As you dream of your wedding day, you imagine many thing - the sounds, the scenery, your husband. Yet I doubt you've dreamt about the number of restrooms and whether your venue charges extra if you want to bring in mother's hand-made centerpieces.
Of course, each couple has a different vision of what their wedding will look like. Whether you dream of transforming a hotel ballroom into a Moroccan palace, pleasing a crowd of 200, or holding an intimate ceremony and reception for 40 at a small, historic art museum, before choosing your reception location, you have a few key decisions to make. And while you might begin your venue investigations before those decisions are finalized, you cannot ( or should not) book a site until you have decided (1) how much you can spend, and (2) how many guests you're willing to spend it on.
It's time to talk turkey, and I don't mean the menu. You and your sweetie need to sit down and get real about your dream and your reality (i.e. your budget). As you consider your potential guests, create two lists: the essentials and the ideal. You'll most likely have lists from both families as well. These will give you an idea of what and how many your budget can accommodate.
Sarah, a bride-to-be, is in the midst of finalizing her guest list. "I have 60 people on my mom's side of the family," she reports. "That's immediate family. It doesn't count my dad's side or friends or my fiance's family." So for Sarah and Ryan, a wedding of less than 200 is out of the question, ruling out many smaller venues. Once you have done the initial fact finding, it's time to make some visits.
Many hotels will allow you to "peek" at another wedding, giving you an idea of what they can do for you and your vision, as it can be rather difficult to imagine your dream in the middle of an empty ballroom. A site visit is even more important when choosing a site for an outdoor reception. You'll want to visit the site during the anticipated hour of your reception, one year before your wedding to get an idea of the landscape, the weather, even the position of the sun to determine what kind of lighting you'll need.
The latest debate for bride-to-be Jennifer as she works with her budget is whether to go with chair covers or table wine. "The chairs are regular old ugly green ballroom chairs. But I'd like to have wine on every table with people enjoying that, getting up and dancing, rather than everyone sitting down, appreciating the chair covers." While we're dishing decor, remember to ask about any restrictions on centerpieces, candles, and decorations. Will you have to bring in bunches of flowers and yards of fabric to make the magic happen? Note that museums and private clubs may have more restrictions than banquet halls of hotels.
Having your wedding on private property gives you a little more leeway in the permit department. However, if you rent a tent (which is almost a must), you will need to work with your rentals supplier to make sure you are taking the correct precautions and again, have the appropriate permits. "Permits are essential in the coordination and regulation of the safety of any temporary shelter," says Ken Hudak of Canopies Events. When considering an outdoor wedding on private property, there's a whole different list of things to consider. "We have to take into account the house's septic system, whether it can handle 300 people, and more important, whether you want 300 people walking through your home," explains Hudak. Many couples rent port-o-potties, which have come a long way, often available with running water and vanities.
Whether considering your parents' backyard or your in-laws' country club, the more you know, the easier you decision will be and the less stress you will have later on. Don't be afraid to ask every question and voice every concern. This is your day, your memories, and your life. Keep these practical guidelines in mind and you will be a virtual venue virtuoso.