Booking a Venue

weddingplanningchecklist (1)Questions to ask when choosing a wedding venue.

Following on from the wedding series I started.. waaaaaay back in 2018, I will be looking at some of the questions you may need to ask when booking the venue for your big day.  I will be going over some of the key points you should consider when choosing a venue.  I am not saying I am an expert by a long shot, but in my experience these things ought to be considered.  Some of them however, will have nothing to do with you and wont be relevant, but of course, you can cherry pick the most relevant bits and pieces.

If this is the first blog from me you have come across, you might be wondering why I think I know a bit about wedding planning.  Well, in my previous life as a florist and venue decorator that I did for 13 years, I covered 75 weddings a year and was amongst the first to do venue decoration when it had just become ‘a thing’.  My experience is based on speaking to brides regularly about their big day, working at several hotels and venues and also networking with tons of other wedding suppliers.  The pit falls can really affect your day as I learnt from their experience so I feel justified in passing on this information.

What am I doing now?  Oh, now I am The Sarky Cow and we do lots of wedding related designs that can be included in your day including glasses (wine, gin, champange, pint & whiskey), proposal and thank you cards for the bridal party and also personalised sweet jars for those that have a sweet tooth.  They are great thank you gifts and it is so lovely to be once again involved in your big day. SO, (BIG SELFLESS PLUG) if you do need any of those things, just check out our website and have a browse.  Oh, you should know that we will NOT break your bank, we let the bigger suppliers do that.

Anyway, onto some of the key elements you should bear in mind.  I am not saying this list is exhaustive so it is worth reading a few blogs and writing your own list, but it is a starting point for sure and may include some bits and pieces you hadn’t previously thought of.


If the theme of your wedding is a key element and is important to you, the style of the venue should really reflect this.  If you are going for a really rustic themed wedding, a modern hotel would probably not help you to achieve the right look.. conversely, a rustic barn would not suit a minimal and contemporary wedding look.  I am sure you get the picture, this is quite a simple point but worth taking into consideration.

On a similar note, check that there are suitable photography areas for both wet and dry days, and both inside and out, given that our weather is totally unpredictable, even the summer of 2018 doesn’t mean we now live in a hot country unfortunately.  This should too match your theme, rustic beams and wooden furniture would look fantastic against a vintage look but maybe not so much with a minimal style.  Note:  I am not saying this would be a disaster, I am really not that dramatic but if the look is your main thing, it is certainly something to consider. Maybe discuss this with your photographer beforehand.  If you have not booked a photographer, check out pinterest for the types of pictures you would like in your wedding and then see if the venue will fit in with the look you want to achieve.

Price / Packages

Are the venue offering packages for the amount of guests you are inviting?  Some will give you a deal based on a particular amount in the day time and likewise in the evening.  This should include a discount for numbers so it should not be the same if you custom built your own package with them, they need to be dangling a meterphorical carrot, not a real carrot because of that would be ridiculous.

Payment plan.  Will they let you work out a way to pay them in equal instalments so that you can stick to budget.

What is the deposit and when is the final payment due?

Are there any hidden costs such as extra bar or waiting on staff or cleaning costs?  Make sure the quoted price is the final price or if there is anything else to add in. You don’t want any nasty surprises on the final payment day.

Is VAT included in the price.  It should be, but just in case.

What is the cancellation policy?  How much would you lose if you had to cancel due to something out of your control. This is really quite important.  You would most definitely lose your deposit and rightly so to be fair, but the rest can vary from venue to venue as does the length of notice you need to give them too.  Go over this with a fine tooth comb because although you think there is nothing that could stop you going ahead, you literally just never know.  I have had brides that have had to postpone, bring forward to delay for various reasons, all to personal to share but nevertheless, it happened so be aware.  You cannot fight the case afterwards, if they are strict about it, they will not bend.

There are various ways to bring down the cost if you are working to a budget.  Mid week weddings are much cheaper than Saturdays but you knew that already.  Saturday will be the most expensive, followed by Friday with Sunday and mid week weddings much cheaper.  Don’t let them tell you that they are busy all year round mid week because quite frankly, I don’t believe them.  Another way to get cheaper is perhaps booking on a day others would avoid like Friday 13th.  This is typically a hard day to fill but personally I think if you think a date is going to affect your marriage, you need to rethink it (just a joke, I know some of you will actually be superstitious).

Wedding Venue and Accommodation

Are the rooms likely to change that you are using.  Many have plans to redecorate and if you have chosen a colour scheme around a room and then they paint it a rich burgandy, suddenly your light and airy wedding has a doom and gloom feel to it.

Are there enough bedrooms rooms for the guests who need to stay over and will they give you a decent room price if you book a particular amount.  Check the availability and perhaps ask if you can provisionally book so many whilst you get confirmation from your guests.

Do you get the bridal suite in with the wedding?  And, can you view it to make sure it is a nice standard.  Also, look at the actual one you will be getting, rather than an example.  Believe me, in my time in the industry, I have seen some great bridal suites and likewise some truly tired looking ones. (Note – I did not go around stalking bridal suites but we did deliver bridal flowers to lots of brides in the bridal suites.)

Availability of Wedding Venue

Is it available on the date you want?  You might have to bend with this if you are desperate for the date.  If you have a specific date in mind though and a specific venue, I would be booking that in up to 2 years in advance.   If they have lots of dates available, you can bet your bottom dollar they want to fill up, so now is the chance to make that deal.  Ask if there are any early bird booking promotions, or what they might throw in free if you book.  Examples of freebies might be the bridal suite, a certain amount of wine, free deserts etc.  use your imagination and if they don’t come up with anything, give them suggestions of what might tempt you.

How many weddings do they take on for the same date? You ideally don’t want to see more than 1 or 2 brides on a particular day as it will certainly take away from the uniqueness (is that even a word) of your day.  It is lovely to see one bride and I personally always smile when I see one, but see 2 to 3 and it really looks a little bit silly.

The Wedding Menu, Food and Drink

Do they allow you to bring your own wine and if so do they charge a corkage fee per bottle.  This is normal but you should make sure that it is a cost that is comparable across other hotels which should be pretty easy to find out during your checks.  I don’t know what the average price is but it would be pretty easy to find out in your area.

When choosing the menu, can you attend a sample tasting session and taste a good sample of the food?  You don’t just want to taste 1 from the starter and 1 from the main.  You want a good selection to choose from.  And, if you are having one of the more deluxe options for the evening, then I personally would be asking for a tasting from that too.  It really is too late on the day to complain about a buffet being below par because there is little they can do about it.

Whilst we are on the subject of the evening buffet, you might want to double check how many you have to cater for as a minimum.  It is not normal to cater for everyone that is attending.  I personally would say 60-70% of the guests.  Some won’t turn up and and some won’t eat and that is a proven fact and common knowledge in the catering industry.

Is there a cake cutting fee?  I can’t really say much about this as it literally speaks for itself, do they charge you for cutting the cake and serving it as a dessert.

Restrictions To Consider When Booking Your Venue

Do you want to get actually married there? If so, you will need to make sure they have the relevant licences and that the room that you are using holds enough people for the amount of guests you have.

Will they allow things such as confetti to be thrown, or fireworks to be lit?  There will be other things I certainly haven’t listed here but think about what you would like at your wedding and double check that they will not get in the way of this.

Planning with your Wedding Venue

Will they give you a dedicated member of staff to deal with who will be there during the day to make sure all the details you have planned during the planning stages are executed properly? The same point of contact is really important as communication amongst staff members is not always great in my experience as turnover in hotels is generally high.  You need one person who knows what is expected from the kitchen, the front of house, the waitresses and the bar side amongst other details regarding timings and yours and your guests requirements.  This can be anything from disabled access and parking to highchair requirements or baby feeding facilities.  A person to co-ordinate all of this is vital.  Otherwise, you will have several people asking you questions on the day which will interrupt all the champagne drinking and general mingling.

Do they have a efficient change over plan. This is when the day time finishes and they have to get the room ready for the night time.  Even if you are not in the same room, this is important to ask as there still could be time during the day where you have to ‘hang out’ whilst they get things ready.  This should be a decent place for you and all your guests.

You should also make sure if their staff are even prepared to do this? The venues I worked with were always accommodating with this aspect but I did know of some that expected venue decorators to hang around and change rooms around.  This was something as a venue decorator we did not offer due to logistics so it is worth asking the hotel what they are prepared to do.  I did it once and stood outside a wedding breakfast for 40 minutes while literally everyone in the room made a speech (that they hadn’t planned in).  We then had 20 minutes to change around the room and got home at 8.30pm at night, not that bad you might think but if you had started your day at 6.30 am hanging off a church roof putting up a garland, I can tell you, you feel slightly fatigued.  I didn’t do it again.  So, check that their waiting staff will do this.  I will come to the logistics of organising this more indepth when we reach the venue decorating blog.

Entertainment at Your Wedding Venue

Do you have to have their DJ or can you sort your own? How much is he and will he accept a playlist?  All questions I would be asking at the initial meeting.  If he doesn’t have the latest songs and turns up with his 12 inch records (most of you won’t have seen a real life record), I don’t think he is going to have the latest chart music.  You definitely want someone who meets your musical needs.

What time does the bar shut and what time does the music have to stop?  This was actually one of the first questions I had for my venue as the party of the evening was the most important for me.  I was very laid back in all other aspects but the ‘booze must flow’ was my mantra for the day.  And flow it did… but that’s another story!!

Does their licence cover any bands you may want. If you want a 5 piece band they might only have space or a licence for 3.  I am not up on entertainments licences but you might just want to check out they have what you need.  They should be totally up to date with all of that jazz (pardon the pun).

Venue Decoration

Do they have a list of recommended suppliers and are you required to use them? If so, you should check if they can provide you with exactly what you want and if they can work within your budget.  Lots of venues actually let you bring your own decorators etc but always worth double checking.  I personally would want to be working with someone who I chose to do the decoration as I think there are many things to consider, more of which I will go over in my venue decoration blog.

Are the table cloths included in the room price?  This can be quite costly if not included.  Now, the first time I found this out was when a bride told me about her experience and needed to add them into her package with us.  Of course, I quickly bought some heavy duty deluxe linen table cloths and tar dar… we included them in our hire items.  I charged £10 per table due to the intense work involved steam cleaning on site.  Anyway, I digress, it is much easier if the venue do this.  And, please ask if they iron them

General Stuff

Is there a smoking area for the smoking guests. Ideally there will be somewhere close to the room so that your room does not become empty whilst the smokers are finding somewhere suitable.

*** Bonus Tip****
A very clever bride who will be changing her name this weekend to Kacey Paull (many congrats from The Sarky Herd), had a fab top tip that she has let me share with you.  If you reach your capacity on a package, and need to add extra people on, make the children your extras.  This way your meal prices are charged at a child’s price and not an adults!!

I am sure you have your own specific questions to ask and I advise you to write out a list of how you want your wedding to go and base your questions around this.  Remember that the guests make your wedding so look after them and they will have fun which will in turn make your wedding a hit.

This concludes this episode of the wedding series, and it is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope it has maybe helped, even if it is just one or two points.

Check out the rest of the wedding series

Setting the Date

Wedding Planning Checklist

Thanks for reading and until next time.

Paula 🙂

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