So, you are now engaged. First of all, congratulations! This is an amazing part of your life which you should enjoy thoroughly. Keep in mind that the engagement period flies by. You will be walking down the aisle in no time, feeling the nerves and bursting with love and happiness.
You have a lot of planning ahead of you before you get there so it is important to try to enjoy every moment of it as well. Choosing your wedding venue is one of the first big contracts you will go into (signing those papers feels like things are getting real, believe us)
Once you have your perfect wedding location locked down, you’ll have your wedding date and the rest will follow from here.
If you are not a couple that has always dreamed of a particular venue the best thing to do is start thinking what kind of wedding you would like in order to help narrow down potential venues. Say, would you like to be surrounded by nature or you may prefer a castle, a barn or even a nightclub. Anything you could possibly want is doable nowadays. Let your imagination fly and you will enjoy planning this day more. The more personality and thought you put into every detail, the more people will love and remember this day.
People say organizing a wedding is one of the most stressful events in life. We’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be. Do everything at your own pace, choose elements together and make of it all a year of perfect planning and organization that manages to bring you joy along the way.
Where to start:
Step 1: Brainstorm wedding themes and styles
Step 2: Find a common theme
Step 3: Roll with it
Now that you have a rough idea, start by Googling venues that would suit the theme you are going for.
Location! Location! Location!
Once you’ve booked a few venue visits, get your thinking caps on and enjoy every experience. Let yourselves be charmed by the places you visit but don’t forget to ask all the questions you can think of and try to image your wedding unfolding in every location.
You will soon know which is the right place, as your mind won’t be able to think about anything else and all the other venues you had seen will just fade in the back of your minds.
We valued those meetings where we started off by sitting down and being asked questions about us and our expectations. For every couple, this is the most important day of their lives until that point, not a business transaction, so you want to feel people care as much about your day as you do. Ensure you see: all function rooms, gardens, bedrooms, stairs (you want to start planning your walk down the stairs with your bridal party) and bathrooms (this is crucial!).
Think about how you and your other half, family and guests will be arriving at the venue. Imagine walking down the aisle, picture your loved ones sitting on each side of the aisle and hear yourself saying your vows.
In our experience of attending weddings around Europe, the actual location of the venue isn’t a very important element. Your friends and family will come to the end of the world to see you two getting married, so pick the venue that ‘sparks joy’ the most, to quote Marie Kondo.
Accommodation & Transport
The best thing that we discovered when looking at venues in the UK is how well this is thought through in the wedding package.
Typically, many venues also offer accommodation. When this is the case, you will normally have a bridal suite offered to you for preparations before the wedding and another suite for the big night to share with your other half.
The bridal suite is often linked or close to the bride’s parent’s room and this give you more space for preparations. There should be large mirrors, a place for your dress, a lovely bathroom and the much-expected white bathrobes and slippers. If you don’t have your own ‘Bride’ labelled ones, these will look just perfect in your wedding photos. So do make use of them!
Make sure you have a list of people staying in the hotel or ask them to book it directly with the hotel. When you do this, ensure you get a discounted price from the venue. Having said that, ask your guests to mention your names when booking their rooms to benefit from this additional perk.
Regarding transport, many people use Uber nowadays. We would just say, when you go to the venue (and there will be a few occasions before your big day) randomly check the Uber availability in the area. This will give you a rough idea of how many cars are available. Also, remember to ask at the reception how easily it is to book a local taxi via their concierge and let your guests know in advance.
This element deserves a separate section. Honestly! On more than one location this became a decisive element for us.
Most “wedding venue tour guides” will not even expect you to want to see the bathrooms, but do ask to have a peak. The majority of the venues we have seen had amazing bathrooms and we believe this is essential to have for many reasons, however, some had terrible bathrooms and toilets.
What is important to watch out for?
• Avoid toilets outside of the venue or attached to the venue, depending on condition (yes, we’ve seen ecological toilets as well)
• Make sure there are at least 3 cubicles
• Ensure are spacious enough for you to comfortably enter the premises with your big wedding dress
• See if there is a staff member responsible for checking and cleaning the bathroom as well as refilling supplies throughout the night
• All the lights/spot lights are working and not flickering
• There is also moisturizing cream, not just soap
• Rolled cotton towels or while paper towels had extra points from us
See a few venues and work out what you can afford. Have a guest list ready as it is important to know roughly how many guests will attend. Higher numbers of guests will give you a bargaining chip when you discuss costs at the venue.
Remember that your calculations will never ever turn out to be precisely what the cost of the wedding will end up being. You have to have some extra budget set aside just in case something comes up later in the process.
When you look at the offers you’ve received from the venues ask yourselves:
• Does the cost include the evening buffet?
• Is there a no corkage option and what is the associated fee? Always worth considering supplying your own drinks
• How many courses are there for the wedding breakfast?
• Is there a vegetarian/vegan/child/staff member menu option?
• What is the venue offering you for free? For example – free room upgrade, DJ, table arrangements, menus, place cards etc.
• What is the cost of the room you will have your function in?
• Are there many ‘’upgrade’’ options in the offer? Work out the costs for any extras you want and double-check what you’re getting as standard. For example, if you’re expecting Prosecco for the welcoming drinks, make sure that the standard package doesn’t offer Buck’s Fizz instead
Staff & Service
• Do they know your names? Tick.
• Can they answer questions straight away? Tick.
• Are they running around like headless chickens? No tick. Massive cross.
Try to find who will be running your event and if the person you’ve met regularly will also be working on the day of your wedding. They tend to, but not always, so it is important you know who you can refer to or ask questions on the day.
Make sure you check online reviews for the venue and flag any potential issues with the staff. If you’re satisfied that they can address these than it should be fine but ideally you won’t come across any major concerns when reading the reviews.
Another thing we should mention is - watch the staff members when you go for your food tasting. Do they bring you water? Are they checking discretely if you finished your meal, or do they come and ask you constantly? If there is anything you are not particularly keen on, communicate it to your venue in good time.
We would definitely recommend eating at the restaurant before booking the venue, if they have one of course. Cross check the menu with the options you have for your wedding breakfast and ask questions regarding the similarity between the two of them.
We loved the food at the restaurant and we had a not so great experience at our first food tasting session. It was not what we expected, we only had a month to go until the wedding and we were not pleased. Having said that, we discussed everything with our wedding planner and the chef who turned our experience around completely and made sure everything was perfect on the wedding day. To do this they invited us around for a second tasting which was much better and helped allay our fears.
Remember to take pictures of absolutely everything you are given and spin the plates around! Do not jump in, explore the plate!
Discuss what you like and what you don’t like, then taste and swap plates. Make notes of everything and discuss it with your wedding planner after. The staff members at Hogarths Stone Manor were absolutely brilliant in this respect. We told them exactly how we felt and they acted on our comments straight away.
On our second tasting, elements were changed on the plate and the plating had improved. This time around we took my partner’s father with us to bring an objective mind to the table. Having a third opinion always helps! We never doubted that on the day the food would be delicious. We knew we made the right choice with the venue, but didn’t imagine having a mishap right before our big day. Everything was fine in the end, but remember how important it is to try everything out.
Well, there you have it. Think of the location, accommodation and transport options, staff and service, food and, of course, the price but also less obvious elements such as the bathrooms at the venue. Having a clear list will allow you to easily compare different venues and choose the perfect setting for your wedding. You’ll then be able to relax on the day and enjoy the big moments!