Some people plan their whole day around their dream wedding location, while others start with a blank page. Either way, choosing a wedding venue is one of the most important wedding planning decisions you’ll make.
Reception & ceremony
The first thing to take into account when choosing a wedding location is that there are likely to be two parts of your wedding to organise – the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception. As regards the ceremony, a church wedding is still the favourite choice for many couples, and most have a particular church in mind. In this case, the reception must be planned around the ceremony location. Factors such as ease of transport from service to reception will be important when planning your church wedding.
If, on the other hand, you’re thinking about a civil wedding, you have the option of choosing a venue that will host both your wedding ceremony and your wedding reception. If this is what you are hoping for, you will need to choose a venue that is licensed for marriage ceremonies. This may come with a higher price tag than non-licensed wedding venues, but has the benefit of minimising the amount of travelling involved for you and your wedding guests.
How many guests?
The type of wedding you have will depend partly on how big it will be, so here are some things to think about before approaching wedding venues:
Venue capacity: It may sound obvious but many venues will not be able to magic up extra space from nowhere if you add 20 extra guests at the last minute. You should have a good idea of numbers before you start looking at venues.
Seated or standing wedding reception? A formal meal will obviously require more space than a stand-up buffet, so a venue whose seated capacity is 100 might well be able to accommodate 200 for a canapé reception. Which do you want?
Entertainment facilities: Bands and other entertainment can take up a large amount of space, as can a dance floor, so decide when and where you want the entertainment to take place, and check with the venue that this can be done in the space available.
Which wedding venue?
Any number of buildings can make a perfect wedding reception venue, but here are some of the most popular options:
Historic wedding reception venue. Castles, country houses and stately homes are among the locations many dream of for their big day. If your budget can stretch to it, this offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy the use of a stunning building.
Hotel wedding reception. There are so many different types of hotel that there’s likely to be something for everyone, from traditional to ultra-modern. Having accommodation on the spot is, of course, a big plus.
Marquee wedding reception. If you have access to spacious gardens or other outdoor space, a marquee could be worth considering. Many people are surprised at how pricey it can be to hire a marquee for their wedding, but the plus side is that you can take control of wedding catering and could save a considerable amount by providing your own alcohol.
Sports or social club wedding reception. Different types of club premises can be perfect for a wedding reception. Do plenty of research and you could find one that’s in a stunning location, too. For example, some sailing or rowing clubs have picturesque waterside views, and can often be hired at a reasonable price, certainly compared to other popular wedding venues.
Restaurant or pub wedding reception. Food and drink are among the main ingredients for a successful wedding reception, so where better to head than to a lovely restaurant or pub? Bear in mind that you’re more likely to find a good match if your wedding party is smaller, and if you’re lucky you might even be able to escape the heavy costs that are often quoted as soon as you mention the ‘w’ word!
Wedding fees. Exaggerated costs, such as a hefty corkage fee or drinks prices, might mean compromising on other aspects of the wedding. Vote with your feet if you feel it’s not worth it.
Wedding venue staff. Are the staff experienced and professional? Flexibility is also important. Are they willing to adapt to your needs? This will be a major factor in how smoothly your day runs.
Wedding venue facilities. Is the venue suitable for guests with a disability, and can it provide appropriate seating for the elderly and/or young children?
Wedding guest accommodation. Is there a reasonable range of accommodation within easy access of the venue for you – and your wedding guests? – check out available accommodation near your wedding venue.
Wedding transport. Is there enough parking for guests who drive, and decent transport links for those who don’t?
Wedding venue restrictions. Does the venue impose limitations that could negatively affect your plans? Some stipulate no loud music after a certain time, others don’t like confetti or candles, and certain (usually historic) venues forbid high-heeled shoes for fear of their flooring being damaged.
Wedding photography. Plenty of natural light in your venue will mean better pictures. You might also want to check that there are plenty of appealing outdoor spots close at hand.
Wedding decoration. Are table linen, flowers, place cards and other decorations included in the quoted price, or will you have to provide your own?
Wedding extras. Check the availability of extras such as a cake stand and cake knife. Many wedding venues will lend you these, but having to hire them separately adds to your hassle and your wedding expenses.