There is no decision more important than picking the right venue. Once you book the venue you have your official wedding date and you can start moving forward with all your other vendors and decisions. You also get to laser your focus down to designing your big day since you know what the space will look like. Below are some tips and tricks of how to prepare before you start touring venues.
Before you Schedule a Tour:
Depending on where you are planning on getting married you might have a lot of local venue options. It is a good idea to minimize your list before your start scheduling tours. Eliminate some options by gathering information before. Some questions you might ask to help with this could be:
What are the prices and what does it all include? Do you have a brochure or price sheet you can email me?
What is your guest capacity?
Is the date I want still available?
What are the hours and time restrictions for this venue?
Does it include food and vendors or allow me to provide my own vendors?
Starting with these questions will allow you to narrow down your search. You also need to have your guest list made, know your max guest number before touring.
A few things to take note of during this first stage:
How responsive was the venue to your questions, and how easy were they to contact? If you struggled getting information from a venue or had a hard time connecting with them, it won't get better after you book them. How they communicate with you prior to your booking is how they will communicate with you along the way. Red flag alert!!
If the venue is out of your budget and your budget is firm DO NOT TOUR IT. Of course you will fall in love with it and then have to face the reality that you cannot afford it. This will make the venue you do end up in disappointing compared to what you "could have had". Don't set yourself up for this.
During the Tour:
From the second you walk in the door start to imagine how your wedding would look. Where will my gift/sign-in table go? What will the guests see when they first walk in? Tour the venue with that in mind, it will help you to understand if your vision will work in that space or not. Have them show you from start to finish how it will all go. Don't be afraid to ask them for their opinion. What has worked best in the past? I am not super confident with how a wedding should go, will someone be here to help with that? See if a day of coordinator is included. That way you can be hands off when the big day comes. Before you leave your tour make sure you know:
Where will the ceremony take place?
Where will cocktail hour be, are there multiple options?
How many tables fit in the reception area?
Do you include the tables and chairs and set them all up?
Does anything have to move to accommodate dancing?
What else is included? (tablecloths, dishes, etc)
What is required for booking? and what is the payment schedule?
If vendors are included, how/when do I meet with them?
Do you have to meet external vendors before the big day?
When is the final guest count due?
Is there any buffer space if our guest list goes severely over or under our estimate?
How many parking spots do you have? Can guests park overnight?
What are the closest hotel accommodations?
What times are allotted for set-up and decorating?
Are there places for us to get ready on-site?
What is required from us for clean-up?
Is rehearsal included? When will we know what our rehearsal time is?
Is there a weather contingency plan?
What is your cancellation/change-of-date policy?
The more questions you ask while you are there the better feeling you will have about booking it. Don't be afraid to take your time and write things down. At the end of the day remember that they are selling their venue to you, you are the customer and you want to be 100% before making a decision.
After the tour:
Depending on when you tour, you need to make a decision fast. I cannot tell you how many times I have had couples tour, don't hear from them for months, they call, and we had booked their date. The average booking date is 1 year out. So if you find a venue you like ask them for the contract. Once you get the contract, read in thoroughly. Then ask questions before signing to prevent any future surprises. If you know you want the venue and you have the money for the deposit, do it right away. Do not risk missing out.
If for some reason your date has booked or you realize you need more financial prep time. Do not panic. go back through the venue options and see if there was another choice that will make you happy. But do not settle. If the date or finances don't work out right away, consider having a longer engagement and get first dibs on your perfect date for the following year. Or consider another date/season to get married. Don't let the date be the reason you turn down the perfect venue.
Finally, follow your gut. If you can say out loud "I am getting married at (insert venue name) on (insert date)" and you feel butterflies in your stomach. You made the right choice. So book that venue and move on to the next step in planning your wedding!
Photo's of the Month:
Here are some photo's from our venue space The Garden's at Viola's in Flagstaff, AZ. These are the types of photo's that could be helpful for you to see and/or capture on your tours. It allows you to see the venue as sort of a blank canvas so you can take them home and start to fill the space with your own ideas and decorations.