The venue of your wedding is critically important to making your day as special as it should be. You will need to think about your vision for your day and how the venue fits that. You will need to consider guests, your dress and access and not just how pretty the venue is. Be practical and plan so that there are no surprises on your wedding day and all goes smoothly, these tips will help you achieve that.

Formal or Informal

What is your vision for your special day? Are you dreaming of a fully traditional day with a church wedding and a long aisle with your Wedding Dress train flowing along behind you? Or does that image give you hives? Does a more relaxed hotel or country based venue suit you more, you could be married in a room within a hotel where you stand together at the front of all your family and friends with the registrar. It really is what you and your fiancé want for your day

Close family and friends

We can’t get away with it we have to consider our closest family in terms of venue because no one wants to have a close relative who cannot walk in their shoes on a damp forest floor or walk down multiple steps. It is worth discussing your choice of venue early on with family and friends and consider the needs of elderly relatives and those with young children. Our son chose a small informal hotel so that grandparents in their 80s could go to their room for a rest when they wanted to. This worked really well for those guests with young children too who can get tired and upset and then disrupt the event. There is also the bride and groom who chose a very small church where only a very small amount of guests could access. The other guests had to stand around outside and could not hear or see the ceremony, this left a poor atmosphere throughout the day as guests were unable to sit down and really felt left out. The couple were also upset that guests did not feel part of their wedding.

Wedding Dress

For many brides their wedding dress is the most important part of their wedding day. Lots of brides come into Curvaceous Bridal and discuss how their dress needs to suit the venue. It is always worth considering what the width of the aisle will be at your venue, even measuring it is good so that you will know if you and your groom will fit down the aisle.  For example, a bride recently talked about their plans for a rustic wedding outside in a forest clearing and then a reception in a marquee. We discussed how a princess ball gown silhouette was what the bride really wanted to wear but that the style was not right for the venue and would get caught on branches or the trees. The bride chose a fit and flare style which really looked amazing. She decided to not have a train and to have flowers in her hair rather than a veil. Some venues such as a church do suit wedding dresses that have a real wow effect. Particularly those dresses that have a beautiful back of lace or a key hole design as the guests will see the brides back view going up the aisle. If a wedding dress is thought to have too much ‘puffiness’ it is always possible to take out 1 or 2 layers of net or if not ‘puffy’ enough a hoop can be added.

Bridesmaids

It really helps if the bridesmaids are on board with your venue choice. Take them with you to do an early review of venues and short list for the groom to see. It’ll be a lot of fun and they are likely to be very helpful on ideas and how the venue would work. You will also need to consider the bridesmaids dresses in terms of colour and design. Your colour scheme will need to fit in the venue, particularly if the venue is a hotel with a specific décor, you may have your heart set on a colour eg navy blue and the venues colour palette is dark blue, brown or black. The clash would not work well on photos. The dresses for bridesmaids need to be thought about in terms of design, for example are strapless designs ok for a cold church you don’t want your girls shivering. A fur or chiffon stole would help to keep them warm.

Sit down meal or Buffet?

Have you any thoughts about what food you would like at the reception? Increasingly the USA tradition of a cocktail hour is being taken up here. This is just after the ceremony when photos are being taken and guests have a drink and small pastries or savouries before the main meal. A buffet does allow the bride and groom to mingle more with the guests and have a much wider variety of foods, this is helpful where there are many guests with allergies, such as gluten free, or are vegetarian/vegan.  From experience there does tend to be a lot of left overs with a buffet. Not every venue will offer a buffet and only do a ‘sit down’ meal. This does impact on the timing of your wedding ceremony and reception. If you get married at 12 noon then the meal will be at lunch time of 1-2pm same if you decide to get married later in the day. With a buffet of course you have more flexibility. The venue will have an input into the timing of your reception as they have staff who will need to be available and not to go over their working hours. A ‘sit down’ meal at lunchtime and then an evening buffet is a good choice. The key here is flexibility and being guided by your venues key contact.

Venue Budget

It goes without saying that weddings are expensive. Venues in particular are costly, often the basic price is then added to when you start to specify changes or additions such as décor or number of guests. It is advisable to negotiate a package amount where everything is included. It also pays to be cheeky, always ask for something to be thrown in. Hotels operate on fixed costs so they will, for example, employ room cleaning staff if the hotel is full or if the hotel is empty so ask for a couple of free rooms as it costs the hotel no more money but saves you a fortune for guests who will be staying overnight. There is likely to be a choice of menus so bare in mind your guests and what they are likely to enjoy but also what you can fit into your budget. Don’t over order on a buffet if you have 50 guests only order for 45 as there is always food left over! Remember a popular venue in the summer months will not be likely to negotiate in your favour as they can always have other bookings. Think about booking 2 years early or going for a day Monday to Thursday or a Sunday where the venues are generally cheaper. Winter Weddings are a lovely time of year, I recently went to a wedding on Christmas Eve while this date would not suit every Bride and Groom it was a really lovely time of year, especially as the hotel venue was beautifully decorated and hotel rooms were on offer, even the music was supplied by a local band playing carols. A sunny winter’s day can be so lovely.

Access

Access to a venue is very important, the cobbled stone walkway to a country church is lovely until you try and walk on them in your bridal heels! Even more so for a guest who is in a wheelchair. As a minimum do choose a venue that has good disabled access and check out access via lifts or ramps, a venue may say they have good access where in reality negotiating the steep ramp with an elderly grandparent can be a nightmare. If it is an outside wedding think about the weather and have a plan B as a rainy day where chairs are sinking into the ground and high heels disappear into the mud makes for poor memories. It is good to also think about guests with young children who are in pushchairs. Make sure high chairs are available at your meal and that there is space to store pushchairs and that there are baby changing facilities available. Let the venue know how many and what ages of children will be attending this helps them to plan to accommodate them, also have spare nappies, changing maps and bibs available to help out parents.

Flowers and décor

Flowers are an important element of your venue, they can add colour, fit in with your colour scheme, match the bridesmaids and create atmosphere. They are expensive and beyond your bouquet, bridesmaids flowers and button holes the cost of flower displays can be prohibitive. The attraction of a hotel venue is that there is likely to be flower displays already in place. It is lovely though to have flowers on the table where you will sign the register. Churches also have flower displays but you will be asked to pay for these or to make a significant contribution. It is important to think ahead in terms of the time of year for flowers, discuss with your florist what flowers will be available for your wedding date. When you purchase your bridesmaids dresses try to get a swatch of the material to match your flowers and other décor to. There are now lots of suppliers who have designed signs for wedding venues, eg ‘drink, dance’ ‘getting hitched’, which are good fun and can be hired.

Doggies

And other non-human guests. You see lots of photos of doggies at weddings, they are part of your family and the Bride and Groom want them to share their special day. You will need to discuss this with your venue early on, definitely before booking and paying a deposit, some venues really do not want any animals except for guide dogs. On the other hand some venues are much more suitable for your special friends. I have even seen an Iguana as a ‘best man’. This is unusual though it is becoming more common to see dogs and cats. There are even special corsages you can buy for dogs to wear on the day. Whilst it is lovely for you to have them near to you and to be there on the day you need to think about your pet, will they become anxious with so many people around and the noise and different smells may upset them. They may also jump up on the brides, bridesmaids or guests dresses, not deliberately to harm but because they are excited.

Photographs

The choice of photographer is critical, you will need to choose a photographer who is recommended and that you have seen their work. Your venue is likely to have partnership arrangements with a photographer and they will recommend him/her to you. This is good as they will have recommended them before and the photographer will know the layout and features of the venue. If you do not go with the venues recommendation then make sure that your photographer visits the venue with you before your wedding day so that you can discuss with them the type of shots you want. Also discuss with your venue what and where the photographer will be able to take photos, there may be areas where the venue management do not want photos to be taken, for example where repair work is being undertaken.

Chrissy Wright, Curvaceous Bridal, February 2019