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11 Questions You Must ask When Choosing a Wedding Venue

So, you just got engaged and now you are planning your wedding. One of the very first things you will need to do is pick your wedding venue.

Basilica Hudson - Hudson NY wedding - photos by Casey Fatchett

Why? Well, because once you have your wedding venue booked, you will have a date for your wedding. It’s going to effect everything else in your planning.

So, here are the most important questions you should ask yourself when picking a venue for your wedding…

1. When is it available?

Many venues book quite far in advance. You will want to find out whether it is available on the date or time of year you are interested in having your wedding.

If you have your heart set on a particular venue, you might need to be more flexible on your wedding date. You might even want to consider a weekday wedding, if your desired venue allows for those.

2. What is the capacity?

Can the venue hold the number of guests you are expecting? Also, if you’re pushing the upper limit of the number of people the venue can hold, is that going to effect how comfortable your guests are?

It’s one thing to say that a venue can hold 200 guests, but will they be sitting shoulder to shoulder, jammed in like sardines? Think about whether your guests will be comfortable.

Battello New Jersey Jersey City Wedding Photos by Casey Fatchett - fatchett.com

3. What is included?

What does the cost they are quoting you include? Are there any hidden costs?

For example, does the barn you’re looking at for your reception have the necessary electrical system to support a large gathering? Will you have to rent generators?

A tented cocktail hour might be an option, but is the cost of the tent included in the quote you’ve been given or is it extra?

Will you be charged a cake cutting fee? Service fees for wait staff? What will the tax amount to?

Make sure you have a clear idea of what you’re getting and what the bottom line cost is going to be. Choosing an ‘all inclusive’ venue can take

4. Does it fit your budget?

Now that you’ve figured out what is included with the venue’s standard pricing and where you might be able to save money or where you’ll have to add money, does the venue still fit your budget?

Don’t keep a venue on your list that is dramatically outside your budget!! If you can afford to spend $20,000 on a venue, don’t leave a $50,000 venue on your list because it is going to A) drive you crazy thinking about it and/or B) lure you into spending way more money on your venue than you were planning.

If I had a dollar for every time a couple told me that they were cutting back their budgets for all of their other vendors because they spent more money that they anticipated on their venue…

5. What will the transportation situation be?

How will your guests get from Point A to Point B? Is everything taking place in one location or will there be multiple locations to navigate? Will you provide transportation (buses, etc.) for the majority of guests to get back and forth between the various locations (hotel, ceremony, reception, etc.)

If your venue is very remote and you’re bussing your guests around, that can add a significant cost to your budget.

6. Will you have exclusive use of the venue?

Is privacy important to you? Find out how many other events will be taking place the same day as your wedding. Are there separate bathrooms? Different parking areas?

Is it possible that guests from another event might accidentally walk into your event?

If you’re considering a public space such as a park or beach for part of your wedding, remember that the public might show up…shouting their well wishes or walking through your photos.

Crabtree's Kittle House Wedding - photographed by Casey Fatchett - fatchett.com

7. Does it have all of the spaces you will need?

Carefully consider the layout/available space and the different spaces you will need such as a ceremony space, cocktail space, etc.

Will you need to ‘flip’ areas of the venue which will be used for multiple parts of the day? Where will decor and tables be stored? Is there a getting ready area? Where will the wedding party process from? Is there a typical layout for ceremonies, receptions, etc.? Ask questions!!

8. Are there any vendor restrictions?

Most venues will have a list of ‘preferred vendors’ which might just be a compilation of vendors who’ve worked at the space before and have been vetted by the venue.

Other venues might restrict the vendors you can use. This might be as simple as limiting the options on outside caterers to companies that are familiar with the space to actually having a list of the only vendors of every category you can use. Be sure to ask before you sign the contract since this could limit your options (and effect your budget).

Wedding at The Press Lounge NYC - photo by Casey Fatchett - fatchett.com

9. What’s the lighting situation?

Remember that very dark venues may make it hard for your photographer to capture the moments at your wedding. Pay attention to what the light will be like at certain times of the day. Does the venue provide additional lighting or would you have to bring in an outside vendor to handle that?

10. Are there contingencies for bad weather?

You’re planning to have an outdoor ceremony but what happens if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate?

How about that outdoor patio where cocktail hour is happening?

Ask if there are contingency plans for bad weather and how much time you will have to enact them. Most venues have a cut off time (e.g. two hours before the ceremony) to decide whether you’ll be using an outdoor space

11. Does it fit your vibe/style?

This can be tough to nail down because it is very subjective, but think about the feel you’re going for and the experience your guests will have.

Consider your aesthetic and think about whether the venue will tie into your theme/design/style/vibe or distract from it

Bonus Question: How will the venue effect your photos?

Hey, I’m a wedding photographer! I have to think about the photos. Does the venue have the look and feel you want in your wedding photos?

Also does the venue have locations for all the types of photos you want? Think of where you’ll be taking your group photos not just pictures of the two of you. Can those spaces accommodate the number of people in your photos?

If you’re planning to do outdoor photos – are there indoor alternatives in case the weather turns bad?

I also recommend doing a quick Google search of the venue to see what photos from actual weddings look like at the venue.

What to write down when visiting each venue:

Create a spreadsheet with the information for the various venues you’re considering. GOOGLE DOCS, BABY!

Consider printing out a cheat sheet for each venue you go visit so that you can quickly jot down the following information:

  • Name of the Venue:
  • Location:
  • Capacity: Make sure the capacity fits your event – not just the number of people you are planning to have attend.
  • Availability: What dates are available? Does it matter to you?
  • Type/Style: Such as industrial, modern, historical, ballroom, etc.
  • Layout: Does it have space for all aspects of your wedding? This might not be clear until you actually visit the space in person.
  • Cost: Write down what the basic cost is and what that includes.
  • Website: With the website you can easily go back and get info and see photos of the space to remind yourself.
  • Restrictions: Are there any major restrictions, such as choosing from a list of vendors or a definite end time, that would effect your decision?
  • Transportation: Write down how much parking is available, find out whether it is free, whether there is access to public transit, whether you can bus guests to the site, or other transportation considerations.
  • Facility Extras: What is included (chairs, tables, etc.) and what will cost an extra fee?
  • Catering: Does the venue have an in-house caterer or a preferred list of caterers you are required to work with?

Venue spotlights coming to the blog…

In the coming weeks, I will be posting on the blog about some of my favorite venues to shoot at, giving you a sense of what they have to offer, and hopefully aiding your wedding planning process.

So, be sure to come back and check on the blog…bookmark it! And then contact me once you have your venue so we can talk about photos.

Seriously, reach out once you have your venue!

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