THE wedding venue is one of the first things you’ll book and is also arguably the most important.

Your choice of location will set the theme for your whole day, so you will need to spend some time ensuring it is the right venue for you and fits in with your vision of your perfect wedding.

Across Dorset there are a whole host of wedding venues from traditional churches and hotels to grander stately homes and even castles. At the completely opposite end of the scale, you can even get married at Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre near Wareham or in a Bournemouth beach hut now!

You should book your venue at least a year before your big day – many popular locations get booked up two years or more in advance - so the first thing you really need to decide on is what kind of wedding you want.

Whether you fancy a big, grand affair or a smaller, more relaxed do, or something in between, there is sure to be a perfect venue for you somewhere in the county!

Before you start looking, you need to at least have a rough idea of your guest list, as all venues will have a capacity limit on the rooms they use for weddings.

It is usual for everyone who has been invited to the wedding ceremony to be asked to the reception.

If only a small number of guests can attend the ceremony due to lack or space, or you want a very private ceremony, then additional guests can be invited to the reception afterwards.

It’s important not to be swayed by the beauty of a location if it’s not right for you – don’t book a huge, grand reception if you can’t fill the dance floor!

Decide whether you want to have the ceremony and reception in the same place or not. If you don’t, think about how close the two venues are, and how easy they are to find – you don’t want half your guests getting lost en route.

If you have a lot of friends or family coming from out of the area, it may even be worth laying on a coach or min bus from one venue to the other, to ensure they all get there safely!

It’s also worth finding out about parking at the venue, so you can let your guests know the arrangements beforehand.

Most venues these days will have a wedding planner, so make sure you meet with them to find out about all the finer details – what time your celebration will have to end, whether they provide their own DJ or caterers, if you can bring your own wine etc.

Don’t forget that some stately homes and museums can have different restrictions in place, so make sure you find out what you can and can’t do when you’re making initial enquiries.

Ask if you can visit the venue on a day when it is set up for a wedding, to give you an idea of how it will look on your big day.

Your wedding breakfast menu should be as personalised as your day, so it’s a good idea to eat at your proposed venue prior to booking to get a real taste for the cuisine.

You can also book a “menu tasting” at your chosen venue to give the opportunity to create your menu based on knowledge of what the chef can offer.

There’s certainly a lot to consider when choosing your venue, but don’t be intimidated. Most couples say they know their perfect location the instant they walk through the door.