With our recent engagement and my complete inability to just be chill, we’ve already booked our wedding venue. It was a fun process and today I’d like to share how we found the space that was so very us.
The first thing to consider is where you want to get married. As in, what city. For some people, this might be obvious. For us, we had to decide between Philadelphia and Long Island (in N’s hometown). After much debate, we decided on Philadelphia. It will be less stressful to plan a wedding where we live. Also, we love Philly!
When choosing a location, it’s also important to consider how that will play in to the overall cost. Long Island is the second most expensive place to get married in the United States (after Manhattan), with an average wedding cost at $57,000! Each piece of the wedding (rentals, catering, flowers, photography) was a little more expensive there.
Are you looking to have your ceremony and your reception in the same location? This definitely changes your options.
Some things to consider: Will that require the use of a separate space within the venue? Is there an additional cost? Is there enough room for both to take place? Can you visualize where the aisle would be and where you’d actually be married in the space?
We wanted our ceremony and reception in the same location and this limited the spaces that would work for us, to some extent.
How many people are on your guest list? Can the space hold that many people? Or, conversely, is the space too large for your guest list? Our venue maxes out at 120 guests. With our guest list of 74, it’s the perfect size for our ceremony, reception, and dance floor.
Oh how city living has changed my perspective on parking! We looked at several center city venue options and found that some only had on-street parking. Yikes! That could be a mess for guests and they could theoretically have to park and walk more than a couple of blocks. The alternative to a lack of parking is to have shuttles run from the hotel to the venue, but that is an added expense.
We opted to go with a slightly pricier venue that has valet parking in the garage right across the street. Problem solved. Still, make sure you are aware of where your guests can park on your big day and how much it will cost you.
Price and Payments
Cost is obviously a very relevant piece of the puzzle when planning a wedding. How much is the venue charging? Our venue was a bit more than we wanted to spend BUT (and this is a big but), we can choose any vendors we want and can buy our own alcohol.
Additionally, our venue was willing to work with us on the deposit cost and payments. Instead of paying half up front, our venue allowed us to pay a smaller amount, with additional payments in March, June, and a final payment in December. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and be up front about what you are able to do!
Vendor restrictions can completely change the cost of a venue space. For instance, your venue could be reasonably priced, but if they only allow you to work with one caterer who charges $100/plate? Well now it isn’t so reasonable.
As I said above, the venue we chose allows us to choose our own caterer and bring our own alcohol. Buying and bringing in your own alcohol is such a huge money saver vs. a per person cost of say $35/hour for the first hour and $6/hour for each additional hour for an open bar (an actual quote that I got, bringing the alcohol total to about $4,300). With a little Googling I found that for 74 people, we’ll need around $1,000 worth of alcohol, purchased in bulk from BJ’s (similar to Costco).
Is it available on the date you want? Or, like us, maybe you kind of don’t care about the date and they’ve got one that sounds good.
The responsiveness and flexibility of the management of the venue will certainly change the planning experience. One of the first things that stood out to me about our venue management is that they were quick to respond to emails and have been nothing but friendly and flexible. Trust your gut. If you feel like you trust the management and you’d enjoy working with them, that’s a good sign.
And finally, atmosphere. How does it look? What is the vibe you want for your wedding? Take a look through your Pinterest wedding page (come on, you know you have one – here’s mine), and see what types of spaces you’ve pinned. When you look at a venue, you’ll probably be able to visualize what you can do with the space. If those images come to you quickly and make you smile, you’re probably headed in the right direction.
We wanted something different. We wanted non-traditional. So instead of looking just for wedding venue, we looked for alternative spaces. We wound up booking a photography studio. Sure, they have weddings there. But that is not the primary purpose of the space. Don’t be afraid to ask about having a wedding in a space that has nothing about weddings on their website.
If you are looking for a less traditional wedding location, I’d suggest an alternative method. Using your old friend Google, check out wedding photographers in your area. More than likely those photographers have a blog where they show photos and details of recent weddings. This is a goldmine of fabulous vendor and wedding venue ideas.
If this seems like a lot to think about, it is! Don’t be intimidated. Here’s a quick step by step.
1. Make a list of all the places you would consider, based on your online research, and make some calls / send some emails.
2. Ask about pricing, what is included (tables & chairs, for instance), and catering restrictions. Most venues know what questions you are going to ask and provide you that information without you even asking (all of the venues I emailed and called did).
3. Once you’ve narrowed it down by price, schedule some site visits.
4. When you’re in the place, you’ll probably know.
Linking up with Nicole