Breaking news: we’ve reserved the date at our wedding venue and will be confirming it this weekend! I’m so excited I could burst and I can’t wait to show you where Fraser and I will be getting married but first I thought it might be useful to collate all the venues we looked at and write up a little pros and cons type post. Disclaimer: these pros and cons are of course, personal to us and they should by no means put you off visiting them because they might turn out to be exactly what you are looking for. But if you’re looking for a venue in and around the Home Counties then read on…
First off, I’ll start by telling you our criteria and what it is we had in mind for our perfect venue. Our guest list is currently at 90 or so day guests and this includes a few under 12’s (I am from a massive family and everyone seems to be procreating) and around 20 evening guests. We originally had everyone as a day guest but decided to cut the number down a bit, mainly because some of our evening guests are people we don’t see on a hugely regular basis and it would be quite difficult to seat them on a table without it being totally random – is that mean/crazy? I don’t know but I think we’ve found the right balance now and everyone that we are inviting are people with whom we want to share our big day.
I don’t know what it is about barns but they just fit the rustic fairy-tale wedding that I have in my head. Everything about them from the exposed beams to the history behind them and the fact that they are almost like a blank canvas and you can transform them with all the design ideas you’ve been dreaming about. We grew up in and currently live in Buckinghamshire, our families both live here and it is our home but at first we didn’t feel the necessity to find a venue close to home because we thought if the venue is perfect then it doesn’t matter where it is. Well, having viewed 6 venues (I had booked to see another 3 venues but when we visited ‘the one’ we cancelled all the other viewings!) we realised that location actually is quite an important factor.
- Flexibility – they have a range of packages but are more than happy to make yours bespoke if you fancy picking bits from each package.
- No need for a turnaround – the ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening party all happen in separate parts of the venue so there is no need to wait between dinner and party.
- Spacious – all of the rooms are light and airy and can comfortably fit our numbers without feeling cramped.
- Relaxed vibe – we visited the morning of a wedding and nobody seemed to be stressed or in a hurry, in fact you would never know that there was going to be a wedding. I think this is important because the last thing you want to see on your wedding day is the venue staff stressing.
- Bridal party can get ready on site – The venue has an area specifically for the bride and her party to get ready so that it doesn’t encroach on the actual bridal suite.
- Parking – plenty of it so need to worry about where transport and where your guests can leave their cars.
- Huge variety of food options – their exclusive caterers are Galloping Gourmet and they have extensive menus so you wouldn’t have to worry about not finding something that all your guests will like. There are so many options as to how many courses, casual dining, canapés, food stalls; the list goes on!
- Good weather options – again, something that you might not think of straight away but does your venue have a Plan B if it is to suddenly pour with rain? Rivervale Barn has lots of options for you to choose from if this was the case.
- Location – it’s in Hampshire. Nobody we know lives in Hampshire nor is it convenient for any of our guests.
- Accommodation – Because of its location, Fraser and I along with our parties would need to find nearby accommodation the night before.
- The food is very expensive – I think we were looking at something like £110 per head which we felt was a little too high for us, seeing as we have around 90 guests.
- Slightly too modern? – Yes I suppose in theory it is a barn but you could tell it was a new renovation rather than a building with history.
- There is nowhere for the groom to get ready on the morning.
We really liked this place and could definitely see ourselves getting married there but it was a sort of reserve venue if we couldn’t find anywhere else we liked.
- No rough edges – the venue is very clean cut.
- Exclusivity – it’s yours for the whole day.
- Spacious – there is so much space for our guests to spread out.
- Rooms for guests – there are 10 further bedrooms in addition to the Bridal Suite so your nearest and dearest can stay overnight.
- Bespoke menu – they have 22 caterers on their suppliers list so you can find a caterer that works for you.
- Location – Hedsor House is literally on our doorstep.
- Outside space – the House is set within 100 acres of land.
- Parking – there is enough parking for 150 cars.
- Although it was beautiful, it didn’t match the vibe of our wedding. And it wasn’t a barn.
- Expensive – the venue hire alone was very pricey.
- To us, it seemed to have more glitz than glamour? – I didn’t feel like I could put our stamp on it as it was already so pristinely finished.
- It felt too grand – I think this is partly due to how the venue is styled but it just didn’t suit us and our personalities.
- The evening party space was actually quite small and there didn’t seem to be any room to have a couple of tables for people to sit down if they didn’t want to dance.
- The bar is in a separate room – I really don’t like this; I feel like it disjoints the evening!
We really appreciated the beauty of this venue and it ticked a lot of boxes but it just wasn’t ‘us’ which essentially is the most important thing!
- Location – this venue is on the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire border and only a half hour drive away from us.
- Parking – adequate parking for our guests.
- Venue hire is inexpensive at £2,925 for our date – compared to most venues this was incredibly cheap.
- I won’t name the coordinator who showed us round but I was less than impressed with her manner. There was nobody to greet us on arrival for us to only find her round the back having a cigarette and reading the newspaper.
- The ceremony room looks a bit like a village hall rather than somewhere I would want to get married.
- The main hall felt very small as it is split into three sections – the main floor space with two ‘mezzanine’ areas at either end. I felt that the guests who were sitting on the mezzanines would not seem like they were part of the group and the table sizes were inconsistent; some were rectangular and some were round.
- There is no accommodation at all.
- Nowhere to get ready.
- The food looked subpar and if I’m going to pay money I have been saving a long time for I want it to be good!
- The venue is next to some offices – it sounds strange as they don’t impact on your day but it does seem a bit odd that when you park your car you can see an accountant’s office and recruitment office before you go in.
- Our show around was shared with another couple who brought their overbearing parents along. We couldn’t ask a single question because it seemed to all be about them.
This venue left me feeling really upset – I knew I wasn’t going to like every venue we viewed but the coordinator did absolutely nothing to make us feel remotely special. I was so peeved that we walked out (not that she noticed because she was too busy chatting away with the mother of the other bride!).
- Location – perhaps the closest venue to us at a short 20-minute drive.
- Spacious – the barn is big and would fit us all in without an issue.
- Good weather options – If it rains they have a marquee set up purely for this; it doesn’t get used otherwise.
- The grounds are beautiful – they have pergolas, rose gardens and wisteria aplenty.
- Accommodation: There are 6 bedrooms.
- It was a little difficult to find – the sat nav doesn’t take you to the front entrance of the venue.
- The venue seems to favour the option of an outside wedding – this isn’t really something we are interested in.
- They have a tiled dancefloor that is permanently in the main room – it can be hidden by a floral privacy screen but I wasn’t a massive fan.
- Although you have exclusive use of the venue, the owners’ house is on the site and the wedding venue felt like part of someone’s garden as opposed to an exclusive venue.
I really liked this venue but we realised that it was almost too spread out – with such a big venue and 90 guests it might feel a bit empty.
- This venue is beautiful – it honestly takes your breath away, the grounds are so well looked after and it has such a lovely atmosphere.
- Accommodation – a wedding suite and further 7 bedrooms which are all so beautifully finished; think Cotswolds vibe with roll top baths and chocolate box wallpaper.
- The food looks delicious – their caterers are Indulgence and they have a variety of options
- The venue has lots of extras you can hire for example an ice cream trike or sweetie ladder.
- Both parties can get ready on site, but the respective parts of the venue are far enough apart that there is no risk of bumping in to each other!
- Expensive – a beautiful venue like this comes with a heavy price tag.
- Felt a little impersonal – I suppose you could tell that there was a wedding the day before and there will be another tomorrow if you know what I mean? One of the things that we have valued the most while looking at venues has been the ‘feel’ of the place, and specifically the sense that the venue really belongs to you while you’re using it.
- The main room seemed really small and narrow – we attended their wedding fayre so there weren’t any tables set up but I just could not picture how you would fit 100 people in there.
Caswell House was our second favourite venue after the one we’ve chosen. We loved everything about it and could totally see ourselves getting married there and knew our guests would love it. But the cost and distance was what tipped it for us.
And that leaves the final venue… which I’m going to write a whole other ‘big reveal’ post about!
But let me tell you this, it was the only venue we walked into and got that ‘this is the one’ feeling. The owner who showed us round was incredible and we left feeling totally and utterly giddy that we had just found our venue 🙂
I hope you found this helpful as visiting venues really does enlighten you to things you hadn’t even thought might be an issue so I wanted to share our experience.