10 Steps to Selecting the Perfect Venue
When you close your eyes and imagine your wedding, are you in a garden? Near the ocean. lake, or other body of water? On a yacht? In a ballroom? In a church? On a farm or ranch? In a forest? In a barn? Is it local and accessible or remote? Is there an expansive lawn or a lot of hardscape? It is during the day or evening? What have others experienced at this venue? Your wedding experience, and just about all of your wedding planning, will depend on your venue selection. Selecting the perfect venue for your special occasion is not to be taken lightly, but knowing these essential tips will make finding one easier.
1) Accessibility: What will it take to GET to your event? Will your guests be driving down paved or unpaved roads? Will there be parking close to the venue or is Valet required? Does the venue require a shuttle for drop off and pick up? What is the largest capacity shuttle permitted that can fit into the driveway/gate/drop off area? Are there steps for guests to climb? Is it on a hill or flat ground? What is the terrain like? Do you have guests with special needs that will require an elevator or ramp? Will the ceremony and reception be in the same place? If not, what is the distance between them? Is there parking for your vendors? Is there an easily accessible area for drop off of rentals and flowers? If requiring a caterer, is there a kitchen? Is there lodging nearby for out-of-town guests? If you do not want to see your significant other before the wedding, is there a separate area for staging?
2) Details: Is it available on your desired date? Does the fee change for weekdays vs. weekends vs. holidays? Does the fee change for a daytime vs. evening event? Can you have an after-hours party there? Is open flame (candles, fire pits) permitted? Are there rules regarding how you can set up your décor? Before you bring in your confetti, petals (fresh or silk), or fire sparklers, definitely make sure those are permitted and what the cleaning fees are for them. Are water lines flagged before anything is staked into the lawn? Do you need a dance floor or is there an existing dance area? Are alcoholic beverages permitted outside? Are permits necessary for anything, like dance floors and the bar service? Is there a liquor license at the venue and what are the rules and regulations regarding it? Can you bring in outside food and beverage or is it required you use their vendors? Do the vendors need to provide proof of insurance and do you need to provide event insurance? Are there enough electrical outlets and circuits to handle all that will be plugged in simultaneously? Do you need a generator? Are the outlets conveniently located? Do you need extension cords? Do speakers need to face a specific direction and be at a specific decibel range? Is the venue under new management? Is it for sale?
3) Site Fee: What does the site fee include? Does it include a dressing room where you can get ready and dressed? Is electricity included or do they charge for use of outlets? Is furniture included or do you need to rent that? Does it include barware, China, flatware, and linens? Is there a stage and /or sound system you can use? Do they have room dividers that might be needed? Are potted plants provided or faux trees with lighting? Is there a coat check included? Does the venue include a food and beverage minimum as its site fee?
4) Comfort: Is it temperature regulated (i.e. Heat, Air Conditioning, Fireplace)? Do you need to tent or is there a backup for inclement weather? Is there lighting or do you need to provide that? Are there enough clean and accessible restrooms or do you need to rent portable restrooms? Will your guests easily hear your ceremony or do you need a sound system? Is there enough seating? Each guest takes up approximately 2 square feet of space.
5) Capacity: What is the guest capacity? Does that include vendors? Does that include catering and wait staff? How many cars can park there? Sometimes the capacity will affect space for dancing, additional elements you want to have set up, like photo booths, selfie stations, lounges, candy buffets, dessert buffets, food stations or buffets instead of plated service, etc. Does it have a dance floor and how much space does that take? How much space is available for ceremony seating and reception seating? What size tables will it accommodate and how many? Tip: If you are inviting 100 people, make sure you select a venue that accommodates 100, even if you don't think that many people will attend. What capacity is required for the food and beverage minimum?
6) Privacy: Privacy affects things like noise curfew, shuttles running idle, amplified music vs. acoustic music, microphone usage for the ceremony to be heard, and any type of public interference. Will neighbors complain and get your event shut down? Will neighbors' pets run into your event space? Can the public access the area from the beach? Do you need to hire security? Are there specific hours when vendors are allowed to deliver and set up your event? Will another event be happening at the same time as yours? Is another event venue operating close to your venue? Does your venue also have a restaurant that will be serving customers?
7) Timing: What time of day is your special occasion taking place? How early can vendors access to decorate? Do the rentals and décor need to be removed on the same day, or can they be removed the following day? Does the venue allow for an additional set up day before the event? What time does the location open and close, and who is responsible for that? When is last call for the bar? When is the last song to be played? What time do the guests need to be off property? What time do the vendors need to be off property? What is the timing of food preparation and service? Is there a limited amount of time food can be left out? Is there a limit to the length of time the bar can be open? When can the air conditioner be put on so the flowers last throughout the set up and the event? When can guests arrive? When do the various elements get set up? (ie. tables, chairs, glassware, table settings, etc.)
8) Appearance/Aesthetic: Does the venue's aesthetic tie in with the look you have in mind for your event? Is your venue a blank canvas that can be decorated and furnished how you would like, or do you need to work with what is there? Is there a moving and storage fee to replace the existing furniture with rented items? What are the restrictions regarding hanging fabric, greenery, floral chandeliers, and other installations? Is it in disrepair? What is the venue's style? Does it go with your colors/theme/wedding vision? Are there columns or structures that affect guest visibility? When is the venue cleaned for your event? Will the windows be cleaned? Will the floors be swept or vacuumed between the time it is set up and guests arrive? Will linens be steamed or ironed to eliminate creases? Will the rental furniture be wiped down? If it rains and the dance floor gets wet, will there be someone to wipe it down? Will the lawn be maintained? Can the lawn not be watered the day of the event? Will the landscaping be maintained and cleaned up? Will all lightbulbs and light fixtures be working properly? Will the restrooms be cleaned and restocked? Who will be responsible for trash removal? Will flatware be polished? Are there rips in the fabric or the tent? Are crystals missing from the chandeliers? Will there be construction at the venue, and, if so, will it be visible to the guests? Are there dangerous areas where guests can get injured? Is it child-safe? Is there a view that everyone might enjoy during your event? Basically, think like a photographer. Not everything can be photoshopped. When your photographer takes photos of your event, will eyesores be captured in the photos?
9) Photo Ops: What about the venue is so amazing that it needs to be included in your photo list? Where on the property MUST you get photos? Where will you do your first look? What special places exist for your portraits? Where should your group shot be? Where is the best place for the best time of day (ie. sunset, sunrise, lighting changes)? Is there a staircase for a dramatic entrance? Is there a perfect backdrop for your cake table? Are there nearby exteriors that will create a fun or romantic ambiance for your photos? Sometimes water features, gardens, and natural elements like wood or exposed brick provide wonderful photo opportunities that must be utilized. Will there be an enticing pile of fall colored leaves to toss in the air together for that perfect playful photo?
10) What is PLAN B? Can you tent? Is there a backup space? What does the backup space look like and can it accommodate all that you want for your event? Is there an extra cost for Plan B? When does the facility need to know that Plan B will need to be implemented?