One of the very first questions you ask yourself when you get engaged is around how to choose your perfect wedding venue. There are SO many options, and without deciding this key element it’s pretty tricky to start making any other wedding arrangements – from your guest list, decor and even your dress (seriously!), so many decisions are inspired at least in part by the venue you choose for your big day. So far in my wedding series, I’ve talked a lot about the style side of wedding planning but today I wanted to take it back to basics, and hopefully these tips will be useful for anyone getting married in 2019, 2020 and beyond!
We got married at the beautiful Combermere Abbey in Cheshire, and it was the most perfect choice we could have made. I’m going to run through the considerations we kept in mind when choosing our wedding venue, and what to look for when choosing your own. As always, all of the photos in this post are by our incredible wedding photographer Sarah Horton (who we could not have been more thrilled with – she’s one in a billion!).
Start By Narrowing Down Your Search Area
Choosing from the hundreds of wedding venues in a particular country or even general region can feel overwhelming. Very early on in our wedding planning, we narrowed down our search area from the North of England to the North West, then to Cheshire. Our families and friends are Cheshire-based (for the most part) and it really is a beautiful county with a plethora of venues to choose from. Once we made that decision, everything felt much easier and we were so fortunate to find our perfect venue nestled on the border between Cheshire and Shropshire.
There are of course plus and minus points to getting married in any location. If you choose a wedding abroad in the sunshine, you’re guaranteed great weather but not that everyone on your guest list can make the trip. If you stay closer to home in the UK, you’re gambling with the likelihood of the sun coming out but you know that most people will be able to come along. We did toy with the idea of flying off to Vegas but I’m so happy we chose to have our wedding in Cheshire. Once you’ve got your geographical location sorted, you can then start to get a little more specific.
Write ‘Do Want’ and ‘Don’t Want’ Lists
Tiz and I literally sat down with a notebook and pen and made notes in two columns – ‘Do Want’ and ‘Don’t Want’ points for our venue. For us, we knew it HAD to be historical (Combermere Abbey’s history dates back to the 12th Century) and have an intimate yet bright feel for the ceremony (the Edwardian Glasshouse you can see above was beyond perfect for us). We had lots more ‘Do Want’ points which Combermere Abbey fulfilled – like having the ceremony venue and reception space just a moment’s walk from each other, and having plenty of accommodation on-site – but equally it also matched with our ‘Don’t Want’ list too.
We didn’t want our wedding to be religious in any way, and despite the name including the word ‘Abbey’ our venue actually accommodates Civil Ceremonies. We also didn’t want to feel we’d been ripped off – trust me, Cheshire wedding venues are the masters of this – but Combermere is incredibly well priced and a complete hidden gem in our opinion. Our lists were absolutely invaluable when it came to making not only the final venue decision, but deciding which venue open days to go along to.
Make Lots Of Visits, But Follow Your Hearts
I know this sounds so cheesy, but honestly you just know once you’ve found your venue. After a lot of research, Combermere Abbey was the first venue we visited in person and we both knew immediately in our hearts that it was the one for us. In the interest of fairness and being as thorough as possible with this big decision, we visited several other venues but none even came close for us. However, with each visit to a different venue it only confirmed that Combermere was our dream location, and it’s really important to have that extra validation. Wedding planning can be stressful at times and you can end up second guessing yourself a LOT, so by eliminating those ‘what if’ questions around other venues you’re really doing yourself favour.
When you visit potential venues, go in there armed with questions and figures – Tiz even took a tablet with a spreadsheet on to most of our visits! Always be prepared to ask questions about making something work within your budget, as you’d be surprised at how many options are priced differently with weddings. For example, we saved thousands by getting married just before the start of wedding season (it was the 29th March, and we were their first wedding of the year) and we also opted for a Thursday too. It was the day before Good Friday so everyone was off work the next day anyway, and it worked out just perfectly.
Consider The Venue’s Wedding Team
Most wedding venues have a dedicated team who help you in the run up to your big day in terms of logistics, and I can’t stress how vital these awesome humans are! The team at Combermere Abbey are AMAZING, and they went above and beyond at every single stage of our wedding planning process. From Diane, Ashleigh and their colleagues, who helped make the run up to our wedding and the day itself run super smoothly, to Graham who drove the gorgeous Crossley car (which was included for use on the day with our wedding booking!) the team were just incredible. We even had our breakfast cooked by a lovely member of the team in the renovated Abbey you can see above the next morning!
When looking for your perfect venue, be mindful of the vibe you get from the wedding team. We just knew we were in great hands from the word go at Combermere, and they exceeded all of our expectations to say the least. It’s not necessarily something you might immediately think of, but having a great team at your venue is priceless.
Are you on the look out for your dream wedding venue? As always, feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section below!