My previous wedding post was all about having the budget conversation and how important it is to be clear from the outset on how much you want to spend on your wedding. Hopefully, having got that bit nailed, you’re ready to pick your venue!
There are all sorts of wedding venues out there – traditional churches, modern hotels, quirky art galleries, grand stately homes, pretty gardens and everything in between. Your choice of venue can say a lot about the kind of wedding you are having – it sets the tone and is likely to be the first major decision you will make.
The most important first question is, do we want to get married in a church? Most of the time you have to live within a church’s parish and regularly attend services in order to be allowed to get married at that church. There are certain exceptions, and you can apply for a special licence, but this can be complicated and take a bit of time.
For Andrew and I, we knew that we didn’t want to get married in a church because we don’t regularly attend one. We both felt that it would be hypocritical to stand in front of an altar and make promises to God that we weren’t sure were right for us. We want our wedding to be a genuine reflection of us and a church felt disingenuous. So the choice was easy.
From there, we knew that we wanted to get married in the North East. I’m from North Yorkshire and Andrew’s from Lancaster but we’ve both lived in Newcastle for over ten years now – since university. It’s our current home and it’s where a lot of our friends live. It’s a beautiful part of the world and it felt right for us. Again, the choice was easy.
So that’s two big decisions ticked off: we’re not getting married in a church and we’re sticking with the North East. It was then that the search could really begin. We’d heard of a few venues through word of mouth so we started to make a list. But there is such a huge range of venues in and around Newcastle that we had to narrow it down. We wanted something informal, not a hotel, with space for around 120 guests. That gave us some clarity but finding something a bit off the beaten track was tricky.
This is where the single most useful tip I had been given came into play! The website for each council in the North East has a list of all the venues that are licensed to conduct weddings in their area. We went straight to Northumberland Council’s website and found a fantastic, and very comprehensive, list. You can narrow it down by style of venue, there are pictures, a direct link to the venue website and a short summary of what the venue offers to help you make your decision. It was absolutely ideal! And we soon made a shortlist of venues to go visit.
The other website that I found really useful was hitched.co.uk. It lists out venues by region of the UK and you can filter down to your style and also display the results on a map. That might be quicker than searching around the Council websites of your area if there are a few to look through.
Once we had a short list, we booked in visits with all of the top contenders. We started looking in February this year, but already found that venues were getting booked up for August 2016! So I would definitely advise going with a few dates in mind and be prepared to be flexible if you find the right venue for you. We visited a few places in Northumberland which all offer something a little bit different. Here are some of the highlights of our trips around North East wedding venues.
A gorgeous, lavishly decorated, ornate hotel venue that has it all in one site – luxurious bedrooms, a spot right next to the sea, a pretty room with space to seat plenty and gardens with fun games outside. A beautiful spot, but because we wanted to get married in peak season we found it was far too expensive for us.
Another very beautiful venue, but for different reasons. Set inside the grounds of Alnwick Garden, the room you get married in has beautiful views over a fountain in the grounds and has flexible indoor and outdoor space. It’s also next to the quite frankly amazing Treehouse restaurant which is exactly as it sounds – a treehouse restaurant! For us, it wasn’t private enough as other people could be outside the room as we were saying our vows and we wanted something that felt more intimate and secluded.
This venue was a very close second to the one we actually chose. Some of you might have heard of Doxford Hall, but Doxford Barn is part of the farm next door. When we visited, the venue was still being built, but it is now a gorgeous rustic barn set in a fully working farm. There is also a lake that you can have drinks next to and a set of self-catering cottages attached. If we had enough money to make a full weekend of it, we would consider hiring this venue. But when you added in the cost of the rooms (that you had to take) to book the venue, it all became too much.
So what venue did we actually choose in the end?!
As soon as we walked into The Garden Station, we knew it was *the one*. Even though it was mid-winter, there was barely any grass on the ground and snow was covering the flowers, we knew it had everything we wanted from a venue. It is small and intimate, which meant only one wedding a day, it is full of greenery and flowers, it would just fit in our numbers and it is absolutely beautiful beyond words. The owner, Phillipa, does a great job of keeping it looking pretty all year round as well as running a cafe out of the old station building.
I’m reluctant to say too much because I want it to be a surprise to those who are coming to our wedding but trust me when I say we just knew it was right! There was little to no deliberation, as we left, we said this is it and we cancelled the visits we had booked for the day after.
I can’t wait to share more with you about it after the wedding – with pictures of a (fingers crossed) gloriously sunny, pretty, flowery venue for our special day!
Any of you out there planning your wedding? What are your tips for finding your dream venue?