Your friends on Facebook all say you need to check out a certain venue. It's primarily DIY (just like you want), and the pictures on the venue's website are spectacular. Your friends know someone who knows someone who had their wedding there, and it was an awesome event. The venue constantly gets 5-star reviews, it appears to be a great value, and their calendar is almost full nearly 2-years out.
If finding the perfect DIY wedding venue were only this easy. Truth be told, I just described two venues that for varied reasons, and with no advanced warning, shuttered their business in the middle of the night and left numerous brides scrambling to find last minute replacement venues. So how do you choose the right venue for your special occasion? The following is a 6-point approach that will help ensure that your wedding venue lives up to all of your expectations.
- Curb appeal of the venue will always carry the highest priority. Everyone has a certain preconceived image of what their wedding day will look like. As you visit different venues, the one that continues to bring you together, that solidifies your vision, will undoubtably be your best choice. In the end, the only curb appeal that matters, is the one that feels right.
- Ensure that the venue has a passion for YOUR wedding, and will allow you enough leeway to successfully fulfill the vision of your special day. If you envision a patriotic theme for your military wedding, will the venue allow you to hang American flags? If you desire a vintage theme complete with outdoor ceremony and reception, does the natural beauty of the location fit your requirements?
- Determine your total cost of user-ship. For most DIY'ers, this is a big part of the equation. Every wedding has costs unrelated to the venue (dress, tuxedo, flowers, cake, etc.). If we disregard these mandatory costs, then everything else combined is your total cost of user-ship. With that in mind, it is always best to ask questions up front to determine what a specific venue package includes. What is the cost of the venue, and how long do you get to use it? Do you pay additional fees for tents, tables and chairs, ceremony site use, linens, restroom trailers, chillers, heaters and wedding coordinators? Is there a required caterer (often with a required minimum fee), or can you choose your own? Can you bring your own alcohol, or does the venue have control? Is there a security deposit required? You get the idea. Do your homework, but realize that the more discretion you have regarding choices (especially in the big ticket items like catering and alcohol), the better your ability to control your ultimate cost of user-ship.
- Don't be afraid to ask critical questions up front. If you plan to incorporate a certain aspect into your special day (your dog as the ring bearer, fireworks to announce the new couple for the first time, etc.), the time to determine whether the venue allows such practices is not after you have past the deadline for your refundable deposit. Look over your contract and ask the questions up front. Many of the policies the venue are tied to are based on their private insurance, county codes or permitting requirements. If the venue is the one and only place you plan to get married, but animals are not allowed due to insurance stipulations, you can always ask if the insurer could provide a special rider to cover your unique request.
- Acts of nature happen, so always look at the big picture. If you plan to have pictures taken under an amazing 100-year old tree, will the venue still be idyllic if that tree gets struck by lightning and is not there at the date of your event? Landscaping can and likely will change. If you pick a certain color for bridesmaid dresses based on the beautiful annual flower landscaping, does the venue still hold its quaint charm if a year later on your wedding date all of the landscaping and flower color has changed? The overall beauty of the location and it's ability to meet your wedding theme should carry far more weight than any one stand alone feature.
- Take note of your venue hosts. If you walk out the door wanting to add the venue coordinator to your list of friends, chances are they have a passion for weddings and will walk beside you during the entire process. If, on the other hand it seemed like a stuffed shirt business meeting, and the only bottom line the host had any interest in was their own, exit stage left as quickly as possible - and never look back - no matter how beautiful the venue.
There is no fail safe procedure to determine your perfect wedding venue. If you approach your search with this 6-point process in mind, you are well on your way to selecting the venue that will best serve all of your needs for your special day.