Starting to plan your big day? Amy Shearer highlights the questions we should all be asking before saying ‘aye do’ to the venue
Whether you have always longed to marry outdoors in a beautiful blank-canvas barn like The Cow Shed Crail, have your heart set on a traditional city-centre venue such as The National Piping Centre, see yourself walking down the aisle in a countryside retreat like Cluny Castle or long for a plush five-star hotel experience such as Trump Turnberry, there are countless offerings across the country that can cater to your every desire.
When deciding on a venue to host your big day, it is important to be asking the all-important questions early on. Here’s what you should be considering and asking your venue in order to find out what’s right for you.
See your wedding venue in person
How many venues have you shortlisted? Four? Forty? The number doesn’t matter – so long as you actually go in person to see the one you end up picking. You need to get a feel for it and see what it’s like beyond the online photos. “I’d say it’s really important to visit a few venues so that you can get an idea of what’s on offer – you’ll know pretty quickly which one feels right for you,” advises Jo Trust of The Cow Shed Crail in Fife.
“Before you set off to visit a venue, check its availability and ask about prices – you don’t want fall in love with a place only to realise it doesn’t have your date free or that it is well beyond your budget,” she adds. Her top tip is to look at real-life photos of the venue on Instagram and Facebook to help you visualise what you might want for your own big day.
When is the best time of year to get married?
Your date might restrict your options – summer Saturdays famously get snapped up very far in advance. “If you’re looking for something last-minute or with a shorter lead-up, there’s usually better availability on weekdays,” says Aimee Lawrie of Trump Turnberry. “It’s always worth speaking to the venue, though – we still have some weekends free towards the end of this year and in 2024 too.”
What to ask your venue before your wedding
Use venue visits to quiz the events managers and don’t come home with any unanswered questions. “Ask what we as a venue can do to assist with planning your day,” suggests Emily Nelson from Glasgow’s National Piping Centre. “No question is too silly. We are here to help!”
Thinking about going with a blank-canvas venue? Ask your shortlisted places if there are any suppliers they work with (and trust) who could help bring your vision to life.
Fancy hosting your ceremony outdoors? See what the venue can offer as a back-up plan if the weather turns nasty.
What’s the most important thing to consider?
If you’re planning a big bash to bring together family and friends, make sure your venue can accommodate the number of guests you have in mind, advises Emily Nelson: “One of the first questions to ask is about capacity,” she says.
Some venues have a variety of room options so they can host everything from intimate gatherings of 20 of your nearest and dearest to blow-out parties with all your pals.
“We have catered for everything from micro weddings of two people (with staff as the witnesses) to full marquees with over 500 guests,” says Fiona Jones at Cluny Castle. “It is a common misconception that we can only cater for large weddings, so it is always worth asking the question to see if we can make your wishes a reality.”
Activities at your wedding venue
Not every venue will be willing to do all it can to bring your wildest dreams to life, so if you’re planning something unusual, creative or a bit outside the norm, ask early on if it is something the venue can accommodate. “We had a couple a few years ago who got an owl to deliver their rings during the ceremony,” laughs Emily at the National Piping Centre. “It was such a great moment for the guests.”
Many venues will be able to offer fun-filled extras in-house.
Trump Turnberry is famous for its championship golf, but it also boasts a full roster of adventurous activities. Fancy clay-pigeon shooting the morning of your vows? Always wanted to stay in a lighthouse on your wedding night? Or perhaps your younger guests would love pony rides during the day? All of this is on offer there.
In fact, venues of all budgets and sizes have additional extras for that real ‘wow factor’, so ask what’s possible.
Overnight stays and rehearsal dinners at the venue
Couples are increasingly extending their celebrations beyond just one day, organising everything from intimate dinners the night before to fun-filled BBQ parties the day after. “Book The Cow Shed Crail and you’ll have exclusive use of it from 10am the day before your wedding until 3pm the day after,” Jo Trust tells us.
“Weddings are now about the full experience,” agrees Aimee Lawrie at Trump Turnberry. “People want to make the most of having their loved ones together, and we can offer packages to suit. From having a private dinner in the James Miller Room to hosting a pre-wedding mixer in one of our spaces, we are happy to work with couples to create a bespoke event.”
If a venue can’t put up guests before and after the wedding, it should be able to offer advice on where to stay nearby.
Do you need to have the wedding ceremony and reception in the same place?
Another important factor when picking a venue depends on whether or not you want to have the ceremony and reception in the same place. If you’re marrying somewhere else, how far are you and your guests willing to travel, and how will you all get there (i.e., will that be by personal or group transport)?
Many places can facilitate everything on site – Cluny Castle even boasts its own church. “The chapel is not consecrated, so you can have a ceremony of any religious denomination (or none) there,” Fiona Jones tells us.
Many venues can host different parts of your day in different areas. “A drinks reception in our museum is a real highlight,” promises Emily Nelson at the National Piping Centre. “It’s filled with antique bagpipes and has all the background history, which always impresses guests who are visiting Scotland.”
Consider the venue when choosing your photographer
There is nothing better than looking back through your wedding photographs and being able to relive the beautiful moments you shared with your loved ones. Often venues will offer stunning surroundings for photographs, or can direct you to nearby beauty spots.
If you want striking photographs that look a certain way, it is worth checking out if any photographers have ever shot your dream venue before, and if there are any standout vistas for pictures. “A lot of couples have told us they chose us because of the views out over Ailsa Craig and the lighthouse,” smiles Turnberry’s Aimee Lawrie.
“Cluny Castle merges elements of traditional and modern, with so many striking features,” says Fiona Jones. “The grounds are also very impressive and add another layer to the venue.”
Find a venue close to you
There are several things to consider when choosing your venue, and one of the top considerations should be where it is and how you (and your guests will get there). Some couples want to travel to somewhere further afield to feel more special, or return to a place with significance. While others are planning for an easy commute for everyone.
To help you out, here are some brilliant wedding venues across Scotland:
How to choose a venue to suit the style of your wedding
For some people, the most important thing when choosing a place to get married is the type of venue. Different places will accommodate different sizes of guestlist as well as offering a different feel for the day.
So whether you’re looking for a grand castle or a cosy barn, or anything in between, here are some venues to keep in mind: