If you read my earlier blog on 4 things To Do After You Get Engaged, you know that choosing your venue is #2 on that list. Choosing your theme, style, or 'vibe' is #1 on that list. Now, I will say - step #1 and #2 can and should be done concurrently. You might find the perfect venue that is available for your date but if it doesn't match your ideal style, is that ok? Maybe you are flexible on style? Maybe not? Figure out what is most important to you and go from there! And if you missed the blog post on how to choose your 'vibe', you can review it here.
Wedding venues, especially the most popular ones, are booked 1-2 years in advance. Crazy, right!? That's why as soon as you get engaged you need to book that venue pretty quickly - as many other things depend on the venue choice.
What things do you need to consider, other than your 'vibe', when starting your search and eventually choosing that venue? I'll break it down for you.
Keep in mind that your food and venue, on average, makes up 50% of your wedding budget. Notice, I said 'on average'. Some of you might be having your wedding/reception at your family's farm. Great! That leaves you more money to spend on other things. But, it all starts with how much do you have to spend on this event? That budget will dictate all of your decisions, so make sure you have at least a tentative number in your head. What you don't want to do is get your marriage off being heavily in debt.
2. Anticipated # of invited guests
This goes along with your vibe - do you want a small, intimate ceremony? Or, do you want a large ceremony with all your family and friends in attendance? The number of invited guests will have a substantial impact on the venue you choose. Venue size is not the only consideration when it comes to the guest list - consider the parking the venue provides. They may have the perfect size venue, but if guests must trudge through 2 blocks of snow (for your winter wedding lovers!) to get to the venue, is that the best choice for your guests?
3. What is included in the rental cost of the venue
There is no one size fits all when it comes to venues. You need to do your research and really determine what the venue provides and what it doesn't. This should be clearly documented in their venue rental agreement and if it isn't - ask for it in writing. Here are some questions you need to ask about any potential venue:
Does the rental price include tables and chairs? Linens? Decor? If not, do they provide these for an additional cost?
Does the rental price include setup/teardown or is that your responsibility?
Do they include an onsite coordinator?
Do they allow you to bring in your own vendors such as caterers, DJs, or rentals or must you use their in-house services or preferred vendors? If so, what prices do those vendors charge?
How many hours does the rental fee include? Do you have to pay extra for overtime charges?
Do they allow alcohol on site? If so, can you bring your own? If not, is there an alcohol minimum you must meet? What type of insurance do they require you to purchase if you bring in your own alcohol? Must you provide your own bartenders?
What other amenities does the venue provide that might make it a good match for you and your budget? Do they have a kitchen that is sufficient for your catering needs? Do they have sufficient parking? What about restrooms? Many outdoor venues offer great views and excellent photo backdrops, but do you have to provide portable restrooms to get those views? Does that fit into your budget?
Another consideration is nearby accommodations for out-of-town guests. Most guests (and your wedding party) do not want to have to drive an hour to get to a hotel after having attended a wedding/reception. Now, if you are having a small gathering of family and friends who all live nearby, this might not be as important to you. But, if you plan to invite many out-of-town guests, please keep this in mind. Because, believe it or not, it will impact how many guests come to your wedding and how long they stay.
So, there you have it! The top 4 things to consider when choosing an event venue. While this blog post focused on a wedding event, it really can apply to any event you are planning. From family reunions to corporate events, the same concepts apply.
One last tip - be sure to set up a venue tour and get a feel for the space in person. Pictures and video can be deceiving when it comes to space and dimensions of a room. So, be sure to take advantage of those complimentary venue tours. Trust me, you'll be happy you did!
Happy venue shopping!!