A quick guide to wedding venues and catering
Wedding venues come in all shapes and sizes and there are so many different ones to choose from. Our clients tend to lean towards unique venues where they can shape their day exactly how they like it and we enjoy reflecting that in creating individual food and drinks menus too.
Wedding catering is fun and exciting for us and we love the challenge of planning the unplannable alongside which comes being prepared and expecting the unexpected. With our (too many!) years of experience and as we’ve worked with so many happy couples, we’ve also gathered some experience and so this is a quick guide to things to look out for in your wedding venue choice and how your wedding caterers can help your day be even better than you imagined.
We’ve taken four different wedding venue types that are perfect examples of idyllic settings, but that offer their own unique challenges and considerations – particularly for your friendly wedding catering suppliers.
A rustic barn wedding
The beauty of the countryside and the rustic charm of farm land and quintessential buildings make for beautiful weddings. There’s something so appealing to see a barn venue transformed into a dining room and bar. Large open spaces and character features make for a delightful backdrop for photographs and something quite relaxing and informal to the format of the day.
When planning for the wedding catering we love the challenge of turning a farm building into a working kitchen and old hay lofts into banquet rooms. We’ve found ourselves in some very interesting places and had to get quite creative with how we bring in the ovens, fridges and dining equipment needed to serve all of the guests as if they’re dining in a five-star restaurant.
There are several things to consider when looking at rustic barns as your wedding venue that would be different to some of the more traditional and ‘kitted-out’ venues or hotels.
One of the first things to consider when looking at barns for your wedding venue is the layout of the grounds and how best you can use the facilities and land. Quite often, you might be able to break up your day with a drinks reception and canapes in one building and then move your guests outside (weather permitting) for photographs, before moving into another building for the wedding breakfast. The thing for your caterers to consider is the distance of your dining room to the kitchen as the serving staff will need to get from the kitchen to your guests in the quickest and easiest way possible (and back again!)
Given that a barn’s first use wasn’t designed as a wedding venue, it isn’t uncommon for the kitchen to be in a place that means your caterers need to get creative with food service. Again we’ve been in situations where our serving staff have had to look out for uneven floors, steps and interesting shaped doors to get through when bringing food and serving drinks.
One thing that does lend itself well to a barn is the drinks bar. It’s a great opportunity to bring in some local craft ales, or taste handcrafted gins from micro distillers. You can really make the bar your own and introduce new and different flavours to your guests with the bar drinks.
Another area to be mindful of for the drinks is where your caterers keep the ice and how they ensure they’re serving clean glasses or reusable cups. Into the evening barn weddings can see your guests scatter as they enjoy the evening air and so your catering team need to be clearing and collecting glasses, bottles and cups to keep your guests safe from breakages and also maintain the beauty of the venue as you party into the night.
It's also worth ensuring that there will be enough power for everything that you have planned for the day. As wedding caterers we want to make sure that we prepare a fantastic menu to wow your guests, but we want to also make sure that we have the facilities to bring it to life on the day!
We have had experience of catering at venues where the power supply has kept cutting out, and there hasn’t been enough for everything that the wedding party needs, or that other wedding suppliers have also needed to use power, but hadn’t factored in that this would be shared. Do discuss this with the venue and with your suppliers to make sure they know their power needs and ensure you have more than enough. Not having enough power supply can mean that some things you expected to work such as pretty fairy lights or worse still fridges to keep your wine cold, can come unstuck.
Church or community hall wedding
The benefit to these wedding venues tend to be that their more affordable, they’re easier for your guests to get to and most can be very beautiful venues. In many cases the people in charge allow you to decorate and get creative, although there can often be some limitations to this when needing to maintain the décor and condition of the building.
Unlike a rustic barn wedding, a church or community hall venue is likely to be a little stricter with do’s and don’ts. Quite often though, with church or community hall wedding venues, we find that they come equipped with a catering kitchen with all the basic things needed to put on a good spread.
We have had some examples where we may have needed to bring in an extra fridge, or an extra oven dependant on the menu we’re serving. Space in the kitchen can often be a challenge too, but a well organised catering team can work this out.
One thing that we’ve learnt from catering in these types of wedding venues is to know who the caretaker of the building is and who can fix the lights, the gas or open the doors when something goes wrong. We’ve experienced each one of these problems and every time, just knowing the person to call ensures that the problem is quickly fixed and with minimum fuss and disruption.
Some venues can be a little more stringent on alcohol being served, or at least serving times, so make sure these are licensed venues or that your caterer carries a license if you’re providing a cash bar.
Church and community halls are often run by volunteers who work tirelessly to keep the condition of the venue because they really care about it. It’s a good thing to consider, especially keeping friends with them the day after as they can be life-savers with the clean-up and know how to get it done in the fastest time possible!
Holding your wedding reception and breakfast in a marquee in a garden, grounds or a field can be a great way to connect your wedding with the outdoors and nature. Good quality marquees, yurts and teepees create a lovely festival atmosphere to a wedding, or they can be delivered in a very classy way too with chandeliers, candelabras and decorated round tables.
Something that we’ve observed with this format of wedding catering is that when you have
100 plus guests in a marquee, especially on a warm day, it soon feels like a greenhouse and your guests can get uncomfortable. It is definitely worth looking into fans to circulate the air if you have your wedding in the summer months and then heaters for the cooler months or for when you party into the night.
If your guests do get hot, then they’ll want more water and cool drinks than you may factor for, so do consider this when ordering your drinks and ask your caterers to regularly top-up and replenish bottles and jugs.
Sometimes it’s the really simple things that may not seem an issue, but create a challenge with the dining layout. A great example here is the floor that the marquee is laid on. We have catered in marquees with both laminate flooring as well as others with hessian or carpet flooring. Laminate can be more expensive, but at least gives you an even and, without stating the obvious, solid floor. We’ve catered at weddings with carpet on grass and then when setting out the tables had to diligently places table legs away from divots, dips and uneven bits of ground – so something to be aware of.
Kitchens again are a thing to consider with a marquee wedding and be prepared for additional costs being incurred for needing to bring in a catering kitchen and power generators. Your caterers will be able to help you with this and advise the equipment they will need, but also use it as an opportunity to explore different menus and ways of preparing your food. For example, we’ve prepared food in our production kitchen in advance that can be served cold and then served an evening BBQ for hot food and found ways to minimise the logistics of kitchens before. That said, a good caterer will also be able to recreate a catering kitchen on pretty much any site (within reason) and so don’t let the outdoors put you off being creative with your wedding breakfast menus.
Stately home wedding
Think of stately homes and my mind takes me to the wedding car pulling up at the front steps, on a gravel drive and beautiful photographs being taken in pristine gardens.
There is such a wonderful choice of homes, halls and manor houses around the UK that they seem to be wonderfully unique to weddings in this country. Playing lord and lady of the manor for a day is a wonderful way to mark your special day and celebrate with friends and family in places steeped in history and heritage.
Quite often, some estate homes come very well prepared and equipped to cater for all that you need for your wedding day. Many have wedding coordinators that can guide you through your day and the dining facilities can often be better than some of the best restaurants.
We have catered in some homes where the rooms are a maze to navigate and in some cases the family of the manor still reside in quarters of the building, so do check on how much of the building you can use.
Probably more than most, your stately home wedding will come with restrictions to what you can do by way of décor, but you are more than likely be working with a completed canvas. We have been known to only be able to set-up the catering facilities at certain times and to also need to have vacated the property by a certain time too, so do ask about any restrictions and stipulations.
We have also had experiences in homes that have recently opened to be wedding venues where the kitchen equipment and facilities for catering is a little old and possibly retired, so it’s worth checking with your caterers that they’ve either worked at the venue before or that they are able to navigate their way around antiquated kitchens!
Fine dining menus lend themselves really well to stately home venues, so ask your caterers to pull out all of the stops. Beef wellington, rack of lamb or a roast dinner with every trimming you can think of all work really well and finished with artisan cheeses and vintage port, like a recent wedding we catered for, is a great way to finish an indulgent meal.
We love working with our clients to make their planning process easier and more enjoyable, so if you have any queries or ideas that you'd like to discuss then don't hesitate to get in touch. You can also check out some of our great examples of bespoke menus that we've served at previous events that could give you inspiration for your big day.
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