About to choose a wedding venue? Stop and read these wedding planning tips to help you land the venue that fits your budget, style and all of your guests!
The wedding venue may often set the tone for the rest of your wedding. No pressure, right? Allow us to help you by breaking down the process of choosing a wedding venue. Find out what to consider before touring the locations. What questions to ask get the information you need to land the reception space of your dreams. 🙂
How to Choose a Wedding Venue: It’s Definition Time!
If you are about to choose a wedding venue you will be overwhelmed by the number of banquet halls, spaces, outdoor locations and more that will pop up on Google. Let’s bring it down a notch. Stop the searching, grab a calendar, pen and paper and follow the yellow-brick road. 😉
Before starting to look for the ideal venue you must define four things: the date, your wedding style, the number of guests, and your budget.
First of all, pick a date. You will need to check if the place you picked is available on that date before even considering touring the venue. So, the date will definitely will be one of your filters. If budget is a concern, keep in mind that prices are more affordable from Sunday to Thursday and higher on Friday and Saturday as well as during peak wedding season. If you’re not getting married on-site, check in dates with your church or City Hall first before booking the reception venue. Date: Check!
Next, the wedding style. The wedding venue you pick will help you define and frame your wedding theme. If you are looking for a summery vibe to your reception, consider a country, garden, or beach wedding.
Modern couples can look into lofts, warehouses, art galleries. Check out these modern industrial raw spaces if you live in New York! Remember that when you engage a raw space, the rentals do not come included in the package. Consider all the extras in the price for a more fair comparison between wedding venues.
Non-traditional couples may look for unique and eclectic event spaces, such as zoos, public libraries, museums, and even old train stations. These spaces in Los Angeles will give you an idea to start with. (but do not make a decision yet!)
Intimate weddings are very much on trend. You can go as small as your own backyard (so cool!) or as fancy as renting a vacation home and make it a weekend celebration. Who knows? It may end up being more affordable that a traditional reception venue. Talk about an unforgettable experience! At the end of this article, we’ve added a wedding venue size calculator, just in case you want to host the shindig at home. 😉
Now, let’s estimate the guest count. It is highly recommended that you build a preliminary count which you can adjust later. Reception venues will ask you for this number in order to give you a quote. You will also use the guest count to perform your preliminary research. Be mindful of the fact that there are always last minute additions and that just because a venue tells you it can fit 150 people, it does not mean you have to cram them all up.
Finally, the budget! How much can you afford to spend on the wedding venue? We highly recommend sticking to this budget or you will have to do away with those coveted ice sculptures, your dream wedding gown, or the open bar you so badly wanted for your guests. 🙁
How to Choose a Wedding Venue: Perform a Preliminary Online Search
Yes! Let’s bring Google back! The first step is collecting all of the information available to you about the potential wedding venues. Try not to overwhelm yourself with too many event spaces. Start with a few reception places and go from there. Stay organized by building a spreadsheet, it will help you figure out who you’d like to visit in person. Remember, you still have a few more steps to go.
Try to find the following information from each venue’s website: Name of the venue, address, website, phone number & other contact information, capacity, pricing Information, and why you liked it.
It is likely that not all of this information will be available on the website; and you may need to call or email the venue to get everything you need. At least by collecting all of this information you can compare them side by side.
How to Choose a Wedding Venue: Prepare for Touring the Wedding Venues
Now, let’s boil down your list to a manageable size. Email or call the prospective spaces and find out if they are available on your date. If so, coordinate an in-person visit, preferably when it’s set up for a wedding. It will give you a better idea of the space available.
Ask them if you’ll have exclusive use of the venue on that day. Every banquet hall or wedding venue differs in the amount of privacy provided. Some offer separate bathrooms and dressing rooms, some share the parking space area. If you are getting married in a public space, you’d better make your piece with strangers stopping by and giving you their good wishes.
Ask as many questions as possible beforehand so you can concentrate on visualizing your wedding and checking those details you have to verify in person.
Questions to Ask a Wedding Venue When Visiting (or Before!)
So you have an appointment with a venue on-site coordinator. You want to make sure this time is well-spent, so what should you ask? Start by making sure you can fill in all the blanks of the spreadsheet you created. Here are a few more questions that will help you choose a wedding venue that fits your requirements.
Layout and Accommodations Questions
- Is there a bridal-changing area?
- How much parking is available? Is valet parking an option? If the parking is limited, is there nearby parking available? Ensure it is easy for the guests to arrive comfortably to your wedding. They will thank you for it.
- Is the venue handicap accessible? Make sure everyone feels welcomed.
- How many bathrooms are available and what is their capacity?
- Make sure that there is space for all the activities and details that you have planned for your wedding: the guestbook signing, the dinner, the cocktails, the dessert table and the cake, the dance floor, the band, the photo booth and a few lounging areas!
- If your guests will travel to your wedding you need to offer them lodging. Find out if the wedding venue has at least a couple of hotels nearby with available rooms. Your guests will really appreciate if you offer them a third and cheaper option.
Wedding Planning Questions
- What time can vendors arrive to start setting up and then dismantling the wedding decor?
- What are the wedding decor restrictions? Are there any guidelines, restrictions or policies on using real candles? Is it a raw space? If not, what table and chair styles do they provide? Do you need a special permit for your wedding arch?
- What refrigeration is available? (This is important if you are using live flowers or cake with frosting that could melt)
- Is the venue licensed for providing or servicing alcohol? Is there hirable bar staff? What is the rate for the staff, service, and drink?
- Are there any noise ordinances you need to respect? If the venue does not allow for music after 10pm and you plan to continue the party until the wee hours of the morning, that’s not a good fit. Unless you plan on an after-party somewhere else.
- Is there a contingency plan provided by the fabulous vineyard in case it rains? An indoor space or a tent?
- If you would like to host a romantic wedding, a daytime wedding or a cocktail at sunset, check that the place can provide you with the lighting you want and need.
- How far is it from the church? Or is there a space to celebrate the religious ceremony?
- Are there discounts available for booking off-season or on Sunday through Friday?
- What are the terms of the deposit? Is it refundable and when is it due?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- Are rentals (tables, chairs, linens, table clothes, or glassware) included in the price? If so, which ones?
- Make sure when you are looking for potential venues that you clearly understand what’s included and what isn’t. Examples of this are catering and wedding menus, beverages, and centerpieces.
- Are there any vendor restrictions? If the venue offers catering in-house, find out if you can do a tasting before the wedding.
- Does the venue have liability insurance?
Don’t book the first venue you see, even if you fall in love with it. Choose at least three or four wedding venues that fit your budget and wedding style and ask for quotes. Be prepared to take notes and lots of photos!
Ask for the wedding venue quotes. Make sure you get as much information as possible to choose a wedding venue that you will be happy with. It’s your day, after all!
Wedding Venue Size Calculator
All venues will help you find out how many guests can fit in a banquet hall or reception venue for different seating plans. But, if you are holding your wedding affair at home, in a garden or at another outdoor venue, it is useful to know how to calculate how many guests can be accommodated in a given space. You do not want your guests feeling cramped at your wedding.
Measure the length and the width of the area in feet. Multiply the two numbers together to get the area in square feet. If the space is uneven, you need to break it up into squares, rectangles or triangles, calculate the area for each and then add them up.
Now divide this number by 2 as you may safely estimate that 50% of the area will be used for aisles, staging, waiters, dance floor, catering stations, and other. The remaining area will accommodate your guests.
Use the following guidelines to calculate capacity:
* For every round banquet table that seats 10 people, calculate 30 square feet.
* Calculate 3 square feet per person for a stand-up reception.
However, each room or space is different. You need to take into account the shape, locations of doors, fire exits, columns; buffet dinner or seated dinner set up, and so on. As a rule of thumb, 1,000 square feet is adequate for 80 wedding guests at a sit-down wedding. For each ten additional guests, add an additional 200 square feet of space.
With this small checklist you are ready to go and choose a wedding venue that is perfect for you. Just one last piece of advice, once you have set your reception hall budget don’t go see places that far exceed it. And now, let’s read about wedding reception seating!
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Photography credits: Borrowed & Blue weddings, OnceWed, WeddingChicks, Brit Morin.