Choosing a wedding venue can be a daunting task—after all, that’s the place where you’re going to celebrate one of the most important day’s of your life. You want it to be perfect. But where to start?
We spoke to Edelina Rose, the owner of Event Details by Edelina, a party and wedding planning company located in the DC Metro area and a highly rated Thumbtack pro, to get her advice about everything to consider, all of the questions to ask, and how you’ll know when you’ve found the perfect place.
What to Consider When Picking a Venue
Rose says the first thing she wants to understand before she takes her client to look at venues is their budget. “You have to have a sense of budge before you walk into the door or you’ll be wasting your time.” After all, there’s no point in getting excited about a venue that costs $15,000 if the budget is $5,000.
After you have an idea of what you can spend, you can start thinking about wedding themes as that will lead you to the kind of location you might want to look at. Rose says, “I’m a big believer in not wasting valuable time. You’re using your time more productively if you’re making appointments with locations that are actual contenders.”
Once you have an idea of how much you can spend, Rose also asks couples to think about the overall feel they want for the wedding. Is the wedding going to be formal or informal? Will the wedding be during the day or at night? Indoors or outdoors? These are all questions you should have answered before you start the search so that you can save time by not looking at locations that don’t fit with your vision. But it doesn’t just stop at the vibe. Rose says you should also know what season you see yourself getting married during because the weather and temperature can dictate whether or not a venue will work for you.
Rose says that knowing both your budget and theme is key is not to waste valuable time. “You’re using your time more productively if you’re making appointments with locations that are actual contenders.”
Once you do find a space you like, Rose says the biggest questions the couple should ask themselves are:
- How does the space make you feel?
- Are you happy here?
- Once you’ve added your décor and personal touches, could you see this as a place for this “forever memory?”
It’s Never Too Soon to Start Looking
Rose has worked with venues where the owners book a year to a year and a half out, which means it’s never too early after the engagement to start thinking about and looking at venues. The other benefit to getting an early start, Rose points out, is that you may be able to take advantage of the current pricing before it changes to the following year’s pricing. And when it comes to planning a wedding, every penny you can save makes a huge difference.
Ask All of the Questions
You’ll want to bring a list of questions with you, so that you make sure you get all of the answers you need, but Rose says one question you want to be sure to ask is “What kind of support can I expect to receive from the venue coordinator?” She explains that most couples assume that if the location has a coordinator, that person is your de-facto Wedding Coordinator, which is not true, and could be a problematic assumption to make from a planning perspective.
“For the most part, the wedding venue coordinator’s role is to book events for the venue and ensure the venue is not damaged on the day of the event,” Rose says. Most of them won’t answer personal questions for you during your planning or help unload or set-up equipment the day of. However much or little that person is going to do, it’s good to know ahead of time, including the amount of help the venue staff will provide on the day of the event.
Other questions Rose says every couple should be sure to ask:
- Will it accommodate the maximum number of guests I need to fit and everything else I want to fit in the space? Rose points out that some locations are small, which means that (for fire purposes) wait staff and vendors will be included in the headcount.
- Can the bridal party get ready at the location or will they need to get ready off-site and then travel there?
- What is the availability of hotels in the area? Will they be able to accommodate all of the people who are traveling long distances?
- Is the rental for the whole day or specific hours? Are there set hours for set-up and cleanup? Is there any leniency with those? Rose says that a lot of venues can be firm about the rental period and may only include two hours for set-up and one hour for cleanup. This can be problematic, especially for people who are on a budget and may want to build and prepare items on-site, as they’d need to be put together somewhere nearby and brought in already put together.
- Can I hold my ceremony here as well? Will there be an extra charge?
Find Out About Restrictions and Special Requirements
A lot of venues have strict rules and regulations, which you definitely want to know about, so you can factor those into your decision. Things to consider asking:
- Can we hire our own vendors or do we have to choose from a preferred vendors list?
- Are there decoration guidelines or restrictions? Is there anything that can’t be moved around?
- Is there a corkage fee for wine, beer, and champagne? Can we bring in our own alcohol?
- Is there a food minimum?
- Is there a cake-cutting fee?
- Are there restrictions about the type of music or when it must end?
Basically, if there’s something you want, be sure to ask if you can have it before you sign on the dotted line.
But Don’t Sign on the Dotted Line Until You See All of the Venues
Rose says you’ll want to visit each of the venues you selected before you make a selection. Once you’ve seen them all, she suggest you compare the good and not-so-good points and figure out how each venue will impact your budget.
Don’t Make These Mistakes
There are a few mistakes Rose has seen again and again. Keep reading so that you don’t make them.
Know How Many People You’re Inviting
“I had a bride who’d already booked a venue before she met with us,” Rose says. “The space was too small and they had to split the guests into two rooms, which meant half of the group couldn’t see what was going on in the main room.”
If You Want to Save Money, Plan to DIY
There’s a reason speed, quality, and price are called the “unattainable triangle” in marketing and advertising. That’s because you can’t have all three. “If you want one of these three areas,” Rose advises, “you’ll have to compromise on the other two. She says if you want to save money, you should plan to DIY. That may even affect your wedding venue. “A historic property or rec center will be less expensive than a hotel, but you’ll have to put in the elbow grease.” That may mean renting the tables and chairs, asking friends to help set-up, and making a lot of the decorations yourself.
Consider the Weather
No bride hopes for rain or snow or soaring temperatures on her wedding day, but it’s important to have a plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. A tent isn’t necessarily the solution to all of your problems either. “Remember,” Rose says, “in the summer it can get hot and it can be expensive to air conditioning a tent.” Along those same lines, if your wedding is in the fall or winter, you should also plan for heat lamps.
Plan for Hidden Costs
There are going to be hidden costs, but if you ask about the ahead of time, hopefully you can budget for them and they won’t come as a surprise. “Most venues will tell you what the hidden costs are in the contract,” Rose says. “But it’s never a bad idea to ask the person you’re booking the location with directly.” A few costs you can expect are day-of insurance, an ABC license if you’re bringing in your own alcohol, and additional fees for rain plans.
“Gratuity is another big one that many people don’t factor in,” Rose says. “Don’t forget tips for the people delivering the flowers, rental equipment, or cake. It’s uncomfortable to be another vendor signing for a delivery and not be able to provide a tip.”
Get Everything in Writing
Just because the venue coordinator promised you could play music until midnight or not pay a cake-cutting fee, don’t assume it will happen unless it’s in the fine print in the contract. Compare all of the notes you’ve taken (which you’ve done at each venue, of course) and compare them with what’s written in the contract. If you’re not happy with it, speak up. After all, this is your big day and you should get everything you were promised.
[Photos courtesy of Event Details by Edelina]