YOUR GUIDE TO CHOOSING A WEDDING VENUE
Congratulations, you’re getting married! Pop the champagne, settle down and get ready for some big wedding planning decisions - starting first and foremost with a pretty big thing to tick off the list: the venue.
In addition to being one of the biggest investments you’ll make while wedding planning, the venue also sets the tone for the entire event. It’s like the glue that holds all the elements of your wedding day together, from ceremony all the way to send off. Needless to say, choosing a venue is a big decision!
Whilst this subject may seem intimidating, if you follow some key steps, do’s and don’ts and ask the right questions it shouldn’t be overwhelming!
1. Set a Budget
Determining a wedding budget should be at the top of your list of priorities. Be realistic about what you can afford, consider a contingency and an absolute red line – there’s no point having the castle of your dreams if the debt will cause problems in the first months and years of your marriage.
Keep in mind that exploring expectations vs. reality can be a learning curve, and things may need to be adjusted down the road.
2. Consider dates
There are a few things to consider when considering a date for your wedding. The first step is to sit down and consider what season you and your partner would like to get married. You may ask yourselves:
“Is there a particular time where life is a bit hectic for you?”
“Is there a date or time of year that holds some significance to you as a couple?”
“What kind of climate, florals and general feel do you envision for your day?”
“How much time do you think you need to plan everything without going mad?”
Narrowing down the possibilities with those questions will help you come up with an overall plan for the timing of your day.
The season in which you get married can affect your overall theme/feel in particular. If you want a cosy wedding with dramatic lighting and lots of leafy greenery you might consider a winter wedding. Whereas your more typical springtime wedding may have more pastel blooms and light, airy colours. There are advantages and disadvantages to all seasons, so be sure to weigh the options carefully. Check weather patterns and plan accordingly, from the beginning, for a pleasurable experience for guests, rain or shine.
If you’re not particular about the season or range of dates, there are a couple things you can do to save money. First, consider booking an off-season wedding. In addition, booking a day other than Saturday can also help the budget, but in return could be a bit less convenient for guests. Remember that dates that play with numbers (11/12/13, 08/18/18, etc.) tend to be popular and more expensive, so if booking one of those dates is important to you, reach out to venues sooner rather than later.
The biggest factor in selecting the date is the actual availability of the venue! Venues often book 12–18 months in advance, so keep those timelines in mind when setting appointments.
3. Determine your guest list
It’s easy to underestimate how many people will actually end up on your guest list, especially if your parents are contributing to your budget, as they may wish to invite a few of their own friends. Having a firm idea of the number of guests is a key factor in venue choice as your venue has to be able to accommodate them all in a way that works for you – for example, some venues may be able to accommodate all of your guests but not all in one room with everyone able to see top table, which might rule out some venues if this is important to you.
And of course identifying the number of guests will determine the cost not only of the venue but also centrepieces, catering, chair covers and stationery.
Of course, not all of your invited guests will not be able to make your wedding, it is normal when estimating numbers for the day for around 85% of invited guests to attend a local wedding and around 55-65% to attend a destination wedding.
3. Destination or Domestic?
If you want hundreds of guests, then a domestic wedding might be a better option as its unlikely that large number of guests will travel abroad to see you get married. But if you have a smaller number (or your guests are time and cash rich) then a destination wedding may well be for you.
Destination weddings are becoming more popular and it’s not hard to imagine why. When deciding on whether to have a destination wedding or a domestic wedding, consider what makes the most sense for you based on your style, budget, guests and schedule. In addition consider tourism seasons. High tourist seasons may make it difficult to find transport and accommodation and bump the costs up.
Keep in mind that it is best to be more generous with plus ones for destination weddings or in any situation where a guest is travelling a long distance, so you’ll find that your guest count may need to increase.
It can be quite a challenge to plan a wedding in a country you don’t live in but a destination planner will be able to help. These professionals know all of the ins and outs of curating celebrations and they will handle a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
You should also consider potential language barriers and cultural differences, and in the current climate, travel restrictions and rules. Although these are starting to ease, there are no guarantees about what the future might bring and how other countries’ governments might react, so consider contingency options.
4. Other Suppliers
When choosing your venue think about how much of what you need they can do for you, and how much you will have to arrange yourself – and if it’s the latter, do they have a list of trusted suppliers they can point you to? Also find out if you HAVE to use some of their suppliers – for example, if they insist you use their DJ, do they fit with the style you are after?
Then factor in those costs too as it may work out more expensive than sourcing your own. Bear in mind that venues will probably insist that suppliers you hire on the day have relevant insurances.
Ask the venue’s wedding co-ordinator about any restrictions they may have, for example on the time the reception can go on until, whether they’ll allow fireworks, insist on biodegradable confetti, whether they’ll allow corkage (where you bring your own alcohol and they charge you a fee), if they’ll provide a room to get ready in on the day and whether they’ll allow you to put up decorations on their walls. The answers to these questions will determine whether you want to use them and who else you need to hire for the day.
You’ve done lots of work first hand with the venue and they may have given you all the right answers, but don’t forget to get other independent views on their service – look online for reviews, ask in online groups. Bear in mind that it’s normal for one or two people to not like something about a venue, but if lots of people have had the same issue then it could be a red flag!
Ask other wedding suppliers for their recommendations too – most of us will have had experience of lots of venues in our time in the business. Again though, just bear in mind that some of the suppliers may have a business relationship with a venue so have a vested interest in giving them a positive review.
Choosing a venue can seem a minefield however it’s a really exciting part of the wedding planning process. Getting your venue locked in nice and early will then enable you to plan other aspects of your wedding and get your invitations sent out.