Updated: Nov 3, 2019
The first question you’ll get asked as soon as you’re engaged is: “When’s the wedding?”. Some couples may have it planned out already, but we certainly didn’t, and it took a little while for us to decide where and when we wanted to get married. We knew we wanted a summer wedding, and being freelancers we had to choose a time that fitted around us being in the country (!) and any big patches of work in the diary. We also had to decide whether we were going to get married in South Wales (the traditional choice as the bride’s home) or Hertfordshire, where Matt is from. As most of our guests would be coming from London and the surrounding areas, and we would be spending much of our married life in Harpenden, Hertfordshire seemed like the best choice. So how did we choose a specific date and find our venue?
Church service or civil ceremony?
This will probably be an easy decision to make for most couples. For us, a church service was important and as Matt had strong links with St Helen’s Church in Wheathampstead this was the obvious choice. It’s also a really beautiful church! There are various rules and regulations for both church services and civil ceremonies so make sure you do your research and ensure it’s legal!
Know what you’re looking for before viewing
There are so many wedding venues available that you could spend months working your way around them all, and let’s face it not many of us have time for that! It helps to decide in advance whether you want a formal wedding in a nice hotel or country house, or a more informal day in a barn, marquee or maybe even a village hall. We knew straight away that we wanted to go down the more informal route, and I’d always dreamed of having a wedding reception in a barn so that helped to narrow down the options. It also helps to have an idea of what time of year you’d like to get married so venues can let you know what availability they have.
Decide what your ‘must-haves’ are
Before going for a viewing, it’s helpful to have a few ‘must-haves’ in place so that you can check whether the venue can accommodate them:
know what your potential maximum number of guests will be
do you need accommodation onsite/nearby?
is the venue close to the church if having a church wedding?
is there a ‘bad weather’ plan?
do you need lots of parking space?
do you need comfy seating areas for older guests?
We only viewed two venues, and whilst the first was beautiful, space would be limited if it rained all day and with only outside access to portable toilets, we decided it was a no-go!
Be flexible with the date if you can
Whilst some couples will be restricted to a weekend, if you have the flexibility it’s worth considering a weekday as venues are often cheaper on a Friday, and even more so Monday-Thursday, as well as during off-peak seasons such as January/February. When we found our dream venue, all the Saturdays were booked but there were two Fridays available - we had to double-check with some immediate family members who were teachers, but they gave the all clear! There were a small number of guests who were not able to come due to work restrictions, but it’s going to be impossible to choose a date that suits everyone so find a date that works best for you and those in your immediate circle.
Venues get booked up to two, even three years in advance so if you do have somewhere specific in mind you need to book asap, or be willing to delay the wedding in order to secure your chosen venue. We booked ours a year in advance and there were only two available dates for us to choose from. Or course, if you’re planning a wedding at short notice you can often get last minute deals, but the more specific your needs the more you will have to plan ahead.
This may not be at the forefront of your mind when choosing your venue, but I will always say you can tell a good venue by the state of its toilets! You may not want to think about it, but they will be in constant use all day - are there enough, are they clean and are they accessible? I’ll say no more, but it’s definitely worth giving it some thought!
Decide how hands on you want to be
Whilst we were tempted by the village hall route - a cheaper option and with the freedom to make the place your own - we knew it just wasn’t practical. With our diaries full in the lead up to the wedding we knew we wouldn’t have the time to transform a venue and spend hours decorating. In the end we chose a venue that would do all the setting up for us - all we had to do was drop everything off the day before with instructions for the staff. We also didn’t have to do any clearing up, other than returning to collect items the next morning. Yes it’s more expensive, but it was definitely worth it - if I was to give just one piece of advice to any couple planning a wedding, it would be do what you can to ensure that the process is as stress-free as possible so that you can enjoy every moment!
We can’t speak highly enough of the staff at The Priory Barn, Little Wymondley, who worked tirelessly before and during our wedding reception. The food was incredible, the barn looked beautiful and the day ran smoothly from start to finish. If you are looking for a venue in Hertfordshire, I would highly recommend checking them out at www.thepriory.net
Choosing a date and venue does require a lot of time and patience, but it’s worth getting it right so that you and your guests have a day to remember!
Photography by hannahmia.com