Picking your venue for your wedding and reception is one of the biggest decisions you will make when planning your big day. Well lucky for you I sat down with Branka Vuskovic, Events Manager at the stunning riverside venue The Bingham in stylish West London’s Richmond-Upon-Thames, where she shared her top tips for choosing your venue…
First of all, if time is on your side, use it to plan everything meticulously! If not, and you only have a few weeks till the big day, don’t panic. The event organiser at your chosen venue can be a great support to you – and you should accept their offer of recommendations for photographers, florists, cake makers etc – after all, we do this on a regular basis so we know who the best ones are!
Venue: The best ones tend to be booked up early, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes have cancellations, so try the one you really want first. Be flexible about the day of the week – Thursday and Friday weddings are also popular – or even Sunday. Choose a venue which is used to hosting weddings and civil partnerships, and which is keen to host them. Is the venue licensed for weddings? If so, and you aren’t planning a religious ceremony, it is one less element of the wedding to worry about.
Visit the venue when you are relaxed, and in the right frame of mind to picture your perfect day. Prepare a list of questions in advance so that you don’t forget to ask anything while you are there. You can always contact the venue again later but it is so much better to actually be there to visualise your big day. Don’t be embarrassed to ask to visit more than once – if you have seen quite a few options, you are quite entitled to want to come back again to make sure before finalising your decision.
In addition to the obvious ones about décor, catering etc, the other sort of questions to consider are: parking for guests; public transport and taxis; is there a separate entrance for wedding guests or do they need to come through the main entrance and mix with non-wedding guests. A little thought and planning in the early stages will avoid any mistakes later.
Format: Nowadays many couples decide to invite a few friends and close family to a more formal sit down three-course ‘wedding breakfast’ and then invite more friends and relatives to a relaxed celebration later in the day. Maybe you would like a themed event? Ask the venue when you are having a look around. For example at the Bingham we can provide a BBQ in our lovely riverside garden and some couples (and guests) arrive by boat!
What to drink: While most of us prefer to serve champagne or sparkling wine at some point during the celebration, the other drinks offered can add individuality to your event. How about a bespoke cocktail created specially for you and your partner by the venue’s mixologist? This can be served on arrival, with appropriate canapés, followed by still wines and the good champagne for the speeches? And when it comes to wines, it is sometimes possible to have specially produced commemorative labels for the wine being served. Or, perhaps one country is very special to you – you a planning to honeymoon in Italy for example – so ask about additional wines as the wine list they show you is usually just a selection of their most popular wines. Your venue will be pleased to make suggestions and to advise likely quantities needed.
Your photos: When you visit a potential venue, as well as taking the reception and facilities into account, don’t forget to ask about wedding photo suggestions. The event organiser will have seen many weddings at the venue and can give you suggestions – learn by other couple’s experiences. Also, you don’t want to walk too far for the photos – that will take you away from the reception itself and your guests. The wedding photography should be a record of your happy day – not the event in itself. We have probably all been to a wedding where the photographer takes over and we stand around for ages watching the photos been arranged!
The Wedding Night: This is such a special night – choose somewhere ultra romantic. If the venue is a hotel, or restaurant with rooms, sometimes the bridal suite is offered as part of a wedding package – so make sure you ask before you pay a deposit for somewhere else! It is also sometimes possible to book the whole venue if it is a boutique hotel – then you have exclusive use of the bar, restaurant, bedrooms and banqueting facilities for the duration. At the Bingham we call it ‘Bingham Privée’ – and it is becoming very popular, especially if guests are travelling from far afield.
Questions to ask the venue…
Where will the bride get ready before the ceremony?
Where will the guests gather before the ceremony?
Will there be someone to take the guests to the ceremony room or do we need to organize this?
Who will get the bride from her room?
What will you do to ensure that no one sees the bride before entering the ceremony room?
Where can we use confetti?
Where will the cocktail reception take place?
What if the weather is bad, will there be a plan B?
Will there be a cloakroom or someone to take coats?
Can we have live music?
Is there a music system there for dancing?
Until what time can the guests be outside?
Can we have fireworks or anything outside (if there is an outside space)?
What restrictions are there?
Is there parking for the guests – and if so what if any cost?
Where will this take place?
Can we have a tasting session for choosing menus?
Where is the top table likely to be situated?
Do you have a microphone for speeches ? And if not, can you organize one?
Will you print menus and prepare a table plan?
What time can the florist come in to set up ?
Can you recommend photographers?
Can you supply wedding favours for the tables?
If we wanted to bring in our own wines, what will be the corkage charge?
What time can the cake be delivered? If required do you have a fridge?
Will the venue be able to do the stationery ?
What time can the guests dance until?
What type of deposit is necessary to secure the booking?
When does the final payment need to be made?
Who will the point of contact be for the organizing of our wedding?
Who will be the main point of contact on the day?
Find out more about the Bingham’s wedding facilities visit www.thebingham.co.uk
Or to view the Garden Rooms, Bingham’s fabulous suite (with its own entrance, heated terrace and stunning views of the garden and the river) contact the events team on 020 8940 0902