You’ve just got engaged, Spring is just around the corner, the vaccine rollout is well underway, and we FINALLY have a roadmap for weddings to start taking place again.
BUT we are still in lockdown AND venues have limited availability and are booking up thick and fast!
In this blog post, we draw on our 26 years of experience planning and styling weddings, to bring you our 3 top tips on how to find your ideal wedding venue from the comfort of your living room.
So who are we?
If you’re not already aware of us, we were one of the first wedding planners to operate in England. We started planning weddings in 1995 and have found venues for hundreds of clients over the years.
We are also the founders of The Stressfree Wedding Hub – a free Facebook group which offers advice, guidance, tips and tutorials for everyone involved in finding or styling a wedding venue.
Our focus on a day to day basis is on event production, so we bring even more to the party, frequently helping our clients assess which venue is best for them from a styling perspective.
So here are our three Top Tips for how to find your ideal wedding venue.
Tip 1 – Trust Your Gut
First impressions count, right?
Choosing your wedding venue is a hugely personal decision and it should make you feel super excited. You should feel like you want to shout from the rooftops when you find “the one”.
When you visit a venue for the first time, it will make an instant impression. This might be for all manner of reasons, such as the approach, the style, the décor, the cleanliness, the staff or the food.
The same principles apply when you are researching your venue from the comfort of your own home. There are many different aspects of your search that will give you an initial gut feel for the venue. For example:
How responsive are they?
What are they like to talk to?
How friendly are they?
What is their style?
Planning a wedding can be a long process and many of you will be planning a wedding to take place in one, two or even three years’ time.
Can you imagine working with your venue for the next few years? Do they get you? Do they understand what you are wanting to achieve and will they work with you to achieve it?
You will want to maintain that initial level of excitement throughout the planning process, so it is really important to trust your initial gut feel.
How organised or on the ball are they? Did they answer all your questions or were they evasive or more interested in giving you a hard sell?
There is a tremendous amount of information available online these days and, whilst it can be overwhelming, it can also give you so much value.
Read reviews, of course, but use google image search and Instagram as well to see images of your venue “in action”. Your venue should of course be posting their most beautiful images on their website, in their brochure and on their social feeds. But there are bound to be many more images available online which will give you a much better feel for what your venue can offer. In the same way that if you are booking a photographer, you don’t just want to see the Photographer’s best images, but rather a set (or two) of images from an entire wedding.
Looking at previous events in progress will give you a first impression too. What sort of events does the venue host? Do they seem to be very similar or do they vary tremendously in style? This might give you an impression of how flexible, creative or accommodating they are as a venue.
I would insert a caveat here and suggest that you are mindful of the type of venue you are reviewing. There are venues around which are small, privately owned and only offer a small number of weddings each year. They may not have the staffing to get back to you immediately, and they might be less “slick” with their correspondence. It’s even possible they might have an atrocious website! But this doesn’t mean they aren’t running a stunning venue, with amazing food and the most caring staff who really will go out of their way to ensure you have the most perfect day.
So, just like when reading any reviews, you need to read between the lines too.
Tip 2 – Consider The Timings
Timings are key and are not always obvious!
Unfortunately, venues don’t always include this information in their brochures, so do make sure you ask the right questions before moving forward.
There are often different timings for different things and these can have an impact on whether or not the venue is suitable for you.
Finish time or Curfew
For example: the finish time or curfew may refer to the time the bar closes, the time music needs to finish by, the time you need to depart by, the time your guests need to depart by, or even the time your suppliers need to be out of the premises by! Or a combination of the above!
We have worked with venues which stipulate that events need to finish by 10.30pm. Now, this might be fine if you don’t intend to have an evening reception, and it might still work if this is the time that you need to leave by. But, if this means that everyone needs to have left the building and that it should have been restored to the state it was in when you arrived, it may be less than ideal!
We always suggest working back from the finish time to ensure the venue is right for you. As a rule of thumb, a DJ or Band will need up to an hour to clear away after the music has finished. You’ll need to allow at least 30 minutes for your guests to leave and preferably longer, you or your caterers will need time to stack furniture, get equipment out, then sweep up. And before you know it you’re needing to clear away before you’d planned to have your first dance!
It is always worth checking exactly what the restrictions are, whether there is any flexibility (sometimes you can pay for an extension) and exactly what and who they apply to.
Exactly the same principles apply for access times and there is an order in which things need to be done.
If you are having decorations installed overhead, then this will need to be done before furniture is laid out.
Furniture will need to be laid out before tables can be laid up with your centrepieces, table stationery and other decorations.
If you’re wanting to do aspects of the décor yourselves, this isn’t going to work if you can only get into the venue a few hours before your day starts.
It’s also worth checking with your venue whether they have different rules for suppliers. Quite often, even if you are granted access on the day, your suppliers may be able to access the day before, or overnight overnight.
The final piece of the jigsaw when thinking about timings, is to consider how you want the day to flow? What is the venue’s norm and how well will this fit together with your vision?
Most venues offer flexibility and this is obviously a good thing. But it’s always worth looking at what they suggest and seeing how well it fits with what you have in mind. If you are wanting to do something entirely different, then there may be practical reasons as to why this isn’t going to work as well.
It may be they suggest a certain running order for the day because it’s what they’ve always done. It may be easy for them to keep it that way – there are some venues that try to keep to a pattern because it’s easier for their staff. And this is perfectly understandable, especially if they are running different weddings every day of the week.
But it may be that they suggest a running order because it is something that has been thought about, tried and tested, and they know it works! They may need to redeploy furniture during the day for example, and know that with their running order they can do this discreetly and safely, without affecting the smooth running of your wedding.
Tip 3 – Research
Finally, use this time during lockdown to do your research. Every aspect of your wedding is interlinked and by thinking about what else is on your wish list, and talking to those suppliers, you may just save time, money and stress later on in your planning.
Find out how suppliers work and what they need in order to help make your wedding a success.
For example, if you are considering evening entertainment, then talk to some bands and DJs to ascertain whether your preferred venues are going to be suitable. A band will need more space than a DJ plus they will need somewhere to change and somewhere to leave belongings. They will also need feeding (and a location in which to eat).
One of the largest weddings we dressed recently had over 100 suppliers! Our clients used separate sets of outbuildings as a crew room. They had a big band and a 30 person dance troupe as entertainers, plus production crew, catering staff and other suppliers too.
Photo booths, sweet carts, balloon installations, chill-out areas, flower walls – all of these need space.
It is always worth bearing in mind how suitable your venue is for what you have in mind.
If you have this info from the start, then you can bear it in mind when looking at your venue and how well it is going to work for you.
The Stressfree Wedding Hub
We really hope you’ve found this blog helpful and if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact us.
We discuss all of these issues and more in our free Facebook group The Stressfree Wedding Hub.
We go live once a week and talk about tips, advice and guidance just like this.
It’s a safe and friendly community for couples, their support network, venues and planners where there is no such thing as a silly question.
We’d love you to join us.
And if you liked this post, you may also like this Free guide too:
Photo & venue credits – in order from the top:
Our own at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire
Sarah Legge Photography at Upwaltham Barns
Nataly J Photography at Devonshire Terrace
Allister Freeman Photography at Devonshire Terrace