How to Choose the Right Venue

August 5, 2012 in Julie Dawson - Wedding Planning Expert, Wedding Tips by JenniBush


Look around and Ask Questions.

  • Walk around the venue and get a feel for the atmosphere. Most brides I have spoken to feel really comfortable and at home in a venue as soon as they walk inside. You and your new husband will be spending the very first hours of being married here with the most important people in your life so it should definitely be a place you feel comfortable in.


  • Ensure you get a warm welcome and that the person who sees you is on time and expecting you. This will give you an idea of their customer service and organisation. Timing is important on your big day so you want to know that the staff in the venue appreciates that.


  • Is everywhere clean and well kept? This will give you an idea of how the venue is maintained. Check out the toilets too!


  • Does the decor fit with your theme? Contemporary modern furniture may not be acceptable if your vision is classic and traditional.


  • The venue staff should be professional but friendly and approachable. You need to feel they will look after you as well as your guests.


  • If your guests are likely to be staying at the venue ask to be shown the bedrooms to check their suitability.


  • Will they offer a group discount you can pass on to your guests? If so how long will they hold the rooms before they need to be booked? Also they should give you a reservation number or ask them how to let your guests know what to ask for when they call to book a room. (You can put this information in the invitations.)


  • Check to see if they have a dedicated wedding coordinator on the day. Many venues use events coordinators to help book the wedding but often they do not work at the weekends. There will be a duty manager and whilst being excellent their main aim is to look after the food and drink. You may need to consider someone to help you set up tables, place favours and liaise with suppliers in the run up to the wedding. On the day then you can relax and enjoy the whole day without worry.


  • Check out the gardens and facilities on offer if your wedding is going to take place over a weekend. Your guests may want to make use of the facilities and you need to know if they have to be booked prior to their arrival.


  • Is there enough parking for your guests? If not ask where the nearest car park is.


  • Are there any restrictions on photographs being taken?


Think about Your Budget.

What packages can the venue offer? Will they be flexible? For instance, to reduce costs you may want to serve your wedding cake as a sweet instead of paying for desert. Will they allow this?  If so will they charge you for cutting the cake and serving it?


Is there the possibility of bringing your own wine? If so what is the corkage price?


If you are planning to stay at the venue do they offer a bridal suite within the package? This can be quite an expense and if you can negotiate this to be included it’s quite a saving. During this credit crunch period you may very well get a good deal, but you have to ask.


Here are few more things to ask and think about regarding what is offered.

  • What exactly is covered within each package? Be sure you are crystal clear.


  • Check if wine is included within the package, can you upgrade to different wines if you want to? What is the corkage cost if you can bring your own wine. They are often more expensive so do beware.


  • Can you use your own caterers? If not ask which company they want you to use.


  • Is there an extra hire fee for the ceremony room? Try and get this rolled in within the package. If you don’t ask you don’t get!
  • Is it extra to hire a cake stand? Cake knife or the board and easel for the table plan? Or are they included?


  • What table linen is offered? Tablecloths, chair covers?


  • If you get married mid week ask for the charges, they should be lower. It’s a thought if you really love the venue but can’t afford the weekend costs.


  • Are there any flowers or decorations within the package? Often the in house florist may be able to match the flowers that they are doing for the hotel to your theme.


  • Is the price quoted with VAT? Will there be any inflationary costs if you are booking a year in advance?


  • When do they need a deposit and when is the final payment? – Make sure it comes in line with your savings if you need to add to them for the venue costs.


  • What are the cancellation terms and conditions?


Restrictions – You need to know and understand these.


  • Will there be more than wedding on the day. If so how does the venue manage this?


  • Are there any restrictions on entertainment, check out the size of the rooms to ensure a live band can fit if you are planning on having one?


  • Do they allow chocolate fountains, candles, confetti and fireworks?


  • What time are last orders at the bar and what time do you have to stop playing music.


  • If exclusive use what time does it start and finish?


  • Is there any additional charge if your guests fall below the minimum numbers?


  • Is there wheel chair access if you have disabled or older guests?


  • Is there going to be any structural upgrades or decoration before your wedding? If so when and what will they be?


Checking the details will ensure you have the perfect venue without hidden costs or surprises. Most of all feel comfortable and have a good relationship with the venue staff. If you not fully satisfied or your instincts tell you that something is wrong walk away.


I hope this helps you choose your dream venue. Next week pop back for everything you need to know about choosing your perfect wedding dress.


Until next time, happy planning.


Written by

Wedding Planner – Julie Dawson – The Wedding Genie



Wedding Planning

Julie Dawson – aka “The Wedding Genie”

Julie has been wedding planning for over 3 years, “My philosophy is to provide the very best support, inspiration and service to my clients.” Planning a wedding isn’t all glamour, generally it’s the tedious tasks like, finding suppliers, budgeting, liaising etc. Julie will be sharing her best tips and expert knowledge to help you plan your perfect Wedding.




How to Find the Perfect Wedding Venue

July 5, 2012 in Julie Dawson - Wedding Planning Expert, Other, Receptions by JenniBush

Now that you have taken care of your budget and you have a rough guest list it’s time to find the perfect venue. You can plan your wedding with the utmost detail, but if the venue does not stand up to the vision and style of your wedding day you may be disappointed. The blog over the next two weeks will be dedicated to helping you choose the perfect place.

Perhaps it’s a fairy tale castle, a slick contemporary city venue, a beautiful country manor house or a stylish decorated marquee, no matter what you want; it’s worth spending time choosing the perfect venue for you. It is important to do your research and think carefully about what you want.

Securing your venue as early as possible will save disappointment. Many of the popular ones are booked well in advance so start early.

Here are the main factors to think.

The Ceremony – Church Vs Civil

If you are having a church ceremony you need to look at venues that are no more than 30 minutes drive away. You may consider providing transport for your guests if you fall in love with a venue that is just a bit too far for comfort. You don’t want your guests getting lost or stuck in traffic. Civil Ceremonies are very popular now and many venues are licensed to marry you, but check if they have a license before you go and view. To help you find which venues are authorised to marry you, try The Direct Gov website you can search by postcode and it will show you venues listed in your area.

Style of Venue and Surroundings

What style of venue do you want? Make the sure the venue matches the style or theme you have in your mind and of course your budget. Here a few types of venue to think about: -

Hotels – these are great if you want an inclusive package. Generally most things are provided and they usually offer various packages to suit your budget and needs. Often they have a good supplier list too. Make sure the suppliers are independent though. By that I mean not paid by the venue, you want the right supplier for you not because they are paid commission by the venue. This type of wedding is also a little easier to plan because you don’t have to find caterers or hire furniture etc. Everything is included generally so for busy professionals a good choice.

Marquee Weddings – You can seriously put your stamp on your wedding in a marquee. They are a plain canvas for you to do as you wish. For a DIY wedding enthusiastic this will be heaven. Words of caution though, do not go for this type of venue if you are not prepared to spend a lot of time researching and organising. It’s much tougher arranging for services such as caterers, hiring toilets, decorating the marquee, you may even have to hire the tables and chairs etc. Make sure you have the time or hire a wedding planner to help you out.

Stately Homes or Historic Properties – These are great for exclusive use. You and your guests have the run of the venue for the whole day and night. Most of them can accommodate small or large weddings. You would not have to worry about bumping into another bride; you can be guaranteed private use.

Local halls or Social Clubs – These are very popular if you are on a strict budget. Often you can decorate how you like and really transform the room.

Where to look for venues?

Finding venues on the Internet is very easy these days. There are many wedding-planning sites available that categorise venues per area and style. Try sites such as You can also purchase local wedding magazines such Staffordshire Bride, they often focus on local venues and their information is a great starting point. Ask your friends and family about venues they know about, you may have already been to a friends wedding at a venue you fell in love with.

The venue’s websites will often give you plenty of information as a starting point. You can download brochures for pricing and packages as well as request them to be sent to you. This way you can check the costs against your budget before you go and see them.

Here are a few more things to consider when deciding on the type of venue

Your budget - how much do you have for room hire or for the packages on offer?

How many guests will be at your wedding? – Can the venue accommodate them for your day and evening reception? Often numbers are restricted for the ceremony. Make sure you check this against your guest list. They are generally very strict for the ceremony because the venue will be licensed for a certain amount.

Do you want your guests to stay over? Does the venue have enough rooms to accommodate them? If not check to see if there are enough hotels close by.

Check out the surrounding areas if you want to make a weekend of it. It’s lovely if your guests can have something to do the night before or on the day before the ceremony if your service is to be held a little later.

Food - Do you want to cater yourself? Check if the venue allows this. If not find out who they want you to use. Often it is good when the caterer knows the venue and is used to using their kitchens and surroundings.

Shortlist to three venues and then make appointments to see them. Do check first that they are available on your wedding date before you go and see them.

Now I have given you some idea of where to start looking for a venue and what type, the next blog will cover questions to ask when viewing and how to make the right decisions. Finding the perfect venue is time consuming but very worthwhile. You need to feel comfortable with the surroundings and the staff, and of course be clear on what they are offering you

So until next month, happy planning.

Written by:

Wedding Planner –  Julie Dawson – The Wedding Genie

Wedding Planning

Julie Dawson – aka “The Wedding Genie”

Julie has been wedding planning for over 3 years, “My philosophy is to provide the very best support, inspiration and service to my clients.” Planning a wedding isn’t all glamour, generally it’s the tedious tasks like, finding suppliers, budgeting, liaising etc. Julie will be sharing her best tips and expert knowledge to help you plan your perfect Wedding.




Guest List Dilemmas? you need to read this

June 5, 2012 in Julie Dawson - Wedding Planning Expert, Other, Planning, Wedding Tips by JenniBush

“If you’ve been struggling with your guest list, then fret no more our expert Julie Dawson has some great advice – If you r dilemma isn’t solved though, add it as a comment below and Julie will give you her expert tips just for you.”

Please help with our guest list!

I thought it might be useful to answer some of the queries that my couples ask. A wedding planner can become quite an agony aunt from time to time and we accumulate experience and solutions that are tried and tested.
Bride Academy is the ideal place to pass on this advice. Sometimes you can ponder a problem so long it really does keep you awake at night. An outsider can often look at a solution with a lot more objectivity. Check this out from a bride who promised everyone they could come to her wedding and then realised her budget just won’t cover that huge list of people.


1. My fiancé and I threw a huge party when we got engaged three years and I told everyone that they would be invited to our big day. Since then, however, we have realised that we can’t really afford to invite even half of the people that attended our engagement bash. Now that we are finally tying the knot, I’m nervous about have to explain the situation to people. How can we soften the blow?

Unfortunately there is no easy way around this but you can soften the blow by being very tactful to start with. Three years is a long time and since then we have come through and are still in, one of the worst recessions ever, everyone is aware how tight finances can be, especially when it comes to weddings. You have to explain that your budget is just not what you thought it might be and things cost much more than you anticipated. This has made your guest list much smaller so you are only able to invite close friends and relatives.

It maybe that your venue you fell in love with just can’t accommodate those large numbers anyway and you can explain that too. If it is possible I would suggest inviting some of these guests to the evening celebrations. People do understand as long as you are open and honest with them.

You can reduce your guest numbers by not inviting children. If your friends you would dearly love to come to the wedding have children then your list can quickly escalate. If you do decide to do this then you have to make a rule for all children. Of course you may allow your close family to bring their children but friends and more distant relatives can’t. Surprisingly you may find your friends would love to have a childfree weekend anyway.

Unfortunately there are always some people that will be offended by not being invited but that is the way it goes when organising a wedding. The wedding is all about you too and your special day so strive hard to have the day you both want with the people you most care for.

Having a guest list issue? Add a comment below and ask Julie.



Julie Dawson – aka “The Wedding Genie”

Julie has been wedding planning for over 3 years, “My philosophy is to provide the very best support, inspiration and service to my clients.” Planning a wedding isn’t all glamour, generally it’s the tedious tasks like, finding suppliers, budgeting, liaising etc. Julie will be sharing her best tips and expert knowledge to help you plan your perfect Wedding.




How to Choose the Best Wedding Entertainment

May 21, 2012 in Julie Dawson - Wedding Planning Expert, Receptions, Wedding Tips by JenniBush

Entertainment – All you need to know to choose the right kind of entertainment for your wedding.

Enjoy the Entertainement at your Wedding - Photo Courtesy of Derek Anson -

When choosing entertainment for your wedding think about it carefully. What type would suit you best and which parts of the day do you think you should entertain your guests? How much do you have to spend? This will a big deciding factor on the type of entertainment you can provide.

Bored guests are never happy ones so the parts of the day that you should cater for are, the drinks reception whilst you are having your photographs taken, the wedding breakfast if you have a long time before the evening event and of course the main evening party. In my opinion the evening entertainment is where you should concentrate your effort if your budget is limited.

For the purposes of this article I will concentrate on paid entertainment. I know there is a lot of ways to DIY entertain but I am just going to concentrate on hiring entertainers.

Lets start with how much to spend out of your budget.

The average percentage is between 5 – 8% of your wedding budget. If you are a follower of the Wedding Genie then you know we believe in working out your priorities right at the beginning of your wedding planning. That way you will know right away if entertainment features highly. If so you can always spend more and cut back in other areas, but as a guide this is the average percentage.

How do you decide what kind of Entertainment you want?

I guess to a certain extent it’s down to your personal style, and what kind of atmosphere you want to create at your wedding. Do you want high energy grooving or a sophisticated jazzy feel? Are you a country music fan or a rat pack lover? Perhaps you want dancing but without the disco, such as a Ceilidh band.

Maybe your wedding has a particular theme that certain music and entertainment lend itself to. Think about what your friends and family like and how you want them to remember the evening. The more of an idea that you have will help you choose what type of entertainment is right for you.
Another factor that will help decide is the size of your venue; fitting an eight-piece band into a small intimate room is not practical, also you have to check if your venue has a license for entertainment. Lastly your budget will dictate but if you choose wisely you can still have really good entertainment, just shop around and think about it carefully.
Obviously the main part of the day to provide entertainment for is the evening reception, but if you have more in your budget then it’s great to have something going on to keep your guests entertained whilst you are having your photographs taken and throughout the drinks reception if you are having one.

Here are some suggestions of various entertainers if you are on a tight budget.

There are some brilliant DJ’s out there who can really make your party swing. Look around, don’t just go for the one that your venue suggests, ask your friends, look on the Internet. Check out what they bring with them in terms of lighting and decor. Often the DJ can put on a really good show and create a fabulous party atmosphere. Lots of the DJ websites nowadays show you what their style is and give you a choice of music to play. Don’t forget that if you want to involve your guests and ask them their favourite songs, be careful they are not all love songs. You could suggest they give you their favourite love song and their favourite dance track.

Ceilidh Band
If you want to dance but don’t like the idea of a disco, why not try a Ceilidh band? The music is lively and the caller, who is the chap that talks the guests through the dance, creates a great atmosphere, and encourages everyone to dance. It’s a fun thing to do and really involves your guests. The bride and groom can take to the floor and be totally involved in the evening’s celebrations. It is a great idea for a country wedding.

Live Singer/Jazz
The Rat Pack sound is excellent for vintage weddings. In between sets you can always fill up your IPOD so that your guests can dance and still stay in the party swing. That way you may be able to get live music for part of the evening. I have seen many weddings where this has been the case. It’s a great way of getting your party started and this type of music brings a little sophistication to your evening, the older relatives in your party will love it. Imagine your first dance being sung live whilst you glide round the dance floor.

If your budget stretches further think about a live band and entertainment for the drinks reception.

Live Bands
You can’t beat a live band for atmosphere and the wow factor. Often the band will play music to dance to in between their sets so no DJ required. You can work out the times they appear to suit the flow of your reception. Professional bands give out a great vibe and if they are really good the dance floor should be full all night. They will also bring lights and décor to give a great party atmosphere.

Mix and Mingle Artists
Using entertainers that mix and mingle such as caricaturists or a silhouettist is a good idea because your guests each get something to take home with them. Close up magicians and Mentalists can be extremely funny and entertaining too.
String quartets, guitarists, pianists, and harpists are fantastic for a classy drinks reception and also play during your ceremony if you wish. They create a lovely atmosphere and can play outside if the weather is gorgeous and your setting dictates. A stunning country mansion with beautiful gardens and guests spilling outside being wafted by lovely classical music in the sunshine starts your wedding reception in style.

Top Tips for Sourcing Entertainment Companies
There are many agencies on the Internet where you can find excellent entertainment, who specialise in wedding entertainers. Their websites should be informative, have pricing guides, question and answer areas and a good selection of entertainers to choose from, along with clips of sound tracks and choices of music. It’s a good idea to ask for references of past clients.

Talk to your friends, family or your venue coordinator to see if they know of anyone or have recommendations. Word of mouth is always a safe bet. You may have been to a wedding recently where the band or DJ was fabulous. I chose our magician from a friends wedding. I swore I was not going to have one, it’s not one of my things, but hey this guy made me laugh so much I booked him on the spot.

Go and see local bands in your area. If you get chance to see the band that you think you may want to book then you will have first hand evidence they are right for you. The other answer is to use a wedding planner; we work with reputable companies and can vouch for their standard of service. We will also understand exactly what type of entertainment is suitable for you and within your budget.

Make sure you strike up a relationship with your entertainment provider

Its very important, the supplier should be able to understand what you want from your wedding day so that they can recommend the right kind of entertainment for your celebrations. If they don’t take time to talk to you and determine what would be the best recommendation go elsewhere. The entertainment is a big part of your wedding and you want to be sure that the money you are spending is directed at the best type of entertainer for you, whether it’s a DJ, band or magician etc. You should be crystal clear about what is included within the contract, how long the entertainment lasts for, what they need in terms of set up, and riders that are included of what you have to provide in terms of food, drink and rest areas.

The choice for entertainment is quite vast but I would urge you to choose what suits your style and personality. Choose what makes you happy and what you are comfortable with. I hope this goes some way to help you decide the perfect entertainment for you.

From Wedding Planning Expert Julie Dawson – aka “The Wedding Genie”

Julie has been wedding planning for over 3 years, “My philosophy is to provide the very best support, inspiration and service to my clients.” Planning a wedding isn’t all glamour, generally it’s the tedious tasks like, finding suppliers, budgeting, liaising etc. Julie will be sharing her best tips and expert knowledge to help you plan your perfect Wedding.




8 Top tips for Negotiating with Wedding Suppliers

May 9, 2012 in Julie Dawson - Wedding Planning Expert, Planning, Wedding Tips by JenniBush

Negotiation with Suppliers – Advice and Tips

1. Be Prepared and Shop Around
First of all don’t go and see suppliers without deciding on what you want, and don’t want! Having a good idea of what you want to buy from them is key so they can give you the right price the right service or goods and you wont buy what you don’t really need. You may not be crystal clear. For example you may not know the best flowers to choose for the time of year but you do know you want a contemporary bouquet with lots of foliage.

Decide on a budget you want to spend on each particular supplier. You can then do your research and look around for typical costs before you visit. There is nothing to stop you phoning around to get ball park figures. If you do this you can speak with confidence when you visit the supplier and also have other suppliers information for comparison.

Make sure you get prices from at least two suppliers; it will give you perspective and make you feel more confident to negotiate because you feel you have various options.

2. Build up a relationship
I don’t mean be their best friend, but by being honest and approachable with people often this is reflected back to you. These suppliers are going to deliver the vision of your wedding day and want to be able to rely on them. When you meet smile, chat to them. You should feel comfortable around them anyway if you going to employ them. Generally people will go the extra mile for people they like too. It will also make you more confident when discussing money and what they can offer you. If a supplier likes you, they are much more open to helping you get what you want and working within your budget.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask
If you don’t ask you don’t get! It is that simple. What is the worst that can happen if you ask a supplier to help you by lowering their price? They can only say no. I can guarantee you that nearly all suppliers will come back to you with an alternative option if you ask for something they can’t or are not willing to offer.
There is also a way of asking that will get you further. For instance saying, “I don’t suppose you can work within my budget? Won’t get you very far. Instead say “What can you help me with bearing in mind my budget?” You want to give the supplier the chance to talk to you and explore your needs. Use words such as “I want to buy today if we can sort out something that suits us both” be positive.

They want your business so a good supplier will be flexible or innovative with their service. Be prepared to have to walk away if you just can’t agree or aren’t comfortable with the deal.

4.Added Value and discounts
At the moment finances are pretty stretched for all of us so good suppliers won’t inflate their price. They need your business and if the price is fair and you still can’t afford it but really would like to buy their service, ask if there is anything else that can be offered. For instance a venue may throw in the cost of the bridal suite, or upgrade you from silver to a gold package. A photographer may not be able to lower their price but they can give you extra pictures, stay for longer on the day or give you your pictures on CD so you can use them for prints etc.

5. What not to Do!
If you meet a prospective supplier with an attitude of reducing their price at any cost this is a bad idea. You may get the deal at the price you want but at what cost? You want a supplier that is willing to give you their best service and quality, one with a can do attitude, not one who wished they had not taken your business because they are making nothing out of it and will resent you in the future. A supplier generally wants to have a good relationship with you, most of us want to be recommended in the future and it does not pay to be confrontational right from the beginning. It will also give you no bargaining power if you disliked.

6. Check what is Included before you sign on the dotted line!
I cannot stress this enough when you are negotiating with a supplier. Once you sign a contract it is very hard to add anything else without being charged. Ask things like:

• Do I have to provide food for you? (if a photographer or entertainer etc)
• Is travel included?
• Do your prices include VAT? This is often a big area where couples forget to ask and it massively bumps up your budget.
• Exactly how long will you be there on the day, or what is provided? Please list the details clearly.
• Is delivery and set up included?
• If I book now will the price be held or will you charge inflationary costs?

7. Feel Happy with the supplier and the deal
If you don’t fell comfortable or have a bad feeling about a supplier then walk away. Trust your gut instinct, there are many suppliers out there who you can choose from.

8.  Hire a wedding planner
If you want to save money then you can hire a planner just to find you suppliers. They often get good discounts for repeated business, which they can pass on, to you. Their advice will also save you money if you see them early. Many couples start to spend their budget before they have fully decided on what they want from their wedding day. Sometimes they do not always know what is available or how to adapt a situation to work for them, or know the best places to shop.


from Wedding Planning Expert Julie Dawson – aka “The Wedding Genie”

Julie has been wedding planning for over 3 years, “My philosophy is to provide the very best support, inspiration and service to my clients.” Planning a wedding isn’t all glamour, generally it’s the tedious tasks like, finding suppliers, budgeting, liaising etc. Julie will be sharing her best tips and expert knowledge to help you plan your perfect Wedding.