Celebrity wedding planners Snapdragon share their top tips on picking the perfect venue for your Big Day

Congratulations! You’ve got engaged and now you can get down to planning The Wedding of Your Dreams. No pressure, then. And, one of the most crucial decisions you need to make – aside from picking your perfect dress, of course – is deciding on your wedding venue.

Do you dream of making like Mark Wright and Michelle Keegan with a Downton Abbey-style historic house wedding? Or are you more of a married-on-a-beach kind of girl like Cindy Crawford and Alicia Keys? How about saying your ‘I Dos’ in a beautifully bedecked rustic barn like Katie Price and Kieran Hayler‘s vow renewal? Trust, us, this is one BIG decision. But, repeat after us: Do. Not. Panic.

We’ve enlisted the help of experts Snapdragon, London’s number one luxury wedding and party planners who are experts in organising Big Days for celebrities. Here Managing Director Julia Dowling and Creative Director Rebecca Menzies reveal Snapdragon’s top tips to choosing a venue that will make all your wedding dreams come true – no stress required!

1. Work out your wedding style
‘Whether it’s a beach wedding, rustic barn, romantic castle or a garden marquee – we always advise brides and grooms-to-be to take some time to work out what type of wedding you both would like. This will enable you to understand your likes and dislikes.

‘Think about weddings you have been to in the past: what worked, what didn’t? What did you like or dislike about them? That way you can start to working out what style you would like for your own wedding.’

2. Consider the season
‘Ideally give yourself a minimum of eight months ahead of when you want to get married. So if you have been proposed to in Winter and want a Summer wedding, you have got enough time; if you are thinking Autumn, even better. But if you are imagining having a Spring celebration you are probably looking at next year. Give yourself enough time to enjoy the planning and don’t put yourself under unnecessary stress!

‘Think about the style of dress you want to wear. Some people love the thought of incorporating coats and fur stoles – if that’s the case, opt for a gorgeous Winter wedding. If you want to have skin on show, wear fantastic jewellery and opt for a backless gown, choose Spring or Summer for your big day.’

3. Work out your venue budget
‘As a rough guideline, you should be spending around 40% on catering, 10% on larger components such as photographers, your dress, florals, and the remaining 10% on everything else. It is also good to put some contingency to one side so if you go through your planning process and suddenly find some must-haves or some really nice touches along the way, you can actually afford to put those into the budget.’

4. Look at 4-6 venues before making your mind up
‘There are so many options for venues out there, from hotels to stately homes to something more alternative like a nightclub or a warehouse, which is why we always recommend seeing four to six places so you can get a good feel for what you like and what you don’t like. And don’t forget that some of the more popular venues can be booked up 12-18 months in advance, which means you may have to wait if you have set your heart on somewhere in particular. Alternatively, consider having a wedding on a Friday or another weekday which can work out better for budget and availability.’

5. Beware of hidden costs when planning a home wedding
‘There is often a misconception that hosting a home wedding will work out cheaper than hiring a wedding venue. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, as you have to bring in essential infrastructure like generators, ovens for the caterers and toilets. Plus, by holding a wedding at home, you won’t actually have a venue coordinator, so you’ll have to do quite a lot of the planning yourself.’

6. Try a magical marquee or traditional tent
‘Marquees have come a long way since the PVC structures of the Eighties and, if you are wanting a garden wedding, there are some fantastic options to really give your day the wow factor. Marquee specialists like LPM Bohemia, can provide everything from Yurts for a festival feel, to the epic opulence of their Grand Pavilion.

‘Frame structures are more expensive, so if your are wanting to reduce cost, try a gorgeous traditional pole tent and add luxe with beautiful linings inside or wrap ribbons round the poles for a folksy feel.’

7. Picture how your photographs will look
‘Do you imagine you and your groom being photographed against a stunning backdrop? Then go for somewhere with a beautiful view. If you imagine a candle-lit room, double check with your venue that you are allowed naked flames. It is amazing how many places will make you use energy candles and it just really won’t be quite the same.

‘If your heart is set on either fireworks or paper lanterns, remember to speak to the potential venues you are looking at. Fireworks need a license. If you are close to livestock, these are normally prohibited, the same goes for paper lanterns. Whilst it seems very dreamy to set them off, you have to be very careful about your close proximity to airports as well as animals as they do actually cause litter and problems later on.’

8. Think like a guest
‘When you visit your location, make sure you walk around them from a guest perspective. Look at where guests will be arriving, how they’ll get there, whether there is accommodation nearby and how they are going to get home. You want to give your guests a seamless experience from beginning to end. You don’t want a long journey to and from their hotel to impact on their feelings of the day as a whole.’

9. Don’t forget the wine and champagne
‘A venue will often have restrictions and fees associated with alcohol. If you are having a pay bar for all or part of the day, how expensive will the drinks be for your guest? Is it cheaper to bring in alcohol yourself? Wine and champagne is often much more affordable when you buy it at trade prices, but the venue might apply corkage charges. Make sure you consider both options before making a decision.’

10. Don’t be afraid to negotiate
‘Many venues will have a preferred supplier list, which is a great starting point when it comes to planning. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still negotiate hard with these suppliers – more often than not they will be adding commission to the venue for being on that recommended list.’

11. Before you sign on the dotted line…
‘Make sure you ask if there are any restrictions and get your venue organiser to talk through how the day will work in forensic detail to ensure you don’t get any nasty surprises on the day. Are there any sound restrictions you need to be aware of?

‘Are there any additional costs you don’t know about? For example, most venues have a timing schedule they like you to stick to. If you really want to carry on partying until 2am then make sure you are clear with your venue as there might be associated costs involved with keeping staff on.’

And finally!
‘Whether you have been planning your wedding for ten years or ten minutes, whether you are planning a beach wedding or a castle wedding, meltdowns are normal but with these tips, everything will come together on the day.’

Visit Snapdragon’s luxury weddings website for more information on their premier planning service.

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