Congratulations to those of you who are newly engaged after the holidays! Now it's time to get down to planning for that dream wedding of yours. Here are a couple thoughts to keep in mind when searching for a venue. Choose your wedding date.
"Wedding dates can be significant for a variety of reasons; some couples choose to wed on the day they met, their parents' or grandparents' anniversary date, or for auspicious reasons that numbers have in their culture or religion. Others may pick a specific time of year and season but not a specific day," says Margo Fischer from Bright Occasions. If you can be flexible with your date and choose an off-season month, you’ll often be able to secure the venue of your dreams at a lower rate. For example, you'd likely pay less for a Friday wedding in February than you would for a Saturday in June. Time of year, day of the week, and your engagement length will all impact your negotiating leverage with vendors. Since dates can book up quickly at popular venues, call around to check on date availability
before going to see places in person. (If you're not getting married on-site, a good rule of thumb is to check in with your place of worship first before booking the reception venue.) Email or call prospective venues to schedule official walk-throughs
with representatives who can answer all of your questions (come prepared with a pen and paper to take notes). If possible, try to make arrangements to visit the site when it's set up for a wedding. This way, you'll be able to assess the size of your reception area once all of the tables, DJ or band equipment, sweetheart table, and any other necessary components are set up. The event-planning team at Gramercy Mansion recommends, "Don't bring your entire family for an initial site visit. While it's great to have feedback from parents and your maid of honor, limit the first appointment to just you and your fiancé (and a planner, if you have one). Venue selection is a very personal choice, and it sets the tone for your entire event." Don't book the first venue you see
. You may want to get it over with, but trust me. Select at least three places that may be a good fit for your budget and style; then write down the pros and cons of each one. I promise it will make the process easier and more fun!" Kolanović-Šolaja says. Plus, getting quotes from multiple venues will ensure that you're getting a good value.
Take photos and videos on your cell phone of the elements you liked and disliked at each venue.
(If you're visiting multiple locations over the course of a few days, it helps to take a photo of the sign/exterior of each venue so that you don't accidentally get them jumbled up.) Ask for referrals.
Many venues have great relationships with past clients who would be more than happy to let you know about their experiences. Ask about the service — was anyone difficult to work with? Or did they go above and beyond to ensure the event was a smashing success? How was the food? Was there anything they wish they would have done differently? Consider how guests will get from Point A to Point B.
"Transportation and parking vary depending on whether you're getting married in a city or out in the country, whether the ceremony and reception will take place at the same venue, and whether guests are local or it's a destination wedding," Fischer says. If the venue you're considering doesn't offer overnight accommodations, research nearby hotels or inns, including how much they cost and whether they have enough rooms available. Is there on-site parking for guests at the venue, and if so, is it free or will you cover any fees? Is there nearby off-site parking, such as street parking or garages? If parking isn't readily available, are there valet options that you can provide for local guests (some venues charge extra for this) or will you need shuttle buses and/or limos for the bridal party? Since weather can be unpredictable, it's crucial to have a contingency plan for an outdoor wedding.
Before booking, ask what the plan is and walk through it with them. Make sure that you like the backup spaces in the event of inclement weather; if you don't, then you may want to consider another venue or hiring a planner to help out along the way. Determine if there are any vendor restrictions.
"Preferred" vendors are usually businesses vetted by the venue who work there often and know all the ins and outs of the spaces. "Some venues have strict policies on vendors and you may not be allowed to use the planner you wanted to work with or the photographer you already booked. Other establishments may use this list to suggest businesses they like to work with but ultimately allow couples to bring in other vendors," Fischer says. (More than likely, all the venue will need is proof of liability insurance from the vendor.) Have an open dialogue with your venue and go a step further to find out why they are "preferred." Is it because the vendor has experience working at the venue, or did they pay to be on the list strictly as marketing? "If it's the latter, you may want to search other vendors," Kolanović-Šolaja says If the venue offers catering in-house, find out if you can do a tasting before the wedding.
Consider bringing your parents along to get their opinions, and keep your guests' tastes in mind in addition to your personal favorites. You'll also need to make the venue aware of any special dietary restrictions. Drink preferences may come into play as well: Are you and your guests connoisseurs of the vine, or are craft beers more up your alley? There's no need to break the bank on a premium bar if you won't be pouring fancy cognacs and vodkas. When negotiating, it's easier to work with a substitution than to deduct from the bottom line.
For example, if you don't want an ice sculpture that's part of the venue package, perhaps you can ask the venue to remove it and add something else instead. "Most importantly, remember to be kind and thoughtful when you ask to negotiate anything. A grateful heart will give back to you in many ways," Kolanović-Šolaja says. Don't get pressured into signing right away.
If a venue has your desired date open, but you aren't ready to book, ask if they can place a soft hold or give you a courtesy call if someone else is interested in your date. (Some places may charge a small deposit fee to hold your wedding date if you haven't signed a contract yet, which is usually taken off the final bill.) Take a few days to talk it over with your fiancé and make sure that your financials are doable in the time frame that you have.
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Written By: Stefania Sainato