HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR WEDDING VENUES
After you get engaged and are ready to organize your wedding plans, you will find that you will have a bunch of decisions to make. Some decisions will be big and obvious, while others will be smaller and more detailed oriented.
Because most brides are really excited about choosing their vendors, I’ve decided to give you some advice on how to make your decisions.
But, before you start shopping for anything pertaining to your wedding, there are a few things you should do.
First, you need to have some serious conversations with your fiancé and your families to decide how much money is available to spend for your wedding expenses.
Next, you want to research, research, research. If you have never paid for a wedding, you might be very surprised at what you find out. Venues and wedding services are probably more expensive than you realize, so educate yourself with what things actually cost so you’re not taken off guard when you get proposals and quotes.
After you know how much money you have available to spend and have done your research, you can now set a realistic and detailed wedding budget. Allocating dollar amounts to each vendor category that are based on your actual numbers will prevent you from shopping for services that are outside of your price range.
Next, I recommend that you get referrals from friends and family whose wedding results you loved. Their vendors may or may not be in your price range, but if they are, it will be one less decision you have to make.
Once you’ve done these things, you can start your quest for finding the right vendors for your BIG DAY!
In this post I will give you some tips on how best to choose your ceremony and reception venues. You can apply these tips to any type of wedding, whether it’s small or large, local or destination, or, simple or lavish. Whichever route you choose, you will have many options, so use these tips to help make your selections.
So, when choosing your wedding venues, there are some obvious questions you have to ask yourself:
· What city do we want to get married in?
· Are our loved ones able and willing to travel to the location we want to get married in?
· Do we want a small, intimate wedding, or something on a larger scale?
· How many guests will we have?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start your search.
When many couples think about their wedding venues, they consider locations or places that have some sentimental meaning to them or their families. Maybe you want to get married on your grandfather’s farm because it’s where your parents said, “I Do.”
Or maybe you want to get married in the park where your fiancé proposed. Or maybe it’s even in the theatre where you had your first date. It doesn’t have to be the usual hotel ballroom or downtown wedding venue. It can be somewhere completely different like the gallery where you bought your first real piece of art.
If you and your fiancé are that kind of couple that want to be married in a place that goes beyond just how it looks, think about some of the places that mean something to you. Think of venues that are outside of the norm and unconventional and that reflect the uniqueness of your relationship.
Unless you have chosen your date ahead of time because of sentimental reasons, like on the anniversary of your engagement or of your first date, the availability of your venues will likely dictate your exact wedding date.
Most venues will tell you how far in advance to book your wedding based on their booking rate. (Some venues book out up to 18 months in advance). So, it would be wise to at least have an idea of how long you want to be engaged, the time of year, and the day of week you would like to get married when you reach out to venues.
One other thing to consider is what may be going on the city where you plan to get married. For instance, here in New Orleans, Mardi Gras usually falls between February and March and it is almost impossible to book a venue in the city during that weekend. So, if you are thinking about a certain date, remember to consider what special events may be going at that same time.
personal décor and style (your brand)
My sweet friend and event brander and stationer, Carey Lowe, of The Idea Emporium puts this idea best. She suggests that couples think of their weddings as more of a brand, and I couldn’t agree more. Think about the elements you want to incorporate into your special day and make them a cohesive unit. This includes your venue choice.
Along with your venue being somewhere meaningful and special, it can also help you come up with that consistent look and feel of your wedding day. It can inspire all the other smaller details that will turn your wedding from just another cookie cutter event to a branded representation of you and your fiancé and your relationship.
So, when you think about your wedding day, what do you see? Is it an old church with stained glass windows, the botanical gardens in your local park, or an elaborate ballroom with Greek columns and intricate details?
There are so many new wedding venues popping up all over the place. There are swanky downtown venues, industrial warehouses, and country style farmhouses just to name a few.
Wedding venues are no longer just a big room with no personality. Use your personal style and what you find appealing to help narrow down your venue search. You may have to be a little creative or do a little digging, but they are out there.
availability of outdoor space
If you are wanting any aspect of your wedding to be outdoors, whether it’s your ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, cigar smoking, etc., be sure that whatever venue you choose has the appropriate outdoor space.
You also want to know that if inclement weather is in the forecast for your wedding day, there is protocol in place to bring your wedding activities indoors.
Now, if your ceremony or reception are in an outdoor space and there is no building to retreat to if necessary, then tenting would be your only option. So, make sure that location allows tents if they don’t provide them and verify what arrangements would have to be made.
coordinator on site
All venues will have someone on site that will make sure the venue is accessible for your wedding. But only some venues will have someone there to help with the logistics of your day. It’s important to know which you will need.
If you intend to have a wedding planner or wedding day coordinator, (which, I highly recommend the latter), then a venue coordinator will only be needed to provide access to the venue. But, if you chose not to have a wedding planner or coordinator, then it may be wise to choose a venue whose coordinator will do more than just open the doors.
You will need to look for venues whose coordinators are there to direct your other vendors, help with the set up and break down, and possibly help manage your timeline throughout your wedding day.
This is more crucial for those of you who are opting not to have a wedding planner or coordinator. So, before you fall in love with a venue, know what your needs will be and verify the venue coordinator on site we be able to meet them.
If you are in the camp where you already have other vendors in mind, or booked, for that matter, this is going to be SUPER important. Some venues have restrictions on which vendors can work in their space. This applies to any vendor that will need access to the venue space.
This can be presented in a couple of different ways. The venue may have what’s called a preferred vendor list. This means that you can only use vendors that are on that list. And in some cases, if they allow you to use other vendors that are not on the list, you may have to pay extra.
The venue may also require that your vendors provide proof of insurance. This is to ensure that if any damage is done to the venue by one of your vendors or if anyone is injured because of vendor equipment or negligence, the damages will be repaired, and the venue is not held liable.
My personal recommendation: Choose vendors that are insured regardless if it’s a requirement by your venue.
So, my advice here is that before you sign any contracts with your venue, make sure that if you have already chosen any vendors, they fall within your venue’s restrictions.
all-inclusive or a la carte
This goes hand in hand with vendor restrictions. Some venues are all-inclusive, meaning when you book the venue, your catering, cake, photography, flowers, and other vendor services are all included in your venue package.
This may be a great option for some people because it will remove how many other vendor decisions you have to make since it’s all included with your venue. But if this isn’t the route you want to go, and you’d rather choose your other vendors on your own, make sure your venue options are locations where you can bring in your own vendors.
Also remember, if you’re going the a la carte route, your venue cost may not include things like table, chair and furniture rentals, linens, lighting, etc. So, make sure you add those and any other venue related items to your budget.
one stop shop
When thinking about your big day, you may have decided that you want to do everything in the same location. This means your ceremony and reception will take occur at the same place.
Now, some venues may have a smaller space where you can hold your ceremony and a larger space on the same property where you can host your reception. This would be ideal, if you’re going with the one stop shop option.
But if the venue only has one space for everything, then after the ceremony, the space would have to be flipped and rearranged into your reception layout. This will take time.
So, the venue will need to have the staff to make this happen AND have somewhere for all of your guests to mingle while the flip is happening. This is usually the time that the cocktail “hour” would be going on, but there will need to be a designated location on the property for everyone to go.
location, location, location
Here, I’m not referring to the city you want your wedding to take place or the venue, for that matter. Instead, I’m talking about the part of the city the venue is located in. Remember, you will have guests that need to get to your wedding site.
So, if you are planning to have your wedding ceremony in a different location than your reception, the venues should be within a reasonable distance from one another. You don’t want your guests to have to travel too far between venues.
You also want to keep in mind, where most of your guests will be staying in relation to your venues. Is your wedding taking place in the heart of downtown, but you blocked off hotel rooms for your out of town guests on the outskirts of the city because the rooms were less expensive?
This, again, may be an issue because your guests may be traveling too far to get to your wedding. So, one remedy to this could be to arrange transportation to and from your wedding venues from a central location.
Let’s say you found a venue that you love, there are hotels nearby, and it’s fairly easy to get to, but the venue has no convenient parking. This, again, can be remedied by providing transportation.
If you choose one of the situations where you may need to provide transportation to make things easier on your guests, make sure you include that expense in your budget. It may not have been something you considered before choosing a particular venue.
type of reception
When you are choosing your reception venue, think about whether you want a plated dinner or a buffet style reception. With a plated dinner, your guests will all be seated to have dinner served to them and everyone eats at the same time. This style of reception generally incurs higher costs because it requires more staff.
On the other hand, with a buffet style reception, your guests can decide when and what they want to eat and do so at their convenience. Some venues allow both, while others only allow one or the other.
This is important to decide, also, because seated, plated receptions typically require more space to accommodate tables and chairs for your guests. For instance, a venue that has a capacity of 300 people, may only be able to sit 250. So, when you are shopping for your venue, make that distinction clear.
Something else you may need to consider is that if your venue does not have in-house catering, then you will need to be sure that the venue has what your caterer will need in order to prepare and serve your food. If the venue is not capable of providing what’s needed, this may limit your catering options.
Have you been to a wedding recently? There is so much more going on than just the first dances, bouquet toss and cake cutting. Weddings nowadays have things like photo booths, cigar rolling stations, conversation lounges, live painting sessions, and caricature drawings.
There are so many options to keep your guests engaged and entertained during your wedding. So, if some of these experiences are lingering on your wish list, then your venue will need to be able to accommodate them.
You might want to have some of those things going on in other areas outside of the main reception space. If so, you’re going to want to look at venues with multiple rooms or spaces that can handle all of the moving parts of your reception.
After your wedding ceremony, you may want to change into a second or even third dress for your reception. This is very common and if it’s something you’re thinking about doing, you will probably want your venue to have a private area that will allow you to change clothes.
I doubt that you want to be doing a dress change in the public restroom of your venue. So, if outfit changes will be a part of your wedding day, keep this in mind.
questions to ask
Once you have narrowed down your venue search and have considered all of your options and wishes, there are still quite a few questions that you might want to be very clear on before you make your final venue decisions. Some of them include:
1. Does the quoted price include taxes and service charges? If not, what are they?
2. Is the time of day you want to get married available on your date of choice?
3. Can the venue hold the number of guests you intend to have?
4. If going the all-inclusive route, what’s all included?
5. Is security required? If so, is it provided by the venue?
6. What time does your reception have to end?
7. Does the venue have a contract? If the answer is no, RUN THE OTHER WAY
being from New Orleans
I must mention one last thing because it is a major detail for New Orleans weddings. If you plan to have a second line parade in the streets during or after your wedding, make sure your venue is in an area that can accommodate it.
Permits are required, and most areas of the city have noise ordinances that are enforced after a certain time. So, keep this in mind if this New Orleans tradition is important to you and you want to parade in the streets.
wait! there's more
To assist you in your venue searches, below, I am giving you a free Venue Tour Workbook. In it, are all the questions you should ask while you are visiting a potential venue. Use it to document the answers and weigh the pros and cons of the venues you are considering.
I am the owner of Adesuwa Events, a New Orleans based wedding consulting business where I provide intentional guidance and direction to couples who desire to plan their own weddings. I'm a New Orleans girl who lives for a good festival with amazing food (usually CARBS) and good music. My mission is to help bring fulfillment and provide guidance to all of you couples going through your wedding planning journeys while preparing for a marriage that is more memorable than your wedding.
Recently engaged and wondering what to do first? No worries, I've got you covered. Use this guide and you will be well on your way to wedding planning bliss!
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