Deciding where to say I do (and sup celebratory champagne afterwards) will be a biggie when planning your wedding, as we discovered.
What’s your ceremony style?
First of all it’s important to think about the type of wedding you want…church? civil ceremony? abroad? registry office followed by a ditsy DIY party in the local community centre? castle? coast? With more and more places applying for marriage licences there’s certain to be something to fit in with your unique vision for the big day.
Whose on the guest list?
Next think about the guest list. Your choice of venue will need to comfortably accommodate all of those you want to invite, without giving the fire officer palpitations as you try to squish extra guests on your already capacity busting guest list. Likewise, if it’s a small, intimate gathering you’re looking for, don’t choose a large venue, otherwise your guests will be lost in a vacuum of space wondering when everyone else is going to show up.
Are the people you’re inviting prepared to travel? Do they need overnight accommodation? If you’re thinking of getting hitched abroad, will everyone be able to afford to attend? Does that bother you?
You’ll know when it’s ‘the one’
The above points form the ‘head’ aspect of the decision, but you’re also going to want to use a whole lotta heart when choosing your venue. That ‘gut feeling’. The same one that you had when he proposed and you knew saying ‘yes’ was the right thing to do.
Think it through
We’ve been engaged FOREVER (five years in total!) so we’ve had plenty of time to contemplate this decision. Our (or at least my) thought process went something like this…
This pretty riverside town was where Love of my Life proposed to me, so seemed a logical place to get hitched. Initially I dreamt of saying our vows at Kidderminster Registry Office, then jumping aboard the Severn Valley Railway for drinks and canapes, before arriving at Bridgnorth and having food, speeches and celebrations at The Habit. One to remember? Yes. Practical? No. Idea duly shelved.
A visit to Malta almost convinced us to get wed in the Med, when we visited the beautiful Upper Barracca Gardens and found it set up for a wedding. With stunning scenery and glorious sunshine that soon became our dream. We started researching hotels, but something didn’t seem quite right… It seemed too indulgent to get married abroad and then jet off somewhere else on honeymoon. Would people be able to afford to join us for our big day? Would the older relatives enjoy the weather or spend the wedding wilting in the shade? How would the foreign hairdressers style my hair? How would my make up hold up in the heat? And so we headed back to the UK.
Neither myself, nor Love of my Life are religious (I’m actually an atheist), so we’d feel two-faced getting married in church. A registry office was a consideration for a while. Cost-effective and leaving lots of money for a stonking good meal and party afterwards. In fact, the registry office at Dudley is quite, quite pretty. But (even though I didn’t think I had the gene) Bridezilla broke free and I decided that the ‘conveyor belt’ style wedding with chairs which looked as though they belonged in an old people’s home wasn’t the way we should commence married life. I also thought it would be easier for our guests if everything was all in one place.
And so we looked at another affordable council property, Himley Hall. A grand and opulent property which has previously played host to a number of royals (albeit a long time ago) and with grounds designed by Capability Brown. It was stunning, but the newly opened art deco dance hall was just too big for the intimate evening ‘do’ we were looking to host.
Research, research, research
Around this time we started visiting all the bridal fayres going and picking up the free local bridal magazines was invaluable for researching venues. Armed with a stash of post-it notes I highlighted any which I thought were worth visiting and then researched them on the web, by the end of this process we had a shortlist of five potentials.
1.) Dunsley Hall
Top of our list, but also at the top of our budget. Absolutely beautiful. Bedrooms with beams, en-suites with roll-top baths, a fabulous terrace for reception drinks – but pricey – and I was concerned that with so many rooms our guests would end up too spread out over the hall, resulting in a deserted dance floor.
2.) The Gainsborough House Hotel
We had no idea what to expect with this one. A small hotel in Kidderminster looked nice enough from the outside and the downstairs reception room was perfect. However, the facelift didn’t appear to have made it upstairs to the ceremony room which was cold, smelt like a WRVS coffee morning (think milky tea and digestive biscuits) and had interesting blue psychedelic style wallpaper. Oh and chipped paint on the dado rails. Aside from the back of our heads, our guests could also enjoy a view into the bedroom of the house which backs onto the hotel whilst we say our vows. Not for us.
3.) The Mill
Gorgeous grounds, quaint entrance. The larger reception room was amazing, over two floors and opening out onto balcony. However, the room we would have, whilst charming, was very blue and as a result was a bit dark and dated. A couple who had been married there spoke to us about what an amazing place it was. Of this, we had no doubt, but it just wasn’t for us.
4.) The Stone Manor
So impressed we saw it twice (well actually thrice if you include the wedding fair I attended there a while ago). A simple, but lovely ceremony room which looked onto woodland on one side (and we guessed our guests would rather look at that than the car park on the opposite side). A lovely lounge and the perfect sized reception room, opening onto beautiful gardens. Photo Ops ahoy!
We number crunched and the figures added up. The Stone Manor it was.
5.) Or was it?
We had an appointment to visit a further venue the same afternoon we had our second viewing of the Stone Manor. But what was the point in going? We’d made our decision, right?! The Stone Manor worked. The ‘other’ venue only had space for around 30 ceremony guests, but had higher minimum guest requirements for the wedding breakfast. We could barely be bothered but we decided to go…just for a nose. And??? Oh I’m sorry, I’ve said too much already, you’ll have to wait until the next Wedding Wednesday.
TOP TIP: To avoid the hard sell which some venue owners put you under, visit on a wedding open day or when they’re holding a wedding fayre. You might not be able to see everything as fully as when you make a personal appointment to view but it gives you a good feel for the place when it’s buzzing full of people and means you can quickly rule out those which don’t meet with your expectations without trying to escape the clutches of a pushy sales rep. It’s also a good indicator as to what their hospitality and event organisation is like, as this is their opportunity to showcase themselves to potential clients. One venue we visited charged wedding fayre visitors for a cup of tea! Whilst the venue we opted for was happy to dish out free tea, coffee and cake. If you’re impressed make an appointment for a proper look around to find out more.