Where to Begin and How to Choose a Venue

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I'm not even sure where to start myself... Firstly if you are indeed engaged congratulations!! This is such an exciting time for not just you as a couple but also for your friends and family, relish in every moment of it. My better half Will, proposed to me in March on a trip to Rome, we had of course discussed getting married but the evening he did it was a complete surprise and one of the happiest moments of my life. After the initial period of celebration and engagement parties we began thinking about starting to plan the big day. Where does one begin...

If you have an older sister or close friend who's done this all before I imagine it would make life a lot easier. I however have no sisters and am the first out of my group of friends to get married. I was given a lovely planner by one of my friends Kerri, which had a rough timeline in it, as does the Pronovias App I've had downloaded on my iPad since the day I met Will (don't judge, I know you have one too). Something like this is great as it gives you an indication of what to do first. There are many of these planning guides online you can download and I recommend doing so. Setting a rough budget was our first step, something that has since been blown out the window but I'm thankful we had one to start with. 

Setting your budget isn't that complicated and really comes down to who's paying what. Traditionally the brides family will pay for or contribute towards the wedding and now days the grooms family often contribute too. I think traditionally the grooms parents host for the rehearsal dinner to be exact. If either of your parents are in a position to and have offered to help you financially, ask them for a set figure of what they would like to give you towards the wedding, then simply add up the sums and top it with whatever you as a couple are planning to spend. That's your budget. Whether you have €100,000, €10,000 or €1,000 to spend, with careful planning, budgeting and money saving tricks you can easily have the day of your dreams. Your venue and reception including food and drink will usually account for about 50% of your budget so that's why it's important to set a figure before you go looking at where to have it. My advice is to only view and research venues that are within budget, if you fall in love with somewhere and can't afford it you'll only end up upsetting yourself.

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Getting married in Ireland or England (Will is English) was never something we considered as we both knew we wanted to marry in the sun and have an outdoor reception, something we just couldn't bank on happening here. When we first got engaged we were both hell bent on getting married in Italy, we had chatted about it many times over the years and both attended weddings there that were beautiful. I think we spent a good month researching venues and getting quotes for different options. Although I found several stunning options in the end we decided against it. Unfortunately flights from Dublin to Italy don't cover as much of the country as they do from the UK. Every venue I loved was at least 2 hours from an airport and I started to realise it was unfair to ask people to travel again by bus or train after already flying to get there. In addition our marriage in a Catholic Church there would not have been legal meaning we would have needed to legally marry here first in a registry office. This may not be important to some people but when I walk down the aisle and say I do, I want it to be the real deal.

This led us to Marbella, Spain. My parents have a home there and I have been going since I was a child however I must admit it never appealed to me as somewhere I would want to have my wedding. I always associated it with Puerto Banus which while I love, doesn't scream garden party romance to me. Marbella Old Town and the surrounding areas are however stunning and as I began researching wedding venues I realised I could find somewhere just as beautiful as Tuscany with far less stress. Having a base to work out of and knowing the area so well is a definite help when planning a wedding abroad, I honestly now can't imagine how I would have managed to pull the wedding together in an area unfamiliar to me. I take my hat off to the brides who do it. Another bonus with marrying in Spain is the fact that the Catholic Church is still part of the spanish legal system meaning you do not need to have a civil ceremony prior to the church service, your wedding is legally bound. If you're not planning on having a religious ceremony then this won't matter to you, you'll just have to wed in your own country first. We have chosen the main church in Orange Square, Marbella Old Town. Somewhere I highly recommend viewing for anyone else looking to plan a wedding in the same area! It is literally breathtaking with its giant wooden doors and gold gilded altar.  

 The entrance to our church; Iglesia de Nuestra Senora  de la Encarnacion de Marbella

The entrance to our church; Iglesia de Nuestra Senora  de la Encarnacion de Marbella

As many of our guests and groomsmen are professional sportsmen we were restricted on the time of year we could get married and had about a 2 week window between when the seasons end and anyone heads off on tours. Because of this I was emailing venues constantly asking did they have the dates free and was surprised that many were already fully booked for the summer. We eventually found our perfect venue and as the last Saturday they had left was our ideal date we booked it right away without even viewing it in person! My advice is to book a venue as soon as you can to avoid disappointment. We booked within 2 months of our engagement and our wedding will take place on June 4th, 2016. We have decided to keep our venue under wraps so that it's a nice surprise for our guests as they hop off the bus from the church. I wanted to avoid anyone googling it and getting an impression of it from photos of weddings there that may not be in our taste. This is something you may wish to consider too and is a fun way to keep guests guessing!

Decide on a theme of your wedding and then research venues to fit that. Whether you want a lavish wedding in an ancient castle, a chilled beach club vibe or a chic garden party there are venues to suit your needs and budget. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest before I picked a theme and eventually decided something a little bit rustic but still chic suited us and our personalities perfectly. I feel it's important the day reflects you as a couple and that your guests can relate the venue and style to you guys. 

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To finish off here are my 5 top things to consider when choosing a venue!

  1. Cost. Is it within budget? If it's not, move on!

  2. Space. Is it the correct size for your estimated number of guests? You don't want to choose somewhere too small to hold your number or too large that it looks silly if you're having a small and intimate number.

  3. Privacy. Do you want  the exclusive use of the venue or are you happy with members of the public being in the same vicinity?

  4. Music and Entertainment. Is there space for you to dance and have a band? Is there a dance floor already or will you have to hire one? Are there noise restrictions on the time the music has to end? Is there a sound system already in place or will you need to hire one too? These are all little extras that can quickly add up!

  5. Your Theme. Does the venue fit your theme and colour pallet? If you are planning an all white wedding make sure your reception hall hasn't got red walls for example. Similarly if you've always dreamed of a rustic barn wedding don't choose a modern venue and have to try make it work!

Additionally if you are getting married abroad bear in mind not everyone will be able to take time off work to travel so aim for a weekend wedding if possible. On the flip side, if you're getting married at home a mid week wedding is often a great way to save money as venues will generally offer a reduction in price on those days. To me the venue is the most important part of the wedding, second to your dress of course. Take time, do your research and don't rush into anything. Your perfect day awaits!