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Weddings > Pick the Perfect Wedding Venue

PICK THE PERFECT WEDDING VENUE
By Maggie Horne (28 Mar 2006)

Choosing a wedding venue is probably one of the most important decisions you will ever make in life! Image courtesy of Maz of Leicester.Whether you want to celebrate your marriage at the top of the London Eye, in a fairytale Scottish castle, at a theme park, or far more simply, and more modestly, in a marquee in your parents' garden, there are some extremely important questions you really need to ask yourself before you come to your final decision. Choosing a venue for your wedding is probably one of the most important decisions that you will ever have to make in life.



You will spend the vast majority of your wedding day there. It is the place where your wedding breakfast, evening reception, and maybe even the wedding ceremony itself will be held, so it is absolutely vital that you make the right decision 'for you'.

Prior to visiting any venues at all, sit down with your fiance and have a serious discussion about it all. Find out exactly how both of you envisage your wedding reception, and then decide just how much you can realistically afford to spend on it. Next, you need to decide exactly what type of ceremony you want. Many couples these days opt for a civil ceremony at a licensed venue, and the vast majority of these now also offer wedding receptions as part of the package.

Contact your local council for a list of licensed premises or log on to www.ons.gov.uk where you can purchase a list of more than 3000 licensed premises in England and Wales for just five pounds.

If you are planning a religious ceremony, a good rule of thumb is that your venue shouldn't be any more than 20 minutes drive from the place of worship, so that your guests don't have too far to travel. The same rule applies if you are having a civil ceremony at a register office. Check the RedHot Business Directory for Hindu Temples, Mosques and Gurdwaras near you - click here

SO EXACTLY WHERE DO YOU BEGIN YOUR SEARCH?

Castles can cater for large wedding parties. Pictured here is  Rowton Catle in  ShrewsburyFind the perfect wedding venue for you takes a great deal of legwork, a great deal of research, and a lot of patience. Personal recommendation is always a valuable starting point, as is considering places you have been to as a wedding guest yourself.

Before arranging any formal visits to any of the venues you are considering, either drop in and pick up a copy of their wedding brochure, or phone and ask them to post you one out. If they are really well organised you may even be able to download one from their website via the internet.

Venue wedding brochures usually consist of details of what rooms are available, as well as sample menus and accommodation packages. At the same time just check whether your intended date is free, and if not, then what dates are available. This will probably rule out some venues immediately. Now you will be able to arrange appointments to visit the venues left on your list.

CONSIDERING A FORMAL RECEPTION?

The majority of wedding venues offer a variety of packages from a formal sit-down meal to a buffet.If you are looking to hold a traditional sit-down wedding breakfast, you will need to find a venue with a function room that is large enough to accommodate all of your guests. Bear in mind the fact that you will also need a room for a drinks reception for when your guests arrive. During summer, if the weather is warm enough, a venue with a terrace is just ideal for this.

At night a buffet-style reception can be held in a smaller room off your main function room, or you could even hold your evening reception in a series of linked rooms and bars, depending on the size of the venue. If you are planning quite a large, extravagant wedding, you could create additional space with a marquee outside, if the venue's grounds are suitable, of course.

WHAT KIND OF ATMOSPHERE DO YOU WANT TO CREATE?

Guthrie Castle in Scotland offers a grand venue for a wedding.The style of the venue you choose will speak volumes about the type of celebration your guests can expect. Stately home grandeur suits an extremely formal event, but is this really the type of atmosphere you want to create? Although sumptuous, this can often leave people feeling on edge and uncomfortable. If you prefer a far more laid back approach, consider alternative venues like a converted barn for instance.

A barn dance style reception is great for breaking the ice and getting everyone talking and laughing. By the time you have finished everyone will know everyone, and everybody will be having a ball. Alternatively, book that local pub with that beautiful beer garden you know and love.

As you visit each of the venues you are considering, think about the number of guests you will be inviting. If you are hosting a small reception, you will need a room that will create an intimate atmosphere. An overly large room, however grandiose, will feel embarrassingly empty with only a tiny wedding party in it, or if half your guests suddenly decide not to show up.

HOW MUCH CAN YOU PERSONALISE YOUR VENUE?

Prior to visiting most venues, the vast majority of couples have usually already formed a very fixed idea about what their 'ideal' wedding reception ought to be like, so you need to make sure that your venue - and it's staff - are professional enough, and flexible enough, to help you to create your 'dream'.

Choosing a wedding venue is probably one of the most important decisions you will ever make in life!It is no use booking a wedding venue that wants to do everything in pink when you want everything to match the yellow flowers in your bouquet. If this appears to be the case, then cross them off your venue list straight away and move swiftly on to the next one. Arguing with venue staff over menus, seating plans and colour co-ordination will only ruin the run up to your special day which will be stressful enough, without added hassle.

As you view each of the venues that you have short listed, try to imagine what your own colour scheme will be like. A room with little or no decoration will provide an exciting challenge for imaginative but often expensive decoration, whereas a beautifully decorated venue may well stretch your budget but will need little extra adornment.

Examine carefully the way any potential venue is decorated. Obviously, there is absolutely nothing you can do about existing decor, apart from ensuring that it does not clash with the colour scheme you have in mind. If it does, move swiftly on to the next venue.

If there are items of furniture or ornaments in the room which you don't particularly like the look of, ask if they can be removed for the big day.

If you are planning a summer wedding, examine patio areas and gardens. Are they clean, neat and tidy, and in a good state of repair? Is there any outside seating available, perhaps with parasols to provide people with shade, or will you need to hire these? If you are expecting a lot of young children at your wedding you will also need to make sure that the grounds are safe and secure.

If you have very strong views about the meal reception but are unable to find the ideal venue, hiring a hall is always a good alternative option. These usually have plain white washed walls, so you can really go to town with your own decorations. White muslin across the windows is relatively inexpensive to arrange as is hiring white furniture. You can then add splashes of colour yourself with flowers, and atmosphere with lots and lots of scented candles.

HOW DOES THE VENUE OPERATE?

The vast majority of wedding venues offer a wide variety of packages from a full formal sit-down meal to a buffet with a specified number of drinks (wine and champagne) thrown in. The price quoted per head should also include the cost of tables, chairs, linen and staffing on the day. Alternatively, you could hire a venue like a stately home and then just bring in your own caterers.

Many venues prefer it if you use their recommended suppliers - if often forms part of the 'package deal' - and they will charge you if you insist on bringing in your own people. You will also be charged a corkage fee if you want to buy and supply your own wine and champagne, instead of using the venue's preferred list.

IS THERE A WEDDING CO-ORDINATOR ON SITE?

Larger venues usually have a designated 'wedding co-ordinator' whose job it is to work with you on all your reception preparations. And it is important that you get on well with them, since you will be having several meetings with them and will want them to share your 'vision.'

A good wedding co-ordinator is also invaluable for having knowledge of, and recommending, suppliers that they have worked with in the past. Most smaller venues won't be able to offer you this service, so if you work full time it may be worth booking an organiser to ensure everything runs smoothly for you on the day.

AND IF I WANT TO MARRY AT HOME?

Civil ceremonies are not allowed at private premises by law in England and Wales, but there is nothing to stop you from holding your reception there, as long as it's large enough, of course.

Unless your home happens to be extremely spacious or you are thinking of inviting less than 50 guests, there will probably only be enough room for a very simple party. The obvious answer to space problems at home, however, is a marquee. Most modern marquees come complete with hardwood floors and in a bewildering variety of shape and sizes to suit just about everybody. The marquee will also act as a focal point for your celebrations, keeping guests together, instead of having them wander all over your home.

SO, WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Once you've made your final choice concerning your venue, always ask for written confirmation of everything you've discussed with them, and then go through the small print with a really fine toothcomb before you sign anything. You will be expected to pay a deposit at the time of booking, with the balance due a few weeks prior to your wedding day - although some venues will allow you to settle the bill after you've got married.

TOP QUESTIONS TO ASK AT ANY VENUE:

1. Is there on-site catering, or can we bring our own caterers in?

2. Are there tables, chairs, and a choice of linens and tableware? If not, do we need to hire these?

3. What is the basic cost of hiring the venue? What are the extras?

4. How much time is included in the rental period?

5. Is everything fully insured?

6. Will there be other functions on the same day as ours?

7. Can we use the gardens? Is there room for a marquee?

8. Is there scope to decorate the reception rooms?

9. Is there a bridal suite?

10. Are there restrictions on using candles, smoking and so on?

Now all you have to do is sit back, relax, and start thinking about the menu and your seating plan.

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