DIY Bride: Choosing A Wedding Venue

external shots of York maze

There’s perhaps no bigger decision when it comes to planning a wedding than choosing your venue (though choosing a dress / groom comes fairly close).

Venues can be great fun to nosey around, but it can be a bit overwhelming (and time consuming) if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

As with all things wedding realted, I’d recommend doing some research.  And before you even launch into Google (never mind zipping around the countryside looking at locations), it helps to think about what your priorities are, and also to make sure you and wife/husband to be are in vague agreement.

Here are 10 quick questions worth considering before you start scouting:

1. Do you want the wedding to be held in the UK or abroad? If it’s in the UK are you happy to go anywhere or do you want somewhere close to home / family?  If your thoughts are more far flung, do you have a specific country in mind?

2. Do you want to have a religious service or a civil service? An obvious one, but clearly dictates which kind of venues you’ll be looking at for the marriage bit of the day.

3. If you have a civil service do you want the service and reception to be in the same place, or are you happy to move people between the two?  The latter opens up more options for venues but means that you do need to take logistics into consideration.

4. What is your budget? Yes, it’s the biggie – but it is best to have in mind before you start to look and get your heart set on somewhere that will make your bank manager cry…

5. How many guests are you having? You don’t need to do an exact count up, but it helps to have a rough idea at this stage. Smaller weddings can open up an interesting range of options like cosy little restaurants and pubs that wouldn’t normally categorise themselves as reception venues.

6. What look & feel are you after?  It can be useful to brainstorm adjectives for use in search engines to help dig up options that might not usually be top of the Google pile.   Do you want somewhere that’s historic/ rustic/ rural/ alternative/ informal/ vintage/ contemporary?  Remember to keep an open mind though – venues like village halls can be a great (and cheap) blank canvas on which you can put your own stamp of style / design.

bridegroom's friends enjoying the seesaw swings

 Remember to factor in big kids as well as little ones!

7. Are you inviting children? If there are likely to be a troupe of little ones it might be worth factoring into your decision – somewhere with some outdoor space and minimal opportunity for expensive breakages might be advised.

8. How much flexibility do you want to have with suppliers / décor? We had a very specific idea of what I wanted with regards to the decoration, music and catering, so it was important to find somewhere that would be accommodating and give us control over those aspects, and not specify particular suppliers or approach to the day.  Other people find that level of control / responsibility too much of a headache and prefer to have more support and organisation provided by the venue.

9. Will many of your guests need to stay overnight?  If so what accommodation needs will they have? One of the factors in choosing our venue was finding somewhere that wasn’t too expensive for those that were travelling to stay over, was close enough to home (of most friends / family) for people to drive who didn’t want to stay, and not too far from the venue to local accommodation (think of the taxi prices!)

10. What’s your ideal layout?  Some prefer the wedding party to be in one room in the evening so that guests don’t end up too flung about, whereas we were specifically looking for somewhere with more than one room for the evening as I know how averse to dancing and loud music many of my family are!   Don’t feel that you have to stick to preconceived ideas about the after wedding events either – we once went to a fantastic wedding where there was no sit down meal or traditional evening ‘do’; after the service we went to a country house for canapés and champagne, and then proceedings wound down in the early evening  to allow everyone to get their last trains home.

More tips under the cut…

Once you’ve mulled over those questions, here are some further tips to help you get searching:

– If you’re having a civil wedding check out your local council website for the list of licensed civil venues.  It can turn up some interesting options that might not be as good at promoting themselves through search engines.  For brides local to us, here are the links for Leeds, York and Manchester and Calderdale.

– I found national wedding magazines to be of limited use as they rarely featured locations in my area (or price bracket), but the websites of local wedding photographers were a handy resource, and sometimes provided a better coverage of images than the websites of the venues themselves.

Wedding blogs are also great for venue inspiration,  and of the wedding websites The Bridal File and Confetti in particular have really comprehensive directories of venues for UK brides (some other sites can be a bit South East centric)

– Don’t forget church halls and village halls for wedding receptions – they’re often very reasonable and though they might not look much when you visit them , they open up all kinds of creative possibilities for crafty DIY brides and can actually be easier to work with than a hotel or venue which already has a very specific style

– Fancy an outdoor wedding?  There are actually some curious legal limitations to them in England (ie. you have to be standing under a fixed structure of some kind) – Boho weddings has a useful lowdown on the rules and some alternative suggestions.

– Having married in the UK, I’m no expert on marrying abroad, but gov.uk has a really user friendly guide that takes you through the facts,  this Grazia article has some intersting advice from a personal point of view, and Perfect Weddings Abroad have some great destinations (igloo village wedding?!) and have won several UK travel awards.

– Use a spreadsheet!  It can be really useful to keep a track of what you’ve looked at (and discounted) and making notes to compare venue location, price, capacity, pros/cons, etc.

In future weeks we’ll be featuring some of our favourite venues from around the UK for design conscious (but budget savvy) brides.

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