By: Rebecca Padgett
Couples planning a wedding likely know that the venue is one of the most important aspects of wedding planning. It is also one of the first major decisions to be made. Once you have decided on the venue, many of the other vendor choices can easily follow. With the venue being such a vital decision, you should feel equipped but also excited to take on this venture with your partner. As someone who recently chose her wedding venue, here are my top tips.
1.Teamwork to Make the Dream Work
You likely both have versions of how you envision your wedding day. I, for example, have always known that I want an outdoor wedding. My fiancé wasn’t too keen on the idea of being completely outdoors, so we compromised with an outdoor ceremony and an indoor reception. The first step is to talk about your wants and needs when it comes to a venue. We each listed the top three things we wanted in a venue and then went from there on our search. We defined a style we were looking for — a location that had indoor and outdoor options while also being whimsical, romantic and unique. The goal is determine what factors account for your dream day and then research venues based on that.
2. Talk Budget
The venue is one of the largest costs associated with a wedding. Do your research or some initial inquiries on pricing to know what you might expect for venue prices in the region you are looking to get married. Talk with your partner about the areas where you would like to spend money and what an appropriate amount for a venue would be. Decide if you have any flexibility at all on this budget or whether it is firm. You want to be on a united front with pricing before attending any venue or vendor meetings.
While it’s great to have a date in mind, it’s possible that date could already be taken. Talk about what’s more flexible, your date or your venue. For most couples, the date is more flexible. Go into the meetings with a season in mind or the span of two months, that way you have optimal flexibility. You should also consider the weather during the month that you choose. In the summer, consider the heat and humidity. In the spring, consider spring showers and allergy season. For fall and winter, consider cool evenings and how to keep guests warm and cozy. With each season you should envision how your venue will look and feel especially if it has outdoor elements.
4. Plan Visits
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time for the fun part, scheduling tours. Personally, I recommend scheduling your tours over the course of a day or two. Depending on how many venues you plan to visit, set aside that time in your schedule. In my opinion, it’s best to do these visits close together, if possible. That way everything is fresh in your mind and readily available for comparison. For example, we planned to visit two on a Friday and one on Saturday morning. Be sure to give yourself ample time at each.
5. Ask Questions
Come prepared with a list of questions. Sit down as a couple and jot down questions or concerns that you may have. It’s important to compose this list beforehand, because while tours can be exciting, they can also be overwhelming. You want to ensure that you ask all of the important questions during the tour and while both of you and the venue staff are in the same room. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Questions are a major part of the tour experience.
Don’t be timid in asking about all of the bang you’re getting for your buck. You should be sure to inquire about the following: a usable kitchen for the catering/bartending staff, tables, chairs, linens, lighting, AV, additional decor and on-site staff assistance. If the preceding are not included, you will need to have a plan in place for rentals.
Have an estimate of how many people you plan to invite. Will it be an intimate wedding of 50 or a grand gathering of 300? By providing an estimate, the venue can tell you how many can fit in the space or how the space can be tailored to accommodate your needs. When looking at the venue, imagine your guests in it. Does the space look too cramped? Will it be too small with the addition of tables and a dance floor? Is it too spacious? If so, what will you do to fill in that space? What will the flow of traffic be like for entering, exiting, the restroom and food?
You should consider how accessible that space is for your guests. Their comfort and safety should be a top concern. Is the building and its restrooms handicap accessible? Is it adaptable to anyone with special needs? What is the parking like? Will guests have to walk far or on any uneven terrain? Are there plans in place for inclement weather? Also consider the location of the venue. Are there nearby hotels, dining and transportation options available? If guests are driving, is it easy to find?
Take a look around at every available room. Envision your day here, each moment. Does it align with what you have in mind? Will you have to do a lot to the space for it to fit your vision, or will it just need a few finishing touches? Be cognizant of any additions or enhancements needed for the space because these will result in additional costs.
As they say when you find the dress — when you know, you just know. But unlike with the dress, this is typically a decision made between the two of you. You both need to feel it and to know it. My fiancé and I both knew that our venue was the one. It was the first one we went to, and everything about the experience felt right and felt like us.