So you’re planning your wedding. You’ve probably had ideas in the back of your mind for years but when the time actually comes putting plans in place can become a stressful process.
No doubt the first things on your hit list will be the ceremony venue and the reception venue (as well as the dress!) – you can’t set a date until either of these important decisions have been made.
There are many different types of venue to consider before you decide where you will be hosting your wedding reception, and over the years I’ve played them all – hotels, country houses, marquees and even the bride’s uncle’s front garden once!
No doubt you will think about the appearance, the food, and the opportunities to capture those Pinterest worthy romantic photographs, but a lot of couples forget to think about how well a venue will lend itself to a great night’s entertainment.
I’ve said this before, but an overlooked fact is that your evening reception will account for around one third of your wedding day. That’s a huge part of your day to either go very right or rather wrong.
My aim, with every wedding I play, is to provide a fantastic night’s craic and send your guests home on a high and with sore feet.
There are a few key things you can consider in any prospective venues to help ensure the party atmosphere hit its peak;
1 – The size of your function room – if your function room can hold 300 guests but you are expecting around 120, it will be almost impossible to get a high energy atmosphere.
This is my biggest tip for anyone planning a wedding – ensure your function room fits your guest numbers.
2 – The layout of the room – do you have a self contained wedding suite or will your guests have to leave to find the bar / the toilets / the outside area?
The more spread out your guests become the more difficult it is to entice them back on to the dance floor.
3 – Distance from home – while you may have fallen in love with your dream venue a two hour drive away, pause and consider the logistics for your guests. If they are facing a potentially expensive overnight stay or a long journey home, you may receive a few more declined invitations than you expect, or be faced with large numbers of guests leaving before the party really gets going.
With this in mind, my favourite venues in the North West area are: (in no particular order!)
The Royal Court, Portrush
Recently modernised, and with stunning views overlooking the Atlantic this is a venue well worth checking out. Their function room features floor to ceiling windows to ensure everyone enjoys the view, while the in-room bar and attached toilets keep everyone together.
A fantastic spot, and perfect for around 120-150 guests.
White Horse Hotel, Campsie
Another venue I am playing at frequently and also recently renovated with a feeling of modern luxury. They boast two self contained wedding suites with private bars and toilets attached, both beautifully decorated and featuring LED mood lighting.
Suitable for 100 – 150 guests - depending on which function suite.
The Red Door Country House, Fahan
Put simply, The Red Door is a stunning venue set on the banks of Lough Swilly.
I speak from experience when I say the food is outstanding.
A small and quirky function room helps with a great atmosphere. Perfect for 80-100 guests.
The An Grianan Hotel, Burt
A unique venue boasting a round function room, which is not only fantastic acoustically but also keeps all the guests together and close to the dance floor, helping to enhance the atmosphere. The private bar is also contained in the room which is a big plus for many guests. The hotel has won many wedding awards in recent years. A great spot for up to 250 guests.
One final tip is to consider where your photo booth or selfie mirror will be located, should you choose to have one. I always recommend ensuring it is inside your function room to keep your guests together.
As mentioned above, the more spread out your guests become the more difficult it is to maintain a high energy atmosphere, and since everyone loves a photo booth you could have half your guests spending a lot of time in another room.
Only you can decide on the perfect venue for you, but hopefully these pointers will help you look at your shortlist from a different perspective.