The search for your wedding venue is one of the most challenging parts of the planning process and so many options link into that one decision. Picking your venue is one of the first things you have to do and the truth of the matter is, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, each site visit or conversation will teach you one more question you should have probably asked the previous venue.
Before you even start to look at wedding venues, there are a few conversations you have to have with your partner to nail down your plans.
The most important is your wedding budget—the two dirty words no one wants to discuss, but before you know if you can afford a specific wedding venue, you need to understand what your wedding budget is. Having the budget conversation with your fiancé, and one or more sets of parents, is the first step in sketching out your wedding day.
The next piece is your guest list. A $40,000 wedding budget for 200 wedding guests looks a lot different than a wedding with 100 guests. Most venues can only accommodate a certain number of guests, so you'll need to have a strong estimate of how many guests you'll be inviting.
Top 5 Things
Next step is for you and your fiancé to each put together your top five most essential features of a wedding venue. It might be different for each of you and that's OK.
Does it need to be close to a specific house of worship? Do you need a large number of guest rooms available? Does it have to be on a beach or are you looking at something rustic? Do you have specific ethnic or religious food preferences and need to bring in outside catering? Having a list from each of you can help establish parameters in terms of geography, style, and must-have items. Pair that with budget and number of guests and you should have a good idea of where to start the search.
Apples to Apples
Set up a spreadsheet where you can track venue ideas, websites, contact information, as well as your top five must-have items. This will help you check off boxes and compare your lists side by side.
It’s A Date
Having a specific date in mind is huge. If the venue isn’t available for the one and only date you want, it’s not meant to be. Are you flexible with the wedding date? Are you only looking at Saturday evening or are you open to a Friday night? Are you set on having your wedding in May or just in the Spring? These are all things to consider before you start the search.
Now You’re Ready
In reaching out to a wedding venue, make sure you have done all of your prep work. Do some online research and come ready to chat and schedule a site visit.
When touring the venue, let them do the talking. Chances are, the salesperson has done this a couple of times and will answer a majority of your questions before the end of the visit. Be sure to have a list of your questions to check off or ask about when they finish. Here are some ideas to keep in the back of your mind:
- Is your wedding date available or do they have dates during the time you are considering?
- What is their occupancy? (Keep in mind, venues make money by filling seats and the capacity they quote might be a touch crowded.)
- Are there other events going on at the same time? If so, where are they located?
- Is there an event in the space you are considering earlier that day? When are they scheduled to finish and when will your wedding team have access to the area?
- How long would you have the space for?
- Are there separate spaces for the ceremony and cocktail reception?
- If they are outdoors, is there an indoor back-up plan in case of inclement weather?
- Are there ready rooms and storage for your wedding pros? Where are other necessities like bathrooms located and what do they look like?
- Are spaces handicap accessible?
- What is their policy on smoking? Is there a designated area if smoking is allowed?
- What are their policies on things such as open flames, exclusive vendor lists, or bringing in outside food?
- Do they require a wedding coordinator or wedding planner?
- Are there noise or amplified music regulations?
- Do they require that you and the wedding pros have liability insurance? If so, what are the requirements?
And these are just the basic facilities questions (Sorry!).
Depending on the type of venue and whether they provide onsite catering or not, or whether tables, chairs, or linens are included, can help take your ‘need to know’ questions in several different directions. One piece builds on to the next, so starting with the essential must-have pieces and moving on from there will set the tone for how to proceed and the next questions to ask.
Hero Photo Courtesy of Tessa Tadlock