Confessions of a Wedding Planner – The Venue

Written by    Last updated: April 23, 2011

How does it feel to be responsible for the most important day of a woman’s life? Tamyn Kirby was one of the UK’s leading wedding planners, and as such, has seen it all. Here she gives Confetti a glimpse at some of the most heart-warming stories along with some invaluable hints and tips for brides to be.


Image courtesy of Armathwaite Hall

One of the biggest traps spouses-to-be seemed to fall into in the run-up to their wedding was rushing to book their venue without fully investigating what the hidden costs would be.

Once you’ve paid the deposit, it’s a big commitment, so you’re much better off putting in the time to find the right venue, and if you do decide to sign up with somewhere, it’s wise to study all the extra lines tucked away that might have information about additional charges.

One couple who asked me to cover their wedding had been stung by a venue that would charge them a fortune if they didn’t book out every room for overnight accommodation. There were extra fees for bringing in suppliers not recommended by the venue, and the cost went up if the wedding guests numbered over seventy five so the venue could cover their costs for bringing in more staff.

There was also something in the small print about a 10 per cent increase in prices each year, on 1 January, so this lovely couple were, strangely, being penalized for booking their wedding in advance. Sneaky fee increases are also often added if you want the bar to stay open later, a dancefloor put down, or if you want to get into your bridal suite before 12 p.m. to get ready.

And it isn’t just the venues that try it on; there are also plenty of suppliers out there who don’t show the ‘extras’ in their package prices. All of a sudden, the band or photographer who was just within your budget becomes much more expensive once you’ve added in mileage costs, food, and even overnight accommodation for them.

While the majority of suppliers are honest and upfront, there are a small minority who are not as candid, so you should always ask before signing your life away. One poor bride of mine, Hatty, had absolutely no faith in her venue delivering the wedding of her dreams.

Over the six months since she’d booked her wedding, she’d been introduced to no fewer than four in-house wedding co-ordinators, and each one was younger and less experienced than the one before. Let’s be honest, would you want the work-experience girl running your big day?

The final straw was not when she was sent an email in which they got her wedding date wrong but the day when she made an appointment to go to the venue to show her mum, only to get there and for them to deny all knowledge of her.

When I met her she was a nervous wreck, so we went through all of the details for the day and I prepped her on the information she needed to give to the venue. I told her to ask to be sent a copy of the venue’s notes for her day so that she could check everything.

Well, lo and behold, when the email arrived, the attached information sheet was for a completely different wedding. I was beginning to understand why she thought the staff at the venue were totally incompetent. But, together, we made sure they had all the right information and battled on with it. The day itself was an interesting experience for me, as it was clear that lots of the staff were very enthusiastic, but hadn’t really had any training. On top of that, the managers didn’t seem to understand why it was all so important to the bride. In their eyes, it was just another corporate day, where as long as they kept the alcohol flowing no one would care about anything else, which is completely the wrong attitude.

Hatty finally did get the day she deserved, and as she glided around, looking radiant in her fitted bodice and layered American tulle skirt, I knew that all the problems she’d endured were now long forgotten.

How to avoid venue pitfalls

DON’T take anything as read without checking first. The venue might not allow fireworks or candles, for example, and don’t assume that you can stay there after midnight. You have to ask lots of questions.

DO ask if there is going to be another wedding on the same day.There is nothing worse than bumping into another bride in the toilets.You don’t want to know that there are loads of other people at the venue doing the same thing. Every bride wants to think it is her special day.

DON’T fall into the trap of thinking everything will be perfect. I once planned a wedding for a couple whose requirements were very specific: their wedding had to be at a venue by water with mountains in the background. But then, when we found it, they didn’t like the colour of the carpet. There’s no point getting hung up on the little things if all your other boxes are ticked. If you don’t like the carpet colour, then you can use decorations to direct people’s eyes away from it. If you start to fall into the trap of never being satisfied, then it’s bound to be awful.

DO think: quality, not quantity. If you cram in loads of things – candles, lights, flowers, favours, table confetti, table cameras and all the other wedding-related ‘essentials’ – then your guests won’t notice anything. It’ll all look too muddled. Let people notice things.

DO make sure you find a decent wedding snapper. In years to come, when your wedding is nothing but a faint memory, it is your photos that will immediately put you back in the moment.

Confessions of a Wedding Planner is published by Headline and is available to buy at any good bookshop or at Amazon.

Find more great information on our Wedding Planning pages!

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