"It's only a Village Hall..."

Village Hall Weddings

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One of the first things I usually talk to a newly engaged couple about is their all important wedding venue.

Are you saying your vows in a church or a registry office? Perhaps you are pulling on a pair of wellies and getting married on a farm, or heading to the countryside for a beautiful Manor House wedding. Or maybe, just maybe you are having a fun filled, DIY Wedding in your local Village Hall.

When I ask about your wedding venue, the response I often hear is, “It’s only the Village Hall”, as though that isn’t something to be celebrated, or something you feel needs further explanation.

May I just say STOP RIGHT THERE!!

I for one, LOVE a Wedding Reception in a Village Hall. Some of my all time fave weddings have been held at a Village Hall, a local Pub or even in the back garden of the Brides childhood home.

A wedding in a stately home or an imposing country house may make for a beautiful backdrop to your day, and of course is a dream to photograph, but what if that’s not what your budget allows? Or, what if it’s simply not you? We see so many amazing wedding venues gracing the cover of Bridal magazines and popping up on various television shows, that the somewhat humble village hall sometimes gets a little overlooked.

So, I thought I would share with you the reasons I think you should embrace your local Village Hall as a top Wedding Reception venue, along with my Top Tips for making your Village Hall Wedding, one to remember.

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Choosing your Village Hall Wedding Venue

The first thing you need to think about is where to hold your reception. Do you want it to be near your church or registry office, close to home, in the Village where you grew up, or maybe don’t you mind where it is, as long as it’s pretty? There’s no right or wrong answer here.

Take your time and look at a couple of local halls to see which one is right for you. Can you comfortably fit all your guests inside, is there a private garden, are you allowed live music, is there enough parking nearby for your guests. All of these things need to be considered.

Also take a look at the lighting - us photographers love big windows and lots of lovely natural light. Think about the overall feel you want your photographs to have and see if the hall matches those ideas.

Not all Village Halls are created equal, so pick the one that is right for you.

Top Tip: Make sure you can have access to the hall the day before and the day after your wedding. You don’t want to be setting up tables at 6am on the morning of your wedding, any more than you want to be sweeping floors and washing glasses at midnight.

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A Blank Canvas

One of the most amazing things about holding your wedding reception at your local Village Hall, is the ability to make the venue truly your own. A lot of the bigger wedding venues have strict guidelines as to what you can and can’t do with regards to decorating your venue. You might have to stick to a list of approved suppliers, you may not be able to have the seating plan you want or you might be in a room with a very corporate feel to it.

With a Village Hall you really can create the perfect backdrop to your wedding celebrations. Paper lanterns, jars full of flowers, a ceiling of fairy lights, handmade bunting, round tables, long tables, mis-matched chairs, vintage tea sets. The choice is yours!

Top Tip: Create a mood board on Pinterest and start gathering your ideas all in one place.

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Your Wedding Food

Another big plus to a DIY wedding, is that you have free rein on who caters your wedding and what type of food you choose to serve. This may also have a big impact on your budget. Traditionally at a wedding, you are served a three course meal, followed by coffee, but more and more couples are deciding to go for a less formal approach to their big day.

Over recent years I had seen people opt for a simple bbq, a hog roast, an afternoon tea, a hot or cold buffet, or even a mobile pizza oven. One of my favourites was a village hall reception where the guests were served an amazing selection of vegetarian curries and accompaniments, all prepared at the venue by staff from the local Indian Restaurant. Amazing food and a fabulous way to promote a local business. The last wedding I was lucky enough to photograph, even had a crab shack for their evening guests, sourced from a local food festival a few months before.

The possibilities are endless.

Top Tip: Allow plenty of time to make your decision and make sure you are able to sample the food on offer before booking. Always choose a local caterer if you can.

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Time For A Drink

Without a licensed bar on site, you will probably opt to either employ staff from a local pub with a mobile bar, or stock up on duty free drinks and offer a free bar to your guests

If offering a free bar, it’s worth asking friends and family to help you stock up on drinks over the months leading up to the wedding in order to spread the cost a little. Don’t forget you will need to add in the cost of hiring drinks glasses if you plan on having a DIY bar.

A fab idea I saw at a wedding last year was a charity box on the side of the free bar, with the Bride and Groom asking guests to make a small donation to their favourite charity each time they took a drink.

Top Tip: Don’t go over the top with the drinks selection - you will NEVER please everyone. Auntie Joan drinks sweet sherry, Uncle Bob wants single malt whisky, your cousin insists on alcopops and your best friends Mum likes a vodka… the list could go on and on. Beer, wine and soft drinks are usually all it takes to keep your guests happy. Perhaps add in an afternoon Gin bar or a bottle of tequila, if end of night shots are your thing.

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Couple Photos

Some people worry about where their couple photos will be taken if their venue doesn't have beautiful grounds, but as any photographer will tell you, lovely wedding photos can be taken almost anywhere.

Most village halls have some sort of garden, especially those that are hired out for weddings and other functions. Take a look at the garden and have a think about how you can make the best of it, perhaps by tying lanterns in the trees or stringing bunting along the fences.

Also, don’t forget the surrounding areas, the pretty lanes, the grassy park or the open fields with the amazing views, that are probably just down the road from your venue.

Top Tip: Have a little recce of the local area the week before your wedding, to see what flowers are in bloom or what fields are looking lovely at that time of year. You’ll be surprised at what you may find!

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Music

With many Village Halls being in close proximity to residential areas, you will need to check the terms and conditions of your booking to see what noise is permitted.

It’s really worth taking some time to choose the music that is right for you. Not being tied to a resident DJ means you have an amazing opportunity to reflect your personalities in the music you choose. Will you have a wedding singer, a folk band, a local DJ, a gospel singer, a rock band or something else entirely.

Top Tip: If live music isn’t your thing, why not ask all your guests to choose a couple of favourite songs when they RSVP, and create your very own playlist.

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Budget

When it comes to planning your wedding day, budget is one of the main things that will dictate what you can and can’t do. Holding your wedding reception at a Village Hall can be a huge money saver, with some absolutely beautiful halls being rented out for as little as £100 a day.

Top tip: Decide on your budget, then plan what percentage you will allocate to each of the major parts of your day. Food and drink, Photography, Dress. Decide what is most important to you and make your decisions based solely on that, rather than what a bridal website or helpful friend suggests. For some people having an amazing band is their priority, someone else might have their eye on a fabulous pair of Jimmy Choos, whereas another couple might prioritise a lifetime of memories through their photographs. Your budget, your choice.

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Pulling it all Together

There is no getting away from the fact that one of the main draws to booking a hotel, golf course or other wedding venue for your big day is that a lot of the work is done for you. Yes, you may be paying a premium but for that you will have a dedicated wedding planner, a menu tasting, a handy list of suppliers and a team of people to set everything up for you.

If you plan having a DIY wedding you will need to do almost everything yourself, from sourcing the caterers and hanging decorations, to folding up tables and locking the doors as you leave. You WILL need help. The sense of fun, with everyone mucking in together can be brilliant, but it can also be pretty stressful if people turn out to be less reliable than you anticipated.

Top Tip: Delegate. Make a list of jobs that you know you will need help with and really put some thought into the best people to ask. Most people will be DELIGHTED to help you plan your big day, but you need to be certain that the jobs will get done. Everything from setting up the bar to clearing the tables for dancing needs to be covered. Let people know early on and always give them the opportunity to say no.

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So, there we have it.

A few reasons why I think having a DIY wedding at your local village hall might just be one of the best decisions you ever made.

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Sarah Fishlock Photography - Wedding Photographer for Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire