Top tips | How to choose your wedding venue

When you’re planning a wedding you have SO MANY things to think about. Venue/s, dress, shoes, rings, flowers, cars, photographer, videographer, caterers, menu, DJ/band …. the list goes on, and on and on …….!

Obviously, choosing your photographer’s very important (OK, I just HAD to get that one in first!), but another really important choice is your venue.

You need to think carefully about whether you’re having a religious or a civil ceremony, then decide where you’ll have the remainder of your day (unless you’re planning to have a civil ceremony and your reception at one location). But there are so many to choose from, so where do you start? Well, here are a few of my top tips ….

How to choose your wedding venue

Beach Weddings Bournemouth

Talk to each other. Sounds obvious, but you really do need to sit down as a couple and talk about it. Do you want a romantic venue, or something modern and contemporary? If you’ve ever watched “Don’t tell the Bride” then you know how couples can have completely different ideas about what their partner wants (sometimes with disasterous results). Even if you’ve been together for years, still talk about the venue and what you both want from the day.

Set a budget. Hopefully you’ll have worked out your overall budget for the wedding already, so you have an idea of how much you want to spend on the wedding venue. Do you want exclusive use of the venue? If so, make sure that you can cover any additional costs.

Bishopstrow House wedding venue Wiltshire

Size matters! Do you want to share your wedding day with everyone you know, or are you looking for a more intimate, low-key wedding with just a handful of your closest family and friends? A grand country-house style wedding’s fine for large numbers but for an intimate wedding you’ll be rattling around the venue like the proverbial peas in a pod! Once you know what type of venue best suits you both, you can start building your guest list and researching venues that fit the bill. Is the venue’s layout flexible enough to allow for your ideas, especially for the wedding breakfast? Will you need to think about having a marquee, in which case do you need flooring, heating/lighting or need to hire tables and chairs?

As with buying a house, it’s all about location location location! Many couples book a venue because it’s close to where they or family live. Give careful thought to how long it’ll take people to get to the venue, especially if you’re having a religious ceremony and then moving onto somewhere else for the reception. When talking to couples still in the planning stage it never ceases to amaze me how often the couple have failed to allow sufficient time for people to get from one location to another. It may only be a 20 minute drive in the week, but in the Summer, with lots of holiday traffic around you’ll need to factor in additional time. Always allow more time than you think you’ll need. If you have people travelling from other areas of the country, think about what accommodation’s available locally. That stunning wedding venue set in its own grounds may have a Bridal suite for you to stay in, but if it’s miles and miles from the nearest hotels or guest houses, where are your guests going to be staying? Will you need to provide guests with directions or maps for the day – after all, you don’t want them getting lost on your wedding day!

Sopley Mill - Dorset wedding venue

What time of year are you getting married? In the UK I think it’s fair to say that no-one can expect to have lovely weather on their wedding day! Plan for the worst case scenario, that it’ll be wet and windy. Does the venue have sufficient covered space for your guests’ drinks reception? Do they have suitable rooms where the wedding photographs can be taken (OK, I admit to having a vested interest on this one!), not just for the group photos but also some nice portraits of the two of you? If the ceremony and the wedding breakfast are being held in the same room, where will the venue expect to look after your guests whilst they “turn” the room for your reception? Don’t expect your wedding photographer to be able to work miracles – dated decor and dubious colour choices in hotels’ function rooms are things they can’t change ….. sometimes we can work around these challenges but it’s not always possible!

Does the venue have any restrictions? Sometimes a venue will insist that you use an exclusive caterer for your day. This may not necessarily be more expensive than others but they may not suit the style of food that you’re looking for. Similarly, they may insist that you use (or “suggest”) recommended suppliers. Again, this might not be an issue, because they should be suppliers they trust and have worked with on numerous occasions. However, some venues’ “recommended suppliers” are only on a list because they’d paid that venue to be included on the list. I believe that the choice of suppliers should be yours and yours alone.

How to choose your wedding venue

Don’t leave it too long to book. As with wedding photographers, venues get booked up to 2 years in advance, so as soon as you’ve found “the one” then get in touch to check availability for your chosen wedding date. On the other hand, you might get lucky and find that a venue’s had a cancellation or can offer last-minute availability. Book the date, pay your deposit and you can move on to the next stage.

As one of Dorset’s leading wedding photographers with over 20 years’ experience of photographing weddings I think it’s fair to say that I’m in a position to help couples plan their day. That’s why I always offer my help, be it in recommending other suppliers for their day or just talking through the timings of the day. It’s quite likely that you’ve never been in the position of having to plan a wedding and it can be a really daunting process. That’s where I believe choosing experienced suppliers, people who’ve been around the industry for many years, have lots to offer couples as they plan their most special day.

“Advice for Brides”

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About Ian

About ianH photography

Ian is one of Dorset’s leading wedding photographers. Based in Bournemouth and with over 20 years of experience photographing weddings across Dorset and Hampshire, Ian’s the perfect choice for couples who want unobtrusive, discreet wedding photography that captures the emotions of their special day. Read more about his own personal style of documentary wedding photography on this website.

Proud to be a recommended photographer for a number of leading Dorset wedding venues. 

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Blog post: How to choose your wedding venue


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