There are SO many venues. HOW do you choose?
Overwhelmed is an understatement.
There are SO many wedding venues. I've worked in some incredible ones, and dream of working in others...how can you possibly choose?!
When my couples come to me and need help sourcing venues, I have a list of questions for them to answer which helps me form an opinion of what they need. I go and do some research, create a report of my findings, they choose...job done.
For us, I'd been through the list with Den and was still none the wiser as to what I wanted.
I don't think there's one set way of choosing, and neither is there a right or a wrong way.
Here are my top tips for choosing yours:
1. What's your overall budget?
The biggest chunk of your budget is likely be swallowed by your venue and catering. Before you do anything have a think about your guest list and your realistic budget.
- What can you afford to save each month?
- Will you be offered financial help from family or friends?
- If you're considering loans, will you realistically be able to afford to pay them off in the time frame, and do you really want to put yourself in debt?
- Consider hiring a wedding planner to help guide you in the best way to divide your budget plans.
2. How many people will you be inviting? Will you have extra evening guests?
- When we started planning we wrote down all the names of our nearest and dearest...and then decided we needed a bottle of wine when we realised how much a wedding of almost 400 people could cost. (We both are blessed with large extended family and a big support network of amazing friends)
- We held an engagement party for 100 close family and friends in a very tiny room, on the hottest day of the year....and swiftly came to realise what our wedding day would feel like. I hardly spoke to people for more than a couple of minutes at a time. My sister and niece flew in from Australia for 5 days to surprise me (crazy ladies!!!) and yet I hardly spent time with them. Den's bestie and 'lusher' aka 'lady usher' flew in from NYC to surprise him and we only spent about 20mins in total with her. My cousins from Cheshire changed their mind at the last minute and travelled 4/5 hours in the car into central London, for us to speak to them for all of about 5 minutes! I asked one of my besties to be my Maid of Honour and had this big special moment planned in my head, but it got totally ruined when some family chose that moment to leave and I realised that I hadn't even said hello to them.... I totally forgot I was in the middle of asking her. I'll never get that moment back with her again, and so I've promised myself to make time for her on the morning of the wedding instead...and also not to try and do too much all at once!
Den and I were both the centre of attention yet hardly saw each other or our guests. For us, it was a wake up call as to what was important. We knew that we wanted as many people as possible to be able to celebrate with us yet needed the room to be able to do so as not feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed.
We wrote a realistic guest list with a large evening guest list so that we got the best of both worlds and we needed a big space .
We realised we knew a LOT of people with children. (Over 30 kids under 10 were invited to our engagement party...it was wonderful, but did resemble a creche at one point) I love kids at weddings, skidding on the dancefloor and generally being rather cute in their new outfits....but the party made us realise that we needed to draw a line somewhere. (We have since decided to only invite the offspring of family members and our bridal party. Having said that, at one point 3 of my 5 bridesmaids were pregnant at the same time!)
I've always been 'anti' evening guests. I felt like it was almost like saying 'you're not quite special enough to be invited to the whole day, but come party with us anyway'....but now, I TOTALLY understand why so many people have chosen to have fewer guests in the day. It's not so much a hierarchy, but the ability for you to to be able select the closest friends/family to celebrate your legal marriage and then extend the celebrations to the remainder of your loved ones. If like me, you're not too keen on the idea of evening guests then seriously consider your guest list!
3. What's your style?
- Are you city folk looking for something raw and industrial, country lovers searching for something rustic and romantic, or jet setters on the hunt for their dream destination venue?
- Do you want to be able to stay the night at the venue?
- Do you want to be able get legally married and party the night away all in once place?
- Outside wedding VS Inside wedding
- Do you want a total dry hire venue that you can decorate yourself or somewhere that is beautiful enough already and requires little work?
- Do you have specific requirements? E.g late night licence, accessibility, free corkage, outside catering?
- Discuss and decide what your ultimate must haves and dislikes are to be able to start whittling down options.
When we started looking, I decided I didn't want to use any venue I'd either worked in or attended a wedding at. (That immediately took a fair few venues out of the mix!).
Then I became a bit of a princess and decided that I wanted to try and find somewhere so unusual that no-one had ever been married there ever before. (In hindsight I think that was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that plenty of people were assuming that the wedding planner's wedding would be out of this world and I got so absorbed in that expectation)
- I totally lost sight of what was important, the REASONS why the man of my dreams had proposed. Den knew I needed some time to get that all out of my system before he sat me down and talked some sense into me.
We knew we wanted an Autumn wedding to avoid hot weather (nobody wants a sweaty bride), peak season costs (tends to run from May-September) and because we started dating on my parents wedding anniversary (April) so really wanted to honour my in-laws too by sharing their wedding anniversary (October).
So, we finally had our list of priorities:
- October availability
- a venue with 2 large spaces in case it's bad weather and guests can mingle inside without being restricted to their tables
- a venue with incredible staff so that the control freak in me will be able to relax
- a venue we can stay at and perhaps our guests too
- a venue with grounds so that (weather permitting) our little guests have space to let off steam
- had to be accessible for disabled and elderly guests
- somewhere with a Church nearby
- big enough capacity for our guest list
- somewhere that didn't make us feel like we were in a wedding factory (one in, one out on a conveyor belt. I wanted to feel as special as I try to make my couples feel when it's their day)
....right. No biggie.
Shall we elope? Vegas?!
4. Do some research
We both spent HOURS trying to find the perfect place. There is an epic spreadsheet, detailing key qualities, pictures, prices and capacity.
We then made a shortlist of around 8 venues to visit and spent various weekends travelling round the country visiting them.
We visited castles, country manors, hotels, private members clubs, and a Glasshouse. I fell in love with them all....for my brides....but not for us.
a lovely friend was bored of me moaning about our venue hunting and suggested this beauty:
It ticked all of our boxes and more. It's surrounded by stunning Sussex countryside and I am so in love with its mismatch style. It was still a big decision to make though, so we went away and double, triple checked our sums that we could afford it.
The Ravenswood, has become our wedding venue. Deposit paid.
Ok, so we definitely won't be the first couple to ever get married here, and undoubtedly won't be the last...but it's OUR venue and we will make it special to us.