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  • Olivia De Santos

How to Choose Your Dream Wedding Venue (+ Perfect Venue Checklist)

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A great wedding starts with a great wedding venue so today we’re going to go in depth about how to find your dream wedding venue. Having worked with Drake & Morgan, who are a group of wedding venues, and learnt from one of the best party planners in the business, Will Breteau, I know a thing or two about choosing a venue! I have been on a million venue visits and I always come armed with questions which I wanted to share with you. At the end of this blog post you'll find a  bonus checklist for you to take with you on your venue visits so you can really make sure that your final chosen venue is practical as well as matching your style.

 Venue - The Anthologist, Photo by Beatrici Photography

Location, Location, Location

The location you choose is critical to finding your dream venue. Most couples look locally within their town or city but it completely depends on your circumstances. Perhaps you have moved away from your original home town but would love to get married there so are willing to travel. Maybe your dream is to have a destination wedding! I once did a wedding in Peckforton castle in Cheshire even though the couple were based in London. Cheshire was the mid way point between London and Scotland which was where most of their family were based.

Narrowing down your location means thinking about the practicalities and costs, not just for yourselves but also for your wedding guests. Bear in mind that if you are planning to host your wedding in a secluded area, you may need to provide transport and/or accommodation to your guests.

 Venue - The Mere Hotel, Photo by Phil Drinkwater

How Your Style Impacts Your Wedding Venue

Now you need to think about your personal and couple style. Are you a glamorous couple who would love a grand hotel with period features? Are you an alternative, cool couple who would like a warehouse wedding? Think about the kinds of styles you are drawn to in the way you dress, your interior design and your tastes. You'll soon see a pattern in the kinds of spaces you are drawn to, which will lead to your dream venue. Case in point, I did a barn wedding at Owen's House Barn in Manchester which was the absolute perfect location for the horse loving couple I was working with! They went with the barn because it matched their style the most but we also shortlisted some country field options that you can hire for marquee or tipi weddings.

 Venue - York House, Photo by Beatrici Photography

Doing Your Research

When venue hunting you want to be as specific as possible so as not to overwhelm yourself. If you type “london wedding venue” into Google, you're going to end up wading through thousands of unfocused results, with the most popular nearing the top. However, if you use your style to add in adjectives like “alternative london wedding venue” or “glamorous london wedding venue” then you'll find results that more closely align with what you're looking for. There are also some great resources on the internet to help you find venues, like Hitched and Coco Wedding Venues.

If you are working with a planner, the venue will most likely be the first port of call. I typically have a meeting with the couple I'm working with to find out their tastes and personal style, so I can call upon venues I've worked with before or do an in-depth search to produce a shortlist of great wedding venues I know my couple are going to love.


Top Tip!

Now you have your shortlist and are ready to do you venue visits! My number one tip for finding your perfect venue is to try and visit in the season that you intend to get married. I know this can be tricky but I think it’s incredibly important to get a feel for your venue at your chosen time of year because the heat, the lighting, the feel, the décor and the outside space can vary greatly from season to season. If you can’t see your venues in your chosen season, then ask if they have any real wedding photos that will show you what the venue is like at that time of year.


 Photo by Amanda Karen Photography

The Practicalities of the Venue

It's not enough for a wedding venue to be pretty and within reach! It also needs to be within budget, provide the facilities you need and have great service. What is included in your venue hire varies greatly from venue to venue so you need to be smart about what each are really offering. Don't be fooled by packages that make it sound as if you are getting a bargain when actually, the pricing works out about average in relation to the other venues on your shortlist. Some essentials you need to look at before you visit the venues are:

  • How many guests can they accommodate?

  • If you are having a civil ceremony, is the venue licensed? Will you need a celebrant for a humanist ceremony instead?

  • Do they offer catering? If so is it the venue's catering only or would you be allowed to bring in your own caterers?

  • Are there any reviews from previous couples?

  • Is it within your budget? With this question please do bear in mind that the bulk of your wedding budget will be used on your venue and catering, try not to worry too much if it looks like the venue will take up 20-25% of your overall budget.

The checklist at the end of this blog post will really help with working out the practicalities of each venue and weigh them up accordingly.

 City of London, Photo by Beatrici Photography

Pay Attention to Your Gut Feeling

In my experience couples never expect how a venue is going to impact them from a few pictures  online. There is a certain magic the right venue brings you, it comes as a complete surprise usually! A tingling up your spine. You walk into the room and have a gut feeling loud and clear that you could (no) should get married there. I really can't explain this kind of magnetism but it's kinda like love at first sight - when you know, you know!

Now this is not to say you should blindly follow your heart into a venue  that is far too expensive or impractical for you (or blindly follow your heart into anything really but that's a different conversation ;) ) But I do think your gut should have a say in your final decision. Perhaps keep a logical head on your first visit and confirm the love on your second visit. But really feel the love. Allow yourself to daydream and imagine. If it feels right? Go for it!

Venue - The London Rowing Club, Photo by Anne Schwarz, Planning and Styling by Me

The Perfect Wedding Venue Checklist

Okay, enough daydreaming and back to the crunch. Being savvy means arming yourself with great questions to really vet each venue you visit. Not all of these questions will be relevant for you so pick and choose what you like BUT never feel like you are asking too many questions. There are no stupid questions and you have every right to ask and ask and ask to get the information you want.

  1. What is your capacity (in each room if multiple rooms)?

  2. Do you have a minimum number of guests?

  3. Which spaces are licensed in the venue?

  4. How long does it typically take for you to turnaround a room? (This is when the same room is being used for multiple stages of your wedding day. For example it's common for you to have your ceremony, have your drinks reception outside or in a lounge space and then go into the same ceremony room which has been magically transformed into a dinner setup. It typically takes 1-2hours to turn around a room depending on the size and degree of “transformation” from stage to stage. But remember during that lull period you'll need to entertain your guests somehow, so it needs to be the perfect medium of being long enough to enjoy the entertainment, but short enough that people won't get bored....that was a long side note, moving swiftly on :’D)

  5. Do you have catering? Do you offer tastings?

  6. Is the menu customisable? If not what are your set packages?

  7. Do you allow outside caterers? (Particularly for kosher weddings)

  8. Is it possible to have streetfood or icecream carts inside or outside the venue?

  9. Do you have a dry hire option? (Dry hire is where you just pay to rent the space with no extra frills – no furniture, no bar, no food, no staff, just an empty venue for you to fill with weddingy goodness! It’s not for everyone but if you want a truly customised wedding, dry hire is like starting completely from scratch.)

  10. Do you have a corkage option? (Corkage is when you supply your own drinks but the venue dispenses them for you. Some venues charge for this so see whether it’s cost effective to supply your own alcohol. If you are a wine connoisseur and want complete control then corkage will be a must!)

  11. Do you have set drinks and menu packages?

  12. Do you have a late license? Is it possible to apply for one?

  13. Do you have accommodation on site? If so, could we get a discount for any guests who would like to stay at the venue?

  14. Do you have a bridal base room that the bridal party can use throughout the day or to get ready in the morning?

  15. Do you have a quiet room that can be used as a nursery for children or lounge for elderly guests?

  16. Do you have disabled access?

  17. Do you have recommended suppliers? Are there any suppliers that are mandatory?

  18. What audio visual equipment comes with the venue?

Hope you enjoyed this complete guide on finding your perfect wedding venue! If you have any question I am an poen book so you can find me on my Youtube channel or on Instagram @nulyweds

Ta ta for now!

Olivia x