SNL small weddings
4 January 2017

The Perfect Wedding Venue

By Rachel Sloane

Whether planning a budget wedding or an extravaganza, the best people to ask what makes the perfect Big Day, are wedding professionals. They seem to agree that the most important part of the wedding is the venue…

“I would say don't do anything else until you have chosen your venue”, stressed Caroline Gould, award-winning wedding planner from Suffolk.

“I had a client a few years ago who had found what she thought was 'the dress' and bought it on impulse before doing anything else.  The venue ended up being very relaxed,in a marquee on a farm, in summer. The bride had purchased a very formal gown, much more suitable for a stately home or modern hotel venue in winter. She ended up purchasing a second gown and wore the first gown for the ceremony and changed afterwards…  It ended up being a very expensive outfit(s).”

Caroline also said to consider where are guests coming from.

 “Locations that are closer to home are much easier to liaise with. If your venue is an hour's drive away, you will need to factor that in to your 'getting ready' time on the day. If a lot of your guests are based far away from the venue it may be prudent to provide some transport.”

She also reminds brides to be realistic about how many people they can invite to a wedding, “Some venues will only be licensed up to a certain number and you don't want to cram all of your guests in. Likewise, you wouldn't want your 60 guests to be lost in a room big enough for 300.”  

Diana and Chris Barnard from Felixstowe, Suffolk, used to run a catering company. He remembered one experience, “We were catering for a wedding for 200 people, and they had a marquee, but it wasn't big enough for the wedding breakfast and the reception. They had us lay out all the tables, then move them to one side of the marquee for the reception, then move them back again for the food, and then to the side again for the evening! That all took time, so everything was running very late. It wasn't planned properly…. and that's essential.”

There is another aspect to the timing that may be overlooked as Emily Andrew, from Bespoke Wedding Planning in Norfolk explained,

“I would always advise my clients to be realistic with how long their clear up after the wedding will take, and to make sure there is enough time for this before your hire period ends. Some venues are weekend long hire, others may have more than one wedding per day so you literally have a few hours to clear all your belongings (including flowers, decorations, gifts, rubbish) from the venue. Some venues ask for you to remove all your rubbish (including empty bottles/catering debris) completely from the site by the end of your hire period. If in doubt, discuss the length of hire up front with your venue and understand if they have anywhere for storage on site (a cupboard for your belongings to stay in overnight could be useful).”

Diana Barnard pointed that an outside caterer doesn't usually need a large well –equipped kitchen, as they bring everything with them.

“We always gave every bride a detailed list of what we would provide and what we needed from them,” Diana continued. “For one wedding we arrived the day before to set up, and there was a small marque in a field so we put all our equipment into it. When we returned the next morning, everything was outside piled on the grass! The marquee wasn't for us but was for the reception itself! We had told the bride’s mother the ideal size of the catering tent and that we would need tables, and she had just ignored, or forgotten it! We set up outside on the grass – and luckily it didn't rain!”

Sometimes, people who own beautiful country houses rent them out as wedding venues, but Diana advised, when booking one, to ask lots of questions,

“We’ve been to weddings where the guests are received with drinks in a beautiful hallway and reception room, but then walk through a passageway into a slightly scruffy marquee, for the wedding breakfast itself. Few houses have a room large enough for a sit -down meal for a large party.”


Emily Andrew added another consideration: alcohol costs,

“A lot of venues have their own wine list which they stipulate you to select from, and others may have a corkage fee per bottle, which may vary depending on the type of alcohol. These costs will soon tot up so get full visibility of them and make sure you understand what you are committing to, before you sign the terms and conditions for hiring your venue. Some venues will be happy for you to bring in your own alcohol or bring in a hire bar – remember though you will need a Temporary Event Notice if you are selling alcohol at any point to your guests. Your bar hire company should be able to help you with the legal paperwork for this.”

Every couple getting married will want a record of the day in the form of photographs or a video, but how important is the location to the wedding album?

"It sounds a bit like 'wedding-speak' but I can see the beauty in every venue,” revealed Luis Holden, Norfolk wedding photographer, “Every setting is unique and every venue has its own character.  Depending on the time of year, and indeed the brightness of the day itself that will even change to some degree.  Some venues (such as Chaucer Barn in Norfolk) you can really put your own stamp on it and make it your own and, as a photographer, this really appeals as every-time that I go back there it looks different to the last time!  At the other end of the scale is The Boathouse, Ormesby Broad – beautiful clean lines and elegance.  I suppose what makes a cracking venue is actually very subjective, but a good photographer will be able to find the connection between the people who are enjoying it for the day and the beauty of the setting itself."

Diana, looking back at the hundreds of weddings she and her team catered for, had some final thoughts on the perfect wedding venue,

“People nowadays have such a set picture in their minds, of their wedding. Remember, wherever you have the ceremony, that is the solemn part of the day and after that you have the party. Now you might want to look like Cinderella and have a five course exquisite meal, but that is an awful lot of money and, in this day and age, that can be a bit ridiculous. You can have a small informal wedding in a church and then, all you really need is a hall where everyone brings some food to share!”


This article was first publshed in Suffolk Norfolk Life Magazine, March 2016