Selecting your venue

This Saturday I’m going with my clients Brooke and Richard to look at a venue for their 2012 wedding. Do you know what to look for when deciding on a venue? Here are some helpful tips:

Do they have your specific date available? If not, are you willing to change yours? Perhaps any Saturday in July is okay with you – or maybe you want a Friday. Check first – this will help you narrow your venue selection if you are dead set on a specific date.

A lot of Brides & Grooms will fall in love with the décor and want to book right away. Be sure not to get caught up in the looks of it all. Remember; don’t judge a book by its cover. You want your venue to meet other needs as well.

What is the lighting like? Can it be lowered or altered? Will you need extra lighting? Also, check out the number of outlets in the room. This will come in handy for your DJ, Photographer and Decorator (if you hire one).

Are you allowed to have candles lit during your reception? If so, can they be open flame, or must they be contained within a vase or jar? What about sparklers or fireworks?

Do they provide the food through in-house catering? Or do you have to hire an outside company? If they provide the food, what are your options and can you build from the existing packages – for example, make the filets bacon wrapped, or swap out mashed potatoes for baked. Also, can you bring in outside food? This is an important question if you have religious or traditional beliefs you need incorporated into your special day.

Is alcohol (bar) included in the menu cost? Will you need to bring in your own drinks and bartender? If so, you’ll need to incorporate a liquor licence into your budget.

What’s including with your booking? Some venues offer discounts at local hotels, or other wedding vendors such as limo and cake. Do they include linens and dishware in the price, or is that extra? Find out exactly what the “packages” offer.

Be sure to check the bathrooms. Are they easily accessible? Are they clean and well maintained? How many bathrooms and stalls?

Room layout:
Are you on the main level, or the second floor? Lot’s of stairs? Is there a room for you and your Wedding Party to freshen up in? Is there enough room for all of your guests and a dance floor?

Is there a minimum you must spend in order to have your wedding at the venue? Is it slightly cheaper to have your wedding on a Friday rather than a Saturday? Are you able to cut costs by removing items from their “packages”? Also, keep in mind that 50% of your budget will be spend on the venue, including food & beverage.

What kind of payment schedule do they follow? What percentage of your total cost is the deposit, and also find out if you have to pre-pay for your event, or pay the night of (balance owing). Also, find out about any hidden costs – this translates to read the contract!

When looking at the lighting, think of your pictures – although most Photographers should bring adequate equipment for this. Will you be taking pictures on site? Where, and will you need a permit or permission or are the grounds included in the booking of the venue?

Meet the Manager/Owner and the Chef if possible. If they have an Event or Venue Coordinator, they will likely be your main contact. This person is key for your Wedding Planner, as we work together on your special day to ensure everything runs smoothly. Remember, a Venue Coordinator is not the same as a Wedding Coordinator.

Parking & Transportation:
Is the parking free, or will you have to pay per car? Is there enough parking for your guests and is it accessible? Will they have to park away from the location and walk? Will it be well lit at night? Is your venue near any hotels? Is your venue easy to find via a street map or road signage? If you’re ceremony is held at a different location, how far is this venue from it? You shouldn’t have your guests drive more than 30-45 minutes if possible.

If you’re planning a summer wedding, does the venue have A/C? If not, how many windows open and to what degree? If in the winter, does the heat work and or is there a fireplace? If you’re having your ceremony at the venue and you want it outside, will it be tented, or do they have a room that can be used if it rains? How do they plan to maintain the grounds in wet weather such as rain or snow? Do they plough, drop ice melter, etc?

As you can see, ask lot’s of questions. If you’re working with a Planner, they will be able to guide you through the selection process of finding the right venue for your wedding. Don’t wait too long to find, select and book your venue. Some places are booking 16-24 months in advance!

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