image credit author's personal collection, Oheka Castle on my wedding day
So you have the perfect guy, bling on your left finger.........now what?
We'll first you need to get a general idea about your guest list. Are you keeping it small and under a 100 people? Or do you have a large family and your guest list is looking to be tipping the scale at 500 people? Knowing an approximate number of guests is key because some venues simply can't accommodate large weddings, and in other cases venues are so large that 100 people may get lost in the space. (Keep in mind that usually about 20% of your guests RSVP "No." )
After, you have an approximate number of guests you need to firm up your budget. The worst thing you can do is go venue shopping, find something you love, and find out that there is just no way you can make it work.
The first part of venue shopping is online and magazine research. Make sure you look in the area you were hoping to have the reception and some of the surrounding areas. You may be pleasantly surprised by some hidden gems. Magazines that cater to your city will be really helpful as they usually have a section in the back that can answer some of these basic questions. The first thing you are going to do is get organized!
Make a list of all of the venues that even look like something you may like. For each venue write down the information you find online. Your lists needs to contain at least the below basics;
1. Name of the place:
2. Location: (Is it convenient to public transportation or hotels, if that's applicable. Will you have to hire a shuttle from the ceremony location?)
3. Rental Fee: Not all locations have one, but most museums and historical venues do. This is just a fee to rent the grounds and doesn't include food. It may at some places include tables and chairs.
4. Price Per Person: They usually don't have this specific information online so you may have to go in to find out, but most bridal magazines will have a number range.
5. Number of people it can accommodate:
After you have a pretty decent list. You want to start narrowing it down. It isn't reasonable to visit 100 venues.
Things you are going to cross of right away: out of your budget, a large number of negative reviews online, & can't accommodate your guest list.
You should now have about 10 places, and it's time to start scouting them out. Most places will require you to make an appointment. Show up to the appointment a bit early and take a look around the outside space. If you can try to make an appointment on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday morning. Often times they are setting up for events so you may be able to get a better picture of what it looks like.
When you meet with the onsite event coordinator there are certain questions you want to make sure you ask and things you want to take note of. Here are a few; (keep in mind this may not all be applicable to your wedding)
1. Take a note of the grounds. Are they well kept? If you are having a daytime wedding it's possible your pictures will be taken here. This is why I suggested going a little earlier.
2. What is the decor like? The carpet? The chairs? Does it match your style or are you going to have to bring tables and chairs in? Will it need a lot of decoration (i.e. lighting and flowers)
- What are the regulations about decorations? Are candles allowed? If it's a historical venue can you eat and drink throughout the venue?
- OUTDOOR VENUES: what's the plan B? Where will the tent go? Where will you have cocktail hour, etc. Hash this out for every single venue if you are considering an outdoor wedding
3. Do they have an in-house caterer or do you have to hire someone? If they have an in-house caterer can you do a tasting before you book? If you don't love the food can you bring in an outside caterer?
4. Make a note of where the dance floor will go
- Is there enough room for a band or DJ?
5. Does the wedding venue already own a sound system with adequate speakers or will that need to be rented?
6. Do they have wheelchair access, adequate parking? Will they valet cars and what's the charge?
7. What is the payment schedule?
- What's the cancellation policy?
8. Is there an additional rental fee if you have your ceremony there?
9. Do they have a liquor license?
10. Do they have a place for the bride and groom to get ready and or relax?
11. Will the event coordinator be there the day of the wedding, If not who will be there?
12. Do they let you use any outside vendors that you want? Or do they require specific florists bands, etc. And if they do you should take a look at those vendors just to be sure you can work with them.
Now you should have narrowed your venues down to about 2-4. It's time to start thinking about the exact details of your wedding. Are you having your ceremony off site? Then be sure to get the answers to these questions;
1. How far are the locations and how will you get the guests from one location to another?
2. Do they both hold a similar amount of people?
Are you having your ceremony on site? Be sure to get the answers to these questions;
1. Does the wedding venue have an entirely separate area for the ceremony?
2. If not, how long does it typically take for the staff to change over the room?
Remember venue is likely to be the largest part of your budget and it sets the theme for your wedding. Before you sign any contracts make sure everything is very clear. If they are providing things like chairs, tables, table cloths, valet parking, etc. It should be in the contract. What time can you arrive at the venue to start setting up also needs to be in there. When you are making your final payment a few weeks before the wedding you don't want any surprises.
It's intense, but we want to help you say sane. We would love to help so email any questions you have about venues especially about venues on Long Island and NYC.