Finding Your Wedding Venue – excerpt from “The Secrets of a Wedding Planner”
This blogpost is an excerpt from the e-book written by our fellow wedding planner Sarah Victoria Thomas. Available on Amazon UK and US. Enjoy!
Sarah: Yana Makliassova of Peach Perfect Weddings is a London-based wedding planner specialising in destination weddings. She expertly plans destination weddings across various parts of Europe including: Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, Italy, Germany.
Covering such a broad range of locations forced Yana to get creative with her venue research technique. Eventually, this led to the creation of Peach Perfect Venues – a ‘one stop shop’ where soon-to-be brides and grooms can find the wedding venue of their dreams quickly, conveniently and, most importantly, for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.
[Note from Peach Perfect Weddings: yes, we are indeed working on such an app. It’s time to take the search of wedding venues to the era of booking.com and AirBnb. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, check out our bespoke service to find a destination wedding venue that suits your needs. You can book your first free consultation in a few clicks.]
Limitations of Google Search
Your first port of call to start looking for the perfect wedding venue will most likely be our good friend Google. In your first ever attempt at venue search, this is certainly an obvious place to start. Do however be aware of these limitations of relying solely on a Google search to find your ideal venue:
- The venues that come up on the first 3 pages of the search results will most likely be booked up to 2 years in advance. If you’re finding these venues, the chances are that so is every other couple looking to get married in France.
- For the same reason, these venues are likely to be on the higher end in terms of their pricing. If they’re popular, they can afford to charge more. Sometimes as much as 50% more!
- Many French properties that are available for wedding hire don’t advertise this on their websites, therefore they would not come up in your search.
- Equally, plenty of gorgeous France wedding venues have – for want of a better word – atrocious websites. Don’t judge a venue by its website just as you shouldn’t judge a book by the cover.
Why planners don’t give out venue details
In a world where information is widely and freely available on the Internet, people sometimes find it unfathomable to pay for information. If you’ve contacted a wedding planner asking for venue recommendations, chances are you either received a brochure where the venue names are coded or undisclosed, or you’ve been asked to pay something to get this information. Shock horror! How dare they ask you for money for doing absolutely nothing? The short answer is because this information is our bread and butter, acquired with blood, sweat and tears!
When you approach a wedding planner for venue recommendations they’re not simply going to Google it and forward on to you (unless they’re just starting out, in which case that’s entirely possible!). Wedding planners spend years collecting information about each wedding ceremony or wedding venue in Italy, France, or Germany that they work with; visiting them, planning in them, establishing a strong working relationship with them and sometimes even guiding them to improve their services and facilities.
I’m not overestimating when I say that the intimate knowledge that a planner has of a venue is knowledge that nobody else has – sometimes not even the owner.
Having coordinated a wedding at a venue once, you get to know a place down to the bone. You know which power sockets don’t work, which floor boards squeak, how good are the acoustics, how long it takes to walk from A to B (because we’ve probably done the route 100 times on a wedding day, running between ceremony and reception areas), etc.
Think of it as consulting. Consultants earn their living by sharing valuable insight and knowledge that is either not readily available or takes a long time to compile. It’s the same when wedding planners make venue recommendations. You wouldn’t expect a consultant to work for free, so why should a wedding planner? We work hard for this knowledge and we’re happy to share it for a small fee to help contribute to our mortgage, bills and general costs of being a human.
If you’re prepared to make a small investment in some professional help at the outset, contact a wedding planner and you could save yourself a whole lot of time and, most importantly, a lot of problems down the line.
On average a wedding planner in France charges around €300 – €500 for a deeply personalised venue finding service. In many cases this will include an escorted site visit of your shortlisted venues.
If you’re on a serious budget and don’t have this couple of hundred quid to spend, be honest about this in your initial email. If your requirements are easy to match to a venue and won’t take much time to research, the planner may be more than happy to just point you in the right direction for not much more than an hour’s pay.
Trawl the blogs!
A great resource for venue finding that often gets forgotten is wedding blogs. Blog articles on real weddings often include a list of credits at the bottom of the page, which include the venue and details of the suppliers who worked on that wedding.
If you have the time and patience for it, trawling the blogs for posts about weddings that took place in the region you are searching will give you a great start in finding your venue. Plus, you get immediate and totally relevant inspiration of how to design your own wedding there. Bonus!
A note on directories
In your initial Google search you will likely come across numerous venue directories.
When I first started as a wedding planner, directories were the first tool I used to educate myself on what venues are out there. Whilst directories do hold a cumulative wealth of information, they are notoriously difficult or annoying to use. My pet peeves with directories are:
- You either see the same venues appearing in each directory again and again (because they have the money to pay for listings all over the place);
- Or you must trawl through dozens and dozens of them to make a decent sized shortlist of properties available in the area you are looking (because on the other hand, some venues can only afford a listing in one place!).
The flaw of directories is that businesses are required to pay to be listed in them. Not everyone can afford to do this, or if they do, they can only afford advertise in one or two places out of the hundreds of directories which are out there. For this very reason, I started compiling my own database or, ‘directory’ if you will, of every venue I came across and eventually ended up with hundreds of names on the list!
You’ll be happy to know that I’ve not hoarded these findings all to myself.
If you really think about it, the person who should pay for the information is not the person offering it, but the person requiring it! So, I’ve taken the very essence of what directories are all about and turned it on its head.
Instead of asking venues to pay hundreds of euros to appear in a directory and offering only a small database of venues which can afford this luxury, I’ve created one point of call which harbours information on every single wedding venue I am continuously finding.
What started off as my annoyance (and, I admit, a little bit of laziness) for having to consult too many different databases for the same information, grew into a wish to rid all new brides and grooms of this same nuisance!
Self-Catering vs. Package Venues
It’s worth differentiating here between venues that offer wedding-specific packages and ones that are completely self-catered.
Package venues can be a real blessing in disguise as they take care of everything (or at least the most important things, such as catering) and this minimises the risk of something going wrong on the day. If the type of wedding offered by the venue is exactly what you’re after, great, you’re sorted. However, if your vision does not fit exactly with what the venue is offering, then you could be in for a big disappointment as package venues can be quite unwilling to do things outside of the box.
Hence, if you fall in love with a venue but feel like you would need to make quite a few adjustments to the status quo, it’s worth having a good think whether the venue is worth sacrificing your dream wedding for.
On the other hand, totally self-catered venues offer a blank canvas for you to do with as you wish. You usually have complete freedom over your choice of suppliers – though many venues will still be able to provide you with a list of their recommended vendors.
This flexibility is essential if you are on a tight budget or wish to deviate from the norm.
If you go down the self-catered route, however, be prepared to double your planning efforts because you will literally be building your wedding from scratch – piece by piece, chair by chair, glass by glass.
Check out Sarah’s website andthenwegotmarried.com to learn more about her services.