For many couples starting their journey towards saying ‘I do’, choosing a wedding venue is often top of the to-do list. Securing your venue and date will set the scene for the style and vibe of your wedding – be it traditional, relaxed, grand or cosy. You’ll know how many guests you can invite, and it will also allow you to start securing all of the other important elements of your day too.
But deciding whether you’ll choose a more traditional, dedicated wedding venue, or whether you’ll dry hire your venue, is something that an increasing number of couples are looking into as they consider the type of venue or location that will best suit their day.
Ultimately, your chosen wedding venue should reflect your personality and what’s most important to you and your partner. So here’s a run-down of the main pros and cons when it comes to traditional vs. dry hire wedding venues.
What is classed a traditional wedding venue?
A traditional wedding venue is one where its sole or major purpose is holding weddings. It usually offers a brilliant, all-encompassing service with every major element taken care of.
How about dry hire?
This is where you book ‘venue or location only’ and arrange everything else independently; much like buying your flights and hotel separately and piecing together a unique experience yourself.
Traditional Wedding Venue Pros
The good thing about most traditional, dedicated wedding venues, such as manor houses, hotels or other hospitality venues, is that they usually offer a carefully curated package for you to consider. This typically provides all of your catering, furniture, linen, drinks, staff and set-up, so that to an extent you have less to organise.
A dedicated wedding venue is usually very slick in the way that they’ll run your day, with everything perfected to a fine art. It’s probable that they can also accommodate occasions of varying sizes, with multiple rooms/areas to use for things like your drinks reception and relaxing in between the daytime and evening.
It’s usually a given that there’ll be adequate onsite facilities and equipment – WCs, a bar, AV equipment, parking, sometimes even a cake stand and knife. Most dedicated, traditional wedding venues will have accommodation on site too, making things extremely convenient for your guests at the end of the night. Many also offer a master of ceremonies to make your announcements, and a wedding coordinator to get you all booked up, answer all of your questions, oversee your running order, and manage the venue staff.
With a traditional wedding venue, you’ll likely be able to see plenty of images of previous weddings to give you varied style ideas. Your venue coordinator will also be able to advise you on the best layout and flow, which has been tried and tested many times before. Most traditional wedding venues will also offer dedicated wedding open days so that you can see the whole thing set up as it might be on your day.
Many venues also partner with 3rd party suppliers to offer things like centre pieces, flowers, stationary, and even music – often at a special rate, or sometimes bundled up within your package. These handpicked suppliers are likely to be trusted and recommended by the venue, and will work with you to create something bespoke to your vision.
Traditional Wedding Venue Cons
However some packages can often lead to a rather formulaic outcome, so it’s worth understanding how much flexibility you’ll have. Of course there are many traditional venues that are more exclusive, or perhaps family run, which don’t hold as many weddings as bigger venues; this can often offer a more personal ambience.
If your traditional wedding venue does include options for decorations or even flowers within your package, it may very well be the case that these aren’t to your taste or style. However you could opt to work with a professional wedding stylist and/or planner who will help you transform your venue into something unique to you.
Many packages may also be seasonally priced, meaning that it can often be very pricey to get married at the weekend in the height of summer. Some also have a minimum spend attached and certain limitations on menu choice. And in some cases you’re often fixed to using the in-house catering team entirely, meaning that the pizza truck you had your heart set on for the evening, might not be a possibility. However a lot of dedicated wedding venues have incredible in-house catering teams who can create just about anything for you – so it’s about weighing up what’s most important to you.
The other thing to consider is that some larger wedding venues may also have weddings occurring on the days adjacent to yours. This may limit your access for set-up and may mean you’ll have to clear up by a certain time too. Exclusive weekend hire is often an option, but this may of course take up more of your budget than you’d hoped. Or you could consider booking help to set up and coordinate your day so that you don’t need to worry about a thing.
However just because a venue is offering a package, this doesn’t mean that it won’t be available on a dry hire basis too, or be much more flexible with allowing you to incorporate other external suppliers – so it’s worth looking into. Each and every venue is always very different, and nothing is black and white. So our advice is here to simply help you consider all aspects, and decide what will work best for you on your day.
Dry Hire Venue Pros
When it comes to dry hire, or booking your wedding on a ‘venue or location only’ basis, the aesthetic, style, scale and services offered can vary greatly.
It’s usually the more relaxed venues such as converted barns, marquees/tipis, gardens, and other non-traditional or quirky establishments which tend to hire on a venue only basis. This style of wedding is becoming increasingly popular with many couples looking for a relaxed, country, or even festival-type wedding – with many simply opting to hire a field or use a piece of land/garden too.
The main advantage of a dry hire wedding venue is that you are in complete control, and the finished result will be utterly individual to you and no one else. You’re not restricted to any set packages, furniture or layout. The look and feel is yours. You’ll get to work with your chosen furniture and styling suppliers to create something that is exactly to your taste.
You generally have more freedom to bring almost any vision to life – and it’s probable that your dry hire venue will be new and different to a lot of guests. You’ll likely be working with a catering company who will create whatever menu you like at a price that you’re comfortable with. You may even have separate caterers for the evening – like a taco van or a burger stall – for a really relaxed vibe.
Dry hiring can in some cases work out more cost effective too, especially if you hand pick your own suppliers, and possibly even deliver certain elements of the day yourself. Many dry hire venues are often a lot cheaper than larger establishments, with some even offering a set price which they don’t increase during peak times – making it more viable to get married at a popular time of year.
Depending on how DIY you want to go, it’s often possible to supply your own alcohol in these types of venues – which can massively help to save on costs. However it’s important to note that you’ll need a temporary events licence to sell any alcohol. Instead, we’d recommend having a free bar (where you won’t need a licence), or hiring a mobile bar company, who’ll serve and sell your drinks for you, and ensure that you have a chilled, well stocked selection; and they will take care of the licence too. A lot of mobile bar companies will also refund their hire fee if you reach a certain spend at the bar too – win win!
Planning for a blank canvas wedding doesn’t have to be difficult either. Your venue may have a recommended list of suppliers to help you get started, or you could enlist the help of a wedding planner to help with the practical and logistical elements, and with bringing your vision to life.
Dry Hire Venue Cons
However, many dry hire venues may not offer the facilities that traditional wedding venues usually do, namely onsite accommodation. So it’s advisable to scope out whether there is any other accommodation nearby to your venue before booking.
Other things such as toilets and a bar might not be permanent fixtures, and these may have to be hired in too. When budgeting, don’t forget to include these in your overall venue cost.
It’s also important to consider whether you actually want to get married at your venue. Whilst many dry hire venues will be licenced for wedding ceremonies, some ‘non-traditional’ venues may not be, so it’s worth checking out. Although an option here could be to use a celebrant to deliver a personal, informal ceremony at your venue, leaving you to take care of the legal part the week or the month before.
With ‘venue only’ hire also comes the responsibility of remembering everything, and considering every eventuality. This is where many couples decide to seek the services of a professional wedding planner; either to plan the whole thing, for partial assistance, or to simply just run the day – leaving you to relax and enjoy everything.
It’s your day, your way
Whatever your vision and venue choice, and whether you plan it yourself or hire a little help, the most important thing is that your day is enjoyable, memorable, and reflects what matters most to you.
Hopefully you found our advice useful and informative in helping you consider the first steps towards saying ‘I do’. For more real, honest, wedding insight and inspiration, follow our social channels and join the discussions – we’d love to hear your story!