Choosing a wedding venue - what questions should you ask?
When planning your wedding it’s hard to overstate the importance of getting the choice of venue right. It has a bearing on almost every aspect of your big day so you need to think long and hard about it. Getting married is such an emotional event that it’s easy to overlook vital practical details when you are visiting possible locations. In this post we give you a list of crucial things you need to know before you finally make up your mind – it’s not exhaustive, but it’s a good start!
Don’t waste time on any other details until you know whether the venue is available for the date you want. Venues get very booked up at weekends and over the summer so you probably need to be looking and booking at least a year in advance for the most popular days.
On the other hand, if a specific date is not important to you and budget is a top consideration, see if the venue has some dates they are willing to discount. At Clevedon Hall we occasionally have dates available over the next six months at a reduced rate. Check here to see what we have available.
You probably have a rough idea of how many guests will be attending during the day and evening. Just make sure the venue can comfortably cope with this number. At Clevedon Hall we can seat 150 in the library for dining on straight tables, or 124 on round tables with straight or round top table. An additional 30 guests can sit in the adjoining orangery. We can have up to 250 guests for the evening celebrations.
Is the venue licensed for civil ceremonies?
If you want to have your ceremony and reception all under one roof, make sure your chosen venue has a wedding licence. Otherwise you’ll have to organise the ceremony somewhere else and then host your reception at the venue. Clevedon Hall is licenced to hold weddings indoors and also has a beautiful gazebo in the gardens that is also licenced – so you have a variety of options.
If total privacy and exclusivity are what you want then make sure this is what you are going to get. Some wedding venues hold more than one ceremony or reception a day. If you decide to use a hotel venue, or some other kind of venue that’s open to members, guests or visitors it’s essential you clarify what areas, indoors and out, are included in the arrangement. If you are sharing the venue with others make sure you know what restrictions apply – do you have finish by a certain time and are there issues with when suppliers can come and go?
Clevedon Hall is truly exclusive, giving you the run of the beautiful house and extensive grounds. What’s more, the whole team is dedicated to looking after you and your guests without any distractions. You can even book the venue for three whole days over a weekend (Friday morning to Sunday afternoon).
Is there ample parking?
Nearly everyone will probably be arriving by car, and some may have come from afar – the last thing they need after their journey is a problem with parking. Make sure the venue provides ample free spaces and if they don’t you need to check other spaces are available at reasonable cost nearby. There’s nothing worse than guests who arrive grumpy and late because they had to drive round looking for a suitable space then had a long walk in all their smart clothes and heels.
This is not a problem if you book Clevedon Hall. There is ample parking on the estate, right next to the house.
The food is a hugely important part of the proceedings so you need to be clear how the venue handles things. An in-house catering team certainly makes things easier, but you need to check how capable and flexible they are, otherwise you might not be able to get exactly the cuisine you want. Also, are they able to handle different dietary requirements?
If, on the other hand, you decide on outside caterers make sure the venue is happy with that, whether there’s an extra charge for using their facilities and also that they have all the equipment that’s required.
If you plan on an early afternoon wedding breakfast your guests will probably be peckish again by the evening. Check whether evening canapés or a buffet dinner part of your package, or do you have to pay extra? You may discover that the venue does not provide evening food at all!
At Clevedon Hall we have a chef who trained in a Michelin starred kitchen, ably supported by a dedicated in-house team. You are spoilt for choice in terms of cuisine and dishes, including canapes, the menu for the wedding breakfast itself and your evening catering. We have seasonal menus to guide you along the way, but though you don’t have to pick from these at all. We will have a meeting 6 months before the big day to discuss what you’d like and to create a bespoke meal that perfectly matches your tastes and requirements. Tastings are not included as standard but can be added at a small additional cost which we would confirm after your catering meeting.
Check how much wine is included as part of the arrangement. You can often upgrade your wine choices for an additional cost. If you want to provide more alcohol for your guests, then you'll need to ask whether it has to be bought through the venue or whether you can bring your own in with or without a corkage fee.
At Clevedon Hall our packages include a reception drink, a half bottle of wine with the meal, sparkling wine for the toast and tea and coffee. We also offer a corkage arrangement if that’s something that appeals to you. We provide a bar and guests can pay by card or cash, no minimum charge. Guests can also charge drinks to their rooms if they wish. You can also set up a pre-paid bar tab. Just let us know any restrictions you would like to place on this - for instance, wine, beer and cider only.
It is essential you ask what overnight accommodation is available, either in the venue itself or nearby. Also be clear about whether you have to pay up-front for rooms or if guests pay individually. Make sure you have the check-in and check-out times as your guests will want to know well in advance.
At Clevedon Hall we provide 25 stunning bedrooms. All of our bedrooms are set up as doubles as standard. However, a variety of them can be set up as twins and/or accommodate additional pull out beds or cots. We have 3 cots in total and 9 pull out beds. We have four suites in total and we let the bride and groom choose their favourite as they are all uniquely decorated. We also have a cottage in the grounds if you want to spend a few night here before your big day.
If you would like the charge for the bedrooms included in your package then guest would pay you directly. Any additional rooms we have not in your package can be booked through us. Access to the venue is from 11 am which includes the bridal suite and the downstairs event space. The normal check-in time for the remaining bedrooms is 3 pm. We can sometimes make check-in earlier if there is no event on the previous day. Check-out is 10.30am.
Some venues will supply you with a list of recommended suppliers who they regularly work with and trust, and it can be helpful if you're not sure where to start with your search for a wedding photographer or cake supplier. However, some venues request that you stick to their recommended suppliers, which can limit your choices for your big day and potentially not work with your budget.
At Clevedon Hall we do have a list but (with the exception of catering and fireworks) you are welcome to choose other suppliers except for fireworks and catering. Any suppliers not on our recommended list must have public liability insurance and any electrical equipment they use must be safety tested. We also ask that you check with us if your suppliers offer food or drink related services.
Last but not least
There are lots of other questions it is important to ask but this article covers the main issues. Here are some other thing you should probably consider:
· What are the restrictions regarding music, DJs and bands?
· Are there any restrictions regarding décor?
· How child friendly is the venue, what is disabled access like and what about pets?
· What are the payment arrangements?
· What’s the cancellation policy?
· Are there any additional charges (for clearing up afterwards, for instance) that we need to be aware of?
· Is breakfast included in the accommodation fee?
· Can we get married outside?
· Can we stay the night before?
Space does not permit us to answer these questions at length but contact our team any they will be happy to talk through these and any other things you want clarification on.