Hi everyone! I hope wedding planning is going well. With the start of engagement season, and wedding show season, I know many of you are out looking for venues. This is such an important step in the wedding planning journey that I thought I would write a blog post with some tips to consider BEFORE you book your venue.
Lets start with some obvious ones:
1. Availability: Before you go on your venue tour, make sure you check that they have your date available. Venue's book up quickly and I don’t want you to waste your time. I do recommend having a few days you are interested in. The more flexible you are, the easier this will be. Of course it goes without saying, if you are open to a Friday or Sunday, or an off season Saturday, the rental fees are usually considerably less.
2. Price: Speaking of budget, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a budget, with approximate figures worked up for each category of the budget, BEFORE you book anything. This way there are no surprises, and if you splurge in one area, you know you need to skim in another area in order for things to stay within your overall budget. Your venue is going to be your first big "purchase" and it can either set you up for budget success or failure, so I want to make sure it goes smoothly.
3. Capacity: Be sure to speak candidly with the venue host when you tour a space about the space's limitations. Just because a place says it can hold 200 people, doesn't mean it can hold 200 people in a sit down reception, with room for a buffet and dance floor. Talk to the venue host about your reception vision and estimated guest list and ask them to show you a floor plan or two about how you would go about making your vision happen in that space.
4: What is included: Some venues include things like tables and chairs, and other venues don’t. If your venue does not include tables and chairs, you will need to rent them, and figure that cost into the budget. If the venue you are considering doesn't include them, or if you hate their chairs, I recommend going online to a rental store. ( I love Party Place: http://www.thepartyplacepdx.com/) and looking at their selection and prices so that you can get a complete financial picture before singing on the dotted line.
5. Catering: Depending on the venue, you could have 1 of 3 catering scenarios. Option 1: in house catering. Some venues like the Sentinel hotel, have in house catering. (The Sentinel uses Jakes). If the venue you are considering has in house catering make sure you get a quote on what the food/bar will run for your estimated guest count, and make sure you LIKE the food the in house caterer provides BEFORE you book the venue. In this case, when you book the venue, you are booking caterer too.
Option 2: Some venues may not have in-house catering, but they will have a preferred catering list. Venue's have preferred catering lists as a way to narrow down the ever growing list of catering companies in our community and do their best to steer their clients to companies they know and trust. With that being said, I recommend getting a list of the companies on the venue's list and making sure A) you can afford the catering companies on the list and B) you like the styles of food they create. Some venues will allow you to "buy off" of the list and bring in a different caterer. If you do not see a caterer that will work for you, ask the venue about doing that. Again, get these things worked out (in writing) before you book the venue, not after.
Option 3. The third catering option venue's have is that you can bring in any caterer. While the flexibility of this option is great, I cannot stress enough how important catering is. Not only do you of course want good food, you need great service. Regardless of which option you go with, be sure to schedule an onsite walk thru with your caterer to go over layout, service expectations, and to confirm who is bringing things like trash cans, ice etc. While these details seem small they can add a lot of stress day-of if they are not worked out before hand.
6. Departure time: Another big thing I see, especially with the incredible outdoor venue's we have, is that couple’s don’t ask beforehand when the music has to be off, and when they have to leave. Many outdoor venues are under a noise ordinance that requires the music be turned off at 10:00pm. While that is usually no big deal, if you are wanting to boogie until the wee hours of the morning, your heart is going to be broken if you find out the music has to be off so early.
7. Alcohol policy: Be sure to ask what the venue's alcohol policy is. Some venue's are only allowed to serve beer or wine. (like most vineyards). Other venue's insurance policy limits them to only serving mixed drinks for an hour or two. While a beer and wine only reception is not a bad thing (especially in Oregon) I don’t want you to be disappointed that you cannot have the whiskey bar you had been envisioning. Find out the rules, and avoid the disappointment. As a side note, be sure to ask the venue/catering folks if you can provide your own wine/beer/home brew if that is something you are thinking about doing and definitely inquire what the corkage would be if you were to do that.
8. Rain plan: While we all know we live in the beautiful Northwest, and while we all will acknowledge it usually rains here, so many couples really try and wish away the rain on their wedding day. Before you book a venue ask what their rain plan is. Ask if that rain plan works for your guest count. Ask if there are additional costs associated with the rain plan. And most importantly, ask yourself if you will be okay with the rain plan. On a related note, since many of us nearly died of heat stroke this summer, ask about an excessive heat plan too. Does that historic ballroom have air conditioning? Are you able to put a tent (for shade) in the middle of the vineyard? It’s just good to be prepared on the off chance it’s not 82 and sunny on your wedding day.
9. Rental Period: Last but not least, inquire about how long you have the space for. Try and remember your rental company is going to want about a 3 hour rental window period for dropping off items. (it will cost you more for an exact delivery time). You then want about 3 hours to set up and decorate the space. Figure 90 minutes for ceremony and cocktail hour, another 90 minutes for dinner and program elements and then 2.5 of dancing. You will need an hour for clean up, and an hour for breakdown and rental pick up. Ideally, you would have venue access for 10+ hours. If not, just be prepared for a shortened event, and be prepared to keep decor somewhat simple.
Well those are the big questions I recommend asking. While I know the venue hunt is a super fun time, I just don’t want you guys to let that excitement have you rush into something you may regret. As always, we are here. If you have questions, or want specific venue recommendations just let us know. You can give us a call at 503.984.8652 or shoot us an email at: email@example.com