Caroline Gould, wedding and events manager at Suffolk Food Hall, simplifies the daunting process of choosing your wedding venue

If you’ve just got engaged, let me be one of the first to say congratulations! Once you get over the extra weight you’re now carrying around on your left hand you will at some point ask yourself ‘where do I actually start?’. Visiting wedding fayres, open days (make sure you pencil in 13th March 2016 at Suffolk Food Hall) and buying wedding magazines can be great inspiration for your wedding but can also be very overwhelming as you quickly realise there is so much choice when it comes to planning a wedding.

One of the first things you need to do is set a realistic budget. You may have some money put aside for your special day, but now is the time to think about how much you feel is reasonable to spend on all the elements of your wedding, and ensure you have at least five percent put aside as a contingency. It may also be worth setting up a dedicated wedding bank account to start saving. If you set your budget right from the start, it will be much easier to stick to it.

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You can expect to spend around 40 percent of your budget on your reception so finding the right venue is an important choice – here are a few things to consider: How many guests? It will be difficult to book a venue (and ultimately set a date) if you don’t know how many people will be attending. Some venues will only be licensed up to a certain number and you don’t want to cram all of your guests in. Likewise, you wouldn’t want your 60 guests to be lost in a room big enough for 300. Some venues are more suitable for spending lots of time outside; likewise, there are venues that have a beautiful interior that you will want to enjoy (luckily Suffolk Food Hall has both!). When looking around venues, be sure to ask what the alternatives are to outside spaces if the weather is bad.

Do you want the ceremony and reception to be in the same location? A lot of venues have a civil ceremony licence so the choice for your ceremony location is very wide. If you wish to marry in a church then it’s unlikely that you will have a reception venue within walking distance. However, there are some venues that have a church within their grounds. Although we don’t have a ceremony licence here at Suffolk Food Hall we do have Wherstead Church a short walk away up the lane.

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Where are guests coming from? Locations that are closer to home are much easier to liaise with. If your venue is an hour’s drive from home, you will need to factor that in to your ‘getting ready’ time on the day. If a lot of your guests are based far away from the venue it may be prudent to provide some transport.

Is accommodation available? You may want to stay at the venue on the wedding night or even get ready there on the day; ask to see the honeymoon suite so you know what to expect. If accommodation is available for guests, find out if you can hold a number of rooms to ensure your guests get the accommodation they need.

What style is the venue? Is it a country house, converted barn, stately home, or a modern hotel? The style of the venue needs to complement the overall style of the wedding. A vintage style wedding would be much better suited to a country house or marquee venue than a modern hotel.

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Are there in-house caterers? Venues often have in-house caterers that you will have to use. However some venues allow you to bring in your own caterer. Though bear in mind that this means you will need to choose yet another supplier!

Can they recommend suppliers? We’re lucky at Suffolk Food Hall as we have some fabulous resources under our own roof! The Outrageous Cake Company are based within The Cookhouse and we also have a cookery school which is a great place to hold your hen or stag party. My personal background is in wedding planning and I have been in the industry for over 10 years. During that time I have built up lots of local contacts so we can happily recommend suppliers that meet your needs and most importantly your budget.

Remember that popular venues and popular dates (i.e. Saturdays in the summer) can get booked well in advance so the sooner you start looking the better.

Contact the events team at Suffolk Food Hall on 01473 786618 or email
events@suffolkfoodhall.co.uk to arrange a free, no obligation tour of the venue and a chat about your wedding plans in further detail.