Hire or consult with a wedding planner
The planning timeline for many couples right after they get engaged is creating a new wedding Pinterest board, touring wedding venues and finding the perfect wedding attire, but I encourage you to enlist the help of a planner at the beginning of your wedding planning journey before scheduling venue visits to save you time and money. Planners are familiar with the capabilities of local venues and can advise you on the pros and cons of each venue based on your budget, priorities, wedding day style and vision. They will provide you with a road map for a successful planning process.
Determine your priorities
We encourage all couples to sit down and discuss what’s most important to them in terms of their wedding day. Write down these wedding day priorities. Is it your wedding dress, an open bar, lots of flowers or a live band. How you rank and prioritize each wedding element is how you want to allocate your budget. For example, if cake is not high on your list of priorities your budget spend on a wedding cake should not be more than your spend on the open bar IF an open bar is ranked higher on your list of priorities.
Determine your guest list
Couples often underestimate how many people they will invite or how many their parents will want to add, so have that conversation with your families before you look at venues. All venues have a maximum capacity and you don’t want to contract or fall in love with a venue only to find out that it will no longer work when many more “yes” RSVPs start rolling in. Be proactive and create your guest list first before your venue search.
Remember your budget
Go into your venue visits knowing that this line item is much more than just renting a space. If you do not have this mindset it will drastically affect your budget and what you can spend on other wedding day elements. All venues are not created equally, so make a list of what each venue includes and does not include and how that stacks up to your budget and wedding day priorities. Does the venue provide an in-house caterer? Do you have the cost saving flexibility to bring in your own liquor? Will you have to rent tables and chairs? There are many questions to ask when determining whether a venue smartly fits into your budget and priorities. If you select your venue first without knowing your budget and priorities, and then realize you spent more than you should have, it will become a constant battle to stay within your budget when you still have several more wedding vendors to hire.
Know your vision and select a venue that aligns with your wedding style
Determine your wedding day style and seek out venues that best fit your vision. If you’re looking to have a garden wedding, you don’t want to waste your time looking at hotel ballrooms with no green spaces. Be strategic in your venue search and choose a venue that fits with your style and won’t require a total overhaul in decor and rentals to accomplish your vision. You want your venue to enhance your style and be a natural extension of your aesthetic. Be true to your style.
Be mindful of the guest experience
Consider the location and proximity of the venue to hotels and freeways with guests traveling-in to your wedding. The maximum capacity of a room is oftentimes not the most comfortable amount of space, so ask the venue how many people they can fit comfortably and see if they can provide you with a few floor-plan configurations. If your venue is outdoors are there indoor areas that can provide shade and reprieve for your guests.
Think about what is included
Some venues are full-service and include tables, chairs, linens and catering which may have a larger investment on the front end, while other venues allow you to bring in your own vendors. You will need to cost out the different scenarios. With venues that have in-house catering, there may be a food and beverage minimum spend. Make sure to review the actual food and beverage costs and factor in tax and service charges when budgeting. Many couples spend more than the contracted food and beverage minimum.