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Selecting a Venue – First Steps – One of the first steps in planning is selecting which venues to tour. You will want to sit down with your families and go over budget and have each party (bride & groom, bride’s family and groom’s family) write down their own guest list. From there, you will need to all come to an agreement on the number of guests you’d like to attend. This can be difficult, and sometimes a source of conflict, especially when it comes to who is paying for the wedding. It can be a good idea to give each party a set number of guests to avoid hurt feelings. (Thirty to fifty guests for each party is usually a decent starting point.)

The guest count is one of the biggest contributing factors in budget planning. The more guests that attend, the more food and alcohol, tables, chairs, centerpieces, invitations/menus you will need to provide. You will need to decide what is more important- a smaller, more intimate wedding that is more luxurious, or a larger guest count where you may need to cut costs in other areas.

 

Selecting a Venue, Venue Type

Once budget and guest count have been determined, hold off on selecting a final date! You will then want to do some research on types of venues BEFORE wasting time and conducting site tours. There are many venues types:

  • Manor House
  • Mansion or Estate
  • Tent
  • Barn
  • Country Club
  • Resort
  • Private Homes
  • Winery
  • All-Inclusive Venues (Definition: Onsite catering, tables/chairs/linen/china all included- makes for easier planning and usually more budget friendly!)

Take a look at your Pinterest Board (I know you have one!) and really start to look at the patterns in decor. This will start to look consistent and you will see running themes throughout all your boards. If you like a rustic decor, then Barns might be where you want to look. If you like vintage, a manor might be the spot for you! You’ll also want to think about your love story and personality- if you enjoy a glass (or bottle!- no judgement!) of wine with your fiancé every evening, then a winery is a good way to tie in your love story to your day.

 

Deciding on Venues to Tour

Once you’ve decided on a venue type, then you can begin specific venue research. You can start to think about possible dates now, but don’t pick a final one yet!

You will need to ask the following questions/note these items when reaching out to venues to schedule a tour.

  • What is the maximum COMFORTABLE capacity? (*Make sure you add the word “comfortable”! Maximum capacity at one venue I used to work at was 200, but really, if you have a band, a buffet and a dessert station, 150 was a better fit.)
  • Request to see packages before touring. If the $ per person is outside your budget, then you can save yourself a trip and not fall in love with something that you can’t afford.
  • Is the Catering Director responding to DIRECT questions that you ask in your email. There are so many canned email responses, and while that is efficient for workflow, it’s not efficient for you. You will want to work with someone who takes the time to ensure that YOU are taken care of.
  • Research or ask to see wedding photos taken on the property. Do other couples portrait backgrounds at the venue look like they would make for timeless, beautiful photos?  You’ll pass these photos on to your children and grandchildren. Make sure the venue has photo spots that won’t go out of style!

Touring Venues

After determining three to five venues you’d like to see in person, go ahead and schedule your tours! This will be fun! Ensure that you attend each venue WITH your fiancé (and if your parents are paying, they’ll need to attend as well) so you don’t have to go back out a second time. Have a ton of fun with this! You’ll know which venue is for you!

From here, once you’ve narrowed it down to two venues, request a proposal so you can see a real breakdown of exactly how much you’ll be required to pay/put down to hold your date!

 

Money Saving Tip!

The reason you don’t want to pre-select a date is that if you fall in love with a venue that’s a tiny bit out of budget, there is usually wiggle room if you choose a Friday or Sunday, or an off-season month. For Virginia, off-season is typically January-March, July & August, and November. You may think that December would be considered “off”, but because of holiday parties, venues typically book out!

 

Next Post: Tips to help cut costs before contracting a venue or caterer!

 

 

 

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