By Brittany Jorgenson
You just got engaged! Congratulations! This is a wonderful and exciting time for both of you and your families. As soon as the initial euphoria simmers down a bit one of the first questions to go through your mind may be “Now what do we do?” The answers you will probably seek first are “when” and “where” you want to get married.
Picking out a venue is one of the first and biggest decisions of your wedding planning. It can be a ton of fun, and simultaneously overwhelming. Your venue is the central hub around which all other aspects will unite, and hopefully it will also be a helpful resource while you plan.
Before making venue appointments prepare yourself. Think about information you will need to know, and come up with some questions you can ask. Before booking make sure that your expectations match what the venues offer so things flow smoothly for everyone. Here are some helpful details to consider during your search for the perfect place to host your event.
Picking your date.
Do you have a specific date in mind? That’s great! But remember to stay flexible as it is easier to finalize your date once you have a place to host your event. Pro Tip: Sometimes it is easier to pick your favorite season and see what dates your top venue picks have open within that time.
Are there any other events going on that could conflict with your wedding? Anything that could affect guest attendance like holidays, graduations, games and other sporting events, etc.? This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have your wedding on the Tennessee vs. Alabama game date, but be prepared for fanatics among your wedding party and family to possibly disappear from some wedding day activities to watch the game.
Local events can also affect things like vendor and venue availability, lodging for guests, traffic, etc. For example, the International Storytelling Festival happens in Jonesborough every first weekend of October and creates big challenges for hosting a wedding in town with limited/expensive lodging and heavy traffic.
Do you want to get married inside? Outside? Have the option for both in case of bad weather? Near home? Far away? Do you want your ceremony and reception in one spot or at separate locations? If outdoors, what is the rain back up plan? Is there shade available for guests during summer months?
Keep in mind the location of the venue and who you are inviting. Pick a place that is suitable for your intended attendees. If you want to get married on top of a mountain–go for it! But if you have a number of elderly folk who have trouble with long walks over rough terrain then you may want to consider moving your ceremony closer to an easy walking path. Will you need to provide transportation or recommendations for your guests to and from your chosen event location(s)?
What does your venue come with and what do you need it to come with? Are you a DIY’er with the time and desire to plan and source every detail of your event, or would you rather have some inclusive options such as event equipment, decorations, food & beverage, lodging or other vendor services as part of a single rental? Does the venue provide any assistance or staff? Cleaning services, etc.? If additional services are offered, what, if any, are the savings to you in terms of time, stress and money compared with sourcing them on your own?
Tip: Price is important, but make sure to consider everything that is included in your venue rental. It could end up being the same, or perhaps even less, than finding it all on your own in the end. A budget spreadsheet with cost estimates really helps with this!
Many venues offer an array of services and items that fall into multiple categories, allowing you to tick off more beyond the simple “venue” box located on most wedding planning checklists. These can include rental equipment, food and beverage, planning services, etc. Some are included as a part of their rental agreements or as additional rentals.
For instance, at Storybrook Farm our services and offerings include both ceremony and reception location, engagement photo location, month of direction, day of coordination, set up and clean up services, decorating service, decorations and center pieces, event equipment (tent, tables, chairs, dance floor, lighting, etc.), guest entertainment in forms of lawn games and a photo booth, optional lodging, dinnerware, and rehearsal dinner site. With our Elopement packages the list extends to wedding cake, reception food, ceremony/reception flowers, officiant, and music. That’s a lot of boxes checked! So before you succumb to sticker shock, list and price it all out to see what you are really getting and if it makes sense for your final event budget.
Another tip: www.costofwedding.com is an incredible resource that gives you an accurate idea of how much couples actually end up spending both locally and nationwide in various wedding categories.
Contract, Agreements, and Terms, oh my!
Closely check your rental agreement and terms. Take a highlighter and attack that beast! Ask questions! Lots! Are there any rental restrictions, such as:
- Bringing in outside vendors
- Food and beverage minimum rates
- Alcohol policy
- Noise restrictions (including music cut-off times)
- Check in and check out times and over-time penalties
- Maximum capacity
- Payment, cancellation, damage and deposit policies
- Random things like pet policies, or restrictions like no open flames or silly string?
- Do you need to provide liability insurance for your event or does the venue provide an umbrella policy in case of mishaps?
Other questions to consider:
- Do the venues offer any discounts or special offers for certain dates?
- Do the venues have any referrals or partnerships to help you find other local wedding vendors?