Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Top Ten Tips for the Perfect Wedding

Ben & Claudia tied the knot in 2013

2014 has proven to be a popular year for weddings at Dartmoor Zoo with over twenty couples saying, "I do" at the zoo in the company of over 2000 guests.

We started the year with Sarah and David who tied the knot on a surprisingly sunny March afternoon. They had a selection of their closest friends celebrate their special day using the Manor House as the backdrop for their ceremony and the restaurant for their reception.

In August with much better weather, Matt and Gail had their ceremony outside the Manor House allowing their guests to top up their tan in the open air. The celebration continued in the marquee situated in the heart of the zoo amongst the tigers, cheetah and monkeys. 

Our two remaining weddings are in October, but there’s no time to rest with the calendar for 2015 already looking much busier! What have we learnt from the experiences of 2014?

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Many of our wedding couples across the years have thought planning a wedding was easy, until it came to their special day. Planning a wedding is like a military operation, everything must be planned to perfection, and when I say everything, I mean everything. Here are our top tips when planning your wedding:

  1. Know the date: It sounds obvious but be sure when contacting a venue that you know the exact date you are looking for. Good venues fill up very fast and their prices depend specifically on the day and date you are looking for. The venue won't be able to give you an accurate idea of costs without a date.
    • TIP: Weekdays outside of school holidays tend to be cheaper.
  2.        Know your numbers: Make sure you have written your guest list well in advance of your big day. The worst thing in the world is not knowing how many guests to expect weeks before the wedding and again, this is essential if you want an accurate idea of costs from the venue. 
    •  TIP: Give guests a strict deadline; normally venues will say 6 weeks prior to the wedding so tell your guests you need to know eight weeks before your big day. At the end of the day you are paying for it, so don’t be afraid to push!
  3. Choose the food you want: Don’t be tempted to think too much about other people's preferences when it comes to the food. It is your wedding, pick what you want. Think about this carefully when looking at venues too, sometimes they can be quite pushy and insist on you having their menu. If you aren’t happy with it, don’t have it. That venue obviously isn’t the place for you. Like most venues, we offer a selection of menus, but we don't insist that our couples stick to them. Many choose BBQ’s, hog roasts or if they do choose a 3 course meal they choose what they want; sometimes a Mexican theme, and sometimes a roast dinner. It is your special day, remember that. 
  4. Claire & Paul tied the knot in 2014
    •  TIP: keeps costs and complications to a minimum, only offer your guests one option for their main meal.
  5.  Chair covers: Chair covers can make a huge difference to your special day. However don't order them online and dress them yourselves. You might think you are saving money but do you really want to be dressing your chairs minutes before the most important event of your life? Let the supplier or venue take care of that - it's their job.
    •   TIP: Shop around with companies, sometimes they throw in table runners or sweet carts which can really improve the ambiance of your wedding. Your venue should have good contacts and will normally offer a reduced rate.
  6. Seating Plan: It doesn’t matter how low key or casual your wedding is going to be, always have a seating plan. This makes it easier for your guests and for the venue.
    • TIP: Ask the venue if they have an easel or something similar. This will save you a few quid and will make the room look much more sophisticated.
  7. Photographers: Do you want to remember your special day for the rest of your life? Do you want to reminisce with your children and grandchildren in years to come? Then book well in advance.  Good photographers book up very quickly. Make sure you shop around for the right kind of photographer, see samples of their work, the quality of their prints etc. Make sure you like their style and book them quickly. 
    • TIP: Ask the venue if they have an in-house photographer. Chances are they do and this photographer knows the venue inside out. They know where the best photo opportunities are and chances are they are given more freedom than someone the staff don’t know, meaning your photos will be that little bit more special.
  8. Extras: Do you want your wedding guests to be bored? Your day will be full - make sure its the same for your guests. Little extras like candy carts, photo booths and even a bouncy castle, really make your special day that much more special for your guests.
  9. Sadie and Chris met Vlad on their special day in 2014
    •   TIP: As above shop around and use your contacts. There must be a friend out there who knows a sweet shop. Use them, you’ll save bundles. But remember, make sure you let the venue know well in advance, they will need the boring, necessary stuff like Public Liability Insurance.
  10. Ceremony: Do not overlook your ceremony. Really, the amount of times we see couples just rock up to their wedding ceremony clueless is staggering. Trust us; you do not know what you are doing.
    • TIP. Arrange a ceremony rehearsal a few days before the wedding or if this isn’t possible, practice at home. Make all your mistakes before the big day!
  11. Signs: Do all your guests live locally? Signs might not seem significant but if half your guests don’t arrive because they are lost, it will soon become a big thing.
    • TIP: Ask the venue in advance if they have signs to use around their venue. If not jump on EBay, ‘Wedding ceremony this way’ signs can be as cheap as £3.
  12. Itinerary: Put together a comprehensive itinerary, one for the guests and one for the venue. The guest’s itinerary can be a bit general such as “Gather in marquee for food”. Whereas the venue's one needs to be much more comprehensive e.g. “Guests will arrive in the marquee for food. Ensure staff are ready to welcome guests and assist with the seating plan.” Include every tiny detail, your venue host will thank you for it.
    • TIP. Make sure you plan your itinerary with your guests in mind – leaving a big gap between the ceremony and the food is not a good idea, throw in a bouncy castle or a photo booth here, and trust us it works!
Finally, help the venue as much as possible: At the end of the day the venue are the people making sure your wedding goes exactly as you planned. If you don’t tell them what you’ve planned, how are they going to ensure it happens? 

So follow the above steps to ensure your wedding runs smoothly and that all your guests leave with memories as cherished as yours.

For more handy tips follow @DZPEvents on twitter.


  1. Wedding at zoo! I think the craze of selecting unique wedding location venue is in full swing. Well, the couple is looking so cute! Thanks for sharing their wedding details. I like the idea of getting married in Zoo.

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