2 The great venue hunt – Gill’s Wedding Diary

Written by    Last updated: September 10, 2006

Call me a geek

Gill's reception venuePretty soon mountains of information started to arrive and it was becoming impossible to remember what each of the different venues had available. To make life easier, I drew up a chart with all the important information listed on it to save me searching through all the brochures every time. Call me a geek, but it makes things easier! The headings included venue name, address, telephone number, email address and website, maximum capacities for day and evening, venue hire cost, price per head for food and any other information, like a free bridal suite, discount on rooms for guests or free hire of a cake knife. Believe it or not, free hire of a cake knife is listed by some venues!

I was really amazed at the massive difference in cost for reception venues; in some cases the sky really did seem to be the limit. One venue charged £7,500 with the price per head for food starting from £100, so a rough estimate for this venue would be around £20,000. As this was more than the cost of an average wedding, I quickly put this venue on the ‘when I win the lottery’ pile. This is a pretty extreme example ‐ thankfully not all venues require you to re‐mortgage your house!

Most places are pretty good at responding to information requests, but we decided that if we didn’t receive information after the second request then we wouldn’t chase it. If they can’t even get that right, we aren’t about to trust them with our wedding reception!

The shortlist

We narrowed it down to five venues which we would go and inspect. My parents, Mike and I took a few weeks to go and see them all. Looking back on things now, it was good to have all four opinions, but at the time it did seem like we were never going to find a venue that we all agreed on. We double‐checked that the venue was still free on the date that we wanted before going to view the venue, but still we found ourselves at two venues where there was already either a definite or provisional booking. This was quite blatantly a ploy to get us to the venue and make us interested enough to change the wedding date. I’m ashamed to admit that it did almost work for one venue, but thankfully we found a much better venue that was available without the need to start rearranging anything.

It was good to have all four of us looking at the venues because we were looking for different things and so all asked different questions, meaning that we got the most out of each viewing. When you are shopping for anything you have a wish list and reception venues are no different. You’ll rarely get everything you want but in the end we did find a really good venue where we only had to compromise slightly. So even though we were all looking for slightly different things, we all agreed that the barn venue we had chosen was perfect. If possible, try and arrange to view the venue on the morning of a wedding, so you can see exactly how it can look when it’s all set up.

If the venue that you have chosen has overnight accommodation, you may well be able to get some rooms at a discounted rate for your guests. However if your chosen venue doesn’t have accommodation, ask if they have any deals for discounts with a local hotel. The discount that we received this way worked out just as cheap as it would have been had we booked the reception at the hotel instead!

Once you’re sure about the venue, don’t waste any time in securing the booking with a deposit to avoid someone jumping in and booking it. So, that’s another tick on the to do list, but there’s still so much left to do…

Read Gill’s diary next month to see how her wedding planning is going and to pick up some handy tips along the way.
Gill's churchOnce we had decided when we wanted to get married, we had to decide where we’d do it. Mike and I agreed straight away that we would like to get married in our local church, and so after a friendly and relatively informal meeting with the vicar it was arranged. Having been lulled into a false sense of security by the ease of organising the ceremony, I started to feel quietly confident about the rest of the arrangements. After a week or so of looking for a reception venue, my delusions of ease were forgotten ‐ and I was back to believing that organising a wedding can be one of the most stressful things in life!

One of the first hurdles was to find possible venues. Unless you are part of the ‘ladies who lunch’ social circle ‐ and I’m not ‐ there will be endless numbers of places that you probably never even knew existed, let alone venues which are available for wedding receptions. With this in mind, look everywhere you can and don’t write off any venues too quickly. We looked for possible venues in the Confetti venue search, in the phone book and in our local papers. I even found myself managing to drop the subject of possible venues into nearly every conversation I had! Personal recommendations are always good to go on, although sometimes people just remember the bad things about a place. Do keep in mind that obviously places change hands, have refurbishments and so on, which can be a good thing and not a bad thing.

The numbers game

Before we could make any serious enquiries about reception venues, we had to work out roughly how many people we wanted to invite. That’s much harder to do than you think! In an ideal world I would invite nearly everyone I’ve ever met, but needless to say this is so impractical. My inspired solution was to get a cheap venue and give everyone fish and chips, to get numbers up and costs down. I was totally out‐voted on this one by Mike, Mum and Dad. So back to the realistic guest list ‐ I found it really hard trying to ‘categorise’ good friends, friends and acquaintances, trying to work out who to invite and to how much of the wedding. Hard though it is, it obviously has to be done or else things will get out of hand! Eventually we decided to invite around 120 people for the day reception and 30 extra for the evening.

Operation venue

Using all of this information we started to call and email everywhere on our list and requested information to be sent through the post ‐ it was generally much easier this way rather than trying to get all the information that we needed over the phone or by email. To avoid wasting any time, we asked two vital questions. These were: could they hold 120 people for a sit‐down meal and were they available on 31 July 2004? I really didn’t expect anywhere to say they were booked ‐ silly me! For some venues (especially on a Saturday in summer) you need to book them near enough at birth! However do check if the bookings are only provisional or if they have actually been confirmed, as you may be able to sneak in if it’s only a provisional booking ‐ I know it’s cruel, but all’s fair in love and war.

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