STUNNING to look at and ticks all the right boxes? No, not the perfect marriage partner – but the new wave of wedding venue that promises to make one of the most stressful days of your life easier. ANILA BAIG reports on the rise of the banqueting halls.

Planning a wedding is harder than ever. In the past there were two choices – marry back home or hire a community centre and serve all your friends and family in two or even three sittings.

Now there are weddings in city centre hotels, country house manors, you can wed in a marquee or go intimate with a select gathering at a restaurant. Finding the perfect venue is almost as difficult as finding the perfect partner.

There is also a new kid on the wedding block – the banqueting hall – and they are fast becoming popular.

When Zora Khan was planning her son’s walima she needed a venue that would accommodate the relatives and not break the bank.

“We looked at a couple of hotels and I liked their location and the rooms but I wasn’t happy that the food was not catered in-house. For me the food is the most important part of the occasion and I was having nightmares about it.

“What if it was brought to the venue late, what if it was served cold? Then, to be honest, there was also the cost. Weddings are incredibly expensive and I didn’t want to pay that much money and still be worried that something could go wrong.”

She opted for a banqueting hall in Bradford.

“I had been to a family wedding there already and was impressed with the venue, lots of parking, easy to find for relatives coming from out of town and there is a lovely natural walkway in the hall. Everything is done in house from decorating the stage to serving the food. It’s such a stressful occasion and this way it feels like I will be able to actually focus on the ceremony and enjoy the walima without having to run around organising things.”

There is now a range of wedding halls across the district and they have come about organically, as Haider Hussain of the Grand Banqueting Suite in Dewsbury explained.

“Asian weddings have changed quite quickly over the years. Previously it was about getting people into the community centre or sports hall, eating, and leaving as quickly as possible. With Pakistani weddings in particular you could often make more money from the money given as gifts than you would spend on the wedding itself.”

These days it is a whole different ball game.

“Before the parents planned everything and the kids had to go along with it. That’s changed. Now the kids want some input and the parents go along with it. It’s more equal and it’s about keeping everyone happy.”

Haider said the banqueting halls started being set up around five years ago. His family is well known in the district having established one of the first Asian restaurants in Bradford – the iconic Sweet Centre – more than 50 years ago.

“We have catering in our blood. Our family opened one of the first Asian restaurants in Bradford and most of our customers were from the community.

“We also had a function room where people would hold weddings and that just evolved into an all-in-one venue.”

The stunning Grand Banqueting Suite certainly lives up to its name and is extremely opulent.

Haider said having an all in one service made wedding planning easier for stressed parents.

“With a wedding in a hotel or community centre you have to co-ordinate all the elements separately like the food, the décor, the stage but we do it all so it all complements each other and gels nicely.

“We want everyone to be happy – the bride and groom who want a modern wedding and the parents who may be more traditional.”

And while it may not be fashionable, for some families traditional means segregated.

“We have two halls and can accommodate 900 people in two sections.

“Weddings are the times when you see people you may not have seen for a few years and you want to be able to catch up and relax with them.”

Ameer Hamza, who runs the HQ Banqueting Hall in Bradford, agreed that their job is to take the stress away from the family on the big day.

His family had been running Northern Leaf Catering in Keighley for more than 15 years before they branched out into the wedding venue business opening HQ Banqueting Hall in April 2016.

Ameer said: “For us it was a natural step. We used to go from venue to venue doing the catering and we saw how other people did things and wanted to set up our own all-in-one service.”

“You would see the family members all stressed out on the day, running around. We want our customers to enjoy the event, not have to serve food.”

He said social media had transformed the Asian wedding market.

“Before social media all weddings were pretty similar but now it’s about creating a talking point.

“I’ve seen weddings create a ripple effect on social media whether it’s because of the stage design, the size of the cake, the style of the bride’s gown. Everyone wants to create something unique.”

However, he said food was still of paramount importance.

“For us with our experience in catering, food is literally our bread and butter and we pride ourselves on it.”

Décor is a huge part of the attraction at the Lyceum in Bradford. It has a stunning ceiling decked out in lights which makes it perfect for entertainment. No wonder as the venue has a long history in entertainment where it was once big musical venue for stars like Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black.

Co-owner Sim Basi said banqueting halls also provided a unique service that hotels couldn’t deliver.

“With us you get a hotel standard venue but we have a lot of advantages.

“We can tailor the occasion to the exact needs of the customer while a hotel is usually part of a chain.

“We also find that a lot of our bookings are through word of mouth, so people will have attended a wedding or event here already and know what the place is like.

“We also have ample private parking. It’s the whole package.”