Choosing Your Wedding Venue

If you have recently become engaged, perhaps over valentine’s weekend or christmas then I’m sure you’ll be curious about how to select your dream venue. Before you can make any of the detailed decisions about your wedding, you need to know where you will be holding your big day. That’s right forget the dress or design, you need a venue first!

Venue Types

l-r Hedingham Castle / Milden Hall Barn / The Swan at Lavenham

The basics

  1. Will the wedding take place where you currently live or where you were bought up?  Think about whether you want a city location or would prefer to be surrounded by the countryside.
  2. If many of your guests are travelling far then good access would be appreciated.
  3. Is it essential for you to have exclusivity at your venue or would the general public wandering around add to the ambience.

Spains Hall


Types of venues available

  • Hotels: From your local 3 star hotels to luxurious 5 star, there are many hotels to choose from. The advantage is that all guests can stay in the one location. Catering will be in house and you wont be able to bring in your own booze, without paying a hefty corkage charge.
  • Manor House: We are blessed with hundreds of beautiful historical manor houses in the UK, not to mention East Anglia. Some will have limited bedrooms so the wedding party can stay overnight. Catering can be a mix of in-house or outside caterers, this is something you will need to check before signing on any dotted line. Manor House venues tend to be surrounded by stunning countryside, are exclusive and enable you to feel like lord and lady of the manor for a weekend!
  • Converted Barn: Can mean so many different things, from traditional timber frame marquees to elegant contemporary barns, there is normally a type to “suit” you. In most cases you can bring in your own caterers and drink, but do check before hand.
  • Castle: In Essex there is only one castle to choose from (Hedingham Castle), but if you’re desperate to marry and celebrate in a castle there are many more across the UK. Perfect for couples who want that fairytale princess wedding. Do check capacity though as sometimes the reception is in a marquee not in the castle. Hedingham Castle

Where can you research venues

  1. Personal recommendation is high up on my list, speak to family and friends in the area for personal recommendations of venues they have visited in the past. There are always some hidden gems that only local people seem to know about.
  2. Go onto Google and type in ‘manor house Essex or whatever your preference and location is.
  3. Buy the local wedding magazine like those from County Wedding and national wedding venues & services magazine
  4. Ask local suppliers for any recommendations
  5. If you wish to have a civil ceremony then get a list from the local authority of which venues in the area are licensed.
  6. Organisations like English Heritage and National Trust hire out some of their properties for weddings, do check when you’d have access as invariably they are open to the public prior to your wedding.
  7. And if you’ve hired a wedding planner then sit back and relax as they’re do all the research for you and will know some gems of venues to try.
Houchins Wedding Venue

Houchins Wedding Venue

What questions do you need to ask?

  • Are they available? And if not what dates are available, best get this out of the way before discussing any further!
  • Can the venue accommodate the number of anticipated guests comfortably? You want to have enough room around the tables for staff to serve proficiently.
  • Do they offer any discounts for out of season or mid week bookings?
  • Is catering in-house or can you bring caterers in? If in-house ask to see the menus and wine list as the cost of this can account for about 50-70% of your wedding budget.
  • Ask about on site accommodation for you and your guests, much easier being able to stumble back to your room after a hard days partying. Ideally there should also be a variety of accommodation near by within a range of budgets.
  • Will the venue co-ordinator work on your wedding day? Ask whether they take on all table decorating on the day or whether you need to delegate to someone else. Will they reconfirm all suppliers for you or is this something you need to do?
  • Are there any restrictions you need to be aware of? Time music must finish, no candles, no amplified music, no dancing in the house.
  • What is their contingency plan if the weather is bad? Umbrellas for guests? Suitable indoor area for the drink reception? Is the carpark suitable (i.e not a field)
  • Is there a minimum number of guests you must cater for? For example your guest list might be 80 but you must cater for 100 daytime and 120 evening guests.


When you visit shortlisted venues

  • When viewing a venue have a look round the grounds and ask what will be exclusively available for you and your guests on the day. If you anticipate a lot of children then be aware of nearby roads or ponds.
  • When viewing venues look carefully at the décor and general maintenance. A well maintained venue means the owners care about their venue and more likely will care about you too.

I hope these tips help and good look finding that dream venue!

Photos:  Kerry Morgan + Mark Bothwell + Touch Photography at prior events of Dream Occasions


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