O Wedding Venue, Where Art Thou?
Nov 14, 2020
According to the Knot, there are currently 702 wedding venues within 50 miles of Dallas – that’s a whole lot of options and it can be daunting to start narrowing them down.
There are two points of planning that you must have at least a rough idea of before you start venue shopping: the guest list and the budget. Booking a venue will affect every other choice you make, especially because some venues have limitations on which vendors you can hire for your wedding with them.
You can expect the venue to eat up a significant chunk of your budget (25% or more), so it’s important to know what that budget is and where you’ll draw the line. I strongly recommend that you do not tour any venues that you know you can’t afford, the same as not trying on a dress you couldn’t possibly buy. If you fall in love with something that’s a little over a quarter of your budget, bear in mind that you may need to cut costs elsewhere to make up the difference.
Having a rough headcount is also extremely important – you don’t want to book a venue that can hold only 80 people when you’re inviting 300, and vice versa. In addition, bear in mind any physical limitations that your bridal party or any of your guests may have and look for venues that can accommodate them. When looking at capacity, take your headcount and add fifty to make sure you’ll have plenty of space for all the tables and décor that you want. Anything less and you run the risk of squeezing your guests in uncomfortable spaces or having a guest table too close to the kitchen.
Another important factor to think of when you’re looking at wedding venues is the time of year that you would like to be married. Be up-front about that when you’re inquiring at venues to avoid wasting their time or yours. Before you go and tour any of your spaces, be sure to check their availability in the month that you’re after. Try to be flexible and don’t be afraid to book for a weekday wedding – you can save hundreds, if not thousands, by booking on a Thursday or Friday night. They should be able to tell you up front what dates they still have available in any given month. If you’re aiming for a popular month, look at venues as far in advance as you can.
The first question to ask is indoor or outdoor? Most venues will have both options available on the property, with outdoor ceremonies coupled with an indoor reception being very popular. If you prefer an outdoor venue, make sure that they have an airtight rainy day plan, regardless of the season for which you’re planning.
By this point in planning, you probably already have some idea of what you want your wedding to look like, or at least its general “mood”, so keep that in mind as you’re scrolling through search results. If you want something dark and moody, I would recommend looking at venues with exposed brick or dark, antique woodwork, such as warehouses and historic homes. Trendy bright white venues should be right up your alley for a light and airy wedding. For a rustic or country wedding, there are dozens of ranches to choose from with stunning views. If you’re a bride with a green thumb, there’s multiple botanical gardens in the area to provide beautiful floral backgrounds. Waterfront weddings will have a lot of hotel options, which is convenient when it comes to guest accommodations. If a luxurious, glamorous wedding, country clubs and hotels should offer plenty of options. For a more modern background for your big day, consider an art gallery or warehouse.
Once you’ve narrowed down your style and gathered a few options, start looking at the spaces that each of them offers. Do they have multiple options for ceremony spaces? If they do, is there a different capacity for each one? Is there ample parking, and do your guests have to pay for it? Is it well-lit or would you need to rent up-lighting to achieve the mood you’re after? How would the surroundings look in the background of your photos? Are there reasonably priced accommodations close to the venue for your guests? Can you bring your own liquor, or do you have to purchase it through them? Are there any noise restrictions in that neighborhood?
When you’re physically touring spaces, check for the acoustics, bathrooms, parking, immovable décor, and electrical outlets. Ask your tour guide if they have restrictions on where each vendor can set up, such as, is the DJ allowed in only one corner or can you choose where you want them? Does the buffet line have to be on this wall? Do you have to choose vendors from their list, or are you open to hire whoever you want?
It’s also important to compare what each venue includes in their pricing. Some base packages don’t include anything but the space itself, meaning the actual cost with them would be much higher, or you would need to coordinate with even more vendors to get all of the supplies that you need. How many hours does their base include? (Pro tip: six is not enough.) If you’re a party animal, do they have a hard stop time? What is their cancellation policy? Do they charge cleaning fees? If they have in-house catering, is there a food and beverage minimum? Do they have an altar space that you like, or would you bring in your own? Do they have any accessories available for a rental rate? Are any rentals included?
Check the logistics: will they set up chairs, tables, and/or linens or do you have to have your coordinator do that? If they don’t, what time can you get into the venue to start setting up? (Pro tip: two hours before ceremony time is not enough time.) What’s their property damage policy? Do they have sound equipment, or will you need to rent it from your DJ? Do they have any décor restrictions, such as no open flames? Are you allowed to hang décor on the walls? Specifically check who is responsible for the trash at the end of the night to make sure your maid of honor isn’t schlepping a dozen trash bags to the dumpster before she can go home.
Review all of the above and make sure that none of them are deal-breakers for you. Do the math on what’s not included to make sure that you’re still within your budget or, if you’re not, that they’re including enough things that you would have had to buy elsewhere to make it worth it.
When touring, I would also strongly recommend making sure that the venue feels right. How does the space make you feel? Were you excited as you viewed ceremony spaces? Did imagining walking down their aisle make your heart pound? Can you picture yourself dancing on their dance floor? Take a moment to close your eyes and picture it, and trust your gut.
Lastly, make sure that you meet as many of the staff that would be involved in your wedding as possible before booking. Everyone involved in your wedding should get along with you and your partner, especially the venue coordinator who will be your point of contact for most of the planning and your big day.
If you’re struggling to choose a venue, give me a call and we can talk it out together! Happy planning.