I recently launched a new series of posts that focuses on the matter of wedding venues. The series is written by Laura Caudery of Parallel Venues – a lady who knows a thing or two about managing a wedding venue and delivering excellent customer service (I challenge you to find anyone in this industry who knows Laura, and does not deam her as possibly the most professional and courteous colleague they know!). So far, Laura has addressed issues including how to find your wedding venue (and what to do once you've found it), corkage fees, catering costs, recommended suppliers and other money matters and the who, what, where and when of wedding venue logistics.
Today, Laura is getting right on down to the nitty gritty with a valuable list of things you are very highly recommended to check before you part with your hard-earned cash to secure your dream wedding venue. From the boring bits to the odd stuff, pretty and brilliant bits and the all important logistical matters in between – this frank honest post gets straight to the point about the issues you really need to be aware of when planning your wedding. Over to you, Mrs Caudery…
Ok, let’s get down to the minute details you might want to consider when choosing your wedding venue. Not all of these are necessarily things that you’ll need to ask, but they’re worth having in your mind so that you can ensure you have a complete picture of what you’re getting before you commit a large sum of money.
The Boring Bit
1. Check whether your venue has public liability insurance. It’s a pretty worrying sign if they haven’t.
2. Read the Terms and Conditions fully to make sure you know what would happen in the event that your wedding has to be cancelled in unforeseen circumstances (Act of God, fire, safety issues and so on). Would they offer you a refund?
3. If you’re holding a civil ceremony at your venue, make sure you know which local authority’s jurisdiction it comes under. You don’t want to book a registrar from the wrong register office!
4. Many places will have a noise limit which your band or DJ will have to adhere to. If your venue has limiters in place, they will automatically cut off anything that goes above this decibel level and there’s nothing worse than having the plug pulled when everyone’s on the dance floor!
The Odd Stuff
1. Confetti. You think you know the rules but it varies for every single venue throughout the land; make sure you know what is and isn’t allowed to be thrown.
Image Credit: Struve Photography (full wedding coming soon to Love My Dress)
2. If you need to plug anything in – be it an iPod for your ceremony songs, a projector for your speeches or all the equipment for your band – make sure there are power points for it to all be plugged in!
3. Is there going to be adequate air conditioning or heating? A barn in the middle of winter can be freezing and you might need to bring in extra heaters; historic houses tend not to be equipped with modern air conditioning, which can make the height of summer seem even hotter.
4. Are there any access restrictions for larger guest vehicles such as minibuses and coaches?
5. Don’t overlook your less able guests. If your venue has disabled access, make sure that doesn’t just mean one ramp. Ask about their access facilities throughout the building and ask the guests it will affect if they’re happy with it. Not everybody’s Grandma is happy being carried through the kitchens and round the terrace to get outside for photos**
6. The condition of the toilets will give you a pretty good indication of the standards throughout the venue. Make an excuse to slip to the loo and check if they are tired and worn, well stocked and so on.
The Brilliant Bit
1. Before you decide to wow your guests, make sure fireworks are allowed. Some places may be fine with professional displays; others will require a special permit (possibly from the council, which you will be responsible for obtaining, not them).
2. If you dream of making a grand entrance in a James Bond chopper, you’ll need to make sure that your venue has permission and facilities for helicopter landings.
3. Bouncy castles, ice cream vans and street food stalls are all brilliant additions to a wedding, but you’ll have to check that your venue allow them before you book.
The Pretty Stuff
1. What’s the candle policy? Are naked flames allowed? Who’s responsible for lighting and/or maintaining candles throughout the day? Does the venue supply candles or do you need to source them yourselves?
2. How will the décor, colours and statement pieces in your venue affect the style of your wedding? You might also want to check if there will be any extant flower arrangements or decorations, particularly for Christmas weddings.
3. Think about the light that is available throughout your venue. Natural light is a photographer’s best friend, so they will want to know if there are any really dark rooms. Check what lighting is in place in each room – overhead, moveable lamps, chandeliers – and whether any of it is on a dimmer switch. If the lighting is harsh, unflattering or vaguely coloured, you might want to hire some better lighting.
Love in Lights – Photo Credit: Anna Rosell (full wedding coming soon to Love My Dress)
4. Chairs and chair covers can become an all-consuming issue for some brides. Have a look at the chairs your venue offer – if they’re hideous, do you need to hire in something different?
5. Build a picture in your mind of what photographic locations are available. Beautiful gardens are useless if there’s a monsoon; gorgeous opulent rooms are troublesome if they’re badly lit. Make sure there are lots of different options you can use.
The Logistical Stuff
1. Make sure someone knows where guests will congregate as they arrive and guide them through to your ceremony.
2. Venues come in all shapes and sizes and whilst wedding ceremonies are rather generically set out with all chairs facing the front, think about what the space is like and how the seats will be positioned. Will every guest have a good view or are there obstructive pillars in the way?
3. One of the biggest things brides worry about is their entrance and making sure they’re not seen by anyone when they arrive. This is particularly important if you’re getting ready offsite, as you’ll need to know which entrance to pull up to and who will be meeting you.
4. Don’t forget that room capacities include everyone in your ceremony, not just your guests. Make sure there is room (both numerically and physically) for your photographer, videographer and musicians.
5. If your venue offer you a package, check whether things like table name holders, table plan easels, a cake stands and knife, are part of the price.
6. Make sure you know what the turnaround times are likely to be if the same room is being used for ceremony, wedding breakfast and reception.
7. If you want to move furniture around, be clear about who is responsible for moving it and whether there’s space to store spare items you don’t want to use.
8. So that there is no confusion at the most critical moment, make sure you know where you will both be meeting the registrar before you’re ceremony.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask whether there’s a room that just you, as bride and groom, can use throughout the day. You might want a quiet five minutes together to catch your breath! I found that even when I went to the loo on our wedding day, I could never have time to myself as everyone wants to talk to you. Similarly, a designated bridal dressing room is a good idea.
10. Make sure you know your venue’s policy on younger guests and consider having a separate crèche area for children.***
11. A quieter crèche area for older guests to get away from the noise of a band or DJ isn’t a bad idea either!
12. If your venue offers a place to store wedding presents, check whether it will be secure and whether they are insured for any loss or damage.
Feel free to print this list off and use it when narrowing down your search for your wedding venue!
I'd value your feedback in the comments box below. Share your wedding venue planning experiences and questions – I'm here to help.
** Note from Annabel:- check in tomorrow afternoon for the latest feature in our 'Confessions of a Disabled Bride' series.
*** Another note from Annabel: Our very own Franky hired a specialise creche company to look after all the children (Artful Splodgers crèche) at her wedding to Carl.