• Beige & Blush

Choosing Your Dream Wedding Venue

Choosing the venue for your celebrations is probably the most important decision you will make when it comes to planning your reception. It's the place where you will spend most of your day and where the wedding breakfast, evening party and maybe even the ceremony will take place, so it's crucial to get it right. Before visiting any potential venues, sit down with your fiancé and decide exactly how you both envisage the style of your wedding.

Decide what type of ceremony you see yourselves having. Many couples opt for a civil wedding in a licensed venue and most of these also offer receptions. Contact your local council for a list of licensed premises or visitwww.gro.gov.uk/gro/content to buy a list of more than 3000 licensed premises in England and Wales for £5.

If you're having a religious wedding, the general rule is that your venue should be no more than 20 minutes' drive from the church, so that your guests don't have too far to travel between the two. The same rule applies if you're having a civil ceremony in a register office.

Where do you start your search?

Finding a good venue takes research. Recommendation is always a valuable starting point as well as considering places where you have been as a wedding guest. Before visiting, call and ask for a brochure. At the same time, check whether your intended date is free. Now you can make appointments to visit the places left on your list.

Do you want a formal reception? If you want a traditional sit-down wedding breakfast you will need to find a venue with a function room that is large enough to accommodate all your guests. A buffet-style reception can be held in a smaller room or series of linked rooms. If you are planning to have a very large wedding you can create extra space with a marquee if the grounds of the venue are suitable.

What kind of style do you want? The style of the venue speaks volumes about the type of celebration guests can expect. As you look around the various rooms that are available to hire, think about the number of guests you are inviting. If you are hosting a small reception, you need a room that creates an intimate atmosphere. An overly large room, however impressive, will feel as though half your guests haven't turned up.

How much can you personalise the venue? Many couples already have a firm picture of how their ideal wedding venue will look, so you need to make sure the setting - and the staff - are capable of working with you to create the dream. As you view each potential venue, try to imagine your colour scheme. A room with little decoration will provide an exciting challenge for imaginative, but often expensive, decoration whereas a beautifully decorated venue may stretch your budget but will need little extra adornment.

If you have strong ideas about a themed reception and can't find an ideal venue, hiring a hall is always a good option. These often have plain whitewashed walls so you can go to town adding your own decorations.

How does the venue operate? Most hotels and function rooms offer a variety of catering packages from a formal sit-down meal to a buffet, often with a specified amount of drinks included. For example, a glass of champagne on arrival, two glasses of wine with the meal and a glass of champagne for the toasts. The price per head should also include the cost of tables, chairs, linen and staff. Alternatively, you may just hire the venue (as is usual with venues such as a stately home) and bring in your own caterers. Some venues prefer you to use their recommended suppliers and may charge you for bringing in someone else. You'll also be charged a corkage fee if you want to supply your own wine and champagne, rather than using the venue's preferred list. Make sure you know exactly what's included as the extras can quickly add up.

What if we want to get married at home? The law in England and Wales doesn't allow civil ceremonies at private premises, but there's nothing to stop you having the reception at home, providing it's big enough. Be realistic. Unless your house is very spacious or you are having fewer than 50 guests, there's probably only space for a fairly simple party.

Once you've made your choice, ask for written confirmation of everything and check all the small print before signing anything. Expect to pay a deposit at the time of booking with the balance due a few weeks before the wedding day once final numbers have been confirmed. Now you can sit back, relax and start thinking about the menu and seating plan