So it used to be easy, have a chat to your local church minister, organise the church, then order a ridiculous amount of drapes and make the town hall look slightly better than it did when you were there for your matric dance. Add some flowers from your Aunt who likes flowers and get your gran to make a cake. Your brother likes music so he will bring his collection and blast the old folk with his modern tunes. Choosing a venue is so easy isn’t it… Things have changed quite a lot since Mom and Dad were married back in ’75 so it will take a little more effort and creativity to find what you are looking for. Let’s dive straight in to some of my thoughts about venues which will hopefully help you out. Remember, this is not an arduous task, this should be an enjoyable adventure, keep that in mind.

You will by now hopefully have a rough idea in your minds as to how the day is going to look. Will it be a small intimate affair with some rustic touches and beautifully plated food warmly lit by candles or are you considering a larger and louder expression of celebration where the DJ will provide the backtrack to your legendary dance floor ripping moves, or maybe something in between. Have you considered something alternative, maybe a disused factory, or a modern minimalist restaurant, or are you preferring the idea of something more main stream such as a wine farm with its old world charm or modern classy flare. We are very fortunate these days with the abundant selection we have, you as a couple have the option to really express your personalities when it comes to venue choice.

I recently photographed a memorable wedding where the reception took place at Harbour House restaurant in Kalk Bay. The place had such character, with waves beating at the walls below and seals relaxing on the adjacent rocks. Probably the best food I have enjoyed all wedding season was efficiently and professionally served. It was a great evening and I am sure will remain in the memories of all who attended for many years to come.

Olive Rock is a venue near the Western Cape Town of Tulbagh, one would call this a more main stream style of wedding venue but, what really draws me into often suggesting this as a stunning venue is the hosting. Yes, the location is beautiful, it can comfortably accommodate your wedding party but, the hosting is special. Simone and Nick are such warm hosts, it feels like they are part of the family, smiling, laughing and making sure everything runs efficiently and professionally whilst remaining warm and approachable. Nick does wonders in his kitchen and serves up some of the most delicious menu’s I have tasted at a wedding. I mention Olive rock because hosting is important when choosing a venue. I remember looking for our own wedding venue, the first one I came across seemed to deal out a standard text book package, I felt I was just another client, someone to get in, to feed and then to usher out, cold, lacking warmth and a human connection. I just didn’t seem to get a good warm feeling about the place. Bear this in mind when looking at venues. It is more important than you think. I have photographed at a local Winelands venue a few times now and every time been incredibly disappointed with the venue, the hostess stands in a corner and instils fear in her waiters with her staring disapproving eyes and the boring food hasn’t changed since the first time I photographed there, there was a lack of care and on a very hot day, a simple thing like water on the tables was neglected. This comes down to hosting, will they host you and your guests well or will they just treat their venue like a fast food outlet, get them in, feed them, get them out, cash the cheque. Who cashes cheques these days anyway?!

Another favourite of mine is a warm and welcoming venue exuding old world charm and romance, excellently and warmly hosted and full of natural beauty, Langverwagt. Perfectly positioned between Cape Town and the Winelands, this delightful venue has so much to offer, say your I do’s surrounded by tall trees, enjoy some wine with views to Table Mountain then settle in for the evening in a rustic old building full of warmth and charm. They are far from the commercialised and cold slick offerings of other venues, for Langverwagt, it’s about the personal touch and experience.

Another very important aspect to bear in mind is the layout of the venue. You have to ask yourself if the venue has a good flow. Let me explain this a little with a typical wedding scenario. Mains have been enjoyed and the grooms speech has just finished, you are about to open the dance floor, you leave your table and head into the next room separated by thick walls and passages and wait for everyone to gather around to watch your amazing dance moves, only, not everyone is there, some have headed outside, beyond the thick curtain into the dark to light up and puff away some conversation about how business is going, some are still gnawing on a lamb shank in the far reaches of the hall and a handful have made the long shuffle to your dance floor. Later on the dance floor has filled up but the announcement that pudding is served sees a few leaving to enjoy the sweet treat they have been lusting after only to find themselves the only one at their large round table. They quickly gulp down their brownies and melting ice cream and rush back to join the party. This is a scenario which sees the wedding segmented, separated by a lack of flow. Make sure the venue offers the ability to see all that is going on, you can enjoy your brownies while watching uncle Bob rocking those 60’s moves on the dance floor and at the same time giving a wink to the bridesmaid knocking back her 3rd tequila at the bar. You will find the party has a lot more momentum and your guests and yourself will enjoy yourselves so much more.

A few extra things to bear in mind are the following. Is there good outside space for guests to relax after the ceremony, maybe play a few lawn games and catch up over a few drinks while enjoying some beautiful scenery. How much extra decorating will be required? Some venues are an empty shell where you have to provide everything, which can become very expensive and tiresome, other venues just require a few personal touches.

Ask friends about enjoyable and memorable weddings they have attended, you will start to get a good idea of where to look. One final thought, please, don’t look at so many venues you end up completely forgetting about the 13th venue you visited on your 4th weekend of venue hunting. Do your research first then choose a small number to visit, make a decision and stick with it. There aren’t too many bad venues out there, most are really great. Just bear in mind what you and your fiancé chatted about and keep things light and enjoyable.

Here are a few links to venues I think are wonderful.

Olive Rock – http://oliverock.co.za/

Dornier Wine Farm – http://www.dornier.co.za/functions-and-conferencing/functions

Langverwagt – http://www.langverwagt.co.za/

Harbour House, Kalk Bay – http://www.harbourhouse.co.za/

Hathersage – http://www.hathersage.co.za/

Corrie Lynn, Natal Midlands, http://farmwedding.co.za/

De Uijlenes, http://www.deuijlenes.co.za/

Till next time, happy planning.