Choosing your venue should be the very first thing you do when you begin wedding planning. Once you find your dream location and sign on the dotted line, that’s when the excitement really kicks in, as every other decision you make stems from it.

To help you make the right decision, I’ve prepared this guide with some tips to help you on your way when you start your search.

I hope you find it useful, and don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything I can help you with.

Start with Google

This could be the first time you’ve ever searched for venues like this, so you need to have a look to see what’s out there. The first time you look I guarantee you’ll feel slightly overwhelmed as you’ll be spoilt for choice, but if you have a style in mind it’ll help you narrow down your search so you can book some viewings. As a starting point, search for keywords like hotels, barns or “rustic”, quirky or castle wedding venues and take note which you’re more drawn to.

Rule out alternative styles

If you think you have your heart set on a traditional barn-style venue, make a point of booking to visit at least one other venue that you’re not as sure about, say a hotel or country house. You could be surprised how your taste could change once you see it, or if you still rather your first choice, at least you can go ahead with it and be confident that you won’t wonder “what if” down the line.

Book to view the venue

Email the venues to book a viewing with their wedding planner or event coordinator and prepare some questions beforehand. Remember to ask them when their next available wedding dates are so you know how long you might have to wait if you do decide to book. Some venues could have up to a two year waiting list.

Stick to your budget

I always say choose one thing that you don’t mind going over budget for, and try to keep within budget for everything else. For some people, they want the perfect venue, for others it’s the best flowers or a standout dress. Weddings are expensive and it can be difficult to do it all, so have a budget in mind for your venue and try to stick to it so your overall wedding budget doesn’t escalate.

Get penciled in for a viewing

Choosing your venue is a huge decision. If you’re unsure and need to sleep on it, ask the wedding coordinator to pencil you in for your preferred date and tell them that you’ll let them know your decision asap. They may need a decision from you if someone else requests the date, but it’ll give you another day or two to mull it over.

Consider the location

It’s important to consider that not everyone may live in the same area as you or your partner. If you’d like to keep travelling to a minimum on your wedding day, choose a venue that’s close enough for yourselves, your family and the majority of your guests.

Last but not least, the weather!

I truly believe we have world-class venues here in Northern Ireland and there are some absolutely stunning outdoor ceremony spaces that can make it feel like you’re getting married somewhere in Sicily, if the weather plays ball. If you have your heart set on an outdoor wedding, some venues have coverings so the rain won’t get in the way, like Finnebrogue Woods or Lissanoure Castle. Venues that have both indoor and outdoor spaces can do a quick turnaround if there’s a change of plan due to the weather. Relax and let your planner or coordinator take the lead on it.