Choosing a suitable wedding venue is perhaps the part of the planning that requires the most brainstorming. After all, the rest of the planning is really only tentative until you have a facility secured. Of course, successfully reserving the wedding location(s) for your clients is easier said than done due to factors like availability and all the other logistics.
As the event planner, you really have your work cut out for you. Following a few pre-planning tips will ensure that everything will be ready to go come time for the bride and groom to walk down the aisle.
1) Decide on a Theme
Some venues are designed for hosting weddings; others not so much. A banquet hall with an adjacent chapel, for instance, is a wedding-ready venue. However, more couples these days are opting for more unconventional locations in order to have a wedding with a specific theme.
A barnyard wedding, for example, is quickly becoming popular, though such a venue may not be designed to handle a wedding ceremony and may not be equipped with basic equipment like chairs, tables, and linens. This means having to rent the items that also need to be delivered and set up, which means additional overhead costs.
As special of an occasion as a wedding may be, it doesn’t mean that you have to serve the guests lobster tails and filet mignons. The venue, in fact, may have its own catering services with their own servers that are included as part of the venue rental package. If you decide to hire catering from a third-party service, does the facility have a kitchen where the food can be prepared and kept warm until served? Does the facility allow only specific outside catering companies to work there?
Keep in mind that some facilities require you to select their in-house catering or may charge an additional fee if you choose to acquire the food elsewhere. The same goes for the wedding cake. You may be charged an additional fee (known as a cake-cutting fee) if you bring your own cake instead of having the venue’s bakery department make a cake for you.
3) Know the Venue’s Capacity Limit
Every facility has a maximum occupancy limit. You need to know what this limit is especially if you expect a hefty turnout. It’s helpful to know the number of guests that’s most suitable for the type of space you’re renting. In other words, if a facility has a maximum occupancy of 500, and you expect 480 guests, that’s cutting close to the limit. That means the facility might be a little too small unless you don’t mind guests cramming into the venue like packed sardines. Likewise, if the bride and groom want a private ceremony with a close circle of say, 30 guests, then there is no need for a facility designed to hold 500 people.
On the subject of guest attendance turnout, be sure the turnout estimate you provide for the venue coordinator is as accurate as possible. Some venues are known to charge an additional fee if the actual turnout exceeds the number you submitted. As the event planner, this could fall on you if this happens. To avoid this debacle, be sure the bride and groom give you accurate numbers and reiterate the importance of RSVPing for guests that plan on attending.
4) Time of Year
Your client’s preferred venue may not be available depending on the time of year. Summer and early fall (June through October) are the most common wedding months in many areas, whereas winter (January through March) are the least popular in many areas. Southern US locations may be popular year around due to the mild winter weather. Wedding venues tend to be booked months in advanced during the popular months for getting married. Venues are typically more expensive to rent during the popular wedding months.
If your wedding clients are on a tight wedding budget, they may want to consider an off-season wedding to keep the cost down. The weather may not be ideal especially if part of the ceremony or reception takes place outdoors, but that can easily be remedied by asking guests to dress appropriately, providing shawls or blankets, or renting a few heaters for outdoor ceremonies.
5) Know the Layout
Is the venue just one big space like a multi-purpose room, or are there multiple rooms with access to a garden, balcony, rooftop, etc.? If the former, you may consider renting a separate venue for the wedding ceremony. Depending on the layout, flipping a room from ceremony set up to reception set up without anywhere for the guests to go during that time does not work.
Having separate ceremony and reception venues entails more logistics and likely a higher overhead cost as well. It also means extra commuting for the guests as they travel from one venue to another. It may be better to rent a facility where the entire wedding can be held in a single place. This means a venue with separate spaces for the ceremony and reception. If your client’s are religious, they may desire a church or synagogue ceremony with a reception at a different location.
6) Visit the Venue Weeks in Advance
If your clients choose a venue that you have not see yet, take time to visit the venue yourself in person. Ideally, you want to visit the venue on the same day of the week and at the same time of the wedding. If the wedding is on a Saturday, and the ceremony begins at noon, don’t visit the venue on a Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. Visiting at the same time of day and on the same day of the week as the wedding day will give you a better insight of things like the traffic, weather, and the ambiance of the venue during the daytime as opposed to nightfall.
Your clients might have their eyes set on a particular venue, but is it easily accessible for the guests? Will guests have to make a lengthy road trip or take multiple flights to get there? Are there nearby hotels for guests to stay during the wedding weekend? Is the venue close enough to the hotel where guests can reach the location by shuttle or a short cab ride? Even if a venue provides the picture-perfect backdrop, you might have to reconsider if the location makes it extremely inconvenient for the guests to reach.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
Being the event planner, you can’t be too nit-picky when it comes to the logistics associated with your client’s venue rental. Careful planning ensures that you aren’t hit with something unexpected that could increase the overhead costs or cause a damper on what should be a day of celebration for the bride, groom, and their guests.
This is a guest post by Dan McCarthy, Event Manager at Venueseeker, a comprehensive online venue guide based in the UK. Dan has 5 years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events and currently he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow Dan on Twitter.