August has been a busy month here at LLWE headquarters. First, we were in Belgrade at one of our favorite “blank space” locations Roys’ Barn, then we lived it up at a three-day Southern wedding up in Big Sky, then back to Belgrade for a two-day rehearsal dinner-slash-wedding at the Springhill Pavilion and a private home on the Gallatin River. And the month is only half over. Phew!
As we’ve been winding up our season (it goes so fast!) we’ve been thinking about the ways that we can help our brides for next year make some smart choices as they rev up the early stages of planning.
Enter our new “Things to Look For” series, in which we take each aspect of your wedding day and give you practical advice and things to think about as you are choosing each vendor.
First up: the venue. Arguably the most important decision you’ll make, the venue is usually the first or second decision that you make when you are planning a wedding. In choosing your venue, the mood and theme of your wedding will be set. Is it a wedding on the beach or in a church? Huge party at a loft in a city or intimate gathering up in a mountain lodge. Once you decide what feel you want to have, here’s a few more things to ask yourself as you’re touring each space.
How many people maximum can it seat for dinner? How many for a cocktail party?
So many of my brides always say that they don’t know how many people they want to invite, let alone how many will show up. Before picking the venue, I’d say that you need at least a 30 person ballpark (100 to 130 people, for example) before you start researching your venues. Better to initially rule some spaces out of they’re too large or too small than trying to make your wedding invitation list to your venue requirements.
Also, it’s good to know the different party limits. Let’s say you fall in love with a venue, but it only can seat 80 for dinner and you’re looking at 100 minimum. Be open to the idea of having a really great cocktail party, with all-night appetizers and open bar instead of a sit down dinner. Either way, when you’re deciding on a venue, consider all the seating/standing options before making your final choice.
Is there a support staff that assists with moving furniture, placing decor, and cleaning up at the end of the night?
This is a big one that so many brides forget when they are looking at venues. They fall in love with that great blank loft space, but then realize too late that they have to hire out a cleanup crew (for $500 – $1,000!) for the end of the night to break everything down (or worse, do it themselves!). Hotels and banquet hall usually have this one taken care of, but if you’re thinking about a tented wedding or anything in a warehouse space, make sure that this is something you ask your venue host while doing your walkthrough.
Will we need to rent furniture?
Sometimes you’ll visit a venue and you fall in love with it so much and you can’t believe it’s only $3,000 for the whole weekend! Well, if the number is too low and it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unless you’re in a hotel, most venues won’t provide tables, chairs, linens, or any catering items like plates, silverware, and glassware. This not only means a lot more work for you to coordinate more vendors, but it also means spending more money. Make sure you’ve got the skinny on what exactly your venue includes before you convince yourself of a steal.
Is there an event planner on-site?
While I always advocate for a planner, you especially need someone to troubleshoot if your venue doesn’t come with an in-house planner that will stay to the end (and most in-house planners don’t even stay for the duration of all the events at their space; make sure you ask that question as well). If you’re in a lovely loft space but you find out that there’s no professional help around during your Saturday evening reception, it’s time to rethink the price tag and/or if you should be hiring someone to help you on the day of the wedding (or even on the rest of the venue walkthroughs!)
What about my ceremony space?
Keep in mind that, while most venues can have space for your ceremony as well as your reception, if you’re looking to get married in a different location, you’ll have to take into consideration the added cost of a ceremony space, as well as the cost to transport people in between the two locations (this is more relevant if you live in a big city or very rural place where it’s easy to get lost).
What are some things you forgot to ask during your walkthrough that would have helped you out come wedding day? Let me know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!