The first step of any wedding journey is booking the venue, but how do you know which one is right for you? Choosing somewhere that matches your personal planning style could make things a lot easier, says Patricia-Ann Young
There’s no getting around it: you can’t plan a thing until your venue is in the bag. But there are so many different spaces and styles available these days – how on earth do you choose? Aesthetics are important: how your venue looks will play a huge part in how your whole wedding will feel, so it’s no surprise to hear that many couples make their decision based on looks alone. Yet the reality is that whichever venue you go for will set the tone for how you plan the rest of your wedding day, as each different type requires its own individual style of approach.
We’ve taken a closer look at four of the most common venue types in Scotland to give you an idea of which planning style would work best for each. Are you hands-on and organised, the kind of person who enjoys making every single tiny decision? Or are you the ‘sit back, relax, and let someone else do the hard work for you’ type of planner, either because you’re laid-back or you already have your hands full? Whichever style you have, there’s a wedding venue out there for you – keep reading to find out yours.
Do you like the sound of a versatile venue that gives you loads of options? If so, get married in a city – it’ll give you so much to play with it’ll make your head spin. Scotland’s cities are (almost) as old as the hills, so years of history and culture are at your fingertips whether you decide on Inverness or Edinburgh. “Easy access to hotels and public transport, as well as beautiful parks and historic buildings for photo opportunities, are just some of the many benefits of a city-centre venue,” says Maia Glackin, coordinator at Òran Mór in Glasgow’s west end. “For example, Òran Mór itself is such an interesting building – it’s a former church with amazing contemporary additions such as our celestial ceiling mural by the acclaimed Scottish artist and author Alasdair Gray.”
Marrying in town means you’re not confined to your venue and can take advantage of cool nearby locations for photos (Òran Mór, for instance, is right next to Glasgow’s lovely botanic gardens). City venues are particularly appealing for couples who don’t want to take on too much responsibility for planning. Sourcing accommodation for travelling wedding guests can be a headache if you’re out in the sticks, but everyone should be able to find somewhere to stay (and within their own budget) in a city without much help. You’re also less likely to have to organise travel for your guests, as public transport will make it easy enough for them to get your venue.
One thing you do need to plan for, though, is ‘city living’, as Maia explains: “I would recommend taking into consideration any big public events (football matches, charity runs, parades and so on) that could be happening at the same time as your wedding, as this may make access more complicated.”
Exclusive-use venues are great for couples looking for a blend of hands-on, hands-off involvement. You get a bit of help with planning from the staff but there’s also plenty of scope to add personalised flourishes. Jessica MacPhee at the majestic Archerfield House near North Berwick in East Lothian, has this to say about the benefits of having the place all to yourself: “Your wedding is the biggest day of your life – and you’ll want to see only the most important people in your life on that day. Choosing an exclusive-use venue gives you the opportunity to utilise every nook and cranny to make it extra personal and to create different spaces – a hangout area, say, or a place for any young guests to play in peace. It’s basically an opportunity to really make the whole place your own.”
Such venues also lend themselves to a wedding weekend rather than just a wedding day. “You can make the most of your time with us,” says Jessica. “We’re a 550-acre country estate, and we have a world-class spa – perfect for pre-wedding pampering. If you’d like to stay the night after your wedding, we can bring our chefs down and create a barbecue for your family. Most weddings go by in a flash, so if you can make yours last as long as possible, you’ll definitely be happier for it.”
All by myself
Adding personal touches is one thing – but what if you’re bursting with creative ideas and want to take control of every aspect of your day, from the fabric of the napkins to the exact type of foliage used in the buttonholes? What you need is a blank canvas. With these venues, you organise the hire of everything: tables, chairs and sometimes even the cooking equipment for the caterers.
Terrified by the thought of all that hard work? It can feel scary to take on so much responsibility, but if you like a challenge it can be so rewarding when you pull it off. Hannah Mellet, part of the management team at Carrick Castle Estate in Lochgoilhead in the Trossachs, emphasises that booking a DIY barn wedding means you’re in complete control of planning your day. “This may sound overwhelming to some, but the reality is having a unique day exactly as you want it,” she says. “It lets you manage your budget and prioritise what you spend and where. You can do hands-on styling and get friends and family involved – perhaps you have a pal with an amazing talent for arranging flowers or relative who’s handy and can put together an archway. Or maybe you want to leave it all to the professionals and hire suppliers you love. There is no right and wrong way with a blank canvas – you can plan your day to best suit you and your guests.”
One bride’s creative tour de force is another bride’s absolute nightmare. If the thought of having to organise every tiny detail of your wedding makes you break out in hives, a hotel that offers packages might be a better bet for you. Gone are the days of drab reception halls and even drabber meals; hotels are now one of the most luxurious places you could host your wedding. “Our packages take a lot of stress out of planning,” agrees Susan Spence, events manager at the Manorview group, whose hotels across Scotland include the Redhurst in Giffnock, Boclair House in Bearsden and Cornhill Castle in Biggar. “If you need advice on marriage forms, cakes, flowers or entertainment, our team have a deep knowledge of the wedding industry and are always on hand to help.”
Many hotels nowadays want to create a sense of privacy for their couples, and have created stand-alone wedding suites to ensure no unsuspecting hotel guest accidentally wanders in during your speeches. “We only have one wedding a day at Manorview venues. Wedding and hotel guests are looked after by separate teams and kitchens, and wedding guests have their own separate entrance too. Your guests can be celebrating in one of our venues and never bump into a non-wedding guest.”
Another plus point is that while other venues may be able to offer overnight accommodation for the bridal party, a hotel is more likely to be able to put up all of your guests.
So, decide how much planning you’d be happy to do and your choice of venue should become a whole lot clearer.
Good to know: Some venues can do more than one style of wedding. Large estates often have country mansions or castles that would suit a sumptuous and elegant day, but also offer rustic barn weddings in converted steadings nearby. If you like the location, it’s worth checking out all the options.