Jo Hastings Photography wedding venue search iscoyd park

So this weekend began the start of my very own wedding planning journey!

After getting in engaged over Christmas in Morocco we decided ( I convinced him! ) that as we wanted to get married in 2017 that we really needed to start our wedding venue search pretty much straight away. So many venues these days get booked up 2 – 3 years in advance and, as we’re pretty picky people, we didn’t want to run the risk of having to ‘settle’ for a venue because the one’s we really loved were already booked. Plus my feeling is that once you have venue and registrar .. and of course a photographer … sorted then you can relax for a little bit before you have to worry about any of the finer details.

So as soon as we returned from Morocco we started narrowing down our venue choices to a shortlist. Which is easier said than done .. even for someone who has been working in the wedding industry for over 6 years! We knew we wanted to get married down here in the South West. Given we have the majority of our guests coming from various different places across the country then trying to pick a location to suit other people seemed impossible so we decided to keep it relatively local – although were happy for it be anywhere in Devon and Cornwall pretty much.

My first point of call was to consult Coco Wedding Venues Directory – an amazing wedding directory like no other which I have featured on the Knots & Kisses blog before. It enables you to narrow down your venue search by location, style and type – so if you are definitely after a coastal venue or a barn you can get a fairly comprehensive list straight away. We also looked at local bridal magazine Wed Magazine’s directory of venues as well which is a pretty comprehensive list for the South West and made sure I didn’t miss anything that I hadn’t heard of. 

From our searches we realised that we really didn’t have a specific style of venue in mind but it was more about the venue being quirky, intimate and relaxed and this is hopefully the 3 words we’ll keep in mind when making a decision about our venue.

We got the list down to a shortlist of 4 that we really wanted to see first and were our top 4 so to speak and then I went about devising a list of questions to take with me to venues to ask them so we would be able to compare and contrast and have all the information we needed to make our decision. These questions ranged from the fairly obvious ones about catering costs and whether the venue is exclusive use to more technically specific things you might not realise you need to know such as checking whether the venue has Public Liability Insurance and making sure you know which local registrar you will need to contact to check if they have the time and date available for your wedding.

To help any of you with your own wedding planning here is my list of questions that I asked … although I’m sure there are other questions you could add which are more relevant to your search, but this is a good starting point.

  1. Is the venue exclusive use? Will any other weddings be scheduled at the same time or overlap?
  2. What dates do they have available? Are there are a couple of options we can choose from
  3. What are the cost differences for different months / times of year / week ?
  4. Are prices inclusive of VAT?
  5. Catering options – what are the costs per head ?
  6. Are there set timetables for the day or can we be more flexible about how we want our wedding day to run ?
  7. What are the turnaround times for various points of the day if rooms need to be turned around or are there separate areas we can use for all elements ?
  8. Are there corkage fees?
  9. Are there additional charges for a bar in the evening ? Is there a minimum spend? Is there a Bar Price List we can have?
  10. What are the accommodation prices for guests ( if applicable ) – How many rooms are available ?
  11. Will we have full control over how the tables look / décor options ?
  12. Do we have to use recommended suppliers ?
  13. What are the parking facilities for guests and suppliers ?
  14. When can the wedding party and suppliers have access to set anything up ?
  15. Is it possible to bring suppliers to show them around in advance – florists for example ?
  16. Will someone be on hand to greet guests and show them where to go ?
  17. What are the guest toilet facilities ?
  18. What is included in any package – easels / cake knifes / crockery / linen / chairs ?
  19. Can we hire in different chairs if we don’t like the ones available ?
  20. What areas are available for photographs ?
  21. Do you have public liability insurance ?
  22. What is the cancellation policy ?
  23. Which local authority do we need to book registrar from – do they have details of who we need to ring to check they are available on the same dates ?
  24. Are there any noise limits and time restrictions on entertainment ? Can we have live music ?
  25. Are power points available if we were to do our own music playlist for after the band has finished ?
  26. Air con / heating arrangements
  27. Do they have any policies with regards to young children ?
  28. Payment Process. Can we spread the cost and when would final balance be due ?
  29. Will we have one contact throughout the wedding planning process and will that be the point of contact on the day as well?
  30. During planning is it better to ring or email to get a response to queries and what is likely response time ?

Seeing the 4 different venues over the weekend was incredibly exciting and also very confusing! We had definitely picked 4 venues with totally different attributes and characters and comparing and contrasting the venues was difficult when we sat down to do so last night.

I actually think that seeing the venues in the awful weather and in the winter this weekend was a really good idea as quite frankly if we can fall in love with a venue in those conditions we are going to love it when it is later in the year when we actually want to get married! We have lots of pictures of the venues in ‘full bloom’ so to speak on their websites and once we have made a choice we will definitely arrange for a return visit in the month we actually wish to get married so we can see it as it will be and make more plans accordingly.

We are now waiting for full quotes from each venue so we can really compare costs as well as the style and feeling that each venue gives us so it’s going to be an exciting week ahead and I will definitely give you an update on our progress in the months and weeks to come.