The only place to be: expert advice for choosing your venue

Scotland is lucky enough to have loads of fabulous wedding venues – which only makes it harder to figure out which one is right for you! If you’re finding it impossible to make a decision, our experts’ top tips should help to clarify what really matters

Words by Ann Russell

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The historic Signet Library offers a unique and very elegant setting for a wedding in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town (www.thesignetlibrary.co.uk)

Daydreaming about wedding venues is a popular pastime for brides-to-be (and for single gals – we know quite a few with secret Pinterest boards of castles, barns and beaches!). If you’re attempting to turn those daydreams into reality and have started your venue search, the following advice will make your life much easier, we promise. Grab a glass of bubbly and cosy up with your other half to read wise words from our wedding venue experts who will help you draw up a perfect shortlist.

FIRST GLANCE

We might be biased, but we think the best way to begin your search is to flick right to the back of this magazine and read through our comprehensive venue directory. This is where you will find a list of some of the most popular wedding venues in Scotland, together with all the important details around capacity, catering and accommodation. Lindsey Hunter of Get Knotted (get-knotted.net) says, “Before they consider anything else, a couple should discuss whether they want to get married locally or further afield, in an exclusive-use property, a large hotel with additional facilities or a completely blank space that they can personalise to suit their tastes.”

From there we suggest spending time online looking at the venues’ own websites to get an overview of the services they offer. “First impressions are everything,” points out Martin McAveety, the wedding planner at popular city-centre wedding venue and private member’s club 29 Glasgow (29glasgow.co.uk). “The website should be easy to follow, with a gallery of pictures highlighting a full range of facilities. The correct capacity, location and contact details should be obvious to allow you to determine whether or not the venue meets your needs.”

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Old-fashioned glamour and high-quality décor is the name of the game at Edinburgh’s luxurious George Hotel – its Kings Hall would make a dramatic setting for a wedding banquet (thegeorgehoteledinburgh.co.uk)

MAGIC NUMBER

“To get the best out of venue viewings I’d suggest you visit no more than six properties,” says Gabrielle Craig, wedding planner at five-star hotel Cameron House (qhotels.co.uk). “Ideally, by the time of your appointment you’ll have a clear idea of your wedding theme or colour scheme, so the planner can provide you with as much information as possible. Similarly, getting a complete picture of the services that a venue offers will make it much easier for you to come to a decision.”

Martin agrees: “My sister is getting married this year and I’ve advised her to visit at least four venues but no more than six. They all offer different things, so it’s a good idea to see a variety then determine what your priorities are and cut your list to a couple of favourites.”

HIDDEN COSTS

It’s easy to get carried away by the big-day buzz but Lindsey suggests staying focused on practicalities. “On your first visit it’s important to understand a venue’s pricing structure and whether that fits within your budget. Find out about menu options and investigate corkage charges – they can greatly increase the cost of your day.”

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29 Glasgow offers plenty of city-centre glamour (29glasgow.co.uk)

Gabrielle agrees that couples should stay level-headed and ask the right questions to get the most from their venue. “I’d strongly advise that you ask about VAT and whether it’s included in the quoted prices. This is the biggest factor people overlook and it can increase costs significantly. No one wants to come home from honeymoon to an unmanageable bill! And if you want your day to last a little longer, check the venue’s alcohol licence and the availability of bedrooms for wedding guests. Some venues require the couple to pre-book a specific number of bedrooms, which is a big commitment. Ask yourself whether you’re going to fill those rooms, otherwise it’s another cost that’s incurred on top of everything else.”

FORM A BOND

Your venue’s wedding planner will act as a confidant, problem-solver and steadying force throughout your planning journey so it’s important to form a connection with them during your initial meeting. “You’ll feel an instant love for a venue and subsequently should have a good relationship with the venue’s planner,” says Gabrielle. “When they first start organising a wedding, many couples can feel a bit clueless, so Cameron House offer added extras like access to a planning tool called Moposa.com that gives you a to-do list, table plan, budget planner and tools to create your own wedding website. Couples can also send me questions, photos and further information about their wedding via the portal.”

SECOND OPINION

“Visit the venue for a second time and take along close friends and family for a fresh opinion,” Martin suggests. “Don’t forget to make a note of smaller details and ask any outstanding questions to ensure you get the most from the visit.”

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For creative couples planning a DIY wedding, Lindsey advises asking for clear confirmation of the venue’s décor rules: “People are certainly more creative now and village halls have become popular wedding venues because they offer fantastic value for money and allow you freedom to decorate. More formal venues will typically have more restrictions, which might stifle your vision.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

The time has finally come to make a decision. If you’re still torn between a couple of contenders, grab a pen and piece of paper: “The best way to make a final venue selection is via an old-fashioned pros and cons list,” advises Gabrielle. “Factors to consider might be location, number of bedrooms, food and drink and the overall look of the place. Look at what’s included in the price and what you’re really getting for your money. Make sure there are no hidden extras and that costs are completely transparent.”

Lindsey, meanwhile, suggests discussing specific details to form a final impression of each place.  “Scrutinising the finer details will help you make a decision between two venues,” she says. “Find out if the venue will prepare a personalised timeline for your day and how much contact you’ll have with the planner in the lead-up to your wedding. It’s really important that the venue works with you to communicate how the day will operate.”

W-DAY

On the day itself – it will arrive sooner than you think! – you’ll be so deliriously happy that contact with venue staff will be the last thing on your mind. Having said that, it’s important to know who is on hand to help should anything go wrong (touch wood it won’t!).

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The refurbished Stables Courtyard at Abercairny (abercairny.com) is an exclusive-use venue with a lot of rural charm

“Venues have a duty to explain the logistics of the wedding day set-up to the couple,” says Lindsey. “If you’ve chosen to get married in a hotel, you might not get access to the space until the morning of the wedding so it’s worth keeping this in mind when making arrangements with suppliers. Make sure your wedding planner will be on hand for any queries throughout the day, and ask someone you trust to keep an eye on proceedings.”

Gabrielle agrees that a wedding planner should be present throughout the day. “I’m at the venue on the wedding day itself to make sure everything runs smoothly, from arrival right up until the evening meal. The first thing I’d recommend is that you have a good breakfast! It’s a long day and it’s important you have enough energy. From then on I’ll be in the background making sure everything is going to plan. If there are any mishaps – which is unlikely – the bride and groom wouldn’t know about it because my team and I take care of everything. All you need to do is relax and enjoy yourselves.”