Yesterday I exhibited at Ashdown Park Hotel, for the Luxury Wedding Show. I always enjoy chatting to the brides and hearing about their ideas for the day and I try to be as helpful as I can with ideas, advice and venues.
One of the lovely brides I met suggested I needed to get all this info into a blog and so here I am! In this first post, I'm going to tell you everything I know about finding the perfect venue for you and things to consider when making that big decision!
*DISCLAIMER* These are just my opinions. This definitely isn't a do/don't list - just things to bear in mind to help you make an informed choice.
1. The Farmer's Field
I can't tell you how many times I have heard this from recently engaged friends. I think I can even remember saying this myself. So, you've just got engaged, you're totally overwhelmed by the cost of venue hire and now you're desperately looking for cheaper alternatives.
Won't that farmer down the road just let you hire his field for a couple of hundred pounds? Unlikely. Landowners need to apply for TENS licenses to hold weddings and events and these can be rejected.
If you do manage to find someone who will lend you a field for a day, you'll need to factor in the costs of bringing marquees, toilets, electricity etc. Have you also considered where everyone will park and what your plan is if it rains?
Of course, if it's a field/festival vibe you are after there are professionals who offer this, it just won't necessarily be a cheap option. If you visit Hire A Field you can find some beautiful spaces. Prices in Sussex range from £2400-£4850 for exclusive use. These are expert teams who can take the stress out of planning an outdoor wedding.
2. WHICH WAY TO THE BAR?
When looking for my own venue - I was adamant I wanted to find somewhere that was intimate and kept everyone together. I didn't want the bar in another area of the venue. It's one of the many reasons I booked Southend Barns for our wedding.
Dancefloors can be hard to fill and there's nothing worse at a wedding than an empty one. If the bar is miles away, you inevitably will lose people. Naughty smokers will head to the bar for a drink, pop outside for a cigarette and then repeat this process through out the night (guiltyyyyy). I'd also advise against setting up photo booths anywhere but in the main room. If possible, try to keep all the fun in one room! If you've already fallen in love with a venue, but the bar is a bit if a trek from the dancefloor, you could always ask if they'd consider setting up a temporary bar elsewhere.
For me this is the most important point in this post to consider, but for some people it won't matter at all. It's just personal preference and sometimes there are other plenty of other positives to a venue that will outweigh a negative.
3. DRY HIRE
So, you've found an awesome price for venue hire but you've just noticed it's "Dry Hire". That means that you are hiring the venue only, everything else must be hired, organised and paid for by you. This usually includes tables, chairs, cutlery etc. Compare the costs of this to a venue where everything is included and you probably won't be saving very much at all, if anything.
You'll also need to consider the extra admin and stress it will take to get multiple suppliers, working together on the same day. At venues where everything is included, they will usually have a coordinator, who ensures the smooth running of your day. At a 'Dry Hire' venue (or in a marquee or village hall) it's all on you! Eeek.
4. TIED CATERERS
I can remember being so annoyed that I had to use Southend Barn's tied caterer. What if I wanted to choose my own? What if the prices were not what I had budgeted for? Now I totally understand that the wrong caterer can ruin a wedding day and therefore damage the reputation of the venue. Venues want to work with established, reliable teams, who know the venue and will offer the same level of quality and service that they do. You obviously want your wedding day to run as smoothly as possible, so trust in your venue to recommend the best people.
5. TIME AT THE BAR!
Kick out times vary from venue to venue and while you may dream of dancing late into the small hours of your wedding night, the reality is you'll probably be absolutely shattered by midnight and ready to crawl into bed with your new husband/wife!
There is an absolutely beautiful venue near us, that I so nearly went to view, but kick out time is 10.30pm! Whilst I can appreciate that is just way too early, don't be put off by the normal 11.30pm finish times. You will have absolutely no idea what the time is anyway and your day guests will have been with you for hours and hours. For evening guests - 7.00 - 11.30pm is plenty of time to celebrate with you.
I think it's good to end on a high too - the longer the night goes on, the emptier it gets as guests leave and the energy can fall flat. Go out with a bang and leave your guests wanting more!