In August 2011, James and Rox got married. Throughout their 18-month engagement, James blogged for Y&YW about his experiences as an enthusiastic fiancé. Now married, he’s obviously had to shed his H2B status. So James re-joins us in his brand new role as Groom With a View. Same guy, just a little more under the thumb. Every month James will be tackling the big wedding topics from the man’s perspective. So grab your own impending grooms and get them to tune in. You’ll thank us girls – they might learn something.

Throughout the wedding planning process, you’ll find that there are few decisions that can be taken in complete isolation. The majority of choices will overlap with one or more aspects of your wedding, so you’ll have to consider other factors before making up your mind. For example, it’s normal to ensure the bridesmaids’ dresses are relevant to the overall colour theme. The only obvious exception to this rule is the wedding dress itself.

The choice of dress is down to the bride alone. No collaboration, no compromise, no discussion! The choice of reception venue, however, should certainly be a joint one, and one made in conjunction with some other key decisions. It’s incredible how many unusual venues cater for weddings these days. Rox and I found everything from castles to garden centres, and from nightclubs to farms. There are also loads of beautiful hotels that do weddings, but none of them really hit the spot for us.

Without wishing to suck all of the fun out of the process, it helps to develop some sifting criteria. Location, price and capacity are good places to start. Once you’ve got a list of places that fall into these broad categories, then you can start narrowing them down even further. So first of all, figure out roughly where in the world you want to get married. Rox and I knew we wanted to get married somewhere near The Midlands, so we fired up our laptops and just started Googling.

Most of us have a price limit, so one really important thing to remember when considering your budget is the cost of the in-house packages. Sadly, the mark-up on food and drink at wedding venues is often pretty steamy. This will have a significant impact on the affordability of a venue. The venue itself might be within budget, but the food and drink may put it out of reach.

If you find this is the case, then it might be worth searching for venues that allow you to source your own suppliers. It’s a little more work for you, but venues of this type typically have a list of recommended suppliers, and more often than not they’re significantly less expensive than the in-house equivalent. Alternatively, if your budget is really tight, you may need to go cap-in-hand to someone you know who owns a big garden to see if they wouldn’t mind hosting.

Of course some couples already know where they want their wedding receptions before they’ve even got engaged! It may be that they have a special connection to a certain place, or perhaps they’ve been to another wedding somewhere before and fallen in love with it. This might seem like the easiest route because it means one less decision to make. But it can be dangerous to set your heart on something before you’ve found out how much it costs. As unromantic as it sounds, try not to let your heart rule your head. You might like Buckingham Palace, but you’re not a Royal so be realistic.

I have to confess though, Rox and I fell right into this trap. We stumbled across our dream venue in Shropshire but blatantly couldn’t afford it. We then made the fatal mistake of actually visiting the venue and that was it – we were screwed! It was way over our budget, but that made no difference whatsoever. We’d found ‘the one’, so we just had to figure out how to afford it. The equation was simple; either we had to get some money knocked-off the hire cost or we’d have to chop the guest list in half. Chopping the guest list would’ve been fine if I thought I could’ve got away with cutting out Rox’s side of the family, but no such luck I’m afraid!

Fortunately, the owners of the place that we fell in love with were wonderfully sympathetic, and were able to help make it more affordable for us. God knows what we’d have done if they hadn’t been willing to negotiate. BYO food and booze perhaps!

To hear more about James' search for the perfect wedding venue, click here

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