Opting for a wedding venue is an important step. It is costly. It sets the tone. It is a remarkably overwhelming process. It is a “meat” in the sandwich if you will. So, how is it possible to find a perfect venue that A) is affordable, B) you like, C) isn’t booked yet, D) suits your party (hint: Yes, it is possible).
FIRST: Before you make any decisions considering the wedding venue, you need to compile a draft budget. Never sign a contract with the venue, no matter how attractive the price is, only to understand down the line that there is no money left for a DJ you have been coveting.
SECOND: Get ready with a research spreadsheet – a place where you can note your research on the venue ideal so that the information will be organized and none of the ideas lost. Besides, figure out whether you are an all-inclusive couple or are in search of la carte option. When you deal with these categories, you will get a narrowed-down search.
We have interviewed The Plannery Katie Wannen about the problems and challenges the couple can face during the research of wedding venues:
“The most frustrating part of finding a venue is the initial research. Much like the college application process, venues and their websites are all completely different. They offer a variety of information in various places, and sometimes they don’t offer any information at all, which is even more fun. Try not to get too frustrated by this. If you can’t find answers on a venue’s site, use the spreadsheet to track what info you still need and reach out with your questions via email. Often venues are stingy with info online, but if approached, they have a marketing packet ready to share that has a lot of the initial information you are looking for”.
Following the ideas, specified by Katie, the following columns should be included in the research spreadsheet for your wedding venue ideas:
- Capacity. Compare the capacity with the number of invited guests and the overall size of your event. If you prefer a cocktail party rather than a serious sit-down meal, the same space can fit more people;
- Availability. Make sure the venue isn’t reserved for the date of your wedding;
- Type. Choose whether it will be a restaurant, hotel, historical or outdoor spot;
- Layout. Check if there is enough space for each aspect of the wedding you have planned, including a ceremony, reception, cocktails, and others. Visit the site to figure it out;
- Rates. Add a new line into the spreadsheet, called “My Cost”. Enter rough information about the place you can find online;
- Website. Browse the website in order to remind yourself a spot by looking at the photos and reading the description;
- Restrictions. Note vital points, like end time, which can influence your decision;
- Transportation and parking. Pay due attention to the free parking available, public transit access nearby and similar transportation considerations;
- Facility extras. Mention any items that come with the venue: chairs, A/V equipment, linens, tables, and others;
- Caterer. Check if there are any restrictions considering catering, especially a preferred list of companies you need to work with or an in-house caterer you can order.
Price: The moment you are ready with initial online research, and there is a healthy list of places you like, you should go back to the venues you are most interested in. Give a rough sense of the cost of this and that venue.
Issues for consideration: What will it cost for your timing and size of the event (for instance, is there any charge for extra hours)? What are the extras included (free parking, tables, chairs, etc.)?
- Please note that the approximate cost of these items should be known. No exact monetary value is needed yet. At this point, the list will help you do a rapid rundown and remember: “Cheap venue is great, but I need to take care of transportation, use a restricted costly caterer and provide rentals, while a more expensive one includes many of these features – hence, the price is frequently balanced out”.
- Use a draft budget for yours, create different variants of the budget for every venue you have on your list. Consequently, you will get more details and add in rental costs, actual venue price and other expenses for each option. It will provide you with a hard look at the real difference between the venues, which will definitely help you choose.
Questions to Answer Before Choosing a Wedding Venue
- How affordable is the venue for me? (You see what we have done? Mentioned the budget again. The reason? It’s extremely important). Do not torture yourself to keep a $12,000 venue in case you can really afford the one for $4,000 and not more. It will break your heart and waste valuable time.
- Is the venue available on the necessary date (exact date, month or season)? A great number of modern venues offer an online calendar, while others can be accessed through email. Anyway, double check the date when you visit the site.
- Does the capacity of the venue fit your guest list? Trying to find a perfect venue, you will face certain specific moments. Stretching the capacity of the site in order to make it more attractive is one of the most common ones. The only way to figure out the best number of visitors the place can include is to ask directly: “How many people can be successfully included in the space?” Just the capability to fit 150 guests does not mean you should obligatorily do so.
- Does the layout of the venue fit my needs? For instance, if you want to have a ceremony, cocktails, and reception in the same venue, you will need to find the site with three separate spaces for all those events. If no, you will, probably, be recommended a “flip”. It is about changing the ceremony space into space for the reception during cocktail hour. The moment guests stay in another area, the design is changed and the total view of the place becomes different. Flip is one of the most beneficial ways to make the most of the venue’s cost. Nevertheless, discuss the flip with the organizers, asking if they have experience and specifying some details, like: Where do they store reception tables and decorations? Will you need to rent a pipe and drape? Does it require special space, which is weather dependent? This is where the bulk of hidden issues and costs will be recognized. Besides, it is inevitable to discuss other issues, which may take place during the ceremony. Ask about the place where the couple is kept before the event? Are there several rooms in case they don’t want to see one another beforehand? Where do guests process from? Do they have an altar or a typical layout?
- Mind the location. Is it okay if you need to provide transportation for your guests, for example, from a hotel to the remote venue you have selected? Does the venue located in the center allow people to get there via public transport or walking? Once everyone is driving, is there a parking space big enough for all guests (unpaid or paid)? Pay due attention to transportation, as it can be quite a big deal on your budget.
- Are there any catering restrictions in the venue? Sometimes venues cooperate with exclusive caterers, who are usually expensive. Besides, other times you are dreaming about your beloved Mexican restaurant feeding your guests, but the venue does not allow or take extra payment for non-traditional caterers.
- Is the venue suitable for the general vibe of the party? This is quite a complicated task, as it is a specific feeling and depends mainly on the wedding type you want to have. If you want to have a modern barbecue party at the wedding, the marble-laden hall will not be the best spot for you. Contrarily, a black-tie wedding will not make your guests happy if they are all wearing gowns and stilettos. We recommend you to stay open up to the moment you make a visit to the site of the future wedding. I have a great experience organizing weddings, and I know the clients who thought they wanted one thing but it turned out to be a completely different spot at the end. At this point, you should also consider décor. Some venues are naturally impressive and beautiful, so no pizzazz and lightning are required, while others may need some decorations. Look for the details of marketing photos of the venue you can find online – they frequently have many decorations and extra light.
- Finally, if you choose an all-inclusive route, you need to discuss all the aspects that are included in the cost. The wedding industry is rapidly developing, so currently there are special companies offering complete guidance throughout the wedding. You do not have to worry about the banquet, flowers, cake and other issues. Unique wedding? Such venues usually offer a sophisticated and rich, but trivial wedding. Why can you consider it? Sometimes, it is quite a good option. The vast majority of all-inclusive venues span from the banquet hall to resort. Besides, you can choose the package you like the most. Specify the cake, menu, flowers and other items that should appear during the wedding day.
Now you are ready with the preliminary research and the spreadsheet is ready, so you can start narrowing down the options and visiting the sites you liked the most. Click to receive more details concerning the site visits – what are their feature and specifications, when is the right time to do them and what is the most important during the visit. Find out how to prevent wedding sticker shock.