Wedding Venues: A Starter Guide

One of the first questions to pop up when you’re planning a wedding is: where are you having it?

It’s inevitable: you will think it and people will ask it and I’ll be honest, it is harder than it sounds unless you’ve actually seen somewhere that you know you have to have (and can afford!).

I’m writing this guide to serve as a useful tool to all brides who are searching for wedding venues.

Different Types of Venue for different types of weddings:

The venue you end up choosing will depend on the type of of wedding you have in mind.

1. Barn wedding: this is currently a huge trend.

A rustic blank canvas

A rustic blank canvas

Pros:

– The barn is a blank canvas that you can add your own touch to. From room layout to table arrangements and set-ups, everything requires attention and you can get really creative with how you do things.

– Barn weddings have a very rustic and quaint feel to them, so if you’re after this type of wedding then a barn wedding is one to consider.

– The countryside and endless landscape and greenery makes a fantastic backdrop for some beautiful photos.

– Barns are usually big enough to take a large number of guests, particularly if you’re creative with the way you set up your tables/seating.

– Sourcing your own catering can be great fun and gives you a lot of flexibility and variety. You have the potential to get exactly what you want with the food and drink!

Cons:

– Barns can be expensive to hire. For a barn that regularly does weddings, you’d be looking at an average of £2,000 – £5,000 for the barn alone. This  means that you would then need to hire/buy anything that needs to go in the barn: tables, chairs, cutlery & crockery, decorations etc.. Some barns that do weddings regularly supply these things but others don’t. It does depend on whether you’re hiring it on a Friday/Saturday or whether it is another day of the week, so always worth asking about that.

– Barns are usually out in the countryside and would normally require a car to get to them. As mentioned previously, this can be a pro, however one thing to consider is accommodation and also transport. Could all your guests get to the barn by car? If not then you might need to arrange (and pay for) alternative transport. Is there somewhere for yourselves/your guests to stay overnight? If not, then people would need to get back from the barn to wherever they are staying and that might need to be considered too.

– A barn wedding is quite the project to take on – a side effect of the fact that it’s a complete blank canvas (for the barns that come with nothing but an empty shell) is that it requires a lot of thought, planning and work to get it where you want it to be. For this you would need to weigh up whether you have the time, inclination and sometimes money to see the project through.

– Sourcing external caterers who have to bring the food onto the site can be difficult and pricey. The other thing to arrange is the bar – a barn is unlikely to have a fully stocked and licensed bar so you might need to find a company that is licensed for events like this, which again might cost more in the end. You will also need to pay for staff to wait and serve.

 

2. Hotel wedding: this is one of the most versatile but also classic choices, taking you from very grand and glamorous to a smaller, boutique affair, depending on the hotel you go for.

The classic and elegant hotel wedding

The classic and elegant hotel wedding

Pros:

– Convenience – hotels will do most of the work for you. Rooms don’t need much additional decoration, furnishings and crockery are a given, the catering is usually to a high standard and everyone can stay at the hotel.

– Licensed for civil ceremonies, so you could have the entire wedding in the same location, saving you having to shuttle any guests back/forth.

– Price – hotel weddings can sometimes be seen as good value for money because you get so much thrown in. This is what is known as a ‘wedding package’ and most hotels/wedding venues offer wedding packages that include various bits and pieces. These bits and pieces are considered the main things that make up a wedding. A typical wedding package for example, might include the following:

Room hire (for ceremony and/or reception)
Canapes on arrival
Welcome drink for a pre-defined number of guests
Wedding breakfast for pre-defined number of guests – usually 3 course meal
Half a bottle of house wine per person with meal
Evening buffet
Disco & DJ for evening
Staffed, stocked and licensed bar
Tables, chairs & crockery/cutlery
Cake stand & cake knife

Pricing would depend on the number of guests but getting a wedding package does buy you peach of mind that at least all the bits listed in the package will be taken care of.

– Good food: often hotel chefs are actually specialists in their dishes, so you’re usually guaranteed a great meal.

– Depending on the hotel you choose, you can either go full glamour and elegance (think Monica and Chandler’s wedding from Friends) or you can go a little more quaint.

Cons:

– Hotels can end up being very expensive, if you decide that there are elements of the package you would like to change or take out. Once you stray away from the package, each item ends up being charged on a per person basis. Also, if you have more guests than the package caters for, then any additional guests are also charged per person and it is usually quite costly. How much depends on the hotel but you can be looking at around £100 per person.

– Weddings at hotels are usually restricted in the order of events. This means that you would more or less have to have a ceremony that begins at 2.30-3pm at the very latest, followed by a wedding breakfast, followed by an evening reception/buffet. Trying to veer away from this order is quite difficult and event managers are not always very understanding.

– Some hotels are quite particular about how much you can decorate their function rooms, so if you wanted to drastically change the way a room looks or you had a specific way of setting up/laying out in mind then a hotel wedding might not be the best way forward.

– Depending on the price of the hotel you choose, some guests might not be able to afford to stay there overnight. This shouldn’t be a problem, but it is something you need to consider. If you think there is even a chance that it might be pricey for even one guest, then ensure you offer an alternative when you send out information to your guests.

3. Stately home: the grandest of all the options.

The grandness of a stately home

The grandness of a stately home

Pros: 

– Stately homes are beautiful: this is not really questionable – they’re always very grand buildings set in stunning countryside so these offer maximum impact and amazing photos.

– Stately homes usually have bedrooms for at least a portion of your guests (yourselves and immediate family/bridal party/groomsmen) and they have ample parking.

– Usually, stately homes are licensed for civil ceremonies, so again the whole day can take place on one site.

– Catering and set up is usually done in house and many stately homes offer similar packages as hotels do.

Cons:

– The price: Stately homes can be one of the priciest of venues, depending on the house. When we were asking around Oxfordshire, we were quoted around £10,000 for around 70 guests at several stately homes.

 

4. City Wedding: Getting married in the city centre can be beautiful, but this requires some good planning and so is not the most popular option. Also it might not have quite the impact that a stately home might have, however it can be pocket friendly if done carefully.

The beauty of the city

The beauty of the city

Pros:

– Getting married in the middle of your favourite city means you get to make that city a special part of your day, making it mean so much more to you. You would also get a very different style of beautiful photos in the city.

– It can be economical to have your wedding at a registry office/town hall and then to move onto a venue in town compared with a hotel/stately home/barn.

– If you wanted to steer away from the regular structure of a wedding day/wedding package then this could be the wedding for you. Nobody will tell you how things ‘should be done’ and you can decide for yourselves.

Cons: 

– This will take some good planning and thinking about more details than you would with hotels/stately homes. Think, in particular about: parking, accommodation, transport (before, during and after the event), people who might not be able to walk too far, the temperamental weather.

– If you’re not careful this can end up being more costly as you add on extras to make your day flow smoother (e.g. adding on transport to ferry people between venues).

 

Deciding on your Venue:

The venue you ultimately go for will depend on three things (which will actually define a lot of the decisions you make):

1. The style of wedding you would like: this is down to personal taste and preference and the Internet will inspire all sorts of weddings. A word of warning though: Pinterest is both your best friend and your worst enemy – decisions, decisions!

2. The number of guests: The single part of a wedding that can severely affect your costs. When we planned our wedding we had three sub-lists in our guest list:

– The non-negotiables (usually family & close friends)

– The ‘most likely will come’

– The ‘potentially not invite/unlikely to come’

This might help you get your numbers down to a more affordable amount.

3. The budget: it is always worth trying to negotiate a better deal. If your favourite venue can’t actually bring their price down then try and see if they’ll throw some extras in for free.

 

Questions to ask your venue:

Apart from the usual questions about costs, food, accommodation etc.. there are a few questions that might not be that obvious to begin with:

1. Are there any restrictions on decorating, photography, noise, alcohol or anything else that might affect your day?

2. Don’t be afraid to barter: if they can’t lower their price, is there anything else they can throw in free of charge?

3. What is their cancellation policy? You never know if/why you might need to cancel/change the date of your wedding. Some venues charge 50% for cancelling 6 months in advance, so know where you stand.

4. How much are any extras? That could be charges for any additional guests and/or charges for any extra hours you use the function room.

5. Are they insured for weddings?

 

The venue is one of the biggest components of the wedding that you will book and that makes it one of the most stressful if it’s taking a while to find the right place for you. Power through though, because you will find your wedding venue and you will love it. It will become a very special place for you. If you need some advice or help with your wedding venue search then do not hesitate to get in touch with us either by using our Contact Form or by commenting below and we’d be happy to help you (completely free of charge of course!).

Good luck and enjoy!

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