You’ve spent weeks searching for your perfect wedding venue, attending open days and narrowing down your options by capacity, theme and cost, and finally, FINALLY, you book your dream wedding venue.
And then your best friend tells you they love it too and books it for a month before your wedding.
Whether you view it as flat-out “stealing” your wedding venue or the slightly-more-flattering “copying” of your wedding plans, sharing a wedding venue with a friend or family member can cause serious tension.
Even the royal family aren’t immune to this nuptial nightmare. Prince Harry will be sharing the same wedding venue of St George’s Chapel with Princess Eugenie when they both marry later this year.
So how can you make your day special and unique if your venue isn’t? How do you broach the subject with a friend who has booked their wedding at your venue? And, even trickier, what do you do if you’re the one who wants to book the same venue a friend already has? You asked, Wedding SOS answered.
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How Can You “Steal” A Wedding Venue?
Image: Polhawn Fort
There is the argument that no-one can stake a claim on a venue as “theirs” and therefore ban anyone they know from considering it as a venue option. And, of course, that’s true.
But it takes a long time and a lot of effort to find the perfect wedding venue, and a couple will often find one they consider very special to them.
If someone you know has their wedding at the same venue, then it can make it feel less special and personal to you. If there’s guest overlap between the two weddings, then you may feel like guests will be comparing both wedding days.
Image: La Fête
Sometimes sharing a venue is the only option, such as choosing a local church and nearby pub if you marry somewhere with limited venue options, and in that instance most couples know this in advance and don’t mind. Again, perhaps using a certain ceremony and reception venue is a tradition in your family (like Prince Harry) and can make the day even more special.
But as a wedding planning website with lots of forums on the topic of “stealing” wedding venues, we know it can be a serious issue that breaks up friendships and drives rifts in families - not just a “bridezilla” issue.
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What Do I Say To My Friend If They’ve Booked The Same Venue?
Image: Johnny Roxburgh Designs
Wedding expert Caroline Bradley of Sorella + Co warns that handling this situation wrongly could end up with you choosing between your venue or your friendship, which nobody wants.
“If a friend or family member tells you they are booking the same venue as you for their wedding day, this can be a tricky situation. It’s likely you spent hours upon hours searching for the perfect location, and feeling like your friend or family member has bypassed that just to book your top choice can feel hurtful,” says Caroline.
“Hopefully they have spoken to you about it first and it’s important you are honest with how you feel - if the idea makes you uncomfortable then tell them that and explain why.”
Image: Bisham Abbey
You need to decide exactly why you’re having this conversation, however.
Is it because their actions have hurt you and you want to clear the air before it causes more problems? Then talking it out will likely make you feel better and ease tension.
Is it because you want them to change their venue? Think carefully about this. You may think they’ve been selfish by “stealing” your venue, but demanding they pick a different venue, and likely lose their deposit on this venue, is just as selfish.
Caroline warns that emotions will already be heightened during wedding planning so you may feel more irrational than normal.
She recommends to ask yourself: “Is it really the only venue you could possibly get married at in the whole of the country? If they get married there will it make your day any less magical? Is it worth losing your friendship? The answer to all these questions is probably no.”
READ MORE: How To Choose A Wedding Venue
What Do I Say To My Friend If I Want To Book Their Venue?
Image: Currandine Barns; Gemma Williams Photography
Caroline says prior communication is key – don’t sneakily book the venue and try to address the issue afterwards!
“If you are considering a wedding venue that a friend has already booked for their wedding day then - out of respect for your friendship - you should talk to them about it. They may be absolutely fine with it and then problem solved!
“However, they may also feel like you having your wedding there could overshadow their day or make it less special. Take the time to consider their thoughts and feelings before you do anything hasty - particularly if you plan on getting married there before they do.”
If you haven’t yet booked the venue, you might want to take their unhappiness into consideration and look at alternative venues.
But if you have your heart set on the same venue, it doesn’t have to be a disaster; there are plenty of ways for each of you to make your wedding unique.
READ MORE: How To Plan The Perfect Wedding For £27,000
What Can I Do To Make My Wedding Venue Unique?
Image: La Fête
Charlotte Ricard, founder of bespoke event planners La Fête, says to take a strong theme as your starting point.
She says, “To make it ‘yours’ you should work with a combination of room décor, flowers and table styling details tied into a strong theme that runs from your invitations, wedding website and stationery.
“This will allow you to create a look that is unquestionably yours and appears like it has been thoughtfully curated and designed.”
Party Architect Johnny Roxburgh of Johnny Roxburgh Designs similarly has plenty of experience transforming the same venue into completely different guest experiences based on the needs and wants of his clients. He recommends taking the venue as a blank canvas and using personalised finishing touches to make your day stand out.
“I think that the fact that the space is the same really doesn’t matter, it’s the magic that one works that will make the wedding feel unique. It is also the couple’s day and their personalities will transform the venue.
Image: Johnny Roxburgh Designs
“One way to personalise a wedding includes naming tables after something special to the couple such as places they have visited together. Another idea is creating a wall of both the bride and groom’s family photographs, backlit as a walkway from dinner to the dance floor. This effect can be enhanced by making the floor of the walkway covered in plexi-mirror.
“For winter weddings, it is fun for the bride and groom to have made their own sloe gin which could either be served before the church service to warm the guests on a cold day or placed in miniature bottles on the tables, to which the guests’ names are attached. For weddings in the sun, hand fans with the inititals of the bride and groom can be a good memory.”
READ MORE: 37 Ways To Personalise Your Wedding
What Will My Guests Think If They’re Going To Two Weddings At The Same Venue?
Image: Circa Events
The honest truth is that your guests won’t care. Every aspect of a wedding is so customisable - from size to theme to décor to menu - that the two days will feel completely different.
“People are more likely to notice similar colour schemes and visual focal points, for example a large floral display in a certain area, as well as similar entertainment,” says Charlotte.
“Guests will not notice similar furniture, tableware or even bar offerings, although these is often areas brides worry about as being ‘samey’.”
But Johnny says there are a few incredibly important aspects that will make a big difference for your guests’ experience.
“I personally feel that the look matters hugely and that the space in which the wedding takes place is key. Food needs to be good, but for many guests who are busy talking, dinner comes and goes while they chat.
“Music is really fundamental as the time spent dancing at a party can be made or ruined by the DJ or band. You need to choose artists carefully and remember that the music usually has to appeal to a wide range," he says.
READ MORE: 31 Entertainment Ideas Your Guests Will Love
What You Think
Image: Down For The Count; Nick Tucker Photography
This is an issue you’ve taken to hitched’s forums to ask about many times, so we’ve turned to our real-life brides to see what advice they have.
One bride-to-be was struggling with a family member choosing not only the same wedding venue but the same date, just a year earlier.
Paula, a photographer at Ollievision Photography, said from her experience guests are unlikely to notice. “I'm a wedding photographer and, to be honest, every wedding is unique….I regularly shoot weddings at venues I have worked at before and the second/third wedding at a venue doesn't really remind me of the first wedding. So I doubt your guests would notice!”
Fairycake135's silver lining was that you can use the first wedding as a dry run. "My [other half] discounted any wedding venues we have attended weddings at. I think it comes down to wanting your day to be super special - and it still will be. When I think about my venue, it feels special and unique to me and ideally I would love to keep it that way.
"I think it's a little hurtful that a family member would book it without discussing it with you first. However, as others have mentioned, try and see it in a positive light, you will see what works well and what you would do differently. Plus there will be a year in between, so guests are likely to forget how the other wedding looked."
Image: La Fête
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However, there was equal support for going ahead and booking the same venue. Loopy_lisa 91 wrote: “I don't see a problem? It's not YOUR venue. It's the venue you've chosen but it doesn't belong to you and you don't have a monopoly on it. You obviously chose it because you fell in love with it and it's probable she did the same."
In another forum, one wedding band suggested that you might even get a cheaper wedding by booking the same venue. “We often work at weddings where the bride/groom's friend/sister/brother etc had previously booked us, the same venue, even florists and the like, because you often get a referral discount. These people are always the most relaxed and fun to work for because they're not bothered about what anyone thinks.”
Sdaisy22 says there can be unforeseen problems in rejecting a venue your friend likes too. “What I've found more awkward is a friend who's getting married at a place that we saw and rejected...she keeps referring to it as our 'second choice' and asking why we didn't choose it...I've found it really awkward to answer as 'We just really didn't like it' isn't going to be what she wants to hear!”
Maybe that guest overlap has left you needing to uninvite some of your guest list? We also have expert advice on how to uninvite guests.