Choosing a wedding venue

Choose something that suits your style, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Consider things like proximity to accommodation for guests, on site facilities and access for catering. These are a few of the tips I’m certain you can find all over the internet on various wedding blogs, and they are all really important things to think about.

From a photographers perspective:

Don’t be afraid to pick a place your photographer hasn’t shot at before, this can allow them to be creative and scout new and interesting locations to make your photos epic. 

Most people wait to book their photographer until confirming the venue. However, it is worth considering asking your photographer to assist with deciding on the venue, it’s likely they’ve at least visited if they haven’t worked there before. Your photographer’s perspective on a venue can be very different to yours and they will be able to help you work through issues like, space around the ceremony site to get the best angles, where the sun is, if it’s an outdoor wedding. In the reception the biggest issue I normally come across is the lighting but it is often very hard to get between and around tables. This can really restrict the types of photos you will receive and are all things to consider. When it comes to space, if you really fall in love with a venue it’s a good idea to refine your guest list so you aren’t filling the room to capacity, it is also nice to be able to give your guests room to move as well. 

Let’s start with the ceremony. If you have any chance to be totally wild and creative with location for any part of your wedding day, it definitely leans towards the ceremony. The ceremony is the business end of the wedding day, the intimate part where you make the promises and have your loved ones witness. There aren’t really any rules when it comes to a ceremony – it really is about you two and that gives you the luxury to literally do anything! Some of the things you may want to consider for your site are:

  • You only need limited power, maybe to run a speaker for music or the celebrant, however, most celebrants have their own portable battery run speakers that can take care of that issue. 
  • You may need a table to put post ceremony drinks on and someone serving, or guests could serve themselves. 
  • Somewhere to dispose of those drinks or return glassware.
  • Access to set up chairs and arch, or everyone could just gather around you if your vibe is more casual.

There really are plenty of ways you can build a completely stress-free hilltop ceremony, especially in New Zealand. As I said earlier, I one hundred thousand percent recommend you chat to your photographer before you decide on a location. They will be able to point you in the right direction for where the sun/view is for the right time of day etc. I have turned up to site visits or even sometimes on the day of the wedding and realised that all the guests are going to be shaded by some trees but the couple are in the full sun, or vice-versa and that makes things really tricky from a photographers perspective. Its something we can 100% work with, however, it can make your images look really inconsistent or messy in a gallery/album. Most of the time these things aren’t a huge deal, but they can have an impact.

Now for the reception venue! More and more venue locations have al fresco style dining as an option. There is something so magical about dinner under a few strings of festoon lights while the sun sets and it would sure make your day unforgettable for your guests. A key thing to remember with this option is having a wedding day coordinator is going to help everything run super smoothly, especially if the weather turns. They can get their team to flip the setting inside while you’re taking photos in cocktail hour to ease any stress. I think for any venue co-ordination and communication between catering team and venue/co-ordinator/MC is really important. There are so many variables on the day that can cause you to run behind schedule (most of which starts at the getting ready stage, but that’s for another blog!!), if you have the right team on for the reception and someone who is there to co-ordinate with all the vendors, then everything should run to plan even if you’re late back from photos or your ceremony runs over time. When it comes to picking a venue, the first questions you should ask should be based around budget, capacity, catering and co-ordination. From there you can craft something that is practical, suiting all your needs and also fits your style as a couple.

As I mentioned above, from a photographers perspective there are certain aspects of reception venues that work, or can present a challenge. One of the biggest ones comes to how many seated guests you are fitting into the space. I have, all too often, found that a couple have fallen in love with a venue and end up having to absolutely squeeeeeeeze everyone in. For a start, no guest wants to be jammed into their table with no room to stretch their legs or wander around and chat. To add to that, your photographer won’t be able to walk around and capture peoples reactions to your dad’s hilarious speech or your aunt crying when you tell all your guests how much you appreciate them being there to celebrate with you. Space is key, and that is a huge factor for your venue. Another important point is lighting, natural light coming through windows or skylights is great and once the sun goes down adequate lighting for people to be able to see their food and a photographer to capture the evening without interrupting you all with their flash! These are questions you can ask when you visit the venue too!

Just a few notes… I hope that helped! Obviously you can make it all as complicated or easy as you want, if you hire a planner they’ll take care of these kinds of aspects! But if you are planning your day yourself keep in mind that you can make the ceremony site yours, there aren’t any rules. And with the reception venue, space is key!