You are engaged. There is a twinkle in your eye, a bounce in your step, and an eagerness to get started.
Of course every wedding consultant/planner/designer whether it be a professional or a DIYer knows that the first step in planning is booking your venue(s), meaning of course your ceremony location and your reception location. Be they the same location or two separate spots, you want to sign on the dotted line and claim those locales as yours for the day.
A few words of CAUTION
Before you get swept away by the breathtaking view, the vaulted ceilings, the rolling hills, or the marble staircase, please be sure to read the fine print. Although all couples want their venue to be the best, most beautiful, fabulous place, all too often the amazing look encourages us to sign on the dotted line before carefully reading a contract.
Now I know not a single bride and groom want to look back on their special day and say, “Well it was practical,” but neither do you want to suffer the pitfalls of not thinking ahead.
Unless you are so enamored by a specific venue that nothing else matters you have to start thinking about those little points that could make big problems if you don’t pay attention to them.
FIRST AND FOREMOST MAKE SURE THAT THE VENUE IS GOING TO FIT INTO YOUR BUDGET!!!
*SEE BELOW FOR IMPORTANT POINTS ON HIDDEN BUDGET BUSTERS
- Find a venue that will accommodate all of the guests you are going to have and the type of ceremony/reception, sit down dinner vs. buffet, band vs. DJ, wheelchair accessible if needed, ample coat check service and space, sufficient restroom facilities, parking, etc.
- Does this venue fit your wedding style? Is the décor satisfying on its own, or will you have to budget for additional elements, e.g. flowers, drapery, lighting, etc.
- Does your venue allow decorations? What are the limitations? Are you allowed open flame, drapery, can they accommodate specialized lighting, etc.
- What kind of deposit is required? What is the cancellation policy? Timeframe, refund, reschedule, etc.
- Food…Does the venue have an in-house caterer? Can you schedule a tasting? Do you have to pay for a tasting? Do you like the menus they offer? Will they create or make something specifically for you at your request? Do they allow outside catering? If they do not have an in-house caterer do they allow any licensed caterer to work on the premises or do they only allow their approved caterers?
*THIS LAST POINT IS VERY IMPORTANT. WHEN CONSIDERING YOUR BUDGET MAKE SURE YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE COST OF OUTSIDE CATERING. IF THE VENUE REQUIRES ONLY APPROVED CATERERS, CONTACT THOSE CATERERS FOR A QUOTE BEFORE YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT BECAUSE REMEMBER YOU ARE “REQUIRED” TO USE THOSE CATERERS!
- Does the venue have a liquor license or must your caterer and/or bartender be licensed?
- Will they allow you to bring in your own alcohol?
- Are there rooms for the wedding party to prepare? A bridal suite or a groom room to change/relax?
- Does the venue provide a coordinator? How much responsibility does he/she have? Who will be supervising the facility and troubleshooting on the day of your wedding? Are they available for at least one sit down before the wedding?
- Is there a limitation as to where food and drink can be taken within the venue?
- If the venue is an outdoor location what type of backup plans are suggested or required?
*SOME VENUES REQUIRE THAT YOU RESERVE A TENT IN CASE OF RAIN. VERY FEW TENT SUPPLIERS WILL LET YOU RESERVE A TENT WITHOUT A DEPOSIT AND BASICALLY YOU LOSE THIS DEPOSIT IF YOU DO NOT USE THE TENT. SO THIS IS AN ADDED EXPENSE FROM THE GET GO. IF NOTHING ELSE YOU WILL SPEND THE DEPOSIT AND IF IT RAINS THEN YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO PAY FOR THE TENT IN ITS ENTIRETY SO IF YOUR VENUE IS OUTDOORS MAKE SURE YOUR BUDGET CAN ACCOMMODATE THAT COST.
This by no means is meant to be a completely comprehensive list. There are many more points to be made regarding choosing your venue(s). You must take into account all the important points of “your wedding.” The best way to start is to make a list of the most important points, with your budget being #1.