ask yourself:
- When do we want to get married? Make sure you pick a date that will suit the kind of venue you would like to consider; if you want to have your reception outdoors in the grounds of a country house, you might want to steer clear of January.
- What style of wedding do we want? For those wanting to live the fairytale, a castle, country club or hotel should deliver the atmosphere you’re wanting. If you’re a pair of outdoorsy ramblers, a barn or a beach could be right up your, erm, country lane.
- How many guests are we planning to invite? There is a very strong correlation between the amount of people you invite and the amount of space needed, and so if you’ve always dreamt of having your wedding on board a submarine, but you’d like 200 family and friends to come along on your aquatic adventure, think that one through a bit.
- What’s our budget? It’s easy to be a bit wishy washy and vague with the budget, but it’s well worth setting strict parameters for the venue. Not only will this help you to get the best deal you possibly can when you do select the venue you want, it will also ensure that you have money left over for all the other bells and whistles you want to include in your day. Those bells can be darned expensive.
Now that you’re armed with the facts and figures, you’re ready to be let loose to examine and critique the venues that will be most likely to cater for your needs. Many popular venues, hotels especially, host wedding fairs at key times of year, and these events can be a great opportunity for you to have a good nosey around to get an impression of the place. However, if you want a bit of one-to-one attention and an in-depth chat about what is provided at a particular venue, then it’s worth booking a slot to swing by. Check out Berkshire Wedding Fairs for this seasons events, you may even see me there!
While visiting, remember to…
Get Your Camera Out
It’s difficult to be fully objective when you’re being sold a venue by a smooth talking wedding coordinator, bamboozling you with her enthusiastic hand gestures; therefore, it is a good rule of thumb to take a few photos away from your visit. These will help you to think clearly about the venue once you’ve left, and will also give you an idea of the what the lighting is likely to be like for the photos on the day.
Find Out What’s Included
Don’t get caught with your proverbial smart suit trousers down - ask for full details of the wedding packages your venue supplies. Is catering included? Do they provide a wedding coordinator, or a master of ceremonies for your speeches? How many people can fit comfortably within the space? Do they ask that you use their recommended vendors for entertainment and other such services? What’s the parking situation for your guests? Is it OK for the chainsaw juggler to perform indoors? All the key concerns.
When speaking to members of staff, ask as many questions as you like, and don’t worry about being a nuisance. You’ll need to get all the facts as soon as possible, as this will help head off any potential problems further down the line. For instance, if you are wanting to have a disco, do they have a policy on how loud the music can be? Do they have an in-house DJ, or can you bring your own music? Are there are health and safety point you’ll need to comply with if you are bringing your own amps or equipment? To be honest, if you’re not asking an annoying amount of questions like a seven year old at the Science Museum, you're not doing venue visiting properly.
If your ceremony is being held in a different space to your reception, think about how your guests might get from A to B, and try to avoid making it too difficult. You might provide transport for your guests, such as an old fashioned London bus or an armoured truck, or you might opt hold the reception somewhere local to the ceremony venue. This is a particularly pertinent concern if your guests aren’t familiar with the area themselves; the last thing you want your special day to be remembered for is parking concerns, roundabouts or traffic.
Make A Return Visit
Unsure about the answers you were given first time round? Go back and ask the same questions again; this will help to flush out any inconsistencies, and will give you a better idea as to where the potential issues might be if you select this venue. If your venue is providing the catering for your wedding, a return visit may also be a good opportunity (ahem, excuse) to have a tasting. If you are meeting with the caterers, be sure to find out whether they will be able to adequately provide for the dietary requirements of your guests.
Remember The Entertainment
If you have your heart set on a particular form of entertainment for the day, make sure that your venue will allow for this. The great thing about being a wedding magician is that it really is the kind of entertainment you can take anywhere, and can work well in any weather conditions. I’ve performed outdoors, under marquees, in castles and ballrooms, and I tailor my sets depending on the location. Any good entertainer will do this, but some venues will be more suitable than others, and so be sure to check this out before booking that lion tamer.
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Visiting venues can and should be an enjoyable business, and so enjoy the free Prosecco and nibbles and don't let the pressure get to you.
Tell us any other tips we missed in the comments down below!