With your beautiful sparkling engagement ring proudly displayed on your left hand you now have the serious but fun business of searching for your perfect wedding venue.
However, before you start you will need to ask yourself a few important questions which will save you a lot of time and effort whilst searching.
Think about the type of venue in which you would like to hold your wedding. Do you want to have the wedding in the area where you live or perhaps return to the town where one of you grew up? Looking back on my previous blog on Setting Your Wedding Budget, remember that word you want to use to describe your wedding. It now follows that if you are wanting an elegant, romantic, country house wedding then you are not looking at an urban style warehouse in Central London.
Compile a rough guest list. This will enable you to get an idea of the sort of guest numbers that you are considering. There is no point viewing a wedding venue whose maximum capacity for dining is 80 when your guest list exceeds 100. Consider also if you are planning to have additional evening guests.
Most couples will already know if they want a church or civil wedding ceremony, but whichever you choose to do check out all the legal requirements carefully.
There are many ways to search for a venue, with the most obvious being through the internet and various wedding venue directories which can help you narrow down and refine your search. Chat to family and friends, they may come up with some great ideas, but don’t worry that you might offend someone by not choosing the venue that they had or suggested … it’s your day!!
When you have finally narrowed your venue choices, give them a call. You can gain a lot of first impressions this way. Then make an appointment. Some venues have strict viewing times, and you don’t want a wasted journey to discover that no one is able to meet with you or that you arrive in the middle of someone else’s big day.
Have a list of questions prepared. Some of these the venue co-ordinator may answer as they show you around but be sure to make notes and take plenty of photographs. If you plan to view more than two venues in one day this is essential as they can start to merge into one and you won’t remember which venue offered what!
Below are my Top Ten questions to start the ball rolling for you, but never be afraid to ask a question – more than likely it has been asked before and it will always nag in the back of your mind if you don’t ask.
- What will the grounds look like at the time of year you plan to have your wedding? Ask to see photographs as venues look very different with each season (see my previous blog on Which Season Should You Hold your Wedding).
- What does the venue price include, but just as important what doesn’t it include?
- What time will you be able to gain access on the day for setup and what time does the venue have to be vacated? Ensure that you are clear on this in terms of dropping off items prior to the wedding as well as collecting them the following day. Some venues permit access the day before but be sure to check.
- What are the venue’s capacities for all the parts of your day; ceremony, wedding reception and evening party? Remember there is no point viewing a venue whose capacities won’t accommodate you.
- Are there ample parking spaces and is there suitable access for guests with any disabilities?
- If the venue has accommodation on site what is the policy with regards to booking this? If the venue doesn’t have accommodation, do they have any special rates with other local hotels or B&B’s?
- Do you have to use their recommended supplier list? Some venues stipulate that you can only choose suppliers from their recommended list, especially with reference to the catering.
- If you are looking to have a live band then check that the venue permits this and if they have a sound limiter?
- Are there any planned refurbishment works due to take place over the coming months?
- Do you have a specific venue coordinator or main point of contact throughout the planning stages?
The most important thing to remember when making the final decision, is to go with your gut instinct…. I am a firm believer in this. If there are any nagging doubts in your mind then don’t ignore them, chat them through to understand what you feel they might be. If you’re still not entirely certain then walk away and continue your search.
When you find YOUR perfect venue, you will instinctively know.
A few weeks ago, through my membership of The UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, I had the honour of presenting at The National Wedding Show at the NEC in Birmingham. My topic for discussion was ‘How to create a reliable and robust wedding budget’.
I am passionate about weddings and the wedding industry, but I do appreciate that whenever anyone utters the word ‘wedding’ pound signs suddenly appear and usually someone breaks out into a cold sweat! It doesn’t have to be like this. If you choose wisely and make the right decisions, you can have the wedding you desire without breaking the bank.
Setting your budget at the very beginning of your wedding planning is probably the most important thing. No, it’s not very romantic and no one really likes to talk about money but if the conversations are not had right at the start, then yes costs can soon spiral out of control. So sit down together and have that all-important discussion, you are starting out on a new and exciting journey together, so honesty here really is the best policy.
What monies have you already saved and where could you start to save? We all love a cheeky cappuccino, or a weekend away, so why not cut back on these during the wedding planning period. Also, speak to family members who you feel may wish to offer a contribution as knowing what their financial input will be from the start could be helpful.
Then prioritise what is important to you. Remember, this is your day and what is important to you as a couple may not necessarily be important to someone else. Is it vital to have amazing photographs or do you really want that fabulous five-piece live band? Everyone’s priorities for their wedding are different, so set yours from the start.
It is very helpful think about just one word that you might use to describe your wedding. How do you want to feel and, just as importantly, how do you want your guests to feel on your special day? It could be classic, elegant, rustic, vintage, traditional…… once you establish this, when are out and about, rather than impulse buy you can think rationally as to whether it will fit in with what you really want. It’s very easy to sit on your laptop and scroll through websites and click ‘Buy Now’ just because it looks pretty and it’s only a few pounds. But before you know it those few pounds will add up and you will end up with lots of bits and pieces that you don’t really need. Be honest with yourself and try not to compare your wedding to something you see on Pinterest.
There are of course budget saving tips and ideas that you can explore. For instance, why not have canapes as your starter and your wedding cake as dessert. Flowers, beautiful as they are can be expensive and if they are not one of the top items on your priority list than perhaps consider less flowers but add more foliage. Also, remember every guest does have a price tag attached, so be sensible and consider wisely.
Finally, compile a budget schedule to keep track of all your wedding finances; a simple excel spreadsheet will suffice. List all the wedding items you will need then allocate an amount to each, bearing in mind that approximately 45% of your total budget will be on the reception (venue hire, food & drink) with the remaining 55% towards everything else. Make sure that you all also have a 5% contingency for those little surprises. Then when you start the planning process you can add in the actual costs as well as keeping a note of when any interim or final payments are due to be made.