Questions to ask your wedding venue

The last of our big weddings for this year over, we're making our little recipe for the file which we make after each event we do.  This means we've got a good record of what went well, what we liked, what we felt could have been improved upon.  We do this for all the events we work with and it's really helpful in informing how we plan for the following season, and especially in advising our clients going forward.

There are lots of things you, as the giver of the wedding reception or party, might not think to ask a venue.  And I think sometimes venues don't think to tell you a lot of what you need to know unless you ask.  

These questions may feel very unromantic when all you want to do is imagine how lovely you can make the place look while you swish about in your beautiful silks, but a little hard nosed organisation can make all the difference to the smooth running of your special day.

What time can you get into the venue, and by what time do you have to have left?  

This is a more complicated question than you might assume.  You need written confirmation that you can arrive from X o'clock on the day before or the day of your event before you pay your deposit.  You also need to know what time you'll be expected to have vacated the premises, with everything that you took there to install.

How much of the clearing up will you need to have done.  'But surely the venue clean up?' I hear you cry.  Well, yes, but do they get rid of all your flowers?  Do you need to get your florist back to take down everything they hung up for you and take it away?  It's worth checking these things because if your florist has to come back and take away their flowers there'll be a cost associated with that.  It's easy to think that weddings are all about the cost of bringing things in: people often forget, and suppliers forget to mention until they charge for it, that clearing up costs time and transport and sorting rubbish and recycling too.

When you look at the venue, if there's anything you'd like arranged differently do make sure the venue know, and are prepared to make the changes you'd like.  There might be voile curtains swagging the interiors that you don't like, odd signs you don't like, furniture you'd like rearranged.  Stipulate in writing how you'd like the venue to be when you arrive, and make sure the venue are ok with this.  You don't want to arrive on Friday afternoon and find you have to spend your first couple of hours rushing about rearringing basics before you can even start un packing your bits and pieces to make the place your own.  You might think, when having a look round, that things you consider unsightly are only there as left over from an event before, and that they'll be taken away before your big day.  Not necessarily!  Stipulate what you want moved/changed/rearranged in your planning, and make sure you have the agreement of the venue in writing.  NB it is very unlikely that churches will let you take down bright noticeboards covered in mission statements and brightly coloured (clashing with your wedding flowers!) flyers for coffee mornings/harvest festivals/toddler groups, etc.  They'll probably not like it if you try and cover it up either.  The church and its notices do not belong to you, and however much the church notices clash with your scheme, they will have to stay.  

Don't assume that ANY of the things you see on the day you look round your venue are included in your venue hire.  From the most basic of furniture, to coffee cups and glassware, to lanterns and candles.  

Asking all these questions may seem very unromantic, but the more information you have before you sign on the dotted line, the more you'll know a) how much more the venue is going to cost than the price for basic hire you're quoted, b) how much time you'll have to arrive, set up, enjoy your party, and then how quickly you'll have to organise to get out, and c) if you turn up and that the things that it was agreed would be arranged differently haven't been, you can quite rightly call the house manager, with a happy smile on your face, show them your booking emails, and ask that they all be sorted out pdq so that you can get on with your wedding.

Check re candles.  Does the venue allow candles at all?  Are they your responsibility or theirs?  Will they light the candles for you, or do you need to ask the caterers to?  Make no assumptions re candles and beautiful venues.  Equally fairy lights: if the venue offer you fairy lights, make sure they're a colour you like.  You might imagine pretty strings of cream fairly lights, and when you arrive you might find not so pretty strings of glaring blueish white, for example.

Check re flowers in water.  In an effort to be more eco-friendly, florists are trying to use less flower foam, but some venues only allow flowers in oasis (because they're protecting precious floors against spilled water.)  We've had clients who've had to change venue because at the last minute they realise that their venue will only have flowers in flower foam - strange but true!

Top venues we'd recommend in this neck of the woods of south east Somerset: 

North Cadbury Court: classic, country house venue, beautifully presented with masses of space for people to stay, incredible ballroom, beautiful gardens, its own church, a lake, and a golf tee on the roof!

East Pennard House: extremely comfortable country house, with its own church or pergola in the garden for your ceremony, and a lovely coach house all set up for your reception.  

Sparkford Hall: pretty country house venue, very relaxed feel, space for a marquee in the garden for larger parties, wild walled garden, and a straw bale lined barn for your ceremony.

The Longhouse at Mill on the Brue: beautiful venue with huge, glass walled room for your reception, overlooking the garden and valley at the west end of fashionable Bruton.

Gants Mill: in fabulous gardens just outside Bruton the Beedle family put up a marquee in April, and hold weddings in it all summer long.  There's a pergola for your ceremony, and a marquee for your reception, and beatuiful gardens framing it all.

At the Chapel: for an intimate event, be married on the terrace at this fashionable bar and restaurant, and take over the whole venue for your reception.  Lovely place for a town wedding in the country.

Roth Bar and Grill: be married in the Radic Pavillion at the top of the Piet Oudolf gardens at Hauser and Wirth in Somerset, then have a reception at the Roth Bar and grill - it's a funkier, less traditional option for an arty couple.