Be optimistic and realistic and it will feel like the right choice.

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Last time we asked the expert, wedding planner Josh Tully how to haggle with wedding suppliers. This week we’re starting right from the very beginning with tips and advice on finding a venue.

So, how many venues should you see before choosing the right one?

Try not to overdo it as you’ll lose sight of what you’re looking for. If you view too many you’ll become confused, think about what matters the most to you whether it’s the location, theme or overall space.

What constraints do you need to think about with venues?

Capacity: How many people can fit for the wedding service, drinks reception, wedding breakfast and evening entertainment? Try and keep your guests together as much as possible, especially if you have small numbers. You don’t want guests wandering around and it’s always better to fill one room than have multiple empty rooms!

Accommodation: Are there rooms on site and if not, is there transport? Are they all of equal standards? You can’t make everyone happy but you can certainly try, especially if you plan on charging guests to stay the night. Make sure that check in and out times are reasonable so guests don’t feel under pressure with timings, especially if they’re travelling far.

Restrictions: Is there a cut off time for music and alcohol? Are there restrictions with live music? Check that the venue has all the capabilities for power with lighting and entertainment and that the kitchen is big enough for catering. One way around this is family-style sharing plates if there’s no room to plate up beforehand.

Vibe: Visit the venue for dinner or drinks beforehand to get a feel of the service, this is a great way of assessing whether the vibe fits with your wedding. Also try to view the venue during day and night to see the lighting, it may be completely different in summer versus winter. (For a winter wedding, ask: Do the lights dim? Can you have candles and exposed flames? And for a summer wedding: Do the doors and windows open? How much natural light is there? Can you use fire pits outside? Can there be live music outside and what are the timings?)

Food & Drink: Ensure the food is to your liking with a menu tasting, and check that you’re happy with the wine they serve – from experience, corkage works out to be more expensive. Ask if you’re allowed to source any of this to bring down costs.


What extra costs could be added onto venue hire?

Request a full cost breakdown so you can work out what is important for you. Some venues will allow to take off some costs but others may not allow your own suppliers within a package. Other hidden costs can include linen hire, cutlery, prop hire, corkage, cleaning afterwards and more.

Many venues include accommodation within the package which is a great way to make some money – it’s totally fair for you to charge guests to stay the night. To keep it simple you can charge a flat rate for similar-sized rooms or ask guests to book directly with the venue. This way those who can afford the bigger rooms can do so and you can always then subsidise rooms for the wedding party.

Are there any legal bits we need to think of?

Venues need a music license, alcohol license and marriage license for specific rooms, not the venue as a whole. Ask which areas of the venue are licensed for marriage and ensure that the alcohol license works with your party plans! See if there’s disabled access (if needed) and, although it’s not something we like to think about, it’s good to know what happens if the wedding doesn’t go ahead. You never know and you’ll want to make sure you’re covered in any case.

What weather constraints could there be?

It’s risky to plan a summer wedding outside for 200 people, when the venue only fits 90 inside. It’s annoying, but it’s best to plan two weddings – one for outdoors in the sun, and a rainy indoors one. Check that whatever you plan outside can be moved indoors if it’s a wash out. We do get amazingly hot summer days so don’t forget about shade – especially for gents in suits – it’s uncomfortable to stand in the blazing sun with that much clothing!


What can I do if the venue isn’t licensed for ceremonies?

You can take care of the legalities elsewhere beforehand at a courthouse or town hall, and then hold a blessing anywhere you like for friends and family. This can be a beautiful way of sharing your love with guests as it’s totally customised to the couple.

What are the main questions I need to ask with a venue?

– What’s included in the wedding package and what do I need to organise?
– Can we use our own suppliers?
– Can we customise the menu options?
– Is there a corkage charge?
– Are these prices including VAT?
– How does the room booking process work? What are the individual room rates?
– Are these prices estimates or minimum spends quoted? E.g. Bar tab – if you don’t spend this much is it deducted, refunded, lost?

If the venue doesn’t offer a package, make sure you’re fully aware of supplier restrictions to try and keep costs down. Check if you’re able to hang fairy lights as this may not be allowed. It’s always best to have a rough idea of what you’d like to do with the space to know whether it will work.

I’m in love with a venue but there are so many constraints, I’m not sure it’s the right decision – what do I do?

The venue should simply fit with what you imagine it to be. Don’t change what you want otherwise you’ll jeopardise what’s important to you. That said, you should be able to compromise at the same time. Before visiting venues, have an idea of guest numbers, style and theme so you can make an informed choice – you won’t want a glitzy hotel room if you’re planning a rustic festival wedding.

The right venue will simply fit with your plans and vision, changing too much of the venue only costs you money. Everyone worries about the venue and whether guests will like it… but if you love it, so will they.

Remember that this is your day and with enough notice your loved ones will make it no matter what – they won’t want to miss your big day! Be optimistic and realistic and it will feel like the right choice.

When is it OK to haggle with wedding suppliers?

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When is it OK to haggle with wedding suppliers?

It’s always OK to at least try and haggle with your suppliers, however you don’t want to seem pushy and offend them before your big day. Keep them on your side and positive to make the big day amazing.

When is it OK to ask for a discount with suppliers?

We all want the best deal to save money when planning a wedding, but really think about the product. For example, a bespoke wedding gown requires hours of time, professional skill and material so there probably isn’t much wiggle room. There are ways that isn’t necessarily asking for a huge discount (and therefore respected) such as asking for free alterations or veil to go with the dress. The worst that could happen is hearing “No”.


If I can’t haggle, should I look elsewhere?

Not necessarily, think about how you can use something more than once, for example, re-use the flowers and candles for the church in the reception venue. You can ask a friend or someone at the venue to take care of this and no one will notice. All ceremony decorations are only required for a short amount of time so you may as well make the most of it.

Other ways to save money can be achieved at home such as making stationery, the favours or decorations and it adds a personal touch. Ultimately it’s about striking the balance of what you’ll enjoy doing yourself and how much time you have. You don’t want to add stress so starting earlier is always better!

Who can you haggle with and who shouldn’t you try it with?

Be respectful. If something is handmade then it might be pricey but it’s their livelihood, but if it’s a bigger company then they’ll mark up things like booking a band or ordering food and drink. Will your guests know the difference between prosecco or champagne? Can you buy larger quantities at cheaper prices and pour them into pretty dispensers? Think about where you can save – it all adds up!

Wedding photography prices can usually be haggled (they will hate me for saying that!) but the big one is venues, there’s always room for movement with bedrooms and venue hire. Research discounts at different times of the year to know whether they may be able to budge and ask if the hotel offers bulk room booking discounts.


How much can you haggle? What discount can you get away with?

It really depends on the supplier but if a middle man is involved, there will always be room for a cheeky 10% off. Also remember that prices differ based on region (suppliers will be more expensive in London), the time of year (summer weddings are very popular) and the amount of time before your wedding – some might want a quick sale if it’s soon, others might charge more to work quickly.

Build relationships with your suppliers as soon as possible, you can build up a good rapport and they’ll be more likely to help ease the stress. Don’t be surprised how much weddings can cost, but always keep in mind questions like ‘Will my guests notice this?’ and ‘Will this be something they remember forever?’. If the answer is yes, you’ll know that it’s worth every penny.

Delivery distance means higher costs but sometimes you won’t be able to find someone closer to your venue so bear this in mind. Suppliers will charge to make it worth their while, especially if it’s more than an hour’s drive.

So in summary…

  • Be respectful
  • Try not to break ties if they say no
  • Think about other ways you can save if a discount isn’t available
  • Bear in mind how something is priced
  • It doesn’t hurt to ask!