Finding a wedding venue is, I’m guessing, right at the top of your to-do list (as well as finding a phenomenal dress of course!) Aleisha McCormack, author of the wedding planning guide Smart Wedding, and host of the Save The Date wedding podcast, is here to tell you how to find and secure your ideal wedding venue in a stress-free, easy-peasy and super-productive way.
The ‘Perfect’ Wedding Venue doesn’t exist…
Your idea of a ‘perfect’ wedding venue (if there is such a thing) is, most likely, vastly different to mine. I’d say besides deciding that the person that you are marrying is ‘the one’, your wedding venue is the biggest choice that you will make when it comes to wedding planning… a big decision in which many smaller decisions rely and revolve around…so no pressure then!
Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, some fabulous new specialty apps and lateral thinking, the search for the venue that fits you is super easy.
What do you want? Create a Checklist
When my husband, Rich and I were on the hunt for a wedding venue we created a checklist of all of the things we needed from our wedding venue. We wanted to find something that reflected us, a venue that:
- wasn’t too ‘mainstream’
- worked within our budget
- was cosy (we had planned a winter wedding)
- was accessible for our guests
- would allow outside catering and alcohol
- was FUN!
Just like having a checklist for attributes you would like to find in a future partner or a home, we realised that when ‘auditioning’ venues, sometimes you have to be flexible and relax your lists of ‘must-haves’ to find that ideal place to host your wedding celebrations.
Perhaps you’ve found a farm or elegant country manor with a perfect patch of grass for your wedding celebrations. With an outdoor venue, you will need to be prepared for the possibility of bad weather (I mean it probably won’t rain but…). Hiring a fancy marquee (honestly they are like buildings now…don’t think tent, think castle) is a very popular option but can only be erected on certain surfaces, and there will need to be time allocated in your property rental agreement for it to be put up and taken down.
Practical questions such as, is there power and water nearby for lighting and catering purposes. Also port-a-loos if you are away from bathrooms…can they be hidden but in walking distance?
Get Creative in your hunt
If you’re currently on the hunt for your ideal venue, the great news is with the popularity of private rentals and venue searching apps; you are totally spoilt for choice. Gone are the days of the limited full serviced options… ballrooms and hotels, golf clubs and reception halls (all of which are certainly still worth considering) but if you are after a venue that has character and pizazz then this is where it gets really interesting!
What really excites me is the array of unconventional and alternative wedding venues that are on the market. As well as exploring local museums, warehouses and art galleries, broadening your horizons on websites like Airbnb is also a direction to explore (and great for planning a honeymoon and hens trips too).
Airbnb offers exciting alternatives to your standard wedding venue. There are some truly unique and showy options available. Whether you want a cosy winter wedding at one of Britain’s finest country homes, or to elope to a faraway destination, they have amazing and often affordable venues to cater for all – from private islands, to castles and even tree houses (Yep)!
When approaching a private home, make sure you are that you are transparent about the purpose of the rental, e.g that you are wishing to use it for a wedding venue. Do your research when it comes to the practicality of hiring a private home or property for your wedding eg. How many bathrooms are there? Can a caterer use the existing kitchen or will they have to bring their own? Can guests park their cars on the premises or is transport available in the area?
In the UK there’s also a property search called Coco Wedding Venues which lists wedding venues in the UK and Europe that have been curated by owner Emma Hla. She offers a brilliant venue search service that ranges from providing a free shortlist of Coco venues that suit your requirements through to a bespoke service that totally removes the stress of finding the right location. A very handy, easy to use website and the imagery on the site is swoon-inducingly pretty too.
For readers outside the UK, there’s also a fab new site that I spent some time on called The Hitch. The Hitch lists venues all over the world (but bear in mind that UK venues haven’t arrived on there yet) and it’s growing every day. You can search by city, state, or exact location. Or maybe, if you need ceremony ideas take a step back and search by mood, theme, type — anything, really — and be inspired to host a wedding ceremony that, in turn, inspires your guests! I liked the option to compare venue prices on the spot using their calculator, which in turn provides an approximate cost according to your number of guests and reception type. A very handy, easy to use website and the imagery on the site is great.
If you do decide to go down the private property path, do make sure you are aware of your legal rights and obligations when it comes to insurance and bringing in outside vendors and contractors to the property. Using a wedding planner is always recommended, especially if you are taking on an unconventional (but fabulous) venue that may require some extra attention to details.
I wish you luck on your venue hunting journey and remember to get creative, think laterally, take some risks and you will find somewhere as unique as you…(well, can’t promise that BUT it will be awesome!).