How to Find your Perfect Wedding Venue
Choosing a wedding venue is a big deal. It sets the tone for your entire wedding. But it can be an overwhelming process and it can be expensive. You can skip everything but one thing you can’t skip is a venue. Don’t sign a contract with a venue without doing your research and figuring out your budget only to realize later on that you have no budget left for something else that you really wanted. As a general rule of thumb, you would budget 10-15% for your wedding venue. If you are looking at all-inclusive venue that provides catering than you would add the percentage for food and drinks to that as well.
First things first, Prioritize: Before you start looking at venues, you should figure out an rank what is most important for you on a wedding day? Write down a list of venue characteristics and rate them. For example if you want to have an outdoor wedding, make sure your venue has a beautiful venue. If you value food and drinks, then your venue should have excellent food. Typically, you would start looking for a venue after budgeting and making a guest list which is 12 months in advance. This is a good time frame especially if you want to make sure the venue you pick is available for a specific date you want to get married on.
Make a spreadsheet to keep track of all your venue related ideas so you can keep track of everything and review it later. Because chances are you will get lost in the overwhelming venue abyss . You already know when you want to get married, what you can spend and how many guests you want to invite but then you start visiting them and all the logistics that you didn’t think were even a factor start to overwhelm your search. Hence a spreadsheet or even a book with all the information you would need about venues is a good idea. You can download our wedding venue spreadsheet here or you can make your own.
Here are some things you can add in your spreadsheet..
Name of your venue
Type & Capacity
Even if the venue falls in your budget and is available on your date, there can still be some hidden deal breakers and costs that you would need to be aware of before signing a contract. Start asking questions. The answers to these questions can majorly affect your budget and will allow you to rate them accordingly.
What is the maximum headcount?
What are all the possible fees and what’s all included in the price? Rental fee, food and beverage minimum, setup fee, staffing fee, parking/valet fees, suggested gratuity, damage fees, tax? Is the staging and clean up fee included? if not, what are the fees, if any?
What is the cancellation policy?
Are there any restrictions on setup times, end times, and load out schedules? Can breakdown be done day-of or does it need to wait for a weekday?
Will there be multiple events there on the day of or around the same time? If so how does that impact our wedding?
Do they have preferred or exclusive vendors that they require you to use or can you bring outside vendors? Is there an additional charge to bring in outside vendors?
Do they have an in-house catering team or can we bring our own caterers? Is there a kitchen available on-site for caterers? Can they help you customize your venue?
Is any sound system included, and if so, is there a wireless microphone? Are there any restrictions on music? Is there a cut off time when music needs to be stopped? If so what is it?
What furniture (if any) is included? What about tablecloths, napkins, plates, and glassware?
Where will the wedding party and the bride & groom be held before the ceremony as well as reception? Do they have an on site bride and groom suite?
Are there enough restrooms for the estimated guest count? (industry standard is 50 guests to one restroom)
Do you have a rain plan? Do we need a generator?
Is the existing lighting enough or do we need to bring additional lighting?
Is a venue manager or day-of coordinator included? If so, what exactly do they do? Do most clients bring in an additional planner?
Is there parking and do we need to hire valet? What about handicap access?
Are there any restrictions we should know of? Open flame, No sparklers etc.
Are there any increased costs for keeping our vendors late in case the party doesn’t stop at the agreed upon time?
Here are some things to think about before booking a venue and ask yourself these questions.
Budget: This is the most important thing you should consider before looking for your venue or even starting your planning process. You don’t want to run out of money halfway through your planning process because most of your money went into your venue. Ask yourself: "Can I afford this venue?" Don’t keep a 10k wedding on your list if you can only afford half of it. Be practical and prioritize.
Vibe: Does this venue fit your vision and what you are looking for? What kind of tone does it set? Is the venue perfect for your wedding theme? The space should serve as a refelection of your style, personality and interests. This is also where you should consider decor. Is the space natually beautiful and won’t require a ton of decoration? Is it going to require uplighting to warm it up? Keep an open mind until you do a site visit especially if it is within your budget. You may be able to dress up a blank space and make it fit your vision. If you are looking at a raw space, think about how much it’s going to cost to bring everything in. If you are planning a modern soiree, look into art galleries or industrial spaces. If you are planning a rustic party, consider a barn or a ranch.
Capacity/Space: Having a guest list before you pick a venue will help you in deciding how much space you will need. Sometimes venues stretch themselves a little bit, ask the venue how many people they can fit comfortably, as well as what is allowed according to the fire code. Just because a space can fit $200 people, doesn’t mean it should. Another thing you would need to look at is the space. Does the place have separate space for ceremony, cocktail hour and reception or is it going to require a flip. (A flip is when you change the ceremony space into reception space during cocktail hour). If the space requires a flip, where will the reception decor be stored during ceremony? Are you going to need to rent drapes to hide these items for guests? (You don’t have to hide them but it looks better). Is there going to be an additional cost to hire staff to assist with the flip? If the ceremony is at the same place, then where will the bridal party stay before the processional? Are there multiple places in case the bride & groom don’t want to see each other before hand? These are some of the things that needs to be considered.
Guests & Location: This about the venue’s location and it’s proximity. Is the venue close to you? Are you okay with having the venue a little futher away so it could be closer to your guests? Are your guests coming from out of town? Are there hotels close by to the venue? Do you have transportation figured out for your guests to go to and from your wedding festivities? Or is your venue located centrally where your guests can get there themselves via walking or public transport? If everyone is driving, is there plenty of parking available? Is it paid or unpaid? Hiring Shuttle services can put a huge dent in your wedding budget if these things aren’t considered.
Catering: You should find out if your venue has any catering restrictions. Do they have an in-house catering team or are you allowed to bring your own catering? This is a big thing to consider if you are having international food. Some people will say their in house chef can make anything you’d like but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are better at making Indian food for example than an Indian catering service that specializes in it. Find out if there is an additional cost to bring an outside chef. Food is one of the biggest expense of a wedding, an in house chef could quite possibly push your budget through the roof.
All-inclusive: Many venues offer an all inclusive package and you are quotes based on a set number of guests. You may have to pay extra is you have more guests. There is an on-site coordinator who will be assisting you through planning as well as be there on the day of to make sure everything runs smoothly. Be sure to find out if their costs are included in your price. They also take care of most of the catering as they have in house caterers to plan your menu. Be sure to check out their menu options, available serving styles and maybe even arrange a tasting.
There are so many different kinds of venues to choose from and if you find yourself too stressed, get yourself a PLANNER. Planners are more familiar with venue spaces, their capabilities, layout, times and items you will need to transform it according to your vision.