Choosing the right venue for you is no walk in the park. Before you sign on the dotted line, consider the advice of these seasoned pros about what to consider . . . and where!
Nicolle from Mother of the Bride says capacity, budget, and location are the three most important components to consider. Here's her advice on each:
Capacity: Are you trying to jam 300 guests into a venue that comfortably holds 225? Sometimes a client wants a venue to work so badly that they forget about things like being able to walk around comfortably and proper serving for the staff. It’s not a bad idea to have the sales person come equipped with diagrams of the space with the number of guests you are planning for.
Location: Sometimes understanding the logistics of moving people has to be at the forefront of your decision making. All things from wedding photos to moving grandparents to being able to stop and get a forgotten item have to be considered. Consider parking, traffic, and proximity to other events (i.e. the ceremony, rehearsal, etc.) Basically, does the location work for you and your guests?
Budget: Have you looked at all of the fees for every aspect of the venue? There are things like off site catering fees, split entree fees, bottled water fees (because the venue doesn’t use tap water), security guard fees, early access fees to get in to the venue for set up. Some venues are fabulous in every way but they go crazy on fees. This can easily drive the cost of the wedding up by a good 10 percent or more.
Favorites: The Minikahda Club, The Loews, Lafayette Club
Jennae of Blush and Whim also encourages brides to consider decor and the food and beverage options. Here's what she has to say:
Decor: The last thing you want to do is book a space that you are going to have to completely change/overhaul with decor and rentals. Picking a space that has great a great vibe, lighting, decor, chairs, etc. will save you a bundle in the long run—a few gorgeous centerpieces and you are set!
Food and Beverage: A venue that allows you to bring in any caterer you like will save you money, but a venue with a pre-set catering company will save you time and stress. It comes down to whichever is a higher priority to you!
Favorites: Aria, Calhoun Beach Club, Muse
As director of events for Style-Architects, Rachelle says couples should consider nailing down the guest list before venue shopping. She also encourages brides and grooms to get detailed about the accounting. Here's her advice:
Guest List: To ensure that the venue is large enough to accommodate your guest count, nail this down first. Be wary of the capacities shared by venues. Often they are overstated or assume overcrowding at tables, overcrowding of tables, or removal of tables from the dance floor. Some venues seat 10 guests at a 60” table, or 12 guests at a 72” table. I don’t recommend it. If your guest count is approaching their maximum capacity, ask to see a sample floorplan so you can see how this guest count looks within the space.
The Bottom Line: Ask for a sample BEO (Banquet Event Order) with a detailed accounting of all possible fees. Often, couples don’t know about set-up or security fees or forget about service charge and tax, which can add an additional 30 percent to the tab. If you need to use an outside caterer, be sure to get a sample BEO from them as well to ensure you get a full understanding of your biggest budget line item!
Favorites: Guthrie, Minneapolis Event Center, Walker Art Center
Casey Noelle Bahl
Casey of Belle Noelle Events + Design advises couples to consider rental options associated with the venue as well. Here's her take on the most important elements to consider:
Rentals: Most venues only have limited quantities and sizes. Make sure you factor table, chair, and linen rental into your overall budget (especially linens if you want anything else than black or white!). You'll also want to ask about the timeframe of the venue rental on the wedding day, and will you need to pay an additional amount if extra set up time is needed? Some venues will let you in at 8 a.m., others not until 1 p.m. Make sure to speak with your wedding planner, venue manager, and all vendors about what the expected timeline is for that day to ensure everyone has more than enough time to prepare for the wedding.
Favorites: Aria, The Machine Shop, Loring Social
What are your favorite local venues? Share in the comments below!