For me, the most daunting thing about planning a wedding in the UK was deciding what kind of venue was ‘us’ – what kind of wedding venue will suit both you and your partners style and vision of your big day? I didn’t want to look back and regret our choice because we couldn’t have live music/outside space/the decorations I wanted (particularly when it’s too late to do anything about it!).
I felt like our decision on the wedding venue would inform pretty much everything else about the wedding day – if we chose a hotel/pub/barn then we’d most probably be tied on our choices of catering/bar/styling but equally as much there would be more of a ‘format’ to follow – making it easier to make some of the big decisions. Alternatively if we chose a hall or room then we’d have massive scope for making our own choices and decisions about how the wedding day would run but, on the other hand, we’d maybe have too much room for choice (and therefore more potential for failure/disaster). You can see that I was all of a quandary!
We decided in the end that we wanted to be able to choose everything, right from the colour and style of flowers down to the cocktails served at the bar, so we needed to go with a venue that offered us that amount of flexibility but that was also within our tight budget. We also really liked the idea of a barn as, well…they’re beautiful buildings! But that was our choice, not necessarily for everyone (and it’s a lot more work!).
For everyone though, the best thing to do when searching for your wedding venue is research – research, research and then research some more. What people did about wedding planning before the internet, I have no idea! I did all of my wedding research online. If you have an issue/concern or are just wondering about your wedding venue generally then there will inevitably be some piece of information available, somewhere on the internet, from some other concerned bride (or groom), a wedding blog or the venue itself.
We ended up going for the Henley Town Hall as the venue for the wedding itself and used the large hall which is such a light filled, huge room and can fit up to 210 guests (though we only had 90+). The hall has some amazing period features that completely sold it to Mr B and I, plus every time we went to view it, it was sunny 🙂 Set in the centre of Henley-on-Thames, it’s just one of those buildings that you can’t fail to notice and remember – exactly what we wanted for our venue.
We could have had the reception at the town hall too but Mr B’s intense desire for a hog roast and the lack of outside space combined with my controlling need to lay out the tables myself (the venue staff would have had to have laid out the dinner tables for us after the wedding ceremony) meant that we ended up moving elsewhere for the reception – to the village that time forgot – Hambleden!
Hambleden Village Hall is in one of the most beautiful villages that the UK has to offer, just round the corner from a really lovely pub and opposite an amazing church (if you are that way inclined). It is ridiculously good value to hire and the caretaker is hugely flexible on what you can do with the venue. They even have top-notch lighting which can be turned on and off independently, a really good PA system which you can plug an MP3 player into (no brand names mentioned) and a professional dishwasher (which our bar staff loved).
Here are just a couple of pictures of the hall all dolled up…
I am so glad that we made the decisions that we did with our venues, I really feel like they helped make the wedding day even more special because we were able to make everything reflect ‘us’ in exactly the way we wanted (though Mr B was sometimes dragged along at the initiation of an idea!).
Whilst searching for our wedding venue I came across such a huge amount of information that I thought would be really useful for others in the same position that I thought I would pull it all together for others searching for their ideal wedding venue. I’ve got details of quite a few more venues than I’ve mentioned here and I’m happy to share them with you if you let me know your more specific requirements or location but here’s the short list we had before deciding on the two venues we did (pretty much all of these were discounted purely on price as we were on a tight budget):
1. Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre, Lambourn, Berkshire
Set at the heart of a 2300 acre working organic farm, you would have full use of the whole venue and the option to use produce direct from the farm. They also have a lovely dining room with a stunning spiral staircase and grounds with some lovely landscaped gardens. If we could have afforded it then this would have been my first and only choice!
2. Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead, West Berkshire
Norden Farm Centre have ‘The Long Barn’ available for hire – a multi-purpose space which holds up to 80 people. The 18th century timber-framed barn offers an unusual and interesting environment for activities with restored timber features and excellent natural lighting.
3. Monks Barn, Hurley, Berkshire
The Monks’ Barn is a Grade II* listed medieval barn offering a unique venue for wedding receptions and civil ceremonies and it looks STUNNING. There’s minor problem with noise limitation on bands which put me off a little (combined with the price) but you can have free rein to use your own caterers/bar/etc. The Great Hall in the Barn can seat up to 120 people on long tables or 150 on round tables. It also has beautiful flagstone flooring throughout. Adjacent to the Great Hall is Monks’ Bar and the dance room, which has ample room for a DJ.
4. Herons Barn, Pangbourne, Berkshire
Herons Barn is a gorgeous tithe barn set within the picturesque grounds of a working farm near Pangbourne in West Berkshire. The beautiful barn has exposed oak beams, opens onto a large courtyard and sits adjacent to the farmhouse with manicured lawns and picturesque gardens. It also has surrounding paddocks and woodland. You are tied, I believe, to their caterers but they seemed to be pretty happy to accommodate most requests and there is accommodation on site.
5. Lilibrooke Manor, Maidenhead, Berkshire
This barn in Cox Green, just outside Maidenhead is just gorgeous and has capacity for up to 170 guests with numerous room for different entertaining options. They have preferred caterers but offer a 10% discount for guests with a local hotel.
6. Ufton Court, Ufton Nervet, Berkshire
Set in beautiful grounds, Ufton Court has a Tithe Barn and Archer’s Hall, both of which are included in hire, and full use of the grounds. They also don’t charge corkage on wine so you can bring your own!
7. Fison Barn, Wittenham Clumps, Oxfordshire
Fison Barn is a stunning and beautifully maintained nineteenth century barn in Oxfordshire offering you complete flexibility to organise the catering, decoration and entertainment exactly as you want it. They are really serious about sustainability and have an eco-friendly biomass boiler providing under floor heating during winter, they harvest rain water for the toilets and the solar panels generate greenhouse-free electricity. Accommodating up to 100 guests hire includes exclusive use of Fison Barn, Poem Tree Barn and the Courtyard.
8. Combe Manor, Hungerford, Berkshire
Combe Manor offers the hire of two great barns (arranged in an L-shape) with a moveable stage in the angle makes for a very flexible space that can accommodate up to 150 guests. There is also a church right nearby or the more religiously inclined. They also don’t charge corkage and will even chill your wine down for you a few days beforehand!
9. The Olde Bell, Hurley, Berkshire
A pub set in the village of Hurley, The Olde Bell has in its grounds a historic beamed Tithe Barn & a Victorian Malt House, both of which are licensed to hold civil ceremonies. The Tithe Barn can hold 120 guests and the Malt House can seat 40 guests. The venue do have a preferred list of suppliers but there is accommodation on site.
10. Old Luxters Barn, Hambleden, Oxfordshire
Old Luxters Barn is actually only just up the road from the venue we did choose, set within the unique award-winning Chiltern Valley Vineyard. The circa 17th century converted barn can seat up to 100 guests and offers a reception hall, bar area and a raised gallery with DJ console. The beautifully secluded garden also makes an ideal space for a marquee. They have a catering partner which you do have to use but this place is EXQUISITE (just waaaaayyyyy too expensive for us!).
Hopefully that’s been even a little bit helpful in assisting you in making a decision about your wedding venue, or at least gathering enough information to get a short list/be informed. If you have any questions at all about any of this (or would like something not based in a Shire – I’ve got some South west and Midlands based venues saved, this is just a fraction of my research) then let me know!