How To Choose Your Wedding Venue

how to choose a unique, alternative wedding venue

Deciding where you’re going to get married is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make. It’s a pretty important one too! So how do you choose your wedding venue?

The first step has to be, refer back to your list that you (hopefully) made when you started planning. When you start venue hunting keep in mind the atmosphere and feel of your imagined wedding. And don’t forget your must-haves! This will make it much easier to narrow down venues. For example, if having a weekend wedding with everyone staying over is important to you, then it’ll be easy to rule out venues with little or no accommodation.

Wedding Venue Check List

As a photographer my Wedding Venue Checklist looks a little like this:

Inside space
Outside space
Flexibility
Accommodation for X people
Large, bright rooms to get ready in
Little to no “turning rooms around”
Allow live music, with a late last orders

Wedding Venue Inside & Outside Space

The time of year you’d like to get married will have some effect on your venue choices. It’s easy to fall in love with a venue because it has amazing gardens but if you’re getting married in winter, the gardens aren’t as important as the inside space. And do you know what, even if you’re getting married in summer – it’s a good idea to choose somewhere that has space inside just in case it rains! Having a plan B is always important, especially if you’re planning an outdoor ceremony.

The inside space should have a good layout. Ideally, you want your day to flow through the venue without too much herding of guests or turning around of rooms.

It’s always a bonus if the venue has space for you & your partner to get ready or finish off getting ready in. That way there’s a little extra flexibility to your morning plans.

It’s obviously not a deal-breaker, but it can be a bit of a buzz-kill to kick everyone out of a room while it’s turned around just to go back to the same room 30 minutes later. It’s absolutely fine to re-use spaces, but try to avoid people just getting settled, only to be told they need to move again.

Another thing to watch out for is groups getting separated or lost. If the toilets or the bar aren’t nearby then people will inevitably wander off and you’ll end up with pockets of people all over the place. When it comes to the party, having the bar in the same space as the dancefloor is ideal. It really helps to keep the party atmosphere alive and the dancefloor packed.

Flexibility

They should be flexible enough to allow you to do your own thing and be open to new ideas too. An experienced wedding planner or coordinator is your best friend when trying to create something unique. However, avoid wedding venues that tell you what times things will happen, rather than asking what you would like.

Accommodation

I think having your guests stay the night with you at your venue is a really cool thing. Whether you’re planning on making a full weekend wedding or a wedding + brunch, it extends the celebrations and gives everyone more time together. No one has to leave early or pay for taxis, it’s just less stress all round.

No Fun Police

In my opinion, the best venues are the ones where you can party as late as you like while being considerate of the neighbours – of course. So if a really good party is important to you, make sure you check what time your band can play until. Check what time the D.J. will need to finish and what time last orders are called.

One of the most annoying things we found when trying to choose our wedding venue was corkage fees. So watch out for that too.

The Ideal Wedding Venue…

The ideal venue has large, bright rooms to get ready in, an easy, pretty route to the ceremony, plenty of outdoor space for afternoon celebrations and indoor space as a backup or for a cold and wet winters day. They should be flexible enough to accommodate your plans – not make your wedding fit theirs. It should keep toing and froing between rooms to a minimum. Wherever the party is it needs to be large enough to have a bar and enough space for everyone to party together until the early hours!

So that’s my Wedding Venue Check List! All you need to do now is find your perfect venue…

Where In The World?

Is the geographical location important to you? Do you want to get married close to family, or where you grew up?

If a particular place is important to you, then depending on your plans, you may need to be willing to make some compromises. Or think outside the box, in which case, make sure you’ve read my sections on humanist & celebrant led weddings (link below).

If the location isn’t so important to you, then you can cast your net wide and focus on the other things that are important to you.

Stately Homes, Halls & Country House Wedding Venues

stately homes and country hall wedding venues

Stately Homes, Halls & Country House’s are all great options for a wedding venue. Almost all are exclusive use and many offer accommodation so that you can turn your wedding day, into a weekend-long celebration.

The amount of freedom offered depends on the venue. Some will only allow the recommended suppliers. Others will handle certain aspects “in house”. They might manage the bar and work with a range of selected catering companies, for example. Others are completely DIY.

Farms, Barns & Campsites

Farm, barn & campsite wedding venues

These make a great choice for more relaxed and rustic styled weddings. Ideal for people who love nature, being outdoors and want that laid back down-to-earth vibe. Village Fêtes, Garden Parties and Festivals are great places for inspiration, but I’d encourage you to think about what you enjoy doing, eating, and how you want to celebrate.

Warehouses, Swimming Pools & The Odd Balls!

Now, this is where it gets really interesting! A lot of unusual places host weddings and wedding receptions. Some could be right on your doorstep and you have no idea…

Mel & Mark got married at Victoria Baths – a Victorian swimming pool in Manchester. Mark had been to their annual beer festival for a few years running but had no idea that it was also a wedding venue. It wasn’t until he was at the beer festival, and they had been struggling to find somewhere to get married that he thought “I’ll just ask and see”. Turns out they did so went for a proper meeting and they found their perfect place.

Light Houses & Windmills, Galleries & Space Museums, Boats & Submarines, Islands, Tree Houses & Caves… The list is almost endless. Especially when you consider that your perfect venue might not actually be a wedding venue…

Sarah & Ed were struggling for ages to find their perfect wedding venue. Out of sheer frustration, they started contacting places that had never held weddings before. After that, it wasn’t long until they found their perfect venue – Plasglasgwm down a narrow, winding road in Snowdonia National Park.

 

THIS IS JUST ONE CHAPTER...

In the rest of this guide, I explain the different ceremonies including, humanist, celebrant & non-legal wedding ceremonies. I also cover how to choose your wedding venue, wedding photographer, entertainment and plan your timeline. Plus there's wedding advice from real couples and top tips from industry experts.

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