After getting a shortlist of a few venues you really like, now it’s time to go and look around them.
We booked to go and see 3 venues which were pretty different to each other (A private house, a large hotel and a small boutique hotel) and I’ll write about our thoughts on each type, but some general tips we found along the way which I thought would be useful to remember were
- Try not to be biased before you go. We both had different favourites before we went to see them and then we had a third choice which we just booked because it looked pretty on the website. After viewing we were actually really taken with our ‘third choice’ and one of our favourites was completely disregarded!
- Make a list of requirements (on paper or just mental points) and ask the events person if it’s not obvious they have them. Good events co-ordinators will hopefully answer most of your questions before you need to ask if they give you a thorough tour, but sometimes if a venue is lacking something they may gloss over it and you may need to ask outright.
- Ask to see the bedrooms if your venue has them, 2 out of 3 venues showed us the bridal suite, a suite and a standard room. One venue didn't show us any rooms but it wasn't until we left that we realised, and as we had pretty much already disregarded it didn't bother going back to ask. It’s really helpful to see the rooms and actually helped us to decide on our venue as we were torn between 2 places and one place the rooms were very expensive and the bridal suite was actually not much different to a normal room, and another place had less expensive rooms and the bridal suite and other suites were much nicer. The bridal suite accommodation was also included in one but not in the others, so it’s worth asking what accommodation is included or discounted.
- Ask if there will be any changes/renovations to the venue before your wedding. You may be booking quite far in advance, and if you love a particular room, colour or style of furniture make sure it will still be the same on the day. One venue we went to was having the room we would hire redecorated, she showed us the paint colour (one wall was painted) and carpet (in another room) but also said we were welcome to come back at the end of the month once the work was completed, and would be happy to hold a date for us without us making any financial commitment until we saw the completed room.
- Weather. Being in Britain we can’t guarantee to have nice weather even if we booked the height of summer. We therefore didn't want to book somewhere just on the strength of the gardens and outside areas as we might not see much of them on the day! All the venues had nice gardens but we also wanted plenty of room inside and nice areas inside in case we end up spending the whole day indoors. Think about when your wedding will be and the weather where you live. We decided to book in spring to save a bit of money (Usually March, April or May is cheaper than summer) as we are still as likely to get a sunny day but it’s not classed as ‘high season’ in some places.
- Some venues (especially here in the UK) can give you 2 options, so you can plan to have drinks or even the ceremony outdoors and if the weather is bad on the day they can move it inside. It’s worth asking as I really love the idea of an outdoor ceremony but was always worried about the weather. Both venues that could offer this said they’d need our decision by mid morning on the day so they could set up in the appropriate place, it might mean being flexible in your decorations by choosing stuff that would work inside or out but could be worth it if you've always wanted an outdoor wedding.
- We booked all our venue viewings over 2 days so we had them all fresh in our minds to compare, but don’t be afraid to take photos or ask to go back for second or third or fourth viewings to make sure you are completely clear on what each place offers before booking. Also don’t be afraid to get a second opinion, take family, friends or someone who’s taste and opinion you trust for a look around, they may well see things from a different perspective.
- Pros and Cons. It’s likely you will ‘just know’ after you've been to see all the places which one is ‘the one’, but what if you don’t? If like us you’re torn then making a list of pros and cons might help you see which one has the advantage. If you really love 2 places and cannot decide on an emotional basis then getting down to the facts of it really helped us to pick the winner. If you have only one place you really have your heart set on (maybe it has special memories or a family tradition) then it’s still a good idea to go and look around it, even if you've been there before, as it’s good to meet the events person and discuss your requirements. One of our venues Tom had been to before for a work course, but when looking at it for a wedding your priorities are different and you have different things to ask.
- Price, and what you get for that price. You will likely have been given a general idea of how much the place costs on enquiring, but when you meet with the events person at the venue is when you can get into specifics. A lot of hotels have packages, but remember to ask how much things cost per person as well in case you want to add to a package, or in case it’s cheaper to just book per person rather than a package. Some venues will not do the catering in house and will have recommended caterers, the private house we viewed had 4 caterers that they use but we needed to contact them separately for prices and this was not included in the quote they gave us. Also remember to ask if little things are included like cake stands, table cloths, chair and table hire, seating chart stands, accommodation, parking etc. You’ll be surprised how much all the little stuff adds up to if it’s not included! All 3 venues took all our information and requirements and emailed us a quote after our visit, so make sure to tell them every detail of what you will need to get an accurate quote.
- The feel of a place is really important, if it ticks all of your boxes on paper but in person you just can’t see yourself getting married there then chances are you can do better. One place as soon as we walked in I could see our wedding, but another more grand and impressive place which on paper was better we just didn't seem to be able to get excited about. Don’t worry about what other people would chose or where’s more impressive, go for the one you like the most.
I’ll share a bit more on each venue and our experiences soon, but most of all remember to have fun looking around, it’s the first step most people take to actually planning their wedding and it’s fun to see all the places you might get married. Also even if a venue is a complete bust and not suitable at all you usually at least get a few free drinks and a nose around a nice hotel or house :)