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10 Steps to finding the best Wedding Venue for you!

How Big is the Guest List?

It is not easy to have a guest count two weeks into the wedding planning process, but if you don't know what size wedding you will have, you will not be able to pick a venue confidently. No firm count is needed to look at venues, but one of the first questions the venue will ask a couple is how many guests you'll be hosting. Having a rough idea of your wedding size — whether it be 60, 125, or 300 guests — will allow you to cross venues off your list without having to go look at them in person since almost every venue lists their facility size online.

Is it your Vibe?

A romantic vineyard, an urban industrial loft, an elegant barn, all of these spaces sound appealing when planning a wedding. But just like it's not easy to fit a square peg into a round hole, it is not easy to plan a style-specific wedding at all venues. Taking into account what style of wedding you want will help you choose the venues you need to visit. Many couples think that they don't need to decide on a wedding style early on, but it is one of the most important decisions because you might save on decorations and decor if you select a venue that suits your wedding day style.

What services does the venue offer?

A full-service wedding venue usually offers everything you'll need for the big day. If you have little extra time to spend planning your wedding, a full-service venue may be the right way to go. On the other hand, if you have the time and the desire, some platforms simply offer you the space, and it's your job to create the wedding of your dreams. Both have their advantages, so before picking either one, do a little soul searching. Either way, some venues have preferred vendors that they want you to work with, so that is something to ask about before you book the space. Working with venue-required vendors can be great because they know the area and have worked there before, but it does not give you the option of "shopping" around and finding a quote that meets your budget.

Does the season match the temperature?

Couples probably have a good idea of what season they want to tie the knot, which will help to shape the wedding venue search. But don't forget: many venues might showcase images from a beautiful season like summer on their websites, so make sure you ask to see pictures from the season you intend to get married. If the venue holds weddings in all seasons, make sure you ask questions such as, "Is there heat and air conditioning? Is there a 'backup' space if all of a sudden it starts to rain? If there is good lighting so that our guests will be able to see as the evening goes on?" While getting married might be one of the most exciting times in a person's life, you also need to consider any special accommodations your guests might need when selecting a venue. While any established wedding venue will have proper accessibility for people with disabilities, a venue that is not typically rented out as a business might not have full wheelchair access or adequate restroom facilities.

Do you like the venue's operational hours?

This is an essential consideration. If you envision dancing under the moonlight followed by late-night snacks and more dancing, be sure the venue allows that. Some venues have noise restrictions that limit how late you can party. Others have set hours with no option for overtime, while others charge a fee past a certain number of hours. Be sure you get their "Hours of Operation" policy in writing.

Do you have to pay the total bill today?

Here are a few essential questions about a venue's financial requirements. Number one, what is the rental fee, what is included in that price, and the refund policy. You can also inquire about a discount for a day or season that is not as popular. Second, how much is the deposit, when is it due, and is any part of it refundable. And third, do they offer a payment plan. You should get ALL of this in writing, so there are no misunderstandings! Also, be warned, many venues do not lock in your date until they have a signed contract and your deposit.

Can I customize what I use on the vendor list?

Some venues list preferred vendors that they want you to work with. Working with these vendors can be great because they know the space and have worked there before, but if the list does not offer many options, you may not be about to find someone who can work with your budget. If your venue does not have a list of preferred vendors, they are still a good resource for referrals since they have probably worked with many local vendors and should know the good (and the bad.)

Does our guest have to travel for lodging?

Suppose your wedding is a destination wedding, or you have guests traveling far enough that they will want to stay overnight. In that case, it's a good idea to find out if there are enough hotels and motels in the area to accommodate everyone. It can be a significant problem if you find out that there are no adequate housing options nearby once you've booked the venue. It's a good idea to call the local innkeepers and find out if they will provide a room block and a special rate for your guests. Most are happy to do it. Then communicate with your guests to know their options and the date they have to book by to get the special rate and be assured of a room at the end of the night.

Umm Parking...

Parking can be a massive headache and an added expense in some venues. Find out if the venue provides free parking and how many cars it can accommodate. If the answer is no, then you have to decide what the alternatives are, like hiring buses to ferry your guests to the site or if you have to provide valet parking. The venue owner will have dealt with all this before, so they should be able to give you a reasonable estimate not only of the costs but also the logistics. If it ends up being a valet park, think about tipping the valet parkers in advance so your guests won't have to.

Is the sound and lighting equipment included?

Good lighting is an essential element in achieving the look and feels you have been dreaming about, and a good sound system is necessary for the DJ or band and the wedding party introductions and the toasts. You want to look beautiful and be heard, right? So check the fixed lighting, find out if you can add more lighting, like café lights, candles, and chandeliers, and how many electrical outlets they have and where they are. You'll want to be sure the band or DJ has access to the outlets, and the caterer may need some too. If your music plans are to play your own playlist, be sure they have a great sounding amp, or rent one. For an outdoor wedding or reception, you may be forced to use a generator, so find out if they have one available or if you have to rent one…and one note about generators, they can be loud. Try to find out ahead of time to do something to mitigate the noise if you end up with a noisy one. Don't want it to drown out your wedding vows!

These are 10 important considerations when deciding on a venue, but there are many more to think about. So make a list of all your important questions. When talking to the venue owners, write down the answers, and don't be afraid to ask a million questions. That is the only way to know if the venue is right for you. Take pictures and try to visit at least one more time before making a final decision, ideally while they are setting up or hosting another wedding and/or at the time of day your wedding will be held. And one more time…GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING, read the fine print of the contract and when you make changes or updates, be sure you get an updated copy signed by the venue. Good luck and Happy Venue Hunting!

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