Wedding Fairs & Websites

As you move into full tilt into wedding planning mode, it’s always worthwhile attending a few wedding fairs to meet potential suppliers or have a look at venues.  If venues you are interested in host wedding fairs, it gives you the opportunity to have a good look around and also see the venue space and set up etc.

A lot of venues also have preferred suppliers who they deal with regularly and that kind of experience and history can ease a lot of planning stresses and worries if you know that all of your suppliers have worked together before. Some may even have referral discounts, like ours did with our photographer, which are always worthwhile considering.

Wedding fairs are a great source of inspiration, and suppliers will always have plenty of information about their products and services for you to have a look through and discuss in further detail.  I also found that wedding suppliers often exhibited the newest trends in weddings, from flowers to cakes and stationery.  You may see something on display at a wedding fair you had never considered for your day!  We took away swatch samples of chair covers, we saw the sweetie cart we had and I trialled the airbrush makeup, all at a wedding fair.  It also provided me with good information on dress boutiques as well, and one wedding fair we attended even put on a fashion show.

They give you a great opportunity to meet suppliers, have a chat and get an overall feel of how they work.  I’ve said this before, but having a great relationship with your suppliers is vital, you are trusting them to help plan your special day, and you need to have confidence in their abilities to deliver what you want.  Even at an early planning stage, visiting wedding fairs can start to give you a good idea on where you are on the price ranges for different aspects of the wedding.

Wedding fairs can be quite seasonal, which is understandable given that the most popular time to get married in the UK is the Summer. They will usually run from October to March, so bear this in mind in your planning process. I would add that you should limit the amount of fairs you commit to visiting though, by the third or fourth, you will most definitely be sick of them and you won’t be as enthusiastic to chat with the exhibitors if you have already done the rounds at a few. We visited around four, the last one we went to we only attended because it was being held at a venue we were keen on. I felt quite rude as one of the photography exhibitors tried to chat to me and Bobby while all we were interested in doing was sizing up the space!

I found Facebook a great way to find wedding fairs that were local to me, and I liked all the pages of the venues we were interested in to keep an eye out for updates.  I also liked a lot of wedding resource pages on there, such as The Knot, but this page is a great one : The Vintage Wedding Fayre.  This organisation runs wedding fairs up and down the country in major towns and cities and you’ll find a lot of their exhibitors have a ton of unique, bespoke ideas for your wedding.   They also share a lot of supplier pages on Facebook, so you can like away to your hearts content! I ended up creating a separate feed list for all my wedding stuff so I could browse through quite easily whenever I wanted (which admittedly, was a LOT).

The other sites I used were Hitched,  which lets you search by region, particularly handy if you are getting married far from home.  It also lets you search by month, so the avid planners amongst you can really get ahead. Confetti also offer a similar service.

I joined a couple of wedding planning groups on Facebook too, and joined UK Bride, which is a social network for brides. The forums and discussion posts on there sites and groups are stuffed to the brim of useful information, tips and even on Facebook are linked to buy/sell groups – perfect for sourcing, and eventually selling, your must have items.

There’s a lot of great resources out there to help you in you wedding planning process, so use them!

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Wedding Wednesday…Suzy’s Venue

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.

Suzy xx

 

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