I’m often asked for advice on wedding day scheduling, wedding event planning and other wedding service supplier recommendations, which I’m always happy to give. But because the venue is chosen first, sometimes even before the dress, we photographers are unable to advise on this incredibly important decision, in spite of the fact that we are eminently placed to help. We’ve shot at all the venues, often in inclement weather, at all times of year. We’ve experienced good and bad service from all kinds of wedding venues. I certainly have a mental list of the very best in the business when it comes to wedding event management and superlative customer service.
So I thought it high time I shared that knowledge with you, dear reader. Now, it would be very bad business practice for me to tell you of venues that I don’t recommend, so this is more a top ten list to help, hopefully, those whose guest lists (and budgets!) run from big to small. All these venues have delighted both my brides and grooms, and me, on multiple occasions, so hopefully, this blog might help one or two couples to choose wisely.
So what makes a wedding venue shine for me? Well, it has to work in all weathers for a start. That means that it will rock, come rain or shine. Some venues are great for the exterior grounds but aren’t so pretty indoors, so if it rains, we’re a bit stuffed. The converse is also true – if the building itself is fabulous but the location sucks, sorry, but that don’t cut it for me. Secondly, what’s the scran like? I’m an unashamed foodie, and wedding breakfasts are important. Good food doesn’t have to be too expensive, but whether it’s pricey or affordable, it’s got to be served on time – and it’s got to be what the bride and groom ordered! There are venues out there where I’ve worked really hard to ‘release’ the wedding party in plenty of time for the meal only to discover that the venue isn’t ready and the meal is delayed. Finally, staff should be friendly, involved and helpful – as far as I’m concerned, all wedding day staff (I include myself and my assistants in this) have a common goal of making every wedding the best day that the couple and their guests can remember. I hate it when the ball gets dropped!
Here’s my absolute favourite venues for weddings in Merseyside and Cheshire:
Quite simply, this place is THE BEST! The interior and exterior of the house vie for supremacy as photographic backgrounds – and that’s just the building. The grounds are exquisite too, and have to be experienced. If you can stretch your budget to afford this venue, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed as Knowsley Hall’s excellent team show the rest how to run a wedding. Check out Helen and David’s photos here and Amy and Greg’s here.
The seat of government in this wonderfully eclectic city, the Town Hall may seem a strange choice for a wedding venue. That is, until you see the interior. Incredible sweeping staircases, vaulted ceilings with gold leaf on the architraving and its proximity to the plaza by the Three Graces make the Town Hall a firm favourite of mine. And, as you’ll have noticed so far in this report, it’s got the other most important thing to me – excellent staff. Amy and Adam’s wedding took advantage of just about everything that the Town Hall has to offer – here’s their photos.
This may seem like an odd choice to add to my list of best venues, but Anfield is an essential addition to the shortlist for any Liverpool FC mad couple. The hospitality team here could write the book on how to look after a wedding party. The bridal party get to go on the stadium tour which gives loads of opportunities for Liverpool FC themed wedding photos. I’m not that into the footie, but I’m well into shooting weddings at Anfield!
I think location is very important for city centre wedding venues, as well as what their interior is like. Mal Maison has both features maxed out. The hotel lobby has a decidedly industrial chic feel with an amazing steel staircase, whilst the immediate vicinity of the hotel allows access to the docks, with amazing bridges and decking to experiment with. I love it!
This is somewhat of a hidden gem. Like the Mal Maison, it scores highly on its location, with fabulous sculpture and architecture surrounding it. And cross the road (only four lanes of traffic!) and you’re down by the river again. The lobby is huge with a giant staircase which can be viewed from the surrounding floors which all open onto the atrium space – perfect for a big group shot. There’s a grand piano and an imposing wooden sculpture too. The views from the windows across the Mersey are stunning.
This small hotel, formerly known as the Alicia, has never failed to impress me. The rooms are lovely, with lots of period features and the staff are amongst the best in the business. Location? One of the biggest ticks there is! The hotel is virtually opposite the Samuel Smith memorial obelisk in Sefton Park and a long avenue of trees with Victorian wrought iron benches. What’s not to like?
This has to be Cheshire’s most prestigious venue. Like Knowsley Hall, the main house combines stunning rooms with a beautiful arrangement of lawns, gardens and gazebos. The staff are attentive and polite and very friendly. Again, if you can afford it, Thornton Manor will impress your guests and families alike – it really is one of the best. Helen and Adeeb’s wedding let me show off the Manor’s features to their best!
Another Cheshire highlight, Willington Hall ticks all the boxes again: interior, exterior and staff. I’ve only shot here the once, but what a fantastically memorable day it was! You can see Hazel & Jim’s photos here.
Oh boy oh boy! What a fabulous place this is! The only negative thing I could think of about this extraordinary Cheshire wedding venue is that it’s a bit dark indoors in the winter. Oh well – just as well I use high ISO capable cameras and pack a couple of flashguns to every wedding! It’s one of those venues that provides amazing beauty in every direction that you look, inside and out. Super friendly and capable staff complete the criteria for a world-beating wedding venue. Rachel and Chris got married here – they certainly didn’t regret their choices.
I’m going to end with churches. I love a bit of gothic in a church wedding, and I love vicars/priests who allow me and my team to discreetly photograph the proceedings. Take note that not all churches allow photography from the front, and some don’t allow photography at all! Make sure, if you’re having a church wedding, that you enquire about the rules for photography during the service – and then let your photographer know! It’s not nice finding out on the wedding day, for either party! You also need to be sure that you can get married in a church that you like the look of as it’s often linked to where you or your family live and/or attend/
This is the gem of the Catholic church in Liverpool. A truly modern building, it’s filled with colour and form. There’s so many facets to it, it’s almost indescribable. From the incredible stairway from Mount Pleasant up to the front door, to the stunning stained glass interior, every angle inspires and delights. The staff are brilliant – friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Naturally there are some caveats to tackle before you can get married here, but if you can tick these boxes, then just like Sally and Philip, you can get married at this iconic building and if you choose me to be your photographer, you can be sure of having amazing photos too. 😉
When compared to the Metropolitan Cathedral, you may think that Liverpool Cathedral is somewhat lacking in colour. However, it makes up for this apparent loss by its sheer size and grandeur. It never ceases to amaze me when I go there – the height of the ceiling, the breathtaking size of the main space and then, just off to the western corner, the incredible Lady Chapel. Like the Catholic Cathedral, the staff are brilliant and you will feel well looked after here. Anna and Tom got married here and their photos do justice to this amazing space. And just like the Catholic Cathedral, you must meet certain criteria to make use of the Cathedral as your wedding venue.
Like many of Liverpool’s churches, St Bridget’s doesn’t look like much from outside, but the interior is simply fabulous!
Now, I should probably make this clear – I’m a wedding photographer, not a wedding planner… however, if you’d like to ask for my advice on your choice of venue, then please do get in touch. Let’s talk!