It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of finding the right wedding venue. Until you book your venue, your wedding is a blank canvas and it’s almost impossible to make any major decisions around it. Your wedding venue will determine the vibe and style of your wedding, as well as the location and budget, so it’s important to choose wisely. Once you settle on a wedding venue, the space dictates pretty much everything else about your big day, from food to photography, even down to what you wear.
Choosing your wedding venue is always a tricky task, but it’s made much easier by first deciding on the style of party you’re after, and the kind of vibe you want to create – believe us, it’s the only part your guests will still remember on your silver wedding anniversary! To help with the wedding venue search, we’ve put together a list of the five main wedding venue options, listing the pros and cons of each. Once you’ve settled on the kind of wedding you want, our handy guide below will help you narrow things down! But remember: each wedding venue is different. There are pubs that offer package deals and hotels that operate like exclusive hire venues so we’ve made a lot of generalisations here, but hopefully our guide will help steer you and your partner in how to choose the right wedding venue.
The Two Big Wedding Venue Questions
Before you start researching wedding venues, organise a sit-down chat with your other half, in which you brainstorm ideas for your wedding day and (hopefully!) settle on the kind of party you want to throw. We have lots of great posts on the early stages of wedding planning and working out which style of wedding is for you, but there are two main questions that you need to answer first:
1. How many guests you are going to have?
Determine the ballpark number of guests before even thinking about drawing up a list of potential venues. If you’re planning on having more than 200 guests, for example, your venue search will be hugely restricted by that number. Roughly speaking, for weddings with more than 150 guests, you will probably end up in a hotel, an exclusive hire venue or marquee, and for weddings smaller than 50, a private venue or restaurant will work best. Unless you’re planning on getting married very soon, we recommend you decide on the number of guests you’d like to have in an ideal world.
2. How hands-on do you intend to be?
If you want to minimise the stress and hassle of wedding planning, then marquee hire or exclusive hire venue are probably not a good fit – a hotel wedding, in which an in-house wedding planner does much of the heavy lifting, will suit you best. If, on the other hand, you plan on overseeing every little detail yourself, an exclusive hire venue or marquee wedding are right up your street.
Hotel Wedding Venue
Traditionally, planning a wedding in Ireland was pretty easy – you booked the local hotel and the local church and you were done! While couples are getting more adventurous and creative in their choice of wedding venue, and mode of celebration, there are still lots of reasons why a hotel might be your perfect choice.
- Package Deals: Hotels that cater for lots of weddings usually offer competitive packages, making budgeting so much easier.
- In-house wedding coordinator: There’s someone to organise all the nitty gritty of the day for you.
- Trust: A respected venue with a great reputation means that you can be confident in your choice.
- Accommodation: It’s available on site for most, if not all, of your guests.
- Recommendations: Most venues can provide recommendations for trusted suppliers.
- Less flexibility: You will probably be restricted in your choice of decor, food, wine, etc, and have less time to prepare the room and decorate.
- Packages: These can be expensive and extras can really add up.
- Same old, same old: Hotel function rooms can be bland, so, in some cases, more effort is required to make it personal and modern.
- Supplier restrictions: Some venues insist on couples only using certain suppliers.
Exclusive Hire Wedding Venue
An increasingly popular choice among couples is the exclusive hire venue, which works really well for those planning a formal(ish) dinner and dancing-style wedding, but who don’t want a hotel. Exclusive hire wedding venues in Ireland are so diverse – each one offers something really unique.
- Privacy: As you are the only group of guests, you’ll have all the intimacy of a private event.
- Wow Factor: Private venues are often beautiful and unusual places with character.
- Personal touch: A private venue is usually operated by the owner directly, and only hosts a few weddings a year, so you have a much more personal relationship with the place and people.
- Small: Many private venues are really only suitable for smaller wedding parties within the house itself.
- Expense: For larger wedding parties, marquee hire is often possible, but usually costs extra.
- Planning: Private parties involve more coordination of suppliers so a wedding planner is often necessary.
- Restrictions: An exclusive hire wedding venue is someone else’s property and often their home, so you don’t always have the complete run of the place.
- Accessibility: These are often old country house and protected buildings which might not be adequately adapted for people with additional needs such as wheelchair users.
Marquee and/or Wedding At Home
The ultimate in personalisation, having your wedding in a marquee at home or some other special place is a fantastic option, if you’re lucky enough to have the space and mental energy for it. But be warned that organising a marquee wedding is not for the faint-hearted! It means a lot of hands-on supplier coordination and organisation, but our handy marquee wedding price guide is a great place to start.
- More Personal: Celebrating at home means you and your guests will feel immediately at ease.
- Control: You determine every aspect of your day from decor to suppliers – you can also take a whole week setting up and decorating to your heart’s content if you want to.
- No Restrictions: You can have an open bar and party until 6am, and nobody will tell you to turn off the music (except maybe the neighbours!).
- Budgeting: A marquee wedding is far from cheap, but there is more scope to save money in certain areas.
- Hidden Costs: Unlike a package from a hotel, the costs of a marquee wedding are not clear cut, and may surprise you.
- Weather: Marquees these days are weatherproof, but a rainy day can ruin the look and feel of your garden wedding.
- Intrusion: Your personal space will be invaded by suppliers for days ahead of the wedding.
- Coordinating and Organising: A wedding at home means a lot more work for you as the planner, and you will definitely require a day coordinator to assist with the wedding planning.
Restaurant or Pub Wedding Venues
For the foodie couple who want an intimate and less traditional celebration, a great restaurant or pub is certainly worth considering for the reception. Check out our list of restaurant wedding venues or contact your favourite eatery or bar to see if they accept bookings for private events.
- The Food: Your guests will thank you for this one!
- Atmosphere: The atmosphere is usually more intimate and laid-back.
- Decor: Choosing a beautiful restaurant means wedding décor can be kept to a minimum.
- Wider range of options: More and more restaurants are offering weddings as a service.
- No Accommodation: Guest accommodation is not usually available on-site.
- Location: Good restaurants are usually located in urban centres, so a country wedding might be difficult.
- Early Night: Late licences can be trickier for restaurants.
- No Dance Floor: Space for dancing could be restricted or not available at all.
- Ceremony: A separate ceremony venue is usually necessary – some restaurants will have a suitable space, but not all.
- Less Sense of Occasion: This may not matter to you, but if you’ve dreamed of the big white wedding, a pub probably won’t fit the bill.
- Restricted Numbers: The space might only be able to hold a small number of guests.
DIY Weddings: AKA Whatever You Want
Here at One Fab Day, we don’t believe in conforming to any sort of preset wedding ideas, so it’s possible that you’re already dreaming of an amazing and creative celebration that fits none of the above categories! Whether you’re thinking about of a cliffside ceremony, a picnic reception or a late-night party on the beach, you’ll probably encounter the same pros and cons as having a wedding at home and/or an exclusive hire venue. This means more organisation and planning (and often hidden expenses), but if you and your other half are both passionate about doing something unique, we trust it will turn out fabulously! Look to these epic locations around Ireland for inspiration.
Now all you need is our wedding venue checklist and a copy of our 100 Best Wedding Venues guide which is available to purchase online!