So you’ve just become engaged to the love of your life and everything is perfect!
After you let the bliss of being betrothed take over your life for a couple weeks (please do this! – enjoy it before wedding planning takes over) the daunting questions take form. One of the biggest; where is this monumental life event going to take place?
Choosing a venue that is perfect for you can be unnerving. As a venue coordinator, I totally get it. It is a lot of money to spend on a space you will only be in for about 10-14 hours. You want to make sure that it has everything you need and allows everything you want. It is the first thing you will want to book because it may be the biggest factor in determining the date of your wedding, and you need to know that and what the venue allows before you can book any other vendors.
You will probably go on a handful of tours, maybe even a dozen, before you decide on the perfect venue. These tours are important – it may be one of the few times you are inside of the venue before your wedding. During the tour you will want to gather as much as you can about the venue and the people running it. You will definitely want to know what to ask a venue before you sign a contract with them.
Before heading to any venue tours, sit down with your spouse-to-be and think about what is important to you in your wedding. How many people will you be inviting? Will there be alcohol; booze, beer or wine? Do you want a venue with a catering package included or do you want the freedom to make your choice? How much decorating do you want to do and how much time will you need for set up before your ceremony? You may not be anywhere near ready to answer these questions, but you do need a rough idea of the answer so you know what to look for and what to ask. Factors like guest count can make or break a venue for you.
Pay attention to the staff that tours with you. Are they personable and care about your story or are they closed and give little information? Do they speak with excitement about you during your tour or are they just trying to make a sale? A great venue is run by great people. If they aren’t engaging and show interest in you during the tour, chances are they won’t care much more during your wedding.
Each venue has a different set up and offers differing facilities and amenities. Some outdoor venues only provide port-o-potties. Some venues may not have kitchens. Some may ask that you remove your own garbage. This is not the same for all venues, but these are factors that will want to know about beforehand. If there is a venue coordinator, will they be involved in speaking to other vendors to make sure they are aware of what is available as well? Your caterer, DJ, and other vendors will need to know what facilities, electricity and amenities they will have access to during your event.
Ask about who will be working your event. Is there a venue coordinator who keeps track of each wedding and talks to your vendors? Is their event staff trained and knowledgable about your specific event? Some venues only have one or two staff members, some have many. Ask if you can meet the staff running the venue during your event and whether they will be familiar with your wedding. A great wedding is put on by a team of vendors who work together, and the venue coordinator is a key anchor in this team.
Ask about alcohol. Most of the time a licensed bartender is required to serve alcohol. Sometimes you have to use what is provided by a caterer rather than purchase your own. In some places alcohol may not be allowed at all. This is definitely a factor you want to know in advance.
Ask about the rental beginning and end times. Chances are you will want to get in to the venue as early as possible to set up. You can always ask what the earliest time you can come in to decorate is. Depending on where your wedding is taking place and how many events they do in a day or weekend, it may be possible to set up a day early. On the other hand you may not be allowed to do anything outside of your 10-14 hour rental. Always ask and read the contract. It is also very common for a venue to have a specific rental end time, and a hefty fine for going over this time. Some end times mean just having the party end and the guests gone, but you still have time to clean. Some end times require all cleanup and all people out before then. To avoid being charged overages, know ahead of time what to expect.
Ask for a discount. You may not get it, especially if you are looking for a busy season date. But if it is an off season date and they really need a booking, they may be able to give you a good deal! If you or your future spouse is in the military, many venues offer a discount for active duty and veterans. It never hurts to ask.
No two wedding venues are the same.
Each have their own little quirks. Those quirks will make your wedding unique and special. Knowing what you are looking for and what to ask before signing a contract and paying a deposit will make the task of booking a wedding venue a little less daunting.