The beginning stages of planning a wedding can be daunting. There are so many guides and online month-by-month planners out there, but if I’m honest, I can find them difficult to read and process due to the amount of information that is crammed into the timelines. I think the key to tackling the planning of a wedding is to take it step by step, one task at a time. I’m calling it bite-sized wedding planning.
Step one: Buy a nice notebook.
Inspiration is everywhere, so make sure you have somewhere to scribble any thoughts down. It goes without saying that the majority of your wedding research will be executed online, but having a notebook means you can jot down notes on the venues you are looking at, as well as the types of venue and decorations you like. When you finally decide to go and visit a venue you are interested in, you can bring along your notebook to ensure you ask all the important questions.
Using the internet as your research tool, sit down together and begin your search. Dan and I started with Hitched, the wedding planning site. Their extensive catalogue of wedding venues is broken down by location, popularity and type. The more venues you look at, the more you will understand what you want for your wedding day. This is where your trusty notebook comes into play. Map out the types of venue you like and the locations you would consider and use these as reference. There are so many beautiful wedding venues out there, you are bound to come across plenty you both like the look of. I recommend creating a venue long-list. Write down all the places you want to make a note of and explore further.
At this point, you should have an idea of what will be important for you when it comes to the perfect wedding venue. Before delving further into your long list, try and build a venue checklist so you know what to look for while on the each website. Ours was as follows:
- What is the capacity?
Consider whether it would be too big for your numbers, as well as too small. With a small guest list of around 80, we realised that some places were just too spacious for our numbers.
- Does it have a wedding license?
- What are their catering options?
Find out if you have to use their supplier or whether can you bring in your own.
- What are their drink options?
Find out if they allow you to bring your own daytime drink and whether there is a corkage fee.
- What time do they allow you to start and when do they close?
Some places would prefer you to have a late afternoon ceremony, whereas we would prefer something a bit earlier. It is also worth checking when they close, but this is usually around midnight. Some venues offer to stay open late for an extra charge, but when presented with this option, the venues I spoke to said that as it is such a long day, they wouldn’t recommend it.
- What are their available dates?
If you have a particular date in mind, it is worth finding this out sooner rather than later.
- What restrictions are there?
Depending on the type of venue you are looking at, there could be restrictions around things like candles and fireworks. If you want something like fireworks, then it is worth checking as many places won’t allow it due to the noise or the welfare of animals.
- What are the accommodation options?
Dan and I really like the idea of having accommodation on site for not only us, but also our close friends and family. It would also be ideal if we were able to stay the night before, so this is a question we will always ask.
- What is the location?
- Do they have a wedding co-ordinator on hand to help with the preparations?
- What is the accessibility like?
Consider your elderly guests and find out whether there are lots of stairs in the venue itself as well any accommodation on-site or nearby.
- What parking is available?
Find out if there is secure parking for guests who would like to leave their cars there.
- What will the travel be like for guests?
I recommend you plan a day out and visit around three venues on your long list. Make sure they are in close proximity to each other, and ensure there is a decent pub in between for a well-deserved, hearty lunch. Find out if any of the venues have a wedding fair going on, or book a one-to-one appointment for special treatment.
Your initial venue visits, even if you decide they are not for you, will help you and your fiancé understand how it all works, and more importantly, what you do and don’t like. Don’t worry about not knowing the ins and outs of a wedding, and remember that the people you are talking to are experts, so ask them as many questions as you like. I think it helps to be honest – tell them you are in the initial stages of planning your wedding to be sure they explain everything in more depth.