We visited 36 venues before we found the ‘one’. Yep, you read that right thirty six. And must have ruled out many more than that from the pictures online (and the prices!). For three months we spent pretty much every weekend, and evenings after work, trawling the length and breadth of Surrey and Sussex hunting for the venue of our dreams. We looked at stately homes, marquees, National Trust properties, town halls, registry offices, schools, hotels, a sports hall and even a gentleman’s club in Hove that smelt faintly of cigars and cabbage.
I admit, we have been more than a little picky but finding a venue that fit our wish list and very difficult. So what exactly where we looking for?
A venue that was:
Under one roof
We knew we wanted a civil ceremony and one of the benefits is being able to host your ceremony and reception in one place so you don’t have to organise transport and your guests can relax and enjoy the day.
Space for the clan
We both have large families so we wanted a venue with space for at least 100+ so we could invite everybody we loved. There were a lot of very beautiful venues that were just a bit too bijou.
Location, location, location
Our search area was quite wide as we looked for a venue anywhere between Brighton and Farnham, which didn’t help. However we were shocked by how few Brighton options there were especially when we excluded the hotel chains. So we focused more in west sussex and surrey= expensive.
The second venue we looked at, a stately home with a stately price tag, wanted to charge us a small fortune to stand out in a leaky marquee while they turned the (very small but ludicrously expensive) room around. We wanted space for our guests to relax and enjoy themselves. Two rooms was a must.
The great British summer. NOT!
My romantic/hippy side was enchanted by beautifully shot images of couples exchanging vows in forests, on beaches and in gardens. Luckily my more practical other half reminded me that we lived in the UK so a) had to get married under a fixed roof and b) we didn’t want to add worrying about the marquee flooding to our list of wedding anxieties.
A secret garden
However, even if sunshine couldn’t be guaranteed we both wanted green space outdoors just in case the weather gods blessed us. My mum would have loved a cool Brighton rocks wedding at a boutique hotel by the sea. Although I toyed with the idea I knew it just wasn’t us.
This was the hardest to tell from grainy photos on the internet but we knew, normally within the first few minutes, whether a place had the right atmosphere. One beautiful 1930s house was perfect in everyway, except for the decor: a glitter ball, tiger print couches and electric pink wallpaper. At the other end of the scale we saw a lot of stark barns, which other people had made look amazing but our decorating and flower budget was almost non-existent. We wanted a place that was light, beautiful but not too grand, without us having to do anything to it. The type of place where we and our guests could feel comfortable.
Three months on…
Three months and thirty six venues later, there were only two serious contenders in the running, and only one we could really see ourselves getting married in. Funnily enough it was the first place we looked at a 16th century family home set in beautiful grounds with a large hall and beautiful drawing room.
But there was an issue, namely the price. Not only was the venue hire at the top end of our budget, the very expensive caterers (the only ones the venue would allow us to use) wanted to charge us £47 per head for two courses, not including VAT, waitress hire, linens etc. All of these extra costs meant that we would have been way over budget.
As we negotiated with the caterers, our doubts mounted. The owners forgot appointments and we turned up to find the Hall empty and shuttered. We heard on the grapevine that family friends had booked their wedding and had been double booked. Costs continued to mount: if we wanted to music we had to pay for their expensive approved DJ.
I was ready to walk away but the Boy said we should give them one last chance. That Saturday, we arranged to meet up with the owners and the caterers. ‘If you or the caterer can’t make it,’ I asked the owner ‘please let me know as we are making the trip especially’. When we turned up at the venue found out the caterers weren’t able to come and the owners hadn’t bothered to ring us. It was the last straw.
Three months into our hunt: we were tired; we exhausted after wasting our weekends (and our petrol); and we were more than a little disheartened.
But we had one more appointment that afternoon, our 37th venue…
To be continued