Post # 1
I was recently engaged and we’re starting to look at venues this weekend. What do I need to know? Are there certain things I should look for or ask? Honestly, I feel like I’m going into this blind!! We have a general idea of the number of guests, but that’s really it. I’m not good at visioning things. And we aren’t really fussy with the dates, so that could be good or bad in narrowing things down!
Anyone have some good advice? Any info would be appreciated!
Also, I’m in Boston and would travel probably up to 45 minutes away, in case anyone has any good suggestions.
Post # 3
First, I STRONGLY recommend taking time to think about what you want in a venue before you even start looking. Indoor or outdoor? Ceremony and reception at the same location or separate? An empty slate that you can make your own or a location that’s ready to go without decoration? Do you want to do your own food or drink? Formal, urban, rural, funky? You don’t need to pass on venues that don’t perfectly meet your preferences, but it will help you assess how well a venue matches what you wanted.
The next thing is head count and (at least a general) budget. Sounds like you already have that.
When you meet with the coordinators at each venue, be sure to find out what is included in the rental. Some venues include all the tables and chairs, some even include staff and catering. Find out also what can be offered for an additional price (ie, set-up and take-down) – or if there are additional fees (ie, some require that you pay for security but it is not included in the rental fee). Take LOTS of photos – they will start to blur together and you’ll notice things you didn’t notice in person ("wow – look at that ugly building behind the ceremony area").
I found it really useful to create a spreadsheet with all the fee information to compare the actual costs of the venues, because every site has a different breakdown. For example, one venue may be inexpensive, but you have to rent all you tables, chairs, china, etc. A more expensive venue may include everything plus servers. Some are per person, per hour, or one all-day fee.
Being flexible with dates is wonderful!! We had to pass on the venue we really (REALLY) wanted because they were booked.
Post # 4
Great advice from peachypear! For us, there were just a few major criteria: 1) someplace inside, but with easy access to some scenic outdoors; 2) a place with most amenities included, as I wanted to coordinate with as few vendors as possible; and 3) a place that would be all ours for the day, as I did not want to try to schedule around other events, and didn’t want to have to worry about access by people not involved with our wedding.
Not in our major criteria, but contributing a whole lot towards our decision, was the fact that our venue has no facility fee (just a food and beverage minimum); has a fantastic chef who was willing to work with us on the entire menu; and has really friendly and helpful staff – most of whom we already knew, as we chose to have our wedding at our country club.
Believe me, having a staff who really care about your experience and will go out of their way to help (as opposed to staff who are reading the letter of the contract and just doing their job) can make all the difference when details start to feel unmanageable, or you (inevitably) get more and more stressed as the day approaches. Having a group of venue staff who handle everything is wonderful. I can’t imagine having had to hang lanterns or set up chairs and tables ourselves. It was soooo nice to just walk into the club that afternoon and see everything all ready. Instead of worrying about table linens or mud or lighting, we just ordered a round of gin-and-tonics and kicked back with the photographer while the band did the sound checks. Priceless.
Post # 5
Peachypear and suzanno have good advice. The only thing I would add, in addition to taking good notes to go with the pictures, would be to ask the venue rep if there is anything she/he thinks you should know that you haven’t asked about (or, are there any questions you are missing).
There is a LOT to think about with venues, which really set the stage for the entire event. Take into consideration what you want and what they offer and make sure to find out any fees not included in the venue fee and also the payment schedule, deposit amount and if you need insurance.
It also helps to find out up front if there are sound restrictions (particularly for outdoor venues) or restrictions on decorations (not being able to use tape or hang items on walls, no candes, etc).
Ok, guess that was more than one thing!
Post # 6
Oh – Good point on the restrictions on sound and decorations! I’d add alcohol to that as well.
Also, if there is a sound restriction, ask specifics. We nixxed one venue because you couldn’t have "amplified sound." Later I was talking to someone who got married there, and she said they had a DJ, but they just couldn’t be really loud late at night.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I asked a million questions, because I didn’t want any surprises after we signed the contract! And keep in mind that you are also interviewing the event coordinator – if they seem difficult, beware.
Post # 7
You might also want to ask if the event coordinator you’re meeting will be your coordinator and if she/he will be coordinating on the day of your wedding. Several posts lately have dealt with coordinators leaving (for better or worse), so you may want to find out how long the coordinator you’ll be dealing with has been with the venue/company. If they are really new, that could be a problem (lack of experience, unfamiliarity) or a sign that there is high turnover.