- Budget first – Yes we know it’s one of the biggest days of your life but if you don’t plan to pay for it yourself go easy on daddy’s wallet. You may the apple of his eye but that’s not an excuse to go over the top so swans on the lawn are definitely out. If you and your fiancée are paying for it yourselves then keep an eagle on the budget. You can have a very special day without getting into huge debt. Once you’ve got a figure in mind and you know what you can comfortably afford, stick to it come hell or high water.
- Guest numbers – Before you start looking for venues make your list of guests. Discuss this with your fiancée and be ruthless. Is it absolutely necessary to invite Great Aunt Clara and your second cousins twice removed if you’ve never seen them since you were running around in your nappies. If you absolutely must invite every man and his dog then, bearing your budget in mind, be prepared to opt for a bigger venue but forego the sit down meal in favour of a buffet. Also, remember that not all guests will be able to make it so factor in a drop of about 10% when choosing your venue. It’s better to have a place that’s slightly too small and full to bursting than a bigger venue with people rattling around inside and no atmosphere.
- Recommendations – Who do you trust to give you an honest recommendation? Word of mouth referrals can uncover venues that had never crossed your mind but don’t just take one person’s word for it. Especially if they tell you that it’s owned by their friend Big Dave who will give you a cheap deal. Always ask for a second opinion and make sure you have others on your list to explore. Planning a wedding may be personal and not business but think like The Godfather and treat it as if it is.
- Location, location, location – The old adage is spot on here. Unless you have the budget to afford to lay on coaches to ferry your guests to the aforementioned country retreat, city centre is best. Public transport is always on hand to make sure your guests get home safely and there will always be somewhere for them to go and carry on their party into the wee small hours after you and your new spouse have jetted off on your honeymoon to either the Bahamas or Bognor (there’s that budget again.)
- Choice of rooms – If possible try to get a venue with at least two rooms, one slightly bigger than the other and both with a dance floor. This way you can reserve one of the rooms until you get final numbers and then if necessary swap to the smaller one if you have a clear indication that the numbers have dropped significantly. If you have enough budget to cover both rooms you may want to negotiate a deal so you can have the main event in one room and a separate fun, chill–out room complete with a photo booth and other great ideas to keep things flowing.
- Toilet facilities – Sounds obvious but the standard of the loos in a venue is an indication of the standard you can expect from other aspects of the service. So check them out in advance. Also make sure there is a dedicated toilet set aside with easy access for guests with a physical disability.
- Can you ‘ear me at the back? – If you decide on a large venue you may need a P.A. system. After all you wouldn’t want anyone at the back of room missing out on the opportunity to hear the best man dishing the dirt on your beloved now would you?
- The wedding lunch – Will the lunch be provided by the venue and if so are the chefs adaptable enough to prepare what you want. Don’t be shy, ask to meet the chef and discuss your requirements with them. You’ll then get an indication if you’re dealing with a protégé of Raymond Blanc or someone who’s just graduated from the McDonald’s school of burger flipping!
- Entertainment- Check whether or not the venue will supply a DJ or band and if so ask for a sample if they will play a list of your choice. Remember that you have to cater for the masses so play to your audience and open your mind to The Macarena.
- Last orders at the bar – Check out how many bartenders will be on duty at your event. Nothing will upset guests more than having to wait for a beer when there is only one bartender and they have an order for a dozen cocktails. It’s better to have the bar overstaffed than understaffed so impress this point when booking.
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