After working out our budget, and getting a first draft of our guest list, we could now start looking at venues. Bobby and I had decided very early on that a church wedding wasn’t for us, so this removed one element of the planning process. Clare & Gary on the other hand, did get married in a church, so she will be blogging about that aspect of her wedding.
We’d also decided to get married somewhere in the West Midlands, where we live, rather than anywhere else. With Bobby being from Leicester, we knew that wherever we got married some of our families and friends would have to travel, so we decided to be as close to home as possible, and I’m so relieved we did! There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to the venue in the run up to the wedding, and when it’s a distance away, it can sometimes add a bit of unneccessary pressure.
Our wedding was to be during school holidays, and with this in mind, we decided on a Summer wedding. It made sense for a lot of reasons, good weather being one, but mainly the ability to take more than two weeks off work for the wedding and honeymoon.
So with a rough idea of budget, and a time frame in mind, we started to look online at wedding venues in our region. Because we weren’t having a church wedding, we had to narrow the search immediately for venues who had a licence to perform wedding ceremonies. It may seem obvious, but a lot of venues don’t actually have this in place!
A lot of venues do have quite a bit of information regarding prices on websites, or in a downloadable catalogue, but also they tend not to give too much information away as they are always trying to encourage you to go and visit the venue first. After a bit of research we discovered the following:
- The day of the week you wanted to get married on would have quite a big impact on your budget. Saturday weddings were most expensive, Friday and Sunday a little cheaper, then the other week days were considerably cheaper. Off peak weddings (October – February) were more inexpensive, with the exception of Christmas and New Year.
- A lot of venues may be able put on more than one wedding in a day, and therefore an ‘exclusivity fee’ may apply if you wish to have the venue for yourself.
- In addition, venues which also offered accommodation may offer a package price for booking all the hotel rooms available for your wedding guests.
- Some venues charged an extra fee for performing a wedding outdoors.
- Example wedding breakfast menus and evening buffets were also available online for a lot of venues, again with the option for drinks packages etc.
Making a note of the venues we liked the look of, we also noted the rough price so we could start to arrange visits. It’s important to make proper appointments with venues for you to have a look around, so they can make sure they have someone available to show you around and give you all the information you need. It’s also worth seeing when the next wedding fayre is for each venue, as it’s pretty interesting to have a wonder around undisturbed, and they usually have a room set up so you can get a good idea of the space and how it is used.
We did find it quite difficult to get booked in for just viewing some of the venues, demand is pretty intense for weddings, and it may also be worth enquiring initially to see if the venue you want to visit actually has availability for when you plan on setting the date for! As we were doing this in the early part of 2012, a lot of venues were already pretty fully booked for the Summer of 2013. In fact, we felt a lot of the venues were trying to panic us into thinking we had left it too late to book the wedding! (We hadn’t). There wasn’t one venue we looked at that couldn’t do a date near to our desired wedding day, and we never had any suppliers that couldn’t work to that date too. It’s always worth remembering, it’s your day, and they will be your suppliers and there are always plenty to choose from so never feel pressured into making a decision quickly!
Anyway, with appointments booked, and a rough guide on prices ready, we set off visiting each venue, armed with a list of questions to cover. Such as:
- maximum and minimum guest numbers for both day and evening;
- accommodation on site and prices;
- rooms available for before the wedding for getting ready;
- suitability for children;
- any extra fees for the ceremony room, or outdoors ceremonies;
- drinks options, including bar prices (we have been to weddings where the bar tariff is higher for a wedding than normal);
- exclusive use of venue;
- entertainment options, and if they were included in the price;
- venue decoration options, if included;
- outdoors seating area, and if the weather was not great, if there was enough room inside for guests to relax.
After we had finished visiting each venue, we wrote down a pros and cons list for each one, based on our immediate impression. I’m so glad we did this, because it is so easy to fall in love with a venue, and a week later forget the one thing you absolutely hated about it! So, write it down, particularly if you are visiting a lot of venues, as they can get rather confusing.
There may be some venues that you don’t even need to do this for though, as you leave knowing you will not be having your wedding there. We visited one venue whose approach to ‘selling’ the venue to us was to write some made up on the spot menu prices on a scrap piece of paper and when detailing all their fees telling us ‘this is as cheap as we can go’ and adding them onto said piece of paper. They also told us that we would only have 30 minutes to take photos outside under their nice gazebo as the other two weddings (TWO!!) that day would also want to use that spot for their photos. No thank you, my friend.
A lot of venues will follow up your visit with a full quote, and please make sure you go through it in detail to ensure everything you have asked for is included, but nothing is added into the price that you haven’t requested. If you are not sure about something, speak to the person you were dealing with at the venue to clarify, and if it gives you better piece of mind, get any clarifications in writing too.
It’s vital you like the look and feel of a venue, and that you can imagine yourself getting married there. Also, that if you compromise on any of your ideas, it’s for the right reasons, and you are happy to make the compromise. We ended up looking at around 10 venues (in hindsight, this was too many), and we ended up booking the very first one we visited. The reason we carried on looking around after our initial visit was because there was a function on that day, and we couldn’t actually go into the main room, or onto the garden terrace. So I would definitely advise you to check something like that before you make your appointment.
Once we’d settled on the venue, it was now time to go and haggle on the price. Discussing money can be really difficult and trust me, even the suppliers don’t really like dealing that aspect of the wedding either, but needs must, and you absolutely must ask for better prices or extra discount where you can. Some of the larger hotels and chains etc aren’t going to be able to do that, but a lot of venues are privately owned and definitely can. For example, we negotiated with our venue and booked a Friday wedding for a Thursday fee. We also negotiated the price on the evening buffet, and the room costs for accommodation. Don’t forget, these types of fees aren’t the suppliers actual cost and can always be looked at as a potentially moveable figure. So be bold and ask! Be prepared for them to say no, but also be prepared to be over the moon if you manage to save some money too!
Once you’ve agreed everything, ask for a final written quote for you to confirm and also set the payment dates and pay a deposit if necessary. From here on out, you’ll be dealing with the venue on various things in the run up to the wedding, so it’s also important to build up a rapport with the person you are dealing with so you both can ensure your day goes as smoothly as possible.
Hope you have found this helpful and interesting and would love to hear any stories or tips you might have on your wedding venue choices.