This is it: you have shortlisted a number of venues you love the style of, you have gotten in touch with the venue owners and saved all the details on capacity, availability, rates and more. Now is time to actually go and see them for real before you make your choice!
Visiting potential wedding venues can be exciting and daunting all at the same time. What should you look at, which questions should you ask, how much time should you allocate to each visit, are all very valid questions.
We coordinate the venues visits for our couples, we have been through this numerous times, and we are more than happy to share the lessons learned along the way…
Lesson 1: Prepare
There is nothing worse than being on a little countryside road with bad reception and not having the address or contact details of the venue you are looking for handy!
Before you leave, make note of all your appointment times, along with full address and phone numbers. At least of your sat nav is lost, you can call to ask for help (and advise that you are running late…).
Lesson 2: Plan enough time
Very often couples have a fair list of venues to see and a short amount of free time to see them all.
Sometimes brides and grooms-to-be travelling to France from abroad do not realise the distances in France. It does look quite small on a map, but you could drive 3 hours between one part of the south of France and another…
Also, if you are scouting venues in winter, do bear in mind that the sun sets early… and there isn’t much point visiting a location in the dark!
So our rule is: no more than 3 (maximum 4) venues per day. Visiting 3 venues in one day means you will have an early start and could be finished by 5pm. That is your 9 to 5 done! You should plan to spend about 1 hour to 1,5 hour at each venue, depending on the size of the grounds. That is only 4,5 hours together, but do not underestimate the travel in between venues time!
Some venues will be producing wine and you may want to take the opportunity to have a little tasting or bring a couple bottles back to taste at home… Make sure you plan the adequate time in the schedule.
Lesson 3: Do not forget to eat
You could of course go from venue to venue and eat a sandwich in the car. That would be a shame though. First because, while you are in France, and even though you are on a mission, you might as well make a nice weekend of it and enjoy the local restaurants! Second, stopping for lunch or a snack is a great way to discover what is around the venues you are considering for your wedding. Are there many options? Is the local town or village lovely? Could you spot some hotels or B&Bs on the way?
Do not forget that your guests will travel a long way to attend your wedding, it is important you choose a location that is convenient and enjoyable!
Lesson 4: Less is more
Less visits, more quality. There is little point trying to see 10 venues over 1 weekend. You will only end up frustrated running from one venue to the other, and very tired.
Instead, do your homework: Draw a list of your main criteria (location, distance to airport, accommodation on site, pool, budget, style,…) and see how all the venues you have shortlisted do against these. Your aim should be to shortlist 3 to 5 that you will go and visit in France. If you have been clear on your criteria and honest with your shortlist, it is unlikely there will be more than 5 venues that really match your wishes and needs.
Lesson 5: Ask (yourselves) the right questions
Visiting venues serves several purposes:
- Confirming the state of the venue from the photos you have seen (is it as well maintained as it looked on photographs)
- Confirming the spaces and layout works for you, your numbers, your crowd. For example, are the bedrooms on site of the right standard for your guests who will be staying there with you? Are the spaces large enough to hold a ceremony, a cocktail reception and a dinner?
- Having a feel of the owner or manager. Do they seem to care about what you are after? About the maintenance of their property?
- Checking the surroundings: Are there any reason to worry about mosquitos in the summer? Are there sufficient accommodation options around? Are the surroundings nice? Is the view the same as on the photos?
You may fall in love with a venue that looks picture perfect, but make sure to look at the bigger picture.
Lesson 6: Don’t forget to have fun
You are in France for the weekend! Why not make the most of it and plan for a nice evening out in a great restaurant, book a luxury hotel to rest after a long day of visits, have a couples massage, or maybe plan an activity of some sort that you may want to suggest to your guests on your wedding website?