Let me paint you a picture. Imagine your perfect dress with soft layers hugging all of the right curves, cascading down the aisle behind you. You stand in front of an awestruck crowd as the notes of a violin jump from their strings, filling the air with whimsy. You can smell the fragrant garden roses of your bouquet with their velvety petals glistening in the setting sun. You take one step, hearing the shuffle of your guests as they rise to their feet. You take another step, looking forward to see your lover’s eyes welling with tears of joy. Another step, and the breeze gently blows a cool fall air upon your pinned updo. Another step, and the deafening sound of a train horn pierces your perfect moment like a screaming banshee in a haunted house. PSA: the venue selection matters!
Don’t let a less than mediocre venue selection (or screaming banshee) ruin your wedding. Here’s a few tips to help ensure you select a venue that will leave visions of wedding perfection dancing in your head for a long time to come.
- The longer you wait, the more you’ll sacrifice. Be realistic when it comes to the length of your engagement and planning period. The shorter the timeframe to plan, the less likely you are to find availability of your preferred venues. You’ll find yourself sacrificing your desired style, price, or size to accommodate your date. 12-13 months is an ideal time to begin searching for a venue.
- Don’t lose sight of your surroundings. While a venue may seem perfect on the inside, make sure to consider a few important factors about the outside. Is the venue located in a safe area? Is it easily accessible by your guests with sufficient parking and/or transportation options? Are there any types of businesses or public attractions that may become noisy, distracting, or interrupt parts of your ceremony and/or reception? Determining outside factors ahead of time will allow you to make the right selection, and create a timeline or game plan that can help you avoid potential distractions and interruptions on your big day.
- Is it weather friendly? Precipitation, wind, and unforeseen natural events can quickly put a damper on an evening’s fun. When looking at venues, consider what you would need to do in the case of rain, snow, or extreme temperatures. Does your venue offer tenting, a back-up location, or a quality rescheduling/refund clause? And most importantly, are you happy with the back-up option(s) or are they less than mediocre?
- The price is right! Price is an important factor when it comes to venue selection, more specifically, a price that fits within your budget. Dependent upon the geographical area where you plan to get married, you may have access to hundreds of options, or just a few. As a customer it’s your right to understand what you are paying for. Talk with your sales representative and wedding coordinator to identify what is included in your rental fees. Try these helpful questions:
- When does my rental time begin and end? What costs and stipulations are associated with extending rental hours?
- Do I have exclusive access to this venue, or will it be open to the public during my set-up and/or wedding? What costs and stipulations are associated with private access?
- What type of staff and/or hardware/rentals are included with this venue rental?
- What are your payment terms, refund policies, and hidden fees?
- Just a couple more questions. You’ve reached the final stretch, and now is the time to give it all you’ve got with questions and negotiations. Think long and hard about the needs of your wedding décor, guests, and yourself. Here’s a sample to get you started:
- Is it handicap accessible?
- Do you have a required vendor list, or do you allow other outside vendors?
- Do you offer and/or require in-house catering, or can I utilize an outside caterer?
- Are there any types of decoration, furniture, or set-ups that are prohibited from this venue?
- What is the max capacity of your venue? Can you provide the capacity breakdowns for standing and seated receptions?
- Do you have bridal and groom suites?
- Do you have space for a rehearsal the day/evening prior?
- Does this venue have AC/heating?
- Does this venue have a sound system and any sound regulations?
- Does this venue allow beer, wine and liquor
With these tips, you’re ready to hit the venue research. Don’t forget to download our Oak & Brine venue checklist to keep things on track.