Kent Wedding Venues – How To Choose and What To Look For
Choosing your dream wedding venue is possibly the biggest and hardest decision you’ll need to make when planning your dream wedding. But where to start?! What questions should you ask? What factors do you need to take into account?
1. Size of Venue
You’ll have already hopefully discovered a sense of the best size of wedding venue after really getting to grips with your budget and the guest list. Make sure to have done these things first before even looking at venues, so as not to waste time. When you do start considering venues, let the size be your first guide. Nothing is worse than cramming 100+ guests into a room that barely fits 60 seats, or having a ‘small intimate’ wedding of 30-40 guests who then spread out across a huge estate and gardens…
2. Discover if there are any wedding dates to avoid (or to grab early)
There are very often wedding ‘black dates’ that are super popular for all sorts of reasons. If you set the date too early and unluckily book a black date you may find yourself spending more and competing with many other brides for the best wedding suppliers!
Also, if you are booking an out-of-town wedding or a hotel for your wedding venue, and there happens to be a large event or conference on around your wedding day, you may find you are paying more than usual and fighting for hotel rooms and space on your wedding day.
3. Don’t Trust The Weather
You really can’t trust the weather either way. Whether it’s torrential rain in summer, or unexpected heat waves in Spring and Autumn, you’ll be surprised what the weather can throw at you. Plan accordingly.
It goes without saying that you should be looking at a venue with healthy inside options, because if it rains you’ll still want gorgeous creative photos. Also think about if you want a big group shot of every guest whether it rains or not, is there anywhere inside even big enough to do so?
Conversely – we’ve seen many barn wedding venues and similar fall prey to hot weather, where the lack of air-conditioning forced the wedding guests outside for the majority of the day and wedding reception. If you don’t want to be taking your first dance in an empty room, you may want to consider this factor.
If you’re planning an outside ceremony and it is gloriously sunny, what are the venue’s contingency if the bride is late and your wedding guests are sat in the sweltering sun for the 40 minute ceremony? Are there sun shades? If not, is there a place inside to cool down or staff to bring drinks? We’ve seen this happen on many occasions and it can be a bit dis-heartening to see grandma have to leave halfway during the ceremony as she is about to faint!
Ask your prospective venues when you see them about all the above scenarios, and ask if you can see ‘full’ wedding galleries from rainy day weddings. Also do your due diligence and look around for yourself – search google for “[venue name] wedding photography” and have a browse through pages 2-3 to see an idea of real weddings at that venue.
4. Check out their preferred suppliers – but beware
Checking what kind of preferred suppliers a venue uses can tell you A LOT about that venue. If the list is crammed full of 10+ options, many of whom haven’t actually been there very much, then it’s most likely not a well regarded venue with a strong relationship to key suppliers. Conversely, if there are 1 or 2 options and they are quite stuffy and old (or any style that doesn’t match your vision of your day) then it’s likely the venue will have the same approach.
Indeed, if the venue simply hands you a list and doesn’t say much about each type of supplier they have, it’s incredibly likely they don’t have a strong relationship with them which should also ring warning bells.
Ideally your venue will have a tight list of hand-picked preferred suppliers who have worked at that venue before, and who don’t have to pay to be on the list. They’ll be excited to run you through the options and explain which ones might be the best fit. Any less than this, and there’s something wrong. Either they don’t have strong relationships with them (see above), or they regard external suppliers as annoyances and won’t help them to give you the day you want.
Also beware if they go too far the other way and either strongly suggest or even force you to use their preferred suppliers only. It should go without saying but any venue that is so proscriptive that they won’t allow you the freedom to choose the suppliers you want at your wedding is perhaps a bit too unaccommodating for any bride who wants a wedding the way they want it to be.
5. All things food and wine
Firstly you’ll need to check a few things, how many can the venue cater for – is there an in-house caterer you must use or are the options to use a different caterer you prefer? If wedding suppliers expect food as well on the day, does your venue offer ‘vendor meals’ which are cheaper or are you shelling out for 10 extra main courses?
When it comes to food tasting, can this be done before you’ve signed? Or are meal tastings only possible certain times leading up to your wedding date? After all, three months before the wedding is not a good time to find out that you don’t much like any of the options from the in-house caterer you’re obliged to use.
When it comes to wine and drinks, can you take part in a wine tasting and will those options be guaranteed to be available in two years time when your wedding takes place? If there is a corkage fee for bringing your own, does that apply to all drinks (not just alcoholic) or are there any other hidden fees designed to get you buying their options instead?
Ask to see the bar price list and check if that is what will be available (or if they expect big increases) for your wedding date. Whether your guests are buying for themselves or you’re laying on a tab, it can be a huge unexpected cost when the bar prices are double the going rate!
One thing that almost never gets brought up before the wedding is staffing. But if there is inadequate levels of staffing on your wedding day, it can make a real difference to you and your guests’ enjoyment. Whether it’s the one member of bar staff (occasionally supplemented by the manager who is then away from their tasks) catering for a que of 30+ of your guests at your large wedding. Or the huge wait for food (and inevitable delays caused) by the 3 or 4 waiting staff serving 150+ guests for dinner.
Ask what levels of staffing they provide for your wedding and if they ever have any issues with table or bar service.
7. Ask the Photographers
Whilst most established wedding suppliers who have been in the industry for a while are worth asking – the real people in the know are the wedding photographers. Why? Because by the very nature of their job, they are the ones in the position to have seen the most venues – and to have seen them throughout the whole wedding day more or less through the eyes of their bride and groom. They will have worked with bride & groom before the big day and then will listen to them after the wedding hearing their thoughts in the aftermath. Often many clients find they are dissatisfied with elements of their wedding day but simply can’t be bothered to make a big complaint as the wedding is over now and in the rear view mirror, but they do often confide in the photographers where they were disappointed.
This puts us in the unique position to give you the low-down on local wedding venues and what real clients have had to say about them. In addition to this, most photographers worth their salt have shot at multiple weddings in multiple countries – so they have a good idea on how many different venues operate, and can assess the venue you’re looking at in comparison to a whole host of other for you.
8. Release Rooms
Once you have decided on a date check if your venue can block book your accommodation for your wedding guests, and also check pricing of nearby hotels. If your venue isn’t offering you a discounted rate then you might save money on moving the family and friends en masse to the next competitor.
If they do block book rooms for you, it’s understandable that they will not be able to hold all the rooms unsold indefinitely – so check when the rooms will be released and make sure your important VIPs have booked their stay before this time.
9. Check out the bridal suite
Insist on seeing the bridal suite and/or the room that you will be using to get ready. If the room is in use when you visit, arrange a time you can come back to see them and don’t take no for an answer. Ensure it will be big enough to accommodate all your family, bridesmaids, MUA, Hair stylists, children, photographer and videographer. If it’s too small or not idyllic enough, consider getting ready in another location.
Also check what time the room will be available on your wedding day, as if you’re waiting until 11am to enter then it’s not really feasible. Even some venues that have dedicated rooms for getting ready only allow access after 8:30/9am and this still is not enough time in most instances.
10. The Legalities
Whilst the law is currently changing, at the moment you will be very restricted on the exact location you can be married. It must be under a permanent structure that has been specifically designated for ceremonies, and in the case of large buildings it is very specifically decided on a room by room basis. You may have your heart set on weddings in the main hall, or moving from one room to another if the guest list swells – but it may be impossible!
CLICK HERE to see the ideal timeline of working with a wedding photographer before and after your wedding day
11. Go Over Ground Rules
Whether it is a holy building or a civil ceremony you are looking to have, there may be significant rules imposed upon your ceremony that aren’t initially mentioned. Are you forced to have your ceremony at a certain time (see below)? Must you attend their church once a month for 6 months prior? Is photography limited in any way? Are fireworks or smoke machines allowed or banned? What about sparklers or smoke grenades or burning cakes? Often such restrictions aren’t brought to your attention when you initially inquire and they are trying to get you to sign on the bottom line, but once you’ve signed you’ll be beholden to those rules! So check carefully if there are any ideas you might like to have that are banned.
12. Check if you ‘have’ to get married at the time they tell you to
This one is a huge one, and so big an issue we’ve devoted an entire blog post to it. In a nutshell, many wedding venues will insist on your wedding taking place according to the format they have devised – which initially seems great (like they’ve got everything under control) but we find most venues in the UK are suggesting a ceremony and dinner time that makes your day far more hectic and stressed than it needs to be. Why? Click the link below to find out more.
Kent Wedding Photographer Who Has Shot At All The Major Kent Wedding Venues Mykey Day
Your Wedding Day will never be as important to anyone else as it is to you, but trust us when we say – your wedding will be crucially important to us as well! Please browse our website for examples of our work, and we look forward to making your wedding photographs special too.