Decide on budget and have a rough guest count before you start looking. Having a parameter of lowest to highest budget will help, as will having a few guests that you can remove if push comes to shove (see our guest list post for more advice on this)! This gives you a bit of wriggle room if you stumble across something you really love that's either a little too small, or slightly over budget. Discuss location - if getting married in a certain part of the world is essential to you, then you'll need to narrow your venue search and perhaps consider having your ceremony and reception at different venues (but remember this will then involve transport logistics). Have a priority list that matches both of your needs. Perhaps accommodation on site is really important to you, exclusivity for a certain time period, being able to use a certain caterer, bringing in your own wine, burning candles - if there's anything that you can't imagine your day without, then make sure it's on the list. As well as things that you're not willing to compromise on, make sure you have some that you're happy to forego, if required. Finding the right wedding venue for you is perfectly achievable, but only if you're open minded. Now would also be a great time to read the RMW Book, Your Day Your Way, which has a whole chapter dedicated to finding your wedding venue.
Once you're both on the same page and have an idea of budget, guest numbers and location, you can start your search! Here at RMW we have a huge archive of gorgoeus real weddings for you to browse, which you can search by location. This allows you to really 'see' inside potential venue. We also have a list of Recommended venues, where you can browse the UK's very best wedding venues and filter them using the criteria you've narrowed down already - it couldn't be easier. So having helped thousands of brides find their perfect wedding venue, these are the top ten questions we think you need to ask...
1) What is your capacity for wedding receptions? And how many people can stay on site?
The most important thing is that everyone can fit. Ceremonies can get away with people standing, but definitely not receptions, unless you're having a very informal dining arrangement. Being able to accommodate guests on site can make a wedding truly special. If it's important to you, chat to your venue about room set ups and how many guests are accommodated across how many rooms. If it's not important to you then make sure to ask your venue about local hotels and B+Bs for those guests coming from further afield.
2) Can we hold our legal ceremony here?
The actual getting-married-legally part is quite crucial ;) If you can't get married legally onsite, then you'll need to get married legally before or after your celebrations at your local registry office or church.
3) Are you an exclusive use venue? How long do we have the venue for?
Having the whole venue exclusively is pretty important to RMW readers, and apart from some hotels, which offer rooftops or parts of the building exclusively, most of our Recommended venues are exclusive use. Finding out what times you'll have the venue from and 'til (including the guest rooms and shared spaces) is really important. No one wants to be kicked out of their room because it's check out time, with hours to go until the ceremony. Making sure you have enough time to set up and tidy away the following day is also hugely important.
4) What exactly is included in the price of hiring the venue?
It's a lot of money, so make sure you know exactly what you're paying for. Some venues will have additional services you can add on, such as their choice of caters, styling or coordination. Ask lots of questions and read your contract carefully before you sign, so everything is crystal clear.
5) Is there a preferred supplier list and are we allowed to chose different people?
This can vary from venue to venue, some are happy to work with any suppliers you chose (florists, caterers, wedding planners etc), but some specify who you can work with. Make sure you know any details of preferred supplier relationships and whether these are flexible or obligational.
6) Are there any noise restrictions?
If you're planning a big party, this is an essential question. Some venues have noise restrictions and this can be time or decibel-level dependent.
7) Who is responsible for taking down the wedding and getting rid of the rubbish?
Cleaning up after a party with a hangover is always horrendous, let alone after the biggest party of your life. If you don't want to deal with this, choose a venue that has a wedding coordination team who look after this, and double check that they are happy to dispose of the waste too.
8) Is there a bar onsite? If not, do you charge corkage?
Having a bar onsite can make things SO much easier, but equally being able to bring in your own booze allows for more personal choice and potential cost savings. Remember to check whether the booze can be fully paid for, or paid for by guests (or perhaps a mix of the two) and if you're bringing your own, find out what the corkage fees are and how to dispose of the empties and clean glasses etc.
9) Are we allowed to burn candles on site?
I know, I know, a very shallow question perhaps, but candlelight makes such a difference to the ambience of your big day. Naturally lots of older buildings have bans on candles so be sure to check, if this is really important to you.
10) Does the quote include VAT?
When the fee is already quite hefty, VAT can be a nasty shock, so make sure you check whether or not your venue charges VAT and if they do, whether it's included in the fee you've been shown.
The Rock My Wedding Book, Your Day Your Way, is brimming with even more questions to ask your venue, so if you don't already have a copy, now would be a great time to order it! And to find the very best venues, across the UK and Europe, head to our Recommended venues section. You can browse venues via location, capacity, style and even whether they are child friendly or not. It's a great starting point to narrow down your options. Good luck with finding your venue...let the wedding planning commence!