Choosing Your Venue

By: Kathy Carlson, The Retreat at Bradley's Pond and Marlo Mood, The Governors Club

Just engaged and running out to look at venues for your upcoming day, too many times people fall in love with the first place they visit (like buying your first car, the dealer doesn't want you to leave) and too many times they end up signing a contract before they have looked anywhere else, checked references or considered the practical things. Unless the venue is spectacular and you are willing to plan your entire event around it, you shouldn't choose a venue until you have an idea of approximately how many guests and the size of your budget.

How many guests am I going to invite? Remember on average 75 percent will attend.
How many people will the venue accommodate?
If an all inclusive venue, do I have to guarantee a certain number of guests to be permitted to book the venue.
What time of year am I planning to get married (remember football season, hunting and turkey season, legislature, graduation)? These things should be taken into consideration if you have a lot of family and friends coming from out of town. The hotels in the area book up for the games, graduations and legislature.
Do you want to get married and have your reception at the same location or are you planning on having the ceremony at one location and the reception at another?
If separate wedding and reception sites, what is the distance between?
Are you planning on getting married outside? If so, does the venue have an alternate plan if it rains? Is there an additional fee?
Is there an additional charge to get married on the property?
What is included in the rental of the venue (tables, chairs, linens, dishes)?
Does the venue allow you to bring in your own caterer and other wedding vendors or are only certain vendors permitted to work the venue?
Do you want the ability to choose all the wedding vendors of your choice or do you want something that is done with minimal input from you?
Does it appear that the employees have a good working relationship?
Is the venue handicap accessible?
Is the facility heated and cooled?
Does the facility have a room for the bride to get ready?
What are the bathrooms like?
Do they have a liquor license? Will they allow you to bring in your own liquor?
Is there room in the venue for a band/DJ and/or dancing?
Does the venue already own a sound system with adequate speakers or will that need to be rented?
Are there restrictions on decorating the room? Are candles or other flames allowed?
What restrictions does the venue have on throwing rice, birdseed, rose petals, confetti, sparklers, etc.?
Is there ample parking? Is there a special place for the limousines to park? Are there extra fees for parking? Do they have valet parking?
Are there photograph restrictions? Where will you take photographs?
Read the fine print of your contract. Make sure if you are promised something that it is in writing. Ask questions.
Is there a retainer or security deposit ? What is the payment schedule?
What other service charges or fees could you be responsible for that are not in the contract?
Is there a set gratuity that is not outlined in the initial contract? Is the gratuity for the entire event (venue, food and service)?
How many events does the venue hold each day? How many hours do you have the venue?
Can I do my rehearsal? Is there a charge?
Do you offer special packages?
Do you offer day of services? If so what is the fee?
Am I required to purchase special event insurance. Ask the question, many times if you are not serving alcohol, the venue may not require it. Also depending on the bartender/caterer you use, you may not need it.
Am I required to hire an off duty officer for the event?

You should feel comfortable about the entire venue selection process. If you are feeling pressured like when you bought your first car, run!
Remember, this is YOUR very special day. Take your time to plan it the way YOU want it.
WeddingWire.com has a lot of helpful information on the website from a budget calculation to vendor reviews.