Maybe you’re a relaxed, boho kind of couple, hoping to recreate a festival-feel in a friendly farmer’s field? (pic: tipis4hire.com)

Finding The One

2nd June 2017

You’ve found your soulmate, so now it’s time to find your dream wedding venue too. Lisa Botwright offers some advice for couples starting out on their search…

Do you dream of getting married on a white, sandy beach, overlooking a turquoise sea? Or do you favour a more traditional approach, with a church service, followed by a tasteful reception in a country house hotel? Maybe you’re a relaxed, boho kind of couple, hoping to recreate a festival-feel in a friendly farmer’s field? Or perhaps you’re a modern minimalist, and only a smart city hotel will do?

Choosing a venue is a big decision: it reflects your taste as a couple, and also sets the tone and feel of the entire event. But just like fiancés – with so many settings and themes to choose from, how do we know when we’ve found the right one?
“My husband and I fell in love with the very first venue we visited,” recalls Jayne, who lives locally, but chose to marry at Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire. “We did everything wrong. We know that we should have researched more venues to get a feel for what was available, but Coombe Abbey ticked so many boxes that we just knew it was the one.”

Jayne is emphatically happy with her decision, explaining: “There are two things about the hotel that attracted me the most. It’s built around a twelfth century abbey, so it combines history and atmosphere with all the mod cons. Plus, I work full-time, and the hotel offered a package with almost everything included, even our own wedding-planner, so it was a weight off my mind not to have to worry about every detail.”

However, she explains that there were still compromises to be made. “In order to get our first choice of venue at the time of year we wanted, at a price we could afford, we picked a Friday, which was slightly cheaper than a Saturday. We were also well aware of the inconvenience and cost involved of asking all our guests to book a day off work, drive two hours up the motorway, and to stay overnight, so we both had very modest hen and stag dos.”

Many of us might venture that Jayne was lucky to find her dream venue so early in her search and that more often than not the choice can be quite overwhelming. If this is the case, ask yourself some questions to help you narrow the hunt.

Are you planning a religious or a civil ceremony? If it’s the former, then you probably have a church or temple in mind, and this will inevitably mean looking for a reception venue close by. If you’re opting for a civil ceremony, this opens up a far broader host of options.

Laila chose a city hotel, and found that getting married in the same place as the reception made planning easier, as there was no need to worry about organising transport to and from each stage of the wedding. Since some family members were flying in especially from abroad, the central location was perfect.

On the other hand, Melanie, who set her heart on a remote converted barn for the ceremony, laid on vintage buses for all her guests to take them on to a nearby hotel afterwards. Friends and family reported back that the atmosphere on the buses was so festive and cheerful that it indelibly carved out a special place in the overall memories of the day.

Budget, of course, will be a decisive factor, as will the number of guests you hope to invite. The greatest expense (unless you have very lavish taste in haute couture wedding dresses) is likely to come from the cost ‘per head’ of the catering – so it’s up to you to decide if it’s more important for you both to have an opulent, multi-course, sit-down wedding breakfast, or a much more informal party with buffet-style food.

Often it’s possible to negotiate other ways to keep the cost down. Book a Friday or Sunday, rather than a Saturday, as we have seen; or opt for October (great autumnal photos) in preference to June. Probe exactly what packages the venues are offering – a price that initially seems eye-wateringly exorbitant may turn out to be more than reasonable if it also includes a car, accommodation and the hire of the DJ.

Another consideration is whether you’ll have exclusive use of the venue, and if not, how adept the staff are at tactfully ensuring privacy. When I got married, I didn’t even realise that there were two other weddings going on in the hotel, until all us newly-weds met over breakfast the next morning. But then I also attended one wedding, in a seemingly luxurious setting, only to find multiple wedding parties were packed into small spaces like battery hens. In the night air, the various sounds of S Club 7 and Grease-megamixes clashed horribly.

As always, the internet is a huge source of inspiration. You’re probably already addicted to envy-inducing Pinterest boards and the Instagram feeds of the nuptials of the rich, beautiful and famous. But for those of us who can’t afford our own Caribbean Island or don’t have a stately home in the family, elsewhere online there are some genuinely useful tips and ideas. Check out wedding-venues.co.uk: a fabulous website where, as well as hunting for venues by location, you filter by the much more fun categories of ‘gothic’, ‘castle’ or ‘waterside,’ for example.

Ask yourself too, how much time you realistically have to spare to immerse yourself in organisational plans. Just as Jayne was grateful to leave it to the experienced hotel staff, other happy couples optimistically embrace the opportunity to put their own unique stamp on the festivities.

Roxanne and Seb explain: ‘We looked at venues in London but none could accommodate the numbers we wanted. We then looked at some country house-type places but we wanted more control over the theme and content of our wedding – so we decided to do most of it ourselves.’ They plumped for the gloriously rustic choice of tipis (tipis4hire.com) and although they were lucky to have the room to do so in Seb’s parents’ garden, tipis4hire can also put you in touch with local landowners with space on offer.

For the even more adventurous among you, the only limit is your imagination. How about a woodland wedding illuminated by the dappled sunshine (fingers crossed – this is England, after all) of a tree canopy, and crackling fire pits to light your evening festivities under the stars (woodland-weddings.com). Or for an adrenaline-charged approach, consider tying the knot with a skydiving wedding: exchanging rings while hurtling headlong towards Earth at approximately 124 miles per hour would certainly make an exciting start to married life (vegasextremeskydiving.com).

Whatever your taste and outlook, hunting for venues is a really rewarding stage in your wedding preparations and the excitement of finding ‘the one’ is often second only to your recent proposal. Traditional or extreme, historic or contemporary, your chosen setting will provide the backdrop for your perfect day.

Questions to consider…
• Where do I want to get married? Locally? Abroad? Or within a two-hour radius?
• What’s my budget?
• Do I want a religious or civil ceremony?
• Would I prefer to have the wedding ceremony at the same venue as the reception?
• How many guests does the venue hold?
• Can guests stay overnight, or will other local hotels need to be sourced?
• Does the venue offer exclusivity, or will other weddings be taking place on the same day?
• What’s included in the price?
• How far in advance do I need to book the venue?
• Am I going to invite children, and if so, does the venue offer any particular activity/creche etc?

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