What Are The Rules For Choosing A Wedding Venue?

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When you've narrowed down some options and are ready to tour reception sites, keep these expert pieces of advice, from planner Claire Bean, of Claire Bean Events, in mind.

There are plenty of things to think about when planning your wedding; there's the date, guest list, dress, and big decisions like who will make up your wedding parties, such as your bridesmaids and best men.

However, one decision that you absolutely should not underestimate is picking your wedding venue. The location you decide upon is one of the most instrumental parts of your wedding, the base for your day, the backdrop for your wedding photographs and the place where you will create memories of a lifetime. So, how do you make sure that you make this important decision right?

Location. Location is one of the crucial things to consider while choosing a wedding venue. A large number of guests come to attend the marriage ceremony. Moreover, all of your guests come from different locations.

If you plan to transform a space to fit your vision with flowers, greenery, and decorations, selecting a wedding venue that can be a blank canvas for all of those items is important. Look for venues with neutral colouring, natural brick and stone, and open spaces or tall ceilings.

It means the number of people you are expecting to attend your event. Make sure that your venue can easily accommodate your expected target audience. Your venue should not be too small or too large for your guests.

As soon as you and your spouse have settled on a venue, make the reservation. Booking a wedding venue 15 months in advance is considerably better than finding out your preferred wedding venue isn't available for the dates you want.

Location is one of the most important points on this list, as your guests or attendees will be travelling to where you will host the event. The location should be centrally and easy to access, identifiable, clean and secure. Hosting an event at an identifiable venue can bring comfort and legitimacy to an event.


Never Visit More Than Three Wedding Venues In One Day.


Or you'll experience sensory overload!

Many have set ceremony times, which dictate when your reception can start.

Exclude Any Place; However Dreamy That Doesn't Accommodate Your Headcount.

Don't gamble on RSVPs lowering the final number. It never works!

Make A List Of Non-Negotiables.

Like, say, outdoor space — and avoid touring places that don't tick those boxes, advises Bean. Otherwise, you risk falling in love and having to change your plans to make it work.

If Most Of Your Friends And Family Are Travelling, Consider A Central Location.

A remote estate that's a four-hour drive from the airport can be tough for guests.

Hotels Sometimes Book More Than One Wedding Per Weekend.

Be sure to ask about overlapping events and how that could affect your bash.

Find Out How The Venue Handles Catering.

Is it done on-site? If so, can you customise the menu? If not, can you hire anyone you like, or do you have to pick from a list of approved vendors? If you're a foodie, ask about the venue's tasting policy. You might be able to sample the cuisine for a fee that gets credited back if you book there; if not, seek out referrals from past clients.

Do You Want To Party All Night Long?

Many venues (especially residential areas) have a curfew or a maximum decibel level for music. Check before you book.

Is Your Dream Venue Really On A Budget?

Before you sign that contract, make sure there aren't any hidden costs that will push you over your limit.

Is The Site Fee All-Inclusive?

If not, you may have to shell out big-time rentals (tables, chairs, china, flatware, et cetera). Ask if the total accounts for state tax and gratuity (a "plus plus").

If Your Ceremony Is On-Site, You May Be Charged Twice For Setup.

Some venues double the reception and ceremony prep fees, even just to layout chairs.

How Much Time Is Allowed For Setup And Tear Down?

An hour of overtime can cost $1,000, according to Bean.

Check the power needs for a DJ or band.

If the site's supply isn't sufficient, you may have to rent a generator.

Will You Need Additional Lighting?

Confirm The Valet And Security Policy.

Venues can charge between $5 and $25 per car, while others tack on a flat fee, several hundred dollars. (And don't forget tips — about $40 to $60 per attendant.)

Are There Bathrooms There, Or Do You Need To Rent Them?

Now, this is one you don't want to overlook!

Driving And Traffic Considerations

Guests may be travelling a considerable distance by car to get to your wedding destination. Sure, they can use Google Maps or some other navigation tool to get directions to your venue, but those resources aren't always 100% reliable. Given possible freeway system confusion and traffic congestion, you'll save your guests lots of time and trouble if you provide, along with the invitation, specific directions on a separate map drawn to scale. Include symbols indicating directions (north, south, etc.) and the names of the appropriate off-ramps. If you're not sure about exits, landmarks or street names, take a dry run of the route to ensure everything on your map is accurate and easy to follow. If your function occurs after dark, do the test drive at night, so you can note well-lit landmarks that will prevent your guests from getting lost—both coming to your event and going home.

If you're having a Friday evening event, consider commuters, especially if your event site is in an area that gets bumper-to-bumper traffic. One solution is to schedule your get-together after 7 pm when freeways are less congested.

Even if you have few constraints when picking a location, it's still worth considering the total driving time to and from your destination. When it's over two hours, an overnight stay may be necessary, and you may be limited to a Saturday night event since your nearest and dearest won't be able to spend hours on the road during the week. If you need lodging for some of your guests during your celebration, check out the Guest Accommodations/Room Blocks section for suggestions and info. If you have guests arriving by plane, it's certainly helpful if there's an airport nearby, and if your co-workers, friends or family enjoy drinking, try to house them close to the event site.

There's no reason you can't contemplate a special event in a spot off the beaten path. Just remember that if you're planning a wedding that's not local, a venue's on-site coordinator or a wedding planner can help: Many are experienced in handling destination events and can be a great asset.

Wedding Style

Do you know what kind of event you want? Will it be formal or informal? A traditional wedding or a modern, innovative party? Will it be held at night or during the day? Indoors or outdoors? Is having a garden ceremony or gourmet food a deal-breaker? By identifying the geographical area and the most important elements of your dream wedding before you start looking for a venue, you can narrow down your search.

Guest Count

How many people are anticipated? Many facilities request a rough estimate 60–90 days in advance of your function—and they'll want a deposit based on the figure you give them. A confirmed guest count or guarantee is usually required 72 hours before the event. Therefore, it's important to come up with a solid estimate of your guest list early on to plan your budget and select the right ceremony or reception spot.

It's also important to ensure that the guest count you give the facility before your event doesn't change during your event. Believe it or not, it's possible to have more people at your reception than you expected. How? Some folks who did not bother to RSVP may decide to show up anyway. In one case, the bride's parents got an additional bill of $1,200 on the event day because there were 30 "surprise" guests beyond the guest count guarantee who were wine and dined. To prevent this from happening to you—especially if you have a large reception where it's hard to keep track of all the guests—it's a good idea to contact everyone who did not RSVP. Let them know as politely as possible that you will need to have their response by a given date to finalise food & beverage totals.

The Weather Factor

The weather can be a big factor, especially if you're planning to have part or all of your event outdoors. Celebrating under sunny skies is great, but watch out when the mercury rises in inland areas. A canopy or tables with umbrellas are essential for screening the sun. It would help if you asked each facility manager about the sun's direction and intensity concerning the time of day and month your event will occur. During a ceremony, guests will be uncomfortable facing the sun, and white walls and enclosed areas bounce light around and hold in heat. If your event is scheduled for midday in July, include a note on your location map to bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. If you also mention words like "poolside," "yacht deck", or "lawn seating" on the map, it will help guests know how to dress. In summer, you might want to consider an evening rather than a midday celebration. Not only is the air cooler, but you may also get a bonus—a glorious sunset.

If you're arranging an outdoor party when the weather is unreliable and may turn cold or wet, prepare a contingency plan: it's good to have access to an inside space or a tent.

Special Requirements

Sometimes, places have strict rules andman in black suit standing near brown wooden table regulations. For example, if most of your guests smoke, pick a location that doesn't restrict smoking. If alcohol is consumed, make sure it's allowed and find out if bar service needs to be licensed. If dancing and a big band are critical, limit yourself to those locations that can accommodate them and the accompanying decibels. Do you have children, seniors or disabled guests, vegetarians or folks who want kosher food on your list? If so, you need to plan for them, too. You must identify the important factors for your event before signing a contract.

Locking In Your Event Date

Let's say it's the first day of your hunt for the perfect venue, and the second place you see is an enchanting garden that happens to be available on the date you want. You like it, but you're not 100% sure that this is the place since you've only seen two locations. No problem. You decide to keep your options open by making a tentative reservation. The site coordinator dutifully pencils your name into her schedule book and says congratulations. You say thanks, we have a few more places (like 25) to check out, but this one looks terrific. Then you go, secure knowing that if none of the other sites you visit pan out, you still have this lovely garden.

The nightmare begins a couple of weeks, or perhaps months, down the road when you've finished comparison-shopping and call back the first place you liked to finalise the details. So sorry, the coordinator says. We gave away your date because:

  1. One of the other gals who work here erased your name by mistake (after all, you only pencilled it in).
  2. We didn't hear back from you soon enough.
  3. It bothers me that you didn't confirm your reservation with a deposit.

For the tiniest instant, you picture yourself inflicting bodily harm on the coordinator or at least slapping the facility with a lawsuit, but there's not much you can do. Whether a genuine mistake was made or the facility purposely gave your date to another, the perhaps more lucrative party (this sometimes happens with hotels who'd rather book a big convention on your date than a small wedding), you're out of luck.

To avoid the pain (and ensuing panic) of getting bumped, we suggest that instead of just being pencilled in, ask if you can write a refundable $100–250 check to hold the date for a limited time. Suppose the person in charge is willing to do this but wants the full deposit upfront (usually non-refundable). In that case, you'll need to decide whether you can afford to lose the entire amount if you find a more attractive location later on. Once the coordinator or salesperson takes your money, you're automatically harder to bump. Make sure you get a receipt with the event date, year, time and space(s) and the date your tentative reservation runs out. Then, to be safe, check in with the facility weekly while you're considering other sites to prevent any possible "mistakes" from being made. Get a signed contract or a confirmation letter when you finally commit to a place. If you don't receive written confirmation within a week, hound the coordinator until you get it, even if you have to drive to the sales office and stand there until they hand it over to you. And even after you've plunked down your money and have a letter and contract securing your date, call the coordinator every other month to reconfirm your reservation. It pays to stay on top of this, no matter how locked in you think you are.


Parking is seldom a critical factor if you get married outside an urban area, but make sure you know how it will be handled if you plan a party in a parking-challenged place like downtown Los Angeles or New York City.

A map is a handy supplement to any invitation, and there's usually enough room on it to indicate how and where vehicles should be parked. Depending on the location, you may want to add a note suggesting carpooling or mention that shuttle service or valet parking is provided. If there's a parking fee, identify the anticipated cost per car and where the entry points are to the nearest parking lots. The last thing you want is surprised and disgruntled guests who can't find a place to stash their car or are shocked at the $20–40 parking tab.

Professional Help

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If you're a busy person with limited time to plan and execute a party, pick a venue that offers complete coordination services, from catering and flowers to decorations and music. Or better yet, hire a professional event or wedding coordinator. Either way, you'll make your life much easier by having someone else handle the details. And often, the relationships these professionals have with vendors can save you money, too.

Food And Alcohol Quality

Food and alcohol account for the greatest portion of an event's budget; consequently, food & beverage selections are big. Given the amount of money you will spend on this category alone, you should be concerned about the type, quantity and quality of what you eat and drink. We suggest you sample different menu options if in-house catering is provided before paying a facility deposit. If you'd like to see how a facility handles food setup and presentation, ask the caterer to arrange a visit to someone else's party about a half-hour before it starts. It's wise to taste wines and beers in advance and be specific about hard alcohol selections.


You can find wedding venues all over the place, but not every venue is a good fit for every couple. Before you start your search, take some time to consider what's important to you and make a list of priorities. That will help you focus your search and avoid wasting time on venues that don't meet your needs. Once you have an idea of what you want, check out our tips for choosing the perfect wedding venue. They should help make the process easier and less stressful! Have fun planning your dream wedding!

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