How to Pick Your Ideal Wedding Venue
One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make on your wedding planning journey is where to get married. That means choosing a venue for your ceremony and reception. You might pick the same venue to host both parts of the celebration, or a separate one for each.
But choosing between the hundreds of stunning wedding venues out there can be a task and a half. Fortunately, we’ve created this handy guide to help you narrow down your search and find your ideal spot to tie the knot. We’ll share the top 14 factors you should consider when choosing your wedding venue(s), to find somewhere that will work for you and wow your guests.
The first thing to do is to take a detailed look at your finances. Sit down with your other half and decide on a general figure that you’d be happy to spend on your wedding venue, as well as an absolute maximum. This will help you narrow down your choices to the venues that are going to fit within your budget.
For each venue that you’re interested in, you’ll need to get a quote from them, with an in-depth breakdown of what costs what. Make sure that you get a detailed list of what is and isn’t included in the venue hire cost – think service charge, cleaning fee, VAT, etc.
The location of your venue might be super important to you, or it might not. You might have always dreamed of being wed in an idyllic location with beautiful mountain or ocean views, for example. If this is important to you, put it at the top of your list and don’t rest until you’ve found somewhere with the perfect backdrop.
Even if location isn’t a priority for you, you should still bear in mind how long it’s going to take your guests to travel there. You could set a limit on how far away your venue should be from your home, so that nobody has to spend all day driving. If some of your guests don’t drive, you should also make sure it’s accessible via public transport.
Once you’ve created a shortlist of your potential wedding venues (that are within budget, and in a good location), the next thing to consider is how large the venue is. How many guests are you going to have at your wedding? Don’t forget to count any evening-only guests.
The listed capacity of the venue will be a hard limit, for safety reasons – so it’s best to find somewhere with a slightly bigger capacity than you think you’ll need, just in case. Bear in mind that venue staff, suppliers, security and the officiant need to be included in your head count.
Also, consider how many rooms the venue has, and how large they are. Were you hoping to have a separate room for breastfeeding mothers, or for overwhelmed children to take a break in? What about a room for getting changed into your evening dress? Make sure there’s enough space for everything you need.
4. Time of Year
Believe it or not, the season that you’re getting married in may have an impact on a venue’s suitability. For example, an outdoor venue – such as a marquee in a judicial park – might not be suitable if you’re thinking of having a winter wedding.
Are the grounds of your venue likely to get muddy if you get married on a rainy day in April? For indoor venues, make sure they have adequate heating and/or air conditioning, depending on what’s relevant for you. (If you fall in love with a venue and then realise it’s not suitable at a certain time of year, you might need to change the date of your wedding.)
Now onto the aesthetics. If your wedding has a theme, consider carefully whether the venue will fit the theme, or seem out of place. For example: if you’re having a medieval themed wedding, a grand old castle might be absolutely perfect. But it probably won’t work if you’d like a glamorous Oscars-themed bash. In that case, a modern, swanky hotel would probably be a better fit. Take a moment to imagine how you’d like your ideal venue to look on your big day – will this venue
Consider your colour scheme, and the decorations that you envisage having on your big day. Now think about how the venue looks on the inside. Does it fit your colour scheme? Is there enough scope for you to leave your own mark on it, or will you have to work around the venue?
Many modern wedding venues feature ‘blank canvas’ style rooms, which are decorated in neutral colours and can be tailored to fit pretty much any wedding theme. But some venues have a distinct ‘flavour’ to them. For example, an old English manor house may have elaborate red velvet curtains that can’t be removed. Will that work for you?
Also, find out whether there are any restrictions on how you can decorate the place. Some venues won’t allow you to hang decorations from ceilings or walls. Others may prohibit real candles, confetti, or the scattering of petals.
Lighting is also important to consider. How well is the venue lit? Will the warmth of the lights work with your colour scheme? Will they allow you to put up extra lights (e.g. fairy lights) if that’s something you want to do?
7. Photo Opportunities
Most couples feel that the photographs are one of the most important parts of the wedding day. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that your chosen venue has a suitable area for photo opportunities. Of course, if you’re getting married outdoors in a natural beauty spot, this is already covered. But for indoor venues, make sure the rooms are big and well-lit enough for your photographer to get decent shots.
8. Outdoor Areas
Take a walk around the grounds of the venue. Make sure to ask the staff which areas you and your guests will be allowed access to (and check whether you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege, as you may do). If you’re considering any outdoor entertainment, make sure that it’s fit for purpose – big enough, and with even enough ground to prevent any trip hazards.
9. Entertainment Options
Some venues have strict restrictions on what kind of wedding entertainment is and isn’t allowed. So, if you’ve got your heart set something specific – like a live band, fireworks, or a food truck – be sure to check with the venue that they’ll allow it, and that there’s enough space for what you’re envisioning. Some venues, for example, don’t allow smoke machines because they could trigger the fire alarms (and trust us, you don’t want to be setting off the sprinkler system).
10. Catering and Alcohol
Some wedding venues provide their own food, and have on-site chefs. For these types of venues (such as most hotels), you should attend a menu tasting so that you can be sure the food is up to scratch. You may have to choose between a number of set menus, but in some cases, the venue will work with you to create a custom menu (for an extra fee). If this is something that’s important to you, it may help you choose between similar venues.
If you’d like to hire a separate caterer, check that the venue will allow you to do this. Most venues that have their own chefs will not allow any outside food to enter the building.
Next it’s time to consider your wedding suppliers. First, ask the venue what they do and don’t provide. Some venues will hire or buy in things like tablecloths, napkins, and chair covers, and will set them up for you. Other venues will require you to hire an outside company.
If you’ve already got suppliers in mind for things like flowers, photography, food, music and the like, discuss this with your potential venues too. Some venues won’t allow you to hire just anyone, and will instead have a set list of suppliers that they’re happy to work with. This might be a deal breaker for you.
Are you planning to stay overnight in a hotel room on the night of your wedding? Most people do, but it’s by no means a requirement, if you live nearby. If it’s something you’d be interested in, the simplest solution is to choose a venue that has on-site accommodation (such as a grand hotel). You will most likely get a discount rooms for you and your guests, because you’re hosting your wedding there.
If your potential venue has no accommodation, find out whether there are any hotels or B&Bs nearby, how expensive they are, and what they’re like. This might help narrow down your shortlist.
13. Safety and Accessibility
This may or may not be applicable to you, depending on your circumstances and who will be attending your wedding. But if any of your guests:
• Are children
• Are elderly or infirm
• Have disabilities that affect movement (e.g. use a wheelchair)
Then it’s essential to choose a venue which is accessible to everyone who will be attending (particularly the toilets, and the main rooms where the ceremony and reception will be held).
If there are children in attendance, make sure there are no obvious safety hazards. For example, some venues have large ponds or lakes in the grounds, with no barrier or anything in place to prevent people from falling in.
14. Opening Hours and Access Times
Finally, choose a venue which has appropriate opening hours, and times that you’ll be able to access the building. If you’re going to need to set up your decorations the day before, ensure that this won’t be a problem for the venue.
If you don’t have exclusive use of the venue (e.g. if it’s a hotel which may have other residents staying on the night of your wedding), you may want to check how long the bar will be open for, and when you’ll be expected to vacate the premises. Ensure that it all lines up with the vision that you have for your big day. If you wanted your party to go on until the early hours of the morning, make sure your potential venue isn’t expecting you all to leave by 11pm!