Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Choosing A Venue & Setting A Date

The venue or place where you hold your wedding ceremony and reception is most likely the biggest financial commitment you will make for your wedding. Often brides are overwhelmed by the choices, and can often be pressured into making a hasty decision. Here's what you should absolutely know before booking a venue:

When to Book the Venue
Some venues can be booked one to two years in advance, so the first thing on your priority list after annoucing your engagement is to secure a venue. However, you should never feel pressured by the venue or anyone else to book a venue you're unsure about.

Step-by-Step Process of Searching for the Perfect Venue
1) Have a guest list ready to go. Believe it or not, you will save yourself a lot of headache by coming up with a preliminary guest number before you dive into the venue search. Get as close to the actual number as possible. Hold a meeting with your parents and his parents, and put together a list before you shop for venues.

2) The hosts of the event should make a priority list of what they want in an ideal venue. For our wedding, we knew we wanted the ceremony, photos, and reception at the same place. That's why we chose Graydon Hall, pictured left, because it would allow us exclusive use of their grounds for all three.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started on your priority list:

Priority & Solution
1. Budget - The venue must be able to provide all food, drink and rentals for $XO,XOX in total or $XO amount per person.
2. Food - The venue must have the ability to cater a customizable menu, not just the same meal for every event. -or- The venue should be able to provide a lot of food for my guests; I dont want them leaving hungry. -or- The venue must be able to cater a Kosher, Chinese, Vegetarian, etc. meal.
3. Location - the venue must be in less than 1/2 hour driving distance from most of our guests and the hotels in the city, because we have a lot of out of town guests
4. Service - the venue must provide really great service, because good service is really important to us
5. Atmosphere - The venue must be able to host a tented wedding. -or- The temperature will be low when we're getting married, it's a priority that we can do both the ceremony and reception indoors.
6. Type of Venue - My friends knew they were falling in love for the first time on the golf course, so they knew it would be perfect to get married on one. Whether it be a golf & country club, mansion, restaurant, hotel, art gallery, or industrial building, keep your eyes open for the different types of venue that would go with the look and feel you want your event to portray.

3) Compile a list of venues in the area in which you would like to hold the event. Try to write as many details down about the venues that you see online, or via brochure. Now that you have your priority list, you'll be less overwhelmed by the choices and start to only see ones that can cater to your priorities. Try to organize your list by location so that you can visit the ones you like in the same day.
Then when you've narrowed down the list to about 6 or so, book a Site Inspection or Venue Tour. Read below under "Signs of a Good Venue" to see what to look for.

4) Prepare a list of questions to ask the venues before you visit them. Some examples might be:
- What is your capacity? (Make sure you get all of their different seating capacities, or specify each one if you know you're going to have a sit down dinner for example).
- If you're looking at venues that supply "Wedding Packages" ask to be clear on what is included (ie: passed hors d'oeuvres, appetizer, main course, dessert, dessert buffet, tea, coffee, wine, alcoholic beverages (open bar), room rentals, other rentals, etc.)
- Are there minimum spends? (Some venues, especially restaurants, require you to spend a certain amount on high demand dates such as Saturdays).
- Will there be more than one wedding or event going on at the same time?
- Will there be a GM or person from the venue available to me on the day of?
- Is there a bridal suite? (There should be, and please inspect these as well as the washrooms too!)

Signs of a Good Venue
Having been through many, many venue tours (for our own wedding and for friends' weddings), we have discovered a few things to look for in a good venue:

1) From the minute you first make contact with them, the venue should be working for your business, not the other way around. The venue tour should be informative and accomodating, and never pushy. Take a look at the staff working at the venue site. Are they positive, smiling and accomodating? Ask a few people for directions, or questions about the event they're doing that evening. If they're disgruntled or confused, it's not a good sign! How they treat you during the venue inspection is a great indication of how they will be treating you and and your guests on the day of.

2) Word of mouth and experience is by far the best way to find a great venue. We were considering a famous golf and country club for our wedding only to find out that several of our friends had attended different weddings there, and had found the food satisfactory.

3) Lastly, know that every venue has its flaws. In other words, be realistic. Even though there are many things on your priority list, you will most likely have to compromise something at the bottom of your list. For example, you've fallen in love with a venue but it's not in your budget, consider doing an amazing lunch bash.

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