How To: Choose a Venue

In addition to setting the date, choosing your venue is probably one of the biggest decisions you’re going to make throughout the wedding planning process.  Your venue will set the tone for the wedding and give you an idea of what expenses you’re going to be facing.

Here are some things you should have taken care of before you start scouting wedding venues.

  • Budget – Your big day budget is what makes everything else possible.  Knowing how much money you have to work with will help narrow down your venue options.
  • Vision – Once again, having a clear picture of what you want your wedding day to be (in terms of theme, color scheme, location, etc.) will shorten your list of possible venues.
  • Guest List – While your guest list doesn’t have to be 100% finalized, having an idea of how many people you’re expecting to invite/attend will have an impact on your choice of venue.
  • Wedding Date and Back-up – Make sure you’ve decided on a date before you start looking at venues.  In fact, most places won’t even meet with you unless you have a date in mind.  Additionally, it may be a good idea to think of a back-up in case you fall in love with a venue, but your date isn’t available.
  • Logistics – Are you looking for a wedding venue, reception venue, or both?  It’s helpful to let the venue know exactly what you’re looking for.

Now it’s time to start looking for your venue!  You know what that means, right?

1. Research

A good percentage of wedding planning always begins with research.  Ask friends and family for referrals.

TIP:  When researching venues, create a spreadsheet with the following information for easy reference:

  • Venue name, location, capacity, website, phone number, etc.
  • Price (this probably won’t be listed while you’re researching, but is something you can put in later)
  • What you liked about it:  It’s important to remember what first struck you about this venue

2. Location

Where you venue is located is extremely important.  If the ceremony and  the reception are at two different locations, what is the time and distance between the two?  If relatives are coming from out of town, is there adequate lodging in the immediate area?  Is it local to where the majority of friends and family live?  If not, do you think people will be willing to travel?

Once you’ve narrowed down your list by location and budget, it’s time for a site visit.  TIP:  Always call and schedule an appointment.

Things to bring with you on a wedding venue site visit:

  • Camera/Phone – Make sure to bring some sort of device that can capture pictures.  No matter how good your memory is, it’s always good to have a picture to refer back to.
  • Checklist – Bring a list of questions you’d like to have answered, concerns, and must-haves that you want for your big day.
  • Checkbook/credit card – Experts usually say not to book the first place you see, but if you really fall in love with a venue, you’re going to want to put down a deposit.  So keep a checkbook or credit card on hand just in case!
  • Notebook – Take notes during the walk-through!

3. What are you responsible for

Make sure the venue outlines what you’re responsible for providing when doing a site visit.  If you’re looking at an outdoor wedding, you may have to provide your own furniture, lighting, linens, bathroom facilities, kitchen facilities, etc.

4. Preferred Vendors

Catering halls are usually full-service in terms of providing food, linens, etc.  However, some venues have preferred caterers that you are either required to work with, or additional fees you must pay to use your own.  If you’re set on having specific entertainment, catering, flowers, etc. this is an important thing to clear up during the site visit.

5. Pricing and Payment

Usually, the venue will have a few packages to accommodate different price points and budgets for prospective clients.  Some are even willing to custom design a package based on your specific needs.  Other important things to ask when it comes to payment:

  • When is the initial deposit/full payment due?
  • Does my deposit hold my date or is the date only secured once I’ve signed a contract?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • Do you offer payment plans?
  • How much will it cost if you go over your allotted time?

6. Scheduling

Are you the only wedding booked that day?  If there is another wedding scheduled, is it going to affect service?  Do you have the option to go over the allotted time?

7. Read the Contract

We can’t stress how important it is for you to read the contract with ANY vendor you hire for your wedding.  Be sure to read every last detail so you know exactly what you’re getting and what you’re responsible for!

 

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