What is a dry hire wedding? We know that lots of you take on the mammoth and very exciting task of planning your wedding at a non-conventional venue. We're talking marquee, tipi, or maybe you're off to the woods. Although unconventional, a dry hire wedding doesn't necessarily have to be outside - there are lots of dry hire, indoor venues as well. Simply put, a dry hire wedding is where you are provided with only the venue shell and no additional features so you'll be hiring in all the chairs, cutlery, decor... everything yourself. We thought we'd take this opportunity to talk you through exactly what a dry hire wedding is and how you can plan one.   

What Does Dry Hire Mean?

With that in mind we've enlisted the help of Wedding Planners Katrina Otter and Natalie Hewitt to talk us through all the things you'll need to think about if you're going down the 'dry-hire' route. Both ladies come highly recommended by us and we're proud to have them on our list of Recommended suppliers, along with a whole host of other suppliers who are well versed in working at dry-hire venues. So where on earth do you begin?! I'll hand you over to Natalie & Katrina...


Natalie Hewitt: There are positives and negatives to both all-inclusive venues and dry hire venues. The decision is a very personal one and predominantly comes down to your priorities for your wedding day, sometimes your budget and mainly how much time you can dedicate to your planning.

The main reasons why some brides choose dry hire wedding venues over all-inclusive are:

• At some all-inclusive venues, the in-house coordinator you work with throughout your planning may not be there on your wedding day.

• Some venues hold more than one wedding on the same day resulting in you having to share your venue with another bride.

• Venues typically only offer their in-house caters and bar and sometime their own suppliers. This often includes inflexibility on drinks and menu packages. Dry hire allows you to style and dress the venue pretty much how you wish and with no restrictions as to which suppliers you can bring in, the limits are endless.

One of the key benefits to dry hire venues is being able to choose your own caterer, or supply your own food. You can shake thing up and skip or add in courses as you wish. Your caterer will tailor make their quote as per your requirements, whereas may venues have a minimum spend and set packages. Another benefit is drinks packages! With a venue, you can expect to pay hotel prices for a bottle of wine but with dry hire you can often buy in your own at cost price, with many catering companies providing additional staff to serve your guests wine throughout your wedding breakfast.

The most popular dry hire venues are marquee’s, which typically cost more than a venue hire fee. However, if you have a large garden or local field and are wanting to get married in your local church, having a marquee is a great way to keep your ceremony and reception close. You may also want to have a small registry office wedding so you are legally married and then have a celebrant conduct a none legal ceremony wherever and however you wish on your actual “wedding day” in front of your guests. If you want a DIY or unique wedding, you have plenty of time to plan your wedding or you have hired a professional wedding planner, a dry hire venue can be a fantastic way to achieve your dream wedding.

Dry hire doesn’t always mean more expensive – some people opt for a village hall and put on afternoon tea as their wedding breakfast. Family and friends can bake a cake, make sandwiches and help decorate. If you are trying to decide between an all-inclusive or dry hire venue the main things to consider are:

• Location – where are you wanting to get married? This will help to narrow down your options.

• Ceremony – what type of ceremony are you wanting? This goes hand in hand with location. Don’t think that you only have the option of Religious or Civil. Celebrants are becoming more popular and providing you get married legally at some point, you can have a tailor made “ceremony” in front of your guests wherever, whenever and however you wish.

• Style – have you got a certain look in mind for your wedding as this may be easier to achieve using the flexibility of dry hire.

• Priorities – what is most important to you? Serving great food? Entertainment? Styling? Have a think about what elements are going to make your wedding perfect for you. You may have your heart set on fireworks but an all-inclusive venue may restrict you having them. You may want to bring in your own caterer to serve amazing food that represents you two as a couple.



  1. Write a list of all the items you’ll need for the day, from furniture to lighting and toilets to bins.
  2. Create a comprehensive time schedule for the day and make sure it’s sent to all suppliers.
  3. Allow more time than you think for setting up and break down and ask for help from family and friends.
  4. Make sure guests and suppliers are aware of access and parking restrictions.
  5. Be on top of the contracts, both with your venue and all of your suppliers - make sure you know who is responsible for what.


Katrina Otter: Asking a potential venue what’s included and what’s not within the venue hire fee is an essential question no matter what venue you’re researching, but even more so when you’re considering one that’s dry hire. Whilst some dry hire venues include basic facilities, services and furniture, others don’t, which means that you may need to research, source and pay for everything from the more obvious tables, chairs and tableware to the less obvious lighting, generators, heating, staff, security, cleaning, toilets and waste disposal (to name just a few) in addition to the venue hire fee. All of these elements will take a considerable amount of time to research and will incur costs that need to be factored into the overall budget. On the plus side, no one knows your wedding plans better than you so although you might have to spend more time researching additional suppliers, you won’t be paying for elements that you don’t want or need. On paper, dry hire venues may seem like a budget friendly option, especially as many dry hire venues can be considerably cheaper than their serviced counterparts. However, simply looking at these figures in black and white is completely deceiving as you’re effectively not comparing like for like. When venues include and exclude different elements, it’s hard to make accurate comparisons so ask your shortlisted venues to break down their quotes so that you can see things more clearly. If you have a set budget in mind, then it’s well worth taking the time to create a draft budget and add in guideline prices for all of the items you’ll need, both from an aesthetic perspective but also to ensure the smooth functioning of your day. That way, you’ll be comparing like for like and will also know (before it’s too late) whether the dry hire route is monetarily feasible or not.


If you’re going the dry hire route, then you’ll probably be working with more suppliers which in turn may mean more complicated set-up and on-the-day logistics. However, it really doesn’t need to be – just work backwards and remember that communication is key! When you’re planning timings and access to your venue, start with your ceremony or arrival time and then speak to your suppliers in turn to work out priorities and formulate your plans. Also, don’t be afraid to put suppliers in touch with each other so they can make arrangements without involving you in the backwards and forwards. Just work logically through things until the whole process makes sense. When making those early arrangements with your venue (ideally at the enquiry stage and especially before you sign on the dotted line) it’s crucial that you ask about access and timings and that you’re comfortable with the amount of time that you’ve got to set-up and breakdown. Everything takes much longer with dry hire venues so always make sure that you can access the venue for as long as possible. When it comes to post-wedding breakdown and any collections/cleaning, a simple note to your suppliers regarding access and timings will suffice so hopefully you won’t need to overthink this part. If you’re worried about the post wedding aftermath, then for peace might enlist an A-Team of friends and family to assist and even an independent cleaning team depending on your contractual requirements. Finally, and this is really important if your dry hire venue is in a city centre – check parking, access times and even loading/unloading restrictions, especially if you’ve got a lot of deliveries planned. You might even need to delegate a friend to act as a traffic controller or make alternative/out of hour delivery arrangements if you’re in a particularly busy area.


Considering logistics for your guests will also make the day run smoothly and again, it’s far better to have thought it through in advance. Obviously, your venue will be well and truly open by the time that guests arrive but do think about how they’ll be arriving. Taxis are a brilliant option but if guests are driving themselves, do tell them in advance where they can park and, if it’s on-road parking, how much they’ll need for the meters. Some dry hire venues might have parking permits so you might want to allocate these to any disabled guests or to your nearest and dearest or even your own transportation! If your dry hire venue is off the beaten track in a field or farm with limited access, then once again you’ll need to consider the options available to your guests as there’s absolutely no point in designing a beautiful day if you and your guests are unable to access your venue. Other transport options such as coaches and buses definitely make things easy for everyone but do provide the company in charge with details of the best drop-off points, particularly if your venue doesn’t have a dedicated or off-road car park.


I’m always a stickler for checking over contracts and terms and conditions with a fine-tooth comb and, when you’re working with a dry hire venue, this is just as / if not even more important. Take the time to go through all of the paperwork that your venue sends you and carefully check each and every point. If you’re in any doubt, then don’t be afraid to question something you don’t understand or points you don’t think are clear enough. Take the time to make sure that all contracts (from your venue and even your suppliers) are crystal-clear, especially over responsibilities – who will be in charge of what? Who’ll be clearing up? Who needs to be where and when and, of course, what’s included.


In addition to your team of suppliers, enlist the help of family and friends to make sure that you’re not bogged down with all of the set-up in the days before your wedding. As much as we all like to think we’re superhuman, we’re really not and turning yourself inside-out in the run-up to the big day trying to manage everything isn’t the way forward – trust me on this one! Find out who’s available to help you, allocate them roles and jobs and share the load a little. You can have so much more fun setting up and bringing your wedding vision to life with friends and family on board that actually, all of this can feel like an extension of the wedding itself. Why not crack open the bubbles early and celebrate your impending wedding in your amazing dry hire venue?



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Fern Godfrey

Written by Fern Godfrey

Header Image : Frances Sales | Rustic Moodboard Images: Antonija Nekic | Frances Sales | Harrera Images | City Chic Moodboard: Planning & Styling by Coco & Kat | Photography: Rebecca Goddard | Classic Marquee Moodboard: Planning & Styling by Natalie Hewitt | Flowers : Mrs Umbels | Photography: Vanessa Adams
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