Your Wedding Venue and You….A Love Story……

Firstly I’d like to say, (in the famous words of Douglas Adams) ‘Don’t Panic!’ And secondly, ‘Deep, steady breaths’.  Feel better? Okay, good! I promise, finding the perfect wedding venue is tough – but you will get through it alive.

As wedding photographers based in the York area, we see a large variety of approaches and venues. From huge to teeny tiny, intimate venues, there are no rules as to what makes the perfect wedding venue – there is only what works for you.

‘That doesn’t help me!’  I hear you cry. Well, don’t worry. It may seem like there are a huge number of possibilities out there and in order to make a decision you have to keep ten things in your head at once (there go the heart palpitations again, I’ll wait a moment while you regain your senses) but if you follow this simple structure your venue will be ready and waiting for you in no time.  Trust me my friend and all will be fine…

Step 1: Number of Guests

So, let’s get started! Some people would argue that you should start by setting your budget. Personally, I think there is no harm in first considering your number of guests. This list can be streamlined as we go on, but ideally you’d love to include everyone on this list and I don’t think it hurts to aspire to this. In any case, it should give you a better understanding of the scope of your celebrations.  I’m sure you have a vague idea of what you want floating around inside your head; most people do (some people to astounding degrees).  Now is the time to flesh this out.

  • Are you going to have an intimate wedding or a large affair? Obviously, the difference between 30 people as opposed to 300 in terms of your budget can be huge. Remember, it’s entirely possible to mix up this formula. An intimate wedding of 30 of your closest family and friends can be expanded in the evening reception to include more people.
  • Your number of guests will be important when it comes to hiring your venue because venues have a maximum capacity for the number of people they can host. Having a larger wedding can limit your venue choice as the venue must have the facility to accommodate the right number of people. Likewise, no point in sticking 30 people inside a venue intended for 500 as it will feel deserted.

Step 2: Budget

  • This will be how much in total you are willing to pay for your dream venue and wedding. This budget will instantly help you narrow the options available to you on the grounds of affordability.
  • Experts agree that roughly 30-50% of your budget should be set aside for your venue (the higher percentage should include in-house catering services).  However, much like photography, you need to think about what is right for you. For some, a venue costing 20% of their budget will do and for others, the wedding will just never be right unless it is hosted in a 5 star hotel. Don’t let percentages overrule your common sense.
  • Always keep in the back of your mind the need to be strict with yourself once you have this set. Last minute spends have an annoying way of adding up. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need a huge papier mache boulder to chase guests out after my exit or can my Indiana Jones themed wedding do without this detail?’

Remember expensive wants can sometimes be solved with creative thinking instead of money.

Step 3: Religious or Civil Ceremony?

Okay, we are nearly half way there and so far it has been spectacularly easy (particularly for me!) This next step is your final big decision before we can get down to the nitty gritty of the venue hire.

  • Religious and/or civil ceremonies can be performed at many venues. The venue will be required to have a license in order to carry these out and (if in England) the ceremony must take place between 8am and 6pm.
  • If the ceremony cannot be performed at your venue of choice the resident wedding coordinator should be able to point you towards nearby locations where the ceremony can take place. If you do decide to have two different locations for your day, the important thing for you to consider is distance – the nearer the better. Choosing a location nearby  will hopefully stop you from losing guests along the way (as an added bonus it is more eco friendly too!)

Step 4: Making a Venue Shortlist

Ok, so let’s quickly recap. You’ve decided if you’re having a civil or religious ceremony. Your budget is carved in stone and sitting on your mantelpiece as a constant reminder. You have a list of guests carefully selected for suitability, flexibility, paranormal ability…er; sorry…got a bit carried away there. Anyway, basically you’re now all set to start researching your venue.

  • Any inspiration or themes at this point are brilliant and can help as you start to compile a list of possible locations. Why not a castle wedding, maybe a vintage styled wedding? Wedding blogs like Love My Dress and Rock n Roll Bride can help to inspire you to think of themes that will reflect your personality and individual sense of style.
  • Alternatively, if you know the area of the country you wish to get married in; why not start there and expand out, seeing what catches your eye along the way?
  • Once you have a few venues narrowed down, write out a list including the contact details and price so you have all the information at your fingertips.

Step 5: Availability

  • To avoid disappointment it’s best to have a few dates that you can put to venues. The summer is much busier and dates are less available than in the winter. Likewise, a popular venue will get booked out quicker.
  • Most experts agree that 12 to 18 months in advance is the optimum time period in which to book out a venue. Many venues won’t book out any further than 24 months in advance and require at a least six months notice to reserve a date. If you’re determined to get married on a particular date (Indiana Jones’ birthday?) it’s best to get in as early as possible to give yourself maximum chance.
  • All this can sound a bit daunting if you haven’t given yourself a full year to plan (and not everyone does!) However, I would like to mention that there are some fantastic last minute deals out there for the clever shopper. Everyone wants a bit of certainty but keep your eyes open and you might spot an excellent opportunity.


Feel a bit better now? Good! Not only have you navigated those hurdles – you did it with grace and style. How do I know this? Because you are following my little nuggets of advice!

Now, I have just a few more tips waiting for you in my next instalment **Coming Soon** {How to Rock Your Venue | Part2}

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