Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selecting a Venue

Happy Wednesday, ALD beauties!

Wedding season is just about to be in full-swing (come on spring!) but today's post is geared for our newly engaged friends who are just getting started in the planning process! 

Sometimes, one of the most difficult things about planning your wedding is just making the first *major* decision. For some, that's picking the date or your wedding style, for other's, it's booking your first major vendor. Last month, we went on a venue tour bonanza (okay, maybe not a bonanza, but isn't that just a fun word??) with our sweet bride, Jenny, in search of the perfect place for her July 2017 nuptials - and we'll be the first to tell you - it's not hard to get completely overloaded with information! 

Venue selection is a little bit like the scientific method (yes, wedding planning is a lot like high school) - it requires a lot of revision. 

One of our tricks to keeping your venue selection process simple and streamlined is creating your very own "Venue Rubric". Just like your favorite high school group project, the rubric helps you keep in mind what questions to ask the prospective venue, take notes about what's important to you, and keeps all your immediate reactions in one place so that you can easily reflect later.

Today, we're covering the five questions you should ask yourself before and during your venue search to help find the perfect place to say "I Do!". 

1. Can I really afford this venue?

The price you see on paper and the actual price can be two very different things, especially if you're looking for a hotel or country club venue. Do your research beforehand (because there's nothing worse than falling in love with a space only to find out you can't afford it) and ask the Venue or Event Coordinator about catering costs and additional fees. Some typical fees to watch out for:

  • Cake Cutting Fee: a way to encourage the use of an In-House Pastry Chef, the cake cutting fee is often charged if you bring in your wedding cake from an outside vendor and can range from $1 - $8 per guest.

  • Service Fee: The Service Fee is essentially your gratuity. This covers your waitstaff and bartenders so that an additional tip is not needed. This can range from 18% - 22% of your total bill.

  • Labor Fees: Labor Fees can have a wide range and typically cover any work beyond what can "reasonably" be expected from the venue, like installing a three piece custom linen table scape, or moving all the venue's furniture out in order to bring in your own custom lounge pieces.

Little fees can take a straightforward $5,000 venue rental and make it quickly skyrocket. Double check these details to make sure you can stay on budget before even booking your tour.

2. Does it have all the space that I need?

Think carefully through your wedding day to ensure that any potential venue has all the individual spaces you need. If you plan on getting ready on-site, does it have a bridal suite with natural light (important for make-up!) and copious electric outlets (curling irons galore!)? Is there a space for the groom and his guys to hang out before the ceremony? Does the venue have enough "flow" to allow a smooth transition from ceremony to cocktail hour? Add any "important space" to your Venue Rubric and be prepared to ask the Venue Coordinator for the answers and walk you through those spaces. 

3. How will this venue affect the logistics of my wedding day?

There may be nothing we love more than logistics, so this question ranks high on our rubric. This is the time to ask about often-overlooked details. In this instance, it's important to consider both your vendors and your guests. Ask questions like:

  • What time will the space be accessible to my vendors? (Note that many vendors are used to working on tight timelines and come prepared to have minimal time in the space - but if you're envisioning a complex and detailed tablescape, plus a grand floral installation and thousands of candles that will need to be lit, make sure that you give your vendors the time they need to succeed!)

  • How many weddings will be held here on my potential wedding day? If there's more than one wedding, ask about restroom facilities and how much cross-wedding guest interaction can be expected. If you want to be the only bride in the joint, this will help eliminate some potential locations.

  • How many staff can be expected to work on my wedding day? Staff extends far beyond your waitstaff. Find out if the Food and Beverage Manager or Catering Supervisor will be at your venue on the day-of. Ask if there will be someone providing coat check. Is your Venue Coordinator staying with you from start to finish on the day-of, or are they leaving after dinner service begins? How many bartenders will they provide? What may seem like a silly question will help you find any red flags (if the venue says that there will be two waitstaff for a 250 person wedding - run!).

  • What time will we need to be out of the space? Are there fees for overages? Some venues have a very strict breakdown timeline and may charge you additional fees if you're in the space longer than allowed. Make sure to note this breakdown time and if you plan on handling breakdown yourself, have a team of friends + family who can help to ensure you're out of the space on time.

4. Will this space meet the needs of my guests?

We always like to think through our guests physical needs when touring a venue space. If you have a family member that is disabled and will need a wheelchair or has limited mobility, ensure that the facility is ADA accessible. If you're planning on getting married on-site but there ceremony location is a bit of a walk from your reception location, ask if there is a way of transporting any of these guests to the ceremony location (many venues will have a golf cart or two on hand for this reason). If you're looking at a venue that also provides catering, make sure to ask how they handle food allergies or dietary restrictions.

5. Can I see myself getting married here?

 This question is all about gut reaction. Whether you're looking at an intimate garden site for fifty people or a grand ballroom for 400, ask yourself if you can envision your future wedding in the space. Maybe it's tiny details that you can't wait for your photographer to capture or the gorgeous outdoor space where you'll do your first look, but your heart's reaction is just as important as your head's in this case. Don't allow any of the venues to push you in to making a decision before you're ready. Take time to talk your  decision over with your fiancé and when you're ready, sign your contract confidently!

Are there any questions you would want answered before booking a venue? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! 


Kaitlynn + Emma