Reception Venues

You can have your wedding reception pretty much anywhere these days. Whether you want a marquee in the garden or a medieval castle, here are some things to think about… MARQUEES I […]

You can have your wedding reception pretty much anywhere these days. Whether you want a marquee in the garden or a medieval castle, here are some things to think about…

MARQUEES

I am a huge fan of marquees. They require the greatest amount of work but they are the most customisable type of wedding venue. You have to create everything from scratch but as a result you can make it look exactly as you want it to. Also, your marquee will be unique to your wedding. You’ll almost certainly be at the family home which feels great and most importantly you wont feel like you are ‘just another wedding’.

I seem to shoot more and more marquee weddings and I think that one of the main reasons for this is that the quality of the marquees has improved enormously over the last few years. They are more like semi-permanent structures these days. They are well heated (or cooled) and as a result are a real option all year round.

Having said all that, the main reason why I love a marquee wedding is the atmosphere that they create. Your guests can’t go anywhere. They have to stay in or around the marquee and that creates a great look and feel. There are no distractions so everyone concentrates on the wedding which is exactly what you want.

One of the benefits of the improvements in the quality of the marquees is that many venues now offer a marquee wedding using the house and gardens as a backdrop. This can often be the best of both worlds. You get a customisable marquee but it’s not in your back garden.

I love marquee weddings and would recommend that you seriously consider it if you are even half inclined towards one.

HOTELS

Hotels are always popular. You benefit from dedicated staff, often beautiful buildings and grounds and, most importantly, the option for you and your guests to stay the night. There are some issues though. The best venues will work hard to make it feel like you are the only wedding they are having that year. All popular wedding hotels will have at least one or two weddings every weekend. That’s why you may have had to book your wedding so far in advance. As it becomes more popular to deviate from weekends the number of weddings that hotels can accommodate is only increasing. Some can even do more than one wedding on one day. Understanding that, in the nicest possible way, you arejust another wedding is an important issue to get your head around. The good thing about this is that you will have a wedding coordinator and staff at the hotel who know what they are doing (hopefully). Here are some other things to consider…

  • Avoid venues where there will be another wedding at there on the same day. Multiple weddings at one venue will just feel wrong. I shot a wedding recently where the couple had no idea that not just one, but 2 other weddings were taking place in the hotel on the same day as theirs. They didn’t find out until they arrived back from the church. Not great. You can pay for exclusive use but it’s not cheap. You might be better off finding another venue altogether.
  • Guests staying the night is great but beware. If you pad out the evening with enough time for people to head back to their rooms any atmosphere created by the meal and speeches will be destroyed by people heading back to their rooms for an hour. Sometimes unavoidable but worth thinking about it. See this post for more info.
  • Relax and be guided by the hotel staff. Once you’ve accepted that they have done loads of weddings before this will really help you let it all go and you’ll be free to enjoy yourself fully.
  • If you have a large number of people (over 150) there aren’t many hotels that can easily cater for you all. Your only option might be a hotel with large conference facilities. This means your wedding might feel a bit corporate. If that’s ok with you then fine.
  • Your party can often go on really late in a hotel!

BARN CONVERSIONS

Many farms are diversifying and converting their old barns and outbuildings into fantastic wedding venues. I shoot more and more weddings in such venues and some are among my favourites. These are often set in beautiful locations and are beautiful buildings in their own right. The only thing you might want to consider is that some are just one big room. If the weather isnt great then everyone will be standing around amongst the tables etc thus taking away the wow factor. It’s a small point really. In general these barns are great places to get married and have a great party. A lot even have another part where the bride and bridesmaids can get ready and/or where the bride and groom can stay that night.

OTHER VENUES

Art galleries, private clubs, old power stations – you really can find an unusual venue if you look hard and are brave about breaking the mold slightly. Have a look at this wedding shot at The Wapping Project in London. It is an old hydraulic pumping station that has been converted into a restaurant and art gallery. The couple concerned had no say over how the gallery area (where they had their drinks) looked. It just happened that the installation involved a few rows of cinema seats, a massive screen showing a french film with no sound and about 4 inches of chalk rubble on the floor. They have left loads of the old heavy machinery in the restaurant and the effect is fantastic. It is a great place for a wedding and hats of the Michael and Candice for being brave enough to go for it.

I shot another wedding recently where the reception and wedding breakfast was in a bar under an office block by the canal in Leeds. It was, shall we say, small but perfectly formed. The atmos was great and pie and mash always goes down well! The location also made form some great night time shots too.