Soon after the flush and frenzy of early engagement end, it's time for some decision-making: when and where is your wedding going to happen? When it comes to picking a wedding venue, there are certain things you need to consider before putting down your deposit.
Since getting hitched at your local hometown parish is no longer de rigeur, the venue options can feel endless, whether you want the sophisticated charm of a city reception, the rustic beauty of a country barn, or feel like jetting off to a sun-kissed locale.
While there are many factors that will go into determining your wedding venue, it's important to focus on the practical points as well, like how many people your dream venue can accommodate (versus the number of guests you're planning for), how feasible it is for guests and out-of-towners to get there, and whether or not the venue is being used for other weddings or events on the same day.
We chatted to London's premier wedding planner, Bruce Russell, to get his top five tips on things to consider before booking your wedding venue. Notepads at the ready...
1. One of the most important things that couples forget to ask is whether there is another wedding taking place that day. This not only refers to the reception venue but, more often than not, also the church or ceremony venue that you choose.
This will certainly have an impact on your own big day - timings for the ceremony and other logistics from setting-up flowers (or indeed whether you'll have to share flowers), coordinating when one set of wedding guests will be leaving and the next arriving, transport etc.
If you are using a large venue with multiple rooms, you should check out their procedure for how they handle multiple weddings over the course of one day - you don't want to feel part of a 'production chain'; it should feel special for both you and your arriving guests.
Personalisation vs. venue restrictions
2) Recently I've detected a new trend among couples who are moving away from 'the standard' suppliers in a bid to create a sense of 'home' for their guests on the big day.
This is something I wholeheartedly encourage – the wedding day should be a reflection of the bride and groom. However, this degree of personalisation does require an element of flexibility when it comes to suppliers, set-up and the look and feel of the venue.
Often, couples want to choose their own table settings, rather than hiring 'the usual' from the venue, or to work with their favourite restaurant to create a really exquisite private dining experience. The art of beautiful 'tablescaping' takes time but looks stunning.
Either way, I always recommend that couples check whether a venue has any restrictions on suppliers - this often applies to caterers and florists, in particular.
Often Historic Royal Palaces or other listed properties will be relatively strict as they like to know that all those involved in the set-up will understand and respect the nature of the building.
3) It's important to confirm timings with the venue, particularly with regards to access - both before and after. How much time will you have to set-up? Is this sufficient for your florist, band or production team? Do check this, as it can cause problems down the line. Don't just think about the set-up: the de-rig can also be time-consuming and, if it hasn't been discussed and confirmed, you could end up with a hefty final bill.
4) Be aware of hidden extra costs. It's surprising how many couples don't read the fine print of their contracts; please do, it's vital! Best to ask all the questions in the early stages - is service charge included or discretionary? If you're hiring security, must it be the venue's own team? Again, timings come into this, too.
Think of ways to save
5) Finally, if you're working to a slightly tighter budget, one of the first elements to establish is whether the venue allows corkage, or whether 'dry hire' is an option and you have the free reign to bring in your own suppliers. This is an area in which couples can make the biggest saving.
For more wedding planning advice, check out By Bruce Russell