You’ve made the announcements, chosen your wingmen, admired 207 photos of purple bouquets (that are apparently mauve) and the stag do is firmly under construction. Next up? Time to raid the wedding budget for one of the single biggest expenses on the spreadsheet; the wedding venue. And with a cracking selection of locations up for grabs, it’s handy to be fully clued-up before heading out to examine the nation’s finest.
Wedding Venue Selection
As a general rule, you’ll have three types of venue to consider;
- Registry office
- Licensed premises (civil ceremony)
With a bunch of newer, more relaxed laws creeping in over recent years, the world’s pretty much your matrimonial lobster on this one, gents. Churches, museums, boats, theatres, mansions, zoos, caves…. If you’re on for a modern affair, it’s almost a ‘you want it, they’ve probably built it’ kind of deal.
As with any pre-nuptial planning, preparation is key, so it pays to do your homework and cover all bases early on in proceedings. Even with the upbeat laws in force, you still need to play by some pretty solid rules. So it’s worth bearing in mind that outdoor weddings, for example, might be a proven crowd pleaser and stellar choice come summer, but in both England and Wales weddings still legally have to take place within a permanent structure. So if you’re on for tying the knot on southern sandy shores, no problem, a top notch nuptial beach crew in Bournemouth have secured a hut for the big deed. But if there’s a billowing marquee firmly hammered into your wedding plans, you might need to consider getting papers signed, sealed and delivered elsewhere.
That being said, the country’s absolutely packed to the hilt with quality venues to choose from. Mightily handy in finding the right place for you. Mind-bogglingly baffling in knowing where to begin (home page?).
How to Choose
First up, you need to decide on the type of wedding you want. Ceremony and shenanigans at separate locations, or ceremony, wedding reception and accommodation all under one roof? Are you on for a seasonal gig, stately occasion, or chilled-out contemporary affair?
It’s handy to have a rough idea on numbers before heading to check out a venue (don’t forget to factor in the photographer, videographer and band). Aunty Ethel’s a merry old soul but pile handsy Bob and punk rocker Dave onto the same chair with her? Handbags at dawn, gentlemen. Size matters!
- How much?
Make sure you head out with a specific budget firmly in mind. Essentials like catering, alcohol, decoration and even corkage fees can make for an impressive tally before you even factor in the cost of the obligatory four walls and roof. And to be frank, not being able to afford the rest of the wedding is the kind of thing that can let a place down.
- Where to start?
When it’s time to get down to research, the interweb comes up trumps every time. Head for national databases to search wedding venues by location, style and availability, check out venues’ own websites and galleries for essential info (fees, policies, packages…) and head to their social media to review feedback.
Useful online resources:
Draw up a strong manageable shortlist, give them a call to check availability and if it’s a thumbs up on your chosen date, superb! Time to get cracking.
Wedding Venue Checklist
From logistics to catering to the essential liquid refreshment, it’s vital to have every angle of the wedding venue covered (albeit possibly in linen, bows and flowers that aren’t purple), so a comprehensive wedding venue checklist makes for a pretty nifty tool in getting it right.
Areas to consider;
Yes it might seem an obvious one, but it always pays to read the small print, chaps. Is the venue fully licensed to carry out weddings? Does the license apply to the location as a whole, or specific rooms/buildings onsite?
Are they available on the date you’d like? Will you be the only wedding on the day? Some wedding venues specify exclusivity – make sure it does what it says on the tin! (two brides, the same dress and nowhere to run?? Good luck, gentlemen!)
Check whether or not you’ve been quoted inclusive of VAT, and confirm exactly what you’ll be getting for your hard-earned cash. Find out when the deposit and balance are due and if you’ll need to cough up the amount in one lump sum or can pay by instalments.
Prime location smack bang in the middle of 300 acres of sprawling southern estate might make for striking photo ops, but if the entire party rely on satnav and only realise they’ve gone too far when the locals start speaking French, you’re going to have a few disgruntled guests on your hands. When they’ve made it back. And have emptied their cars of the English Channel.
Bear in mind onsite parking facilities (size, limits, restrictions on larger vehicles etc) and check out the local public transport system. If you’re planning on heading in by chopper, tank, hoverboard or Batmobile (transport) it’s also worth making sure you’ll be permitted to land or park in the grounds.
Check out the onsite accommodation (cost and quality) and find out if there’s a minimum requirement to book.
If you’ve hit on an all-inclusive deal, make sure you know whether or not the catering quote includes the use of the venue’s staff. If you’re bringing in your own team of gourmet hotshots, check whether or not the venue offers use of its kitchen (or alternative facilities) for food preparation. Also be aware some venues might want more moolah for the honour.
- Bars and booze
A few essentials when it comes to the amber nectar, chaps; check out the bar price list in advance, get a heads-up on whether or not your chosen venue insists on a minimum spend (yes there’s every chance your wedding collective can drink their entire weight in liquid gold, but on the off-chance they slip-up, you’ll have to cough up the difference), and confirm serving times, methods of payment and your ideal system on the night (free bar/subsidised bar/cash bar etc)
– Music; check for any restrictions (volume, cut-off times)
– Practicalities; air-conditioning, heating, accessibility for the band’s equipment…
– Unusual extras; check rules on fireworks, bouncy castle, entertainers….
- The legal bits
Make sure you’re fully clued-up on health and safety restrictions, public liability insurance, licensing laws and cancellation policies.
Awesomely unusual wedding venues across the UK
- The Whisky Vault– Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Experience
- The Treehouse– Lock Goil, Argyll
- The Film Studio– Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire
- The Underground Lake– Carnglaze Cavern, Cornwall
- The Gherkin– Er…. it’s the Gherkin.
- The Royal Navy Ship– HMS President, London
- The Zoo– ZSL, London