We are absolutely thrilled to hear from wedding venue expert (and former luxury wedding planner), Kelly Chandler of www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk who has agreed to share her tips with you on some things you should check before saying yes to your venue; there is no right or wrong to some of these suggestions and restrictions - the aim with this feature is purely to give you the in-detail knowledge to ask the right questions in the areas that are top of YOUR priority list.
Finding that utterly perfect & spot-on location to host your wedding celebration can be a tough job. The choice is limitless and if you’re not tied into a specific location, then the world is your oyster. It should be a fun part of the planning (but can be overwhelming) yet once you have found and secured that ideal venue, many other parts of planning your ideal day tend to click into place.
1. Exclusivity and Venue Use
Many wedding venues now offer exclusivity or some form of exclusive-use such that you are the only wedding on that day in that venue. This can however mean different things within different venues so don’t be afraid to ask and get specific on what that means in your shortlisted venue. For some locations exclusivity can mean you have exclusive use of a certain dedicated banqueting area but say not bedrooms, for other locations, it can be full exclusive use of an entire home, gardens and grounds, for others it can be exclusive use between certain hours and not others. Do find out when your exclusive use starts and ends as every venue will have timings on this and sometimes it’ll be for the day from early start and sometimes it’ll include an overnight. Find out what their policy is on other events and other clients and if they run exclusive use events back to back (or not); don't be afraid to ask about supplier access too – in some cases venues will allow suppliers to gain access early to set up the design, in others it’s a strict access window (1h30 before guest arrival is not unusual) because of the volume of events or other activity they have on property.
Newburgh Priory offers exclusive use, giving you the House & Grounds for your day – including set up time the day beforehand. We don’t run back to back weddings as we understand that your day is yours - something that should not be rushed!
2. Recommended/Preferred and Approved Supplier List
Do ask on a venue’s policy on working with suppliers and outside wedding professionals and see that it suits your plans. Take a close look at who those recommended regular suppliers are and see if they sit comfortably with you – are they a good match for your wedding style and can they deliver what you are looking for? Don’t be afraid to make contact with one or two suppliers and ask them what it’s really like to work at the venue you are considering.
Do be aware there is a difference between a recommended supplier list where the venue is usually giving you the benefit of their tried and trusted list that you can, but are not obliged to use, and an Approved Supplier List which is usually where you MUST pick from that list. It’s quite customary for a venue to have an Approved list you must use in the areas of catering, lighting and production and entertainment and marquee build, when you consider these are the areas which require a lot of equipment and run the greatest degree of risk, it’s often vital that venues have control over the quality and professionalism of who works with them in order to protect their places and spaces for all clients.Do make sure you consider if this can work for you and that your budget will extend to using those suppliers too.
Many venues will be more than happy for you to use your own chosen suppliers in many areas – do ask if and how your wedding team of suppliers will be able to obtain access to view the venue in advance of the wedding as this can be needed in the case of for example a florist who needs to see a new space before coming up with full designs for you.
Here at Newburgh Priory we offer a “Suggested Supplier List” meaning we don’t tie you into anyone specific – we can recommend suppliers that know our site but no pressure to use them – see more on our suppliers here.
3. Minimum Spend and Minimum Numbers
Do ask about minimum guest numbers you are required to pay for if you decide on this venue or what minimum spend exists (minimum spend is sometimes used by restaurant type venues who don’t mind how many guests or your specific choices but need you to hit an overall amount of revenue that they would expect to earn from hiring their venue exclusively to you for that certain date and time). Some venues charge venue hire and that is that but others charge a venue hire based on a minimum number of guests paying X for catering, so be sure you are clear on what the financial investment will be (including VAT) from the outset.
It’s all very normal to have some kind of minimum as at the end of the day, every venue knows how much revenue they need to earn to maintain their building, keep it running and in great condition, provide the staff for your wedding, pre-planning and on the day and plenty more besides but it’s very important to know what your likely budget is so do ensure you’re clear on it.
We charge a facility fee at Newburgh Priory for the exclusive use of the venue, so you know from the start what you are paying to us and where your budget then can be spent elsewhere.
4. Corkage and Drinks Service Charge
Sometimes the purchasing of wines and bar drinks through the venue is an essential part of your wedding booking and corkage (so that you can bring in your own choices) can be seen as a prohibitively expensive option. On other occasions venues are happy that you bring in your own drinks directly or via your caterer, sometimes charging a small per person service fee for things like refrigeration, glassware, removing empties–there is no right or wrong but just ensure that if you’re wanting to manage the choice of drinks entirely (I really wouldn’t recommend it, there’s a lot to sort out to stock a full bar) that you have a venue who is open to that or that the corkage fee is within your budget.
We don’t get involved in the drinks or corkage charges – we leave that to your caterer, so you are clear from the outset that our charges are for the facilities fees only.
5. Gut Feel and People
I’ve covered a lot of practical tips that will help you make a sound choice with your head and your budget in mind but just as important is how you are treated and how you are made to feel about the choice of your wedding venue every step of the way which is such a special life decision. With this in mind fellow wedding industry trainer and founder of leading UK industry body for wedding planners the UKAWP (UK Alliance of Wedding Planners), Bernadette Chapman, adds her advice:
‘When viewing venues look carefully at the décor and general maintenance. A well maintained venue means the owners care about their venue and more likely will care about you too. Don’t under estimate how important the attention of staff is. When you are at a showround - is the coordinator interested in you and your wedding? Is s/he showing you the best of the venue? Do they seem proud to be representing the venue? This is a good sign and shows they care about every wedding and will give their best to you. Do ask if the coordinator will be there on the day as well for smoother continuity of planning and delivery on the day. ‘
The team at Newburgh Priory always take time out to understand you & how we can help make your day a memorable one for you and your guests, after all you’re throwing a party for those nearest and dearest to you - we’re here to help make that as easy as possible.
Now I hope that you feel empowered to ask the right questions to help you ensure the venue you’re choosing is right for you. A good venue will inform you of the above details and live and breath a lot of this in their attitudes but they should be helpful and friendly in explaining anything that isn’t clear to you or you need help understanding.
Finally, may I wish you lots of happy planning - with the perfect venue booked and secured, you can enjoy choosing all the gorgeous wedding details and pick your dream team to help you bring your unique day to life.
For more advice on planning your wedding, on selecting suppliers and on the role of independent wedding planners you may find it useful to go to the website of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners.
Written by Kelly Chandler, Founder and Consultant at Kelly Chandler Consulting, helping unique venues thrive in the modern wedding market via training, consulting and events https://www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk