This is your first time planning a wedding, and it is safe to assume you haven’t researched many (if any) wedding vendors prior to getting engaged. Now that you are engaged, you’re eager to set a date but are quickly learning that no venue is the same. There are a lot of different packages you are being presented that include a variety of services, but what is best for your wedding? Then some of these venues have rules and restrictions that you’d never thought of, and what do you mean they can’t fit over 100 guests?! At first, you thought wedding planning would be a joyful experience, yet at this point, you’re unexpectedly feeling stressed and anxious.
We know that wedding planning as a whole can be all too overwhelming. We would like to help make finding your venue a stress-free process, allowing you to actually enjoy your engagement season. With over 10 years of experience and knowledge from hosting hundreds of weddings and events, let us give you a few pointers and resources to help better equip you for your venue search.
First off, RESEARCH. Find out as much as you can about the venue before you get there. Are their packages and prices listed online? Do they fit in your budget? Can they hold your guest count? What do their past couples and guests say? Where are they located and are you willing to travel to get there? Call ahead to see if your wedding date is available. If the venue doesn’t fit within these initial questions, you should consider ruling them out.
If the venue has made it past the initial research phase, start scheduling some tours. Every venue is different, so call ahead to see how to go about scheduling a tour. At Historic Seven Sycamores, we host one on one tours during the weekdays and some weekend dates. Couples can schedule a tour using our online calendar or by calling our offices and speaking with a Coordinator.
PREPARATION FOR YOUR TOUR
Now that you’ve scheduled your venue visit, let’s talk about how to prepare ahead of time and suggested questions to ask.
You should consider wearing comfy, and even close-toed shoes – many venues require short walks to see their different locations, and not all of their paths are paved.
Camera, calendar, and notepad. Unless you have a photographic memory, taking photos and video can be ESSENTIAL to remembering all of the venues you visit on your search. Your calendar can help give you a good idea of the length of time you’ll have to plan and forewarn you of any conflicting events when you look at the venue’s available dates. Take notes during your tour and jot down anything that catches your eye. What initial observations of the space you like and don’t like.
If you’re not a great notetaker, don’t fret! We’ve created some printable resources that you can use on your venue tours. A complimentary downloadable and printable Venue Overview Notepad and Suggested Venue Questions List are available to you.
THE TOUR DAY
Today is the day, tour day! You’re looking like an experienced wedding planner with all of the equipment you have prepared and you are ready to see all the pretty places.
Remembering these top six questions can help you to determine which venue will be perfect for your wedding day!
- HOW MANY EVENTS CAN YOU HOST IN A DAY?
Not only do you want to know you will be well taken care of on your special day but also that you and your vendor team will have plenty of time to set up and decorate your event. Will the venue space be exclusively yours, or will other events be going on simultaneously? If there are other events, where can you expect any overlap (i.e. restroom use, kitchen use, etc.)? If exclusivity is important to you, consider choosing a venue or a date that allows for you to be the only event of the day.
- SPECIFICALLY, WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
When choosing a venue, you should be familiar with all of the items that come with it. This can include tables, chairs, linens, dishes, etc. Be sure to ask what they provide as part of the rental of the space as this can cut down on costs elsewhere in your budget and is something to consider when deciding if we are the right venue for you.
- PREFERRED VENDORS VS MUST USE VENDORS?
There are many venues that have a preferred vendors list and there are some venues that require you to use their vendors. So if you had a specific vendor already in mind and the venue requires you to use their list, that may play into your decision about whether to use that venue or not. We have a Preferred Vendor List for the caterer, bartender, and DJ – but also give couples the freedom to bring in their own preferred vendors through a Vendor Approval Process. If that vendor meets all the requirements, they are welcome to serve at the venue for your wedding day!
- WHAT SHOULD I PAY ATTENTION TO IN THE CONTRACT?
Please, read all the contracts you enter into, but especially the agreements with your wedding vendors. Ask for a copy of their contract, take some time to read it over – it can often answer some questions you didn’t know you had. For example, if a grand exit with sparklers is important to you, they venue contract may say that it is not allowed or that it is permitted but only in certain areas of the venue. We hate to disappoint couples when it’s something they’ve had their hearts set on for months, but all could have been avoided if they’d read the restrictions are outlined in the rental agreement.
- WHAT ARE THE FOOD & BEVERAGE REQUIREMENTS?
This question covers a multitude of other questions on two of the biggest elements of your wedding day. You should learn of any minimums if they supply these items, and if there are added taxes and gratuity to consider. If they provide the bar you’ll learn of any corkage fees they charge or if they will allow you to bring your own alcohol in. If they don’t provide the bartending service, do they have any stipulations on the bartender you bring in?
- WHAT ARE MY EVENT, SETUP, & TEARDOWN HOURS?
This questions will help to inform you of the included event hours and if you can add any additional if you wish. How long your guests are welcome to stay at the venue, and if there are any charges to go over. You should know the included hours for the vendor team to set-up and complete decorations and what the venus’ requirements are for the teardown time. Knowing these times can be helpful if you’ve planned extensive decor or are creating a massive seating display, etc.
The venue staff are experts of their space. Use that knowledge to your advantage and ask additional questions like: What makes your property unique? What is your favorite season at the venue? What is the best floor plan or layout to use? Do you have any suggestions or recommendations from past weddings? Learn from the success and mistakes of others. These can be additional questions to help in the decision-making process, helping you better envision hosting your own wedding at that venue.
AFTER THE TOUR
Your venue will likely appreciate your thoughtfulness in covering all your bases before booking—asking these questions can prevent plenty of mishaps leading up to and on your special day! Coming prepared for your venue tours can help narrow down your options based on your personal needs and wants.
After your tour, sit down together, just the two of you to discuss what you liked and maybe didn’t like about each venue you visit. Weigh out the pros and cons to ultimately choose the venue that best suits your wants, need, and where you both can envision celebrating your special day!
We are hopeful that these tips will be a resource for making your venue search an enjoyable experience. Best of luck to you both in the entire wedding planning process! If you’d like to schedule a tour or have any of these questions answered by the staff at Historic Seven Sycamores, we’d be happy to assist you!
photos by Ellie Koleen of October 2015 Pinckard Wedding
author: Elise Anderson