Everybody seems to think that the FIRST thing you do after getting engaged and begin the planning process is book your venue. While it certainly is smart to get it figured out right away, choosing it before deciding on anything is a huge mistake. Venue deposits generally aren't refundable, and generally represent a fairly large portion of your budget, so this isn't something you want to mess up on...
As a wedding planner, I've worked with clients who chose and booked their venue before understanding what they wanted the very essence of their wedding to be, and it forced them to adapt many of the big details they would've changed otherwise to match their venue. It makes me frustrated that couples who believe they need a planner don't think it's necessary to work with a planner to find their venue also. Trust me on this--there's a little more to it than just finding a space that you like that you can afford!
In hopes of improving others' experiences with venues, I've written out the top 5 things to do BEFORE choosing your venue. These things are so important to work through FIRST that I can promise the couples who go through this list and do the work a much happier experience with their venue choices throughout the entire planning process.
#1 - Decide on Your Wedding Theme
Why? It doesn't make sense to book a barn for your reception if you are still thinking about a beach-themed wedding. Barn screams rustic, country, romantic, while beach says luau, chill vibes, and BBQ. Choosing a theme dictates what the desired atmosphere of your venue should be, and understanding that desired atmosphere as you look through venues will make the task of choosing much easier. Either it fits, or it doesn't. The bonus of choosing a venue that matches your theme means that you won't have to over-decorate to make your venue and theme marry (gasp! wedding pun!). If they're the right match, they'll work together perfectly just as they are, and isn't that better?
#2 - Create Your Guest List
Since invites don't generally go out before 6-8 weeks before the big day, it might not seem obvious that you should have the guest list hammered out now--but it is so important! Venue rooms have a guest limit, so if you book a venue that fits just 100 heads, you can't add another 50 to your guest list after your mother comes to you with more names!
Here's your Handy Dandy Guideline:
- For the ceremony, you should have about 6 square feet per guest.
- For the banquet tables, there should be about 12 square feet per guest.
- For the dance-floor, there should be about 8 square feet per guest.
Follow these guidelines and you'll be golden!
#3 - Understand Your Wedding Budget
This determines what you can spend on your venue! If you book a venue for $5,000 without realizing that your total wedding budget is $10,000, you just spent a (generally non-refundable) 50% of your budget on your location! That's not much wiggle room...
#4 - Decide What Other Kinds of Vendors You Will Hire
This is important not only so you can understand where you stand with your budget, but to understand how to accommodate your vendors needs...
Are you booking a DJ? You need to know--is there room for his DJ booth? Are there ample electrical plugs near the dance-floor? Will that booth fit around other tables you'll need such as the cake table, the consumption bar, the gift table, etc.?
Are you booking a caterer? Do they need a commercial kitchen or will they set up shop outside? If they set up outside, does the venue permit this? Is there an area where they can do this without being right in everyone's view?
Are you booking a florist who will need to arrange flowers on-site? They will need a corner during the morning of the wedding to do this without disturbing anyone. Will they get early access to the room?
These are all questions to keep in mind as you consider venues! Don't do yourself or your vendors the disservice of overlooking these details.
#5 - Create a Basic Outline of Your Wedding Week Schedule
You might know you're getting married on a specific Saturday, so that's obviously the day you'll book, but did you make sure the venue is also available the day before for your rehearsal? You'd be shocked at how few couples think about this! Additionally, think about whether you'll need to be at the venue any other times before the wedding, and confirm with the venue manager that this is okay. You should especially be aware of when your decor and rentals will need to be delivered and set up. The venue will need to accommodate these vendors. (Late set up presents a whole new host of problems!)
Your wedding day schedule is also important to be aware of as you look at the actual building layout of your venue. If you have your wedding at the same venue in two different areas for the ceremony and reception, consider whether moving the crowd from one room to another other will present any technical difficulties. If there are other weddings or events going on the same day, is it possible your guests might end up in the wrong reception room? Don't let it happen!
Have any tips to add? Don't hesitate! Add them in the comments below!