Planning, it seems is well underway. After agreeing not to plan in anger until after my fiancé’s sister’s wedding in April we began casually looking at venues. Although together we redefined the word “casually” as we found our wedding venue by the end of January!
It all seemed really easy in truth. We knew what we wanted. Like some sort of decision tree, we managed to confirm with each other what we wanted from a venue.
- Church wedding? Nope, neither of us are religious, so to have a religious ceremony would be hypocritical in our eyes.
- Specialist Ceremony venue only? Not really, we didn’t like the idea of having our guests traipse from place to place during the day.
- Separate Accommodation? Preferably not, we would like people to arrive, see the ceremony, have eats, party and sleep in the same place if possible.
This then meant we could start ruling out certain venue types like Barns. Once we knew what sort of places we were looking at (Hotels and Country Clubs) the process then became about cost.
We did flirt with the idea of an “outdoors” wedding, but venues that had the all-in-one location with an outdoor feel were markedly out of our budget and the “wedding in a field” bohemian style affair lost its glamour when the realisation of firstly having to arranging a lot of the aspects ourselves with individual suppliers and more importantly guests having to take a shit in a port-a-loo.
So, we knew what sort of venue we wanted. But what one? There were a lot of factors involved – unsurprisingly, these all centred around cost.
We’ve been good wedding organisers so far because we’ve set ourselves up with a handy Excel spreadsheet (adapted from a pretty comprehensive one her sister and partner were using themselves). On this, we listed everything we needed to buy/order and generally pay out for and against each item we were able to attribute costs against each thing. We were also able to calculate how much money we could both save in the approximate timeframe (around about 20 months or so). We knew how much her parents were generously offering us as a contribution and from that we could deduce how much we could realistically afford to spend on a venue.
It’s not the glamourous side of wedding planning for sure, but it is so important to build out a thorough budget with realistic costs and it will really help guide your planning activities, realise/manage expectations and help make you realise what’s important to you in terms of spend.
Anyway, back to venues!
We had our budget and we started hitting up websites like hitched to look through venues. Using filters relevant to us on these sites we were able to quickly view places in our realm of likes and dislikes.
Then came the trickier part. Working out was in price. Most venues have websites, great stuff. Some of those websites are pretty shocking – but they’re able to get some information up for the world to see. But sometimes working out the total cost of having a wedding can take a little calculation.
Say our budget was £10k for a venue and we want 80 guests for the whole day, that’s what we can spend and what we want. We spot something that’s £8k – initial thought “amazing, we’ve saved two grand!” then we see that the £8k is for 65 people for no drinks reception and a basic 3 course wedding breakfast with minimal extras offered. It then cost £120 per head to have additional guests for the whole day, of which we need 15, so that’s an additional £1,875 – then comes the upsell, the optional extras, well it would be nice to have a drinks reception (£8 per head) and the mid-level 3 course meal (an extra £12 per head) which costs and extra £1,600 we are now over budget.
So, every time we were looking at venues and came across something we liked we had to run the numbers. It doesn’t take long to see at a quick glance what’s in range and what isn’t once you regularly start to look into it.
The boss found somewhere she absolutely loved just outside Edinburgh, she was properly smitten and it would take a lot of searching to match that – it was in budget, the package offered a lot of optional extras, the venue itself looked beautiful in gorgeous settings – it was the benchmark.
That bought another aspect into play – Optional extras. Going back to our budget spreadsheet, we listed a number of things that needed to be purchased as part of the “frill” of a wedding. If you search hard enough and long enough it is possible to find venues that offer these as part of your package. The venue we’re getting married in (which is on budget) includes extras that we’d listed on our budget planner that we no longer have to pay out for! Which means we can now use that extra money to boost other areas of our big day.
As part of our venue hunting we came across another question – how far is too far? As we’re not having a religious ceremony we have the whole of the UK at our fingertips. We didn’t ever consider a destination wedding – I’ve attended a few, all stunning and that wasn’t something we really wanted to do. However, the Edinburgh location I’m happy to regard as a destination wedding. But that left England to scour and places were being mentioned in Kent (80 miles away), Hampshire (105 miles away) and York (162 miles away). I had to try and put some sort of restriction on distance. We agreed no more than an hour and a half drive away is acceptable. It’s surprising how far away you can get from Milton Keynes in an hour and half, but the distance was agreed. This helped to narrow down our search further.
I had come across a venue that was dirt cheap, the package seemed excellent and on paper ticked almost all boxes – “I’ve cracked it!” a true contender for Edinburgh. Turns out I was wrong, although valiant in defeat. I saw on the website they had a wedding fair on in a week’s time and the missus was more than happy to go along and seemed genuinely interested. We arrived, and as we pulled up I was given the headline “Oh, I have been here before, I remember now, I came with my sister when they were looking at venues, I don’t think it’s that nice” – brilliant! Nether-the-less we went in and the reception we received was poor, the venue was poor and we left definitely knowing we didn’t want to get married there. It did help to serve as a benchmark – ‘this is what we can get for X amount of money’. It also led us to the place we are getting married – so I can’t be too harsh about it.
We had picked up a “gift bag” at the venue (“gift bag” being the name for a plastic bag full of wedding orientated junk mail) and the bag contained a regional wedding magazine. The magazine was littered with venues, chock full of them in fact. We noticed a chain of hotels appearing throughout the magazine that were all beautiful and in an around out budget. Then we saw it!
Instantly we both knew this was the new one to beat, we crunched the numbers and it seemed within range, and we almost had disbelief about the price of it considering all the extra’s included, the look and feel of the venue and its location. They had an open day …
We went along, viewed, fell in love and sat down with a wedding co-ordinator and crunched numbers. It was doable. We could have exclusive use of the venue and afford the place! The only way this was possible was to sell rooms back to guests. The great thing is that, although we can dictate the price to guests, we can actually sell at prices that are heavily discounted from their usual nightly rate, get the venue into our budget and make it easily affordable for guests.
We went back the following day with the in-laws-to-be who gave their seal of approval and asked/re-asked questions to the wedding co-ordinator and all seemed legit!
All we had to do was reserve one of several dates they had available around the time we wanted and secure it with a (fairly hefty) deposit. A loan from my mum and a booked wedding registrar a few days later we secured the venue on our date with our package and a huge weight seemed to be lifted regarding wedding planning – the biggest hurdle (for me, I could understand if the dress overleapt this form my partner perspective) was over come!
Now all we have to do is save, save, save and pay off remaining installments…