The first thing you and your fianc need to do is to decide on what sort of wedding you are going to have. Will it be civil or religious, that is the biggest choice. If you have chosen a church then you should limit your venue search to within a 30-minute drive from the church but preferably nearer, consider as well if you want to get ready at home and make sure your venue/church is not too far away. You should also decide your budget at this stage and then find a venue to fit this rather than the other way around. Having a rough idea of guest numbers too is good, as some venues will have limited capacity. Alternatively if you really have your heart set on a particular destination you could always choose your guest list around the size of the venue instead.
Some beautiful venues such as country houses or rural barns have arrangements with their parish church if they are not licensed for ceremonies, this could prove a good option for you. If you really do not want a church ceremony but have your heart set on a venue that is not licensed then you could consider using a celebrant. Your -legal’ marriage would need to be conducted elsewhere (e.g. at the local registry office). The celebrant can then -marry’ you in front of your family and friends how you want and where you want, as it is not a -legal’ act you have no restrictions at all. Check the venues you visit are available on your chosen date before you visit. His will save you falling in love with somewhere you cannot book. If you can be flexible with your date you will get a better choice and often there are discounts available for weekdays. Before you visit any venues remember it is probably the most important decision you will make when planning your wedding. It is the place where you will spend most if not all of your day, you may have your ceremony there and it will be the backdrop for your photographs. Also they will feed you and your guests and they will be -looking after’ you all day. Above all you will spend a lot of money with them so make sure you are really happy before you commit. If you have already chosen you photographer and/or videographer then ask them if they have any recommendations. After all they will have visited quite a few experiencing weddings there. They will have an idea on the service, the staff, and the look of the place and so on. Why not go for a meal -incognito’ so that you can check out their service and the food quality? If you have been there before for a wedding then that is perfect. You will know firsthand if you will be happy there on your wedding day. Once you are more or less certain on a particular venue then make sure that they invite you to go for a food tasting and that they let you try all things you are considering for your menu, food and drink! If you are having a -themed’ wedding then check that the venue can accommodate this and it can be decorated in the way that you want. Make sure as well that the venue has enough space for all the different stages of your day. For example the ceremony, reception drinks, the wedding breakfast and the evening do. If you choose somewhere that has a specific -wedding coordinator’ make sure you get on well with them! Also check that it will be them attending to you on the day and ask them how they work. Will they gently remind you of the time and keep you on track for your plan for the day? Talk to them about what happens if the weather is wet and make sure that there is a proper robust plan for the ceremony, drinks, photographs and so on. If you are going to get married at the venue check if you can get married outside (weather permitting) do not assume that this will be the case, as some venues do not have this option. Talk to your wedding coordinator about whether or not you get exclusive use of the venue. This can sometimes mean that you have to commit to taking some or all of the rooms. It may be worth it to ensure that you have the place completely to yourselves. Think about your wedding night accommodation, can you stay there? Do you want to stay there? If not is there somewhere nearby that will suit your needs? Also consider that some of your guests may need accommodation too.
Some venues may offer all-inclusive packages and these can save you money (do check) and hassle of finding other suppliers for your big day. Even if they do not then some things may be included. For example chair covers/bows, place cards/table plan and a master of ceremonies. You will probably be offered different choices of different prices per head, make sure you ask what is included. For example as well as the meal does it include reception drinks, wine and bubbly for your toasts?