It is fair to say that finding a wedding venue in lock down is going to be a challenging element not to mention that your venue is likely to be the most important part of your big day, and likely to be the most expensive purchase of your wedding. Its worth noting that your venue costs are likely to come to around one third or even as much as half of your budget.
As a wedding planner, I can say that venue searching can potentially be the most time consuming thing to do from all the elements that need organising. A venue search can take months over weeks from search to signing and definitely something that must not be rushed either as it is the most important part of your day.
So are video tours the way forward? We have learnt more than ever over the last couple of months the value that video calls can offer us and whilst venue video show rounds are especially useful if you are at the other end of the country, what else can we do to satisfy us at the moment that the venue could be right for you?
These are our suggestions to start finding your venue:
Firstly, you will find it online. There are plenty of directories that enable you to narrow down your venue search. You may find that the information listed will satisfy your checklist without having to delve in further for now, which can save time. (we’ll discuss checklists later)
There are lots of directories that you can find venues on are: For example; Guide for Brides / Hitched / Bridebook / The Bridal File / / Cocoweddings / Confetti and 100’s more! Each one of these will show the venue off in various ways according to how advanced their website is and what functions they offer to narrow your search down. Some generally do a much better job than others.
Once you see a venue you like, we then suggest you google the venue and add weddings and check out the images tab. i.e. “Sezincote house weddings”
Photographers will take photos that will inadvertently show case the venue often better than their websites itself as there are only so many pictures you can include, even with a gallery option.
I had one couple that wanted lots of places to take romantic pictures throughout the venue, so the grounds were really important to them. However we didn’t get that from their website, they had other ideas of what showcased their property and for them it wasn’t the grounds.
We were able to understand this venue much better from photographers on google images.
So why do venues have open days? It gives you the opportunity to get the feel for the space and enable you to fall in love with the thought of having your wedding day there. So whilst photos are great and lots of them can easily be photo shoots to sell you a dream wedding day, we recommend you see real weddings too, so look on google videos to find any weddings that have been recorded at your preferred venue. Again you can search the venue i.e. "leeds Castle weddings" and click on the video option on google and it would come up with any videographers that have posted their videos on line of your venue.
Some videos you can really get the feel of the space and may even give you some ideas of how you can use the space to suits you too.
Once you know you like the feel of the venue using any of the above methods, you will then find yourself with a list of venues that you can see yourself getting married and so you are now in a position to start to call the venues direct.
So what do you do next?
We would suggest to save yourself oodles of unnecessary chat is to firstly ask if your preferred date or range of dates are available? That could potential end this venue option immediately.
Then you need to find out costs. If they are way over your budget, again this will remove this as an option.
Then considering the situation we find ourselves in, you need to ask the question, what is their stance on a pandemic?
Should you find yourself ever having to postpone because your wedding cannot go ahead, what is your venues policy?
Will they allow you to postpone free of charge?
Will your deposit be carried over to the new date?
What is the time you will be given to postpone, will you be able to hold your wedding within a year from the original date?
So your venue can accommodate your date and are within your budget* you can start to asking for a formal proposal and ask them to hold your date.
It may also be worth asking that now many of use are allowed to get back to work and that we are allowed to travel, when will they be in a position to offer you a social distancing show around? If not, then you need to ask for an events coordinator that can take you around the venue via video calling to answer all your questions.
You are now well on your way to securing your ideal venue, and you have done all of this in lockdown! Not an easy task, and needs lots of commitment, but you are now in a great position to make those all important decisions.
So we’ve covered how to find your venue in lockdown, but you also need to consider what your venue checklist is.
Whilst we would normally start with this, this was not what the blog was originally about… but you do also need to consider your check list too before you start the above search. So let's start with the obvious!
What area do you want to get married?
Do you have a preferred time of year or date? (if you are on a budget, off peak and midweek weddings are more cost effective, you could save up to £5,000+)
What style of venue have you been dreaming about? Hotel/ Country Manor House / A venue steeped with history like a castle etc? Marquee or Tipi?
Do you want exclusive use? This means that there will be no other weddings on site and you have full use of the space. So this may exclude large Hotels and Clubs straight away.
What is your guest count? Can your venue accommodate your numbers? No point falling in love with avenue that you find can’t accommodate your numbers.
Do you need to have your own caterers for cultural purposes? If they don’t offer dry hire, that’s a non-starter. If it is a cultural wedding? Can it accommodate your requirements, such as a fire ceremony?
Do you need accommodation and for how many?
Does it have somewhere for the happy couple / wedding party to get ready on site? – This will enable to understand if you need to find a hotel local to the venue the night before and how to plan your preparation location/timings.
Do they have a wedding licence? Or do they have a church on site?
Do you need wheelchair access? Listed buildings may not be able to make such adjustments to accommodate this requirement.
Is your heart set on Fireworks? Not all venues allow this now, unless you wish to get married around Nov 5th where they may have a dispensation to have them at only this date in the year.
Does it have car parking for your guests and for how many?
What are the transport links to know how easy it will be for your guests? We would say that this is less likely to be a deal breaker, but I’m ask often asked that their venue must be easily commutable for guests via public transport or local to an airport.
When it comes to your styling are you allowed real candles? This could lead to huge disappointment if you don’t find out now and you are someone that loves a candle.
Can you pick your own suppliers, or do you need to use their recommended and or approved suppliers? * (this is important to know and often a deal breaker for me, tip on this below)
Finally, are you looking to have your fur baby as part of your wedding day? So you must ask if your venue allows pets?
There are many other things you may need that has not been addressed, but the above will cover the usual requirements.
So there you are, you have now found your venue in lock down, you now need to make the decision if you want to book with having seen a video link, or if the venue is willing to hold your date until you can visit the venue.
* I mentioned earlier about using venues that have approved suppliers only. We would strongly recommend before you sign up with a venue offering approved suppliers only that you reach out to a couple of their suppliers, especially the caterers, to get an idea of costs. Whilst your venue may be in budget, the caterers costs are usually non negotiation as you are in theory a captive market. So you are often unable to negotiate on the budget and have to fall in line with their charges. You may then find that this puts the venue completely out of budget. So just be sure you don’t fall into this trap, unless you have a large budget.
Also its fair to say that often approved suppliers give the venue a retrospective commission based on your entire spend and this is often a payment for being on their list. These venue commissions get added on to your quote, it’s not taken from their profit margin. So in reality if the venue are paid from every supplier a retrospective commissions from all their approved suppliers that you have no choice but to use, you may find yourself almost paying double for your venue without realising, and this was probably why it may have been affordable in the first place. You can ask your venue if they get commission from suppliers to see if they are transparent with you and then you can at least make an informed decision if to push ahead.
Also, if you find a venue that has recommend caterers but you don’t use them, you need to ask if they will be applying a fee to your own caterers. As this fee also will be charged on your bill. It's not to say you can't push ahead, its just better to be aware.