CHOOSING a venue is a big decision. Some brides have their heart set on a place and nothing else will do. But if you’re open to options the choice can be overwhelming. So how do you decide?! The most important thing (as wishy washy as it might sound) is that it feels right.
As soon as my other half and I visited our venue (before we were even engaged #bunnyboiler), we knew it was the one.
Looking at the prestige of the venue and the price list, my heart sank. I thought it was completely out of the question. But by building a custom package and a bit of negotiation, we’ve bagged our dream venue.
If you’re stuck between a few venues, here are some questions to ask and help narrow it down.
Most important – is the venue available on our date?
There’s no point even looking around if you want a date that’s unavailable. Having your heart set on something you can’t have is a crushing disappointment. The majority of couples are quite flexible and have a few possible dates to go with, so fingers crossed you can find one that works. If you’re firmly set on one date and one date only, you need to check availability before you even go and look around!
Will the venue be exclusively ours for the day?
Some venues have more than one function room, which means more than one wedding (especially on popular dates). Some people are cool enough to deal with that. Me? Nah. I’m unashamedly My day is all. About. Me. (Groom, who?)
If you don’t fancy running into another bride in the loo on your big day, you’ll want to ensure the day is exclusively yours. Our wedding hotel probably isn’t the biggest, so it’s unlikely there’d be room for many other guests on the day – but we have a clause that state no other wedding party is allowed to stay during our celebration anyway.
Do they allow outside suppliers?
Some venues have a list of recommended suppliers, which they may suggest you use. However, that’s different to having must use suppliers.
It may be that your venue has an in-house DJ or caterer – but there might be another you’re really keen to work with. So will that be an issue? And will there be any additional charges?
What’s the earliest/ latest time you can get married? If there are other weddings on the same day – what time are these? (If yes, this may affect your set up time/ arrival time). And how late can the party go on? Are there any restrictions on music?
How many guests can you have for the ceremony and reception? Will it be big enough for all your guests? And what’s the cost per head? Is there a fee for adding on evening guests?
Does the venue provide equipment?
Tables, chairs, chair covers, bar etc – and does it have adequate parking? If not, how are your guests going to get there?
Who clears away and sets up the room?
If you have to do it – how long prior to the wedding can you get into the rooms? Some venues have events going on all the time and the room might not be free until the morning of your event. Worth bearing in mind if you are decorating yourself.
If you have to clear away afterwards – does everything have to be sorted on the night, or can you leave it until the next day? If it has to be sorted that night, who’s going to be in charge of that? Would you ask friends and family, or could you afford to hire someone to take the stress away?
Rooms and discount rates
Can you reserve a block of rooms at a discount rate? And who pays for these -the guests or you? Some venues let guests book individually, but others ask the bride and groom to pay upfront then recuperate the cost as guests book later.
Will there be a discount for the bridal party the night prior to the wedding?
If you’re bringing your own drink, venues may charge you. This is called the corkage fee. It may be a few pounds per bottle and the venue usually supplies glasses and pouring service.
Deposit, payment schedule
You’ll usually be required to pay your deposit so you can secure your date. This will most probably be a percentage of the overall cost (like 10 per cent). Then there may be a schedule – 50 per cent six weeks before, total cost two weeks before the wedding.
Time of the year/ day of the week
‘Wedding season’ is obviously the most expensive time of the year to get hitched (June- October). Fridays are usually cheaper (ironically not at our wedding) and during school term-time (again, ironically not at our venue).
Midweek dates – if you can do those – can be up to half price.
Negotiating on price
Okay, so they’ve answered all your questions, it’s available on your date and you want to book. But the price is still a little out of reach.
Negotiating, like money talk, is hard for us British people to do. But what you’ve got to remember is that venues like doing weddings – hello, that’s their business! They don’t want you to walk out and off to a rival. So if you’re open and up-front if they’re good at their job, they’ll do their best to get a package for you.
Step one – do your research
How much are similar venues charging? It might be that you’re already getting an amazing deal and they’re unlikely to be able to go any lower. Or it might be that another local venue can offer a similar package for less.
Do you know any other couples who got married there? Maybe ask how much they paid so you can gauge whether you’re getting a similar deal
Is your venue offering any discounts? Bridal magazines and websites often run offers with venues – such as 10 per cent off for next year weddings. Make sure you scour the local market and see what you can find! Our venue honoured a discount code we had, even though it technically wasn’t valid for the year we’re getting hitched
Step two – be flexible on dates
Saturdays on peak season are never going to be difficult for a wedding venue to book up. Valentine’s Day and bank holidays are also popular, so it’s less likely you can negotiate as much if you want these dates.
Being blunt – you can’t have it all! Venues are businesses and they need to make money; they’re going to be much more open to negotiation on dates they find difficult to fill than those that are very popular. If you’ve got your heart set on a popular date, you’re going to have to be willing to suck it up when it comes to the price
But be careful how much emotion you show if you’re determined to ask about price – if they can see you’re not willing to walk away from the venue, they’ll be less likely to offer you any discount
Step three – go through the ‘included’ list
- If the toast and welcome drink is champagne, why not ask if you could swap for Prosecco or Pimm’s – or another (less expensive) alternative. Swapping ours to Prosecco and having one welcome drink per guest instead of two saved us £10 per head – that’s a saving of £700!
- Is there a toast master on the list? How much are they, and could you do without them?
- The wedding breakfast – what happens to the price if you only have two courses instead of three?
- Coffee and petit fours – How many of your guests are likely to want these? If only a small percentage, then can you take this extra course off the bill altogether? (our venue doesn’t actually charge any extra for these, so we kept them on)
- Stationery – If your venue includes this in the package, would it be cheaper to do it yourself? Taking ours off the venue bill saved us £2.50 per guest (£175 for 70 guests). This on was more about adding a personal touch anyway – we booked around 18 months before the big day, which gives me plenty of time to make some bits myself
Step four – get it in writing
Once you’ve got a price both you and venue are comfortable with, get it in writing – along with the expected payment schedule. That way everyone knows where they are and there won’t be any quibbling later down the line.