Q: How do I select my venue and when should I book it?
A: Once you've settled on a wedding date, selecting and booking your venue should be at the top of your to-do list. To help you with this, consider the following factors when visiting a venue;
1. AVAILABILITY: You could find the most perfect, affordable location but if that venue is not available and unless you're willing to move your wedding date, your backup then you will have to do. Venue availabilities can go very fast, often times booked years in advance by other couples. This is especially true for popular wedding sites. The early bird WILL get the worm. If you have a long engagement, chances are you’ll have no trouble booking. However, if you try to book a venue within a year of getting married, get ready to shop!
2. AFFORDABILITY: Budget is another strong determinator. It does not need to be set in stone yet, but you should have a rough idea of what price range you see yourself in. Some venues will offer different packages to choose from and can be flexible when it comes to accommodating your needs. However, if you want your wedding in a public space or somewhere outdoors, keep in mind that additional costs may come into play: rental space, permits, rental equipment, caterers, alcohol license, caretakers or security guards, parking, etc. Consider that your venue can be as much as 50% of your budget or more. Be smart. Be realistic.
3. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: This isn’t HGTV but location, location, location. Here you need to think about how the location of your venue will affect your wedding day in regards to travel time, convenience, transportation, accommodation and weather. A wedding day schedule is practically military grade. A few minutes behind can throw the rest of your day off. Save on time and money by finding a venue close to your ceremony site or by choosing a hotel where you can both celebrate and accommodate. (This is a great option for Uncle Bob who likes his drink!) If you are set on a perfect view, visit the venue around the same time and season you want to get married in (i.e. a lakeshore sunset or a moonlit evening) Be sure to ask the venue coordinator if they have an indoor option or a plan be in case of rain. If you want to be downtown what would be the parking situation and how is the traffic where the venue is located. Is the location easily accessible or should your guest prep for a weekend stay. (This could be potentially costly for both you and your guest if not well planned for.)
4. SIZE & SPACING: If you’re working with the wedding planner or a venue coordinator, they will know what size hall you’ll need. If you are a D.I.Y.’er, there are a few wedding site and wedding apps that can help you determine the right venue size. (Wedding Wire, The Conference People) Calculate too much space and your wedding will look deserted. Not enough room and your guests will feel squeezed. As a general rule of thumb, measure in square feet and inform yourself about the halls standing and sitting capacity (Yes, there is a difference) Other spacing to take into consideration would be a dance floor, DJ or band area, buffet or sweet table and table arrangements.
5. PREFERRED SERVICES: Previously I spoke about how some venues will offer different packages. Make a list of your needs and wants because not all venues will offer the same services. Some will allow outside caterers to come in (often for a fee) others will have an in-house DJ & decorating service. Some venues only have space to rent, leaving it up to you to rent your own equipment, decorate and cater. Weigh your choices carefully and don't be afraid to negotiate. If you do have a wedding planner, don't be shy to ask them if they are able to get a professional discount.
Life doesn't always go according to plan so it doesn't hurt to have a back up plan just in case. Be sure to inquire about cancellation policies and reservation deadlines. (Some venues will hold your reservation for a week before requiring a deposit.) They know that a wedding day is special so the best venues will try to accommodate you as best they can. Remember that other couples are also looking for the perfect place to celebrate their wedding so do your due diligence, trust your instincts and book ASAP. There are so many venue options out there, each with their own individual factors to consider. In the end the venue that you choose will either match your vision no matter what the cost or give you the most bang for your buck.
Don't hesitate to ask a question in the comment section.