Most engaged couples have a short list of qualifications when looking for the perfect wedding venue. It must fit the budget, accommodate the expected head count, and (most importantly) look beautiful. Unfortunately, limiting your considerations to these three elements still leaves much to question. And since the venue is the foundation of all your wedding plans, you don’t want to overlook the important but not-so-obvious aspects that can make or break your big day.
As you book site tours and weigh your options, keep these factors in mind to guarantee that your chosen wedding venue is as practical as it is beautiful.
Whether you’re getting hitched close to home or at a faraway destination, Rock Paper Coin’s Katie Mast cautions couples to consider the venue location very carefully. Transportation, accommodations, and accessibility must all factor into your final decision.
“How will guests get there? Where will they stay? What other services do you need to book to have your wedding there?” Mast asks. “A remote location might be more ‘affordable.’ Still, once you add on travel expenses for your vendors, transportation options for you and your wedding party, and other options for your guests, it might be just as expensive as a venue you thought you couldn’t afford.”
You can clear up many questions during a site tour, so be sure to prepare a list of questions to ask the venue coordinator. They’ll be able to tell you about local accommodations, travel hubs, and transportation options to make your decision easier.
In the same vein, your venue’s location and onsite facilities are especially critical considerations if you expect elderly guests, children, or guests with disabilities to attend. If you don’t consider accessibility, you may unintentionally set these guests up for an uncomfortable experience due to a venue’s limitations.
“It’s important to consider whether the venue is easily accessible for all your guests, including those with mobility issues or disabilities,” says Mary Angelini of Key Moment Films. “There are ways to accommodate accessibility issues; with a little preparation and forethought, you can ensure that your guests can comfortably attend your celebration.”
Accessible restrooms, convenient parking, and wheelchair ramps are all excellent signs that a venue can accommodate your guests’ needs.
Physical mobility aside, accessibility should also factor in whether your guests can afford to attend your wedding in the first place. Cost-restrictive accommodations can limit attendance and cause your loved ones to strain their budget (and schedule). This is a particularly vital consideration if you’re planning a destination wedding, as Jen Avey of Destination Weddings Travel Group explains.
“One of the first things to consider is your guest list,” Avey says. “For example, you’ll need to know if you need an adults-only resort vs. family-friendly, accessible room options, etc. It’s also considerate to consider [each] guest’s budget and geo-proximity to the destination since they will be paying for their travel arrangements and taking time away from work, children, pets, etc., to attend your celebration.”
Your wedding is your day to call the shots and design your dream celebration. However, be mindful that some decisions may impact your guests’ attendance—and what’s a wedding without your loved ones?
Parking & Transportation
Unless you’re renting a shuttle or party bus for transportation, you can expect most of your guests to arrive by car. But if parking is inconvenient or costly, it can put a damper on your guests’ experience even before they arrive at the ceremony.
“Couples should ensure ample parking for their guests and that it’s conveniently located,” explains Jeri Solomon of Real Deal Wedding Insiders®. “If there is an additional parking fee, they should know what it is and know if it is affordable for their guests.”
With that said, Solomon assures us that there are alternative solutions if the perfect venue has a less-than-perfect parking situation. “Couples may want to ask if there is an option to cover parking for their guests and will need to know that cost to add to their wedding budget,” she says. “Sometimes, the parking is a distance from the venue, in which case, they may need valet service, which will also mean extra costs for the couple or their guests.”
When touring potential venues, ask to see the parking lot and pay attention to its proximity to the event space. If parking is offsite, inquire about shuttles or nearby garages. Venue managers should have plenty of insight to share from past events.
Since the venue is typically the first major wedding expense, it often defines how your budget will play out. For instance, an in-house planner may save you from needing to book someone else. The same goes for onsite amenities, as Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events notes.
“When comparing venues, it’s important to consider what’s included in the rental fee, like lighting, chairs, tables, furniture, signage, bathrooms, parking, etc.,” she says. “The more the venue already provides, the better value it is. And that means you’ll have more of your budget to allocate elsewhere and less to plan for separately.”
Chang’s last point is important to consider as well. Cost savings aside, venues with inclusive amenities can keep your to-do list short since you won’t have to worry about buying more items or booking as many vendors.
The Backup Plan
Nobody wants rain on their wedding day, but a great contingency plan can make weather worries a thing of the past. All venues should have a reliable backup plan to share, but be sure to use the tour to confirm that you and your partner can accept the alternative arrangements if necessary.
As Brooklake Country Club’s Peter Mitsaelides tells couples, “Your venue should not only allow for a Plan B in case you need to move the celebration inside, but it should also be a space that allows you to fulfill your vision.”
So while it’s nice to hear there’s an indoor hall available in case of inclement weather, check that the space is up to your expectations. You won’t want to find out it’s little more than a dressed-up warehouse the day before your wedding!
Offsite Vendor Restrictions
Every venue has different policies regarding offsite vendors, so don’t forget to ask if there are restrictions before setting your heart on a property.
“Some venues don’t have any limitations for some categories but [have] a required list for others like catering or bar,” explains Shannon Tarrant of WeddingVenueMap.com. “Many venues require all of the vendors to carry liability insurance. It’s important to know the rules before making a final venue decision.”
So if you must have a specific vendor—like catering by the restaurant from your first date—remember that your final venue selection can significantly impact your vendor choices.
When you think about your wedding day, you probably dream of cakes, dances, and many glasses of champagne. But there’s one thing that probably doesn’t factor into your vision: the day before your wedding. A lot goes into executing a wedding, and you need to know how much time you and your team have to pull it all together.
Samantha Leeheer of Samantha Joy Events encourages couples to “ask the venue about the load-in perimeters. Are load-in and pick-up times restricted to a finite window? This often results in an increased delivery rate for your vendors because they have to have extra staff to come after hours or early mornings. Discuss if they are flexible with the times vendors deliver and pick up.”
“Inquire if there are events before or after yours, as this will also impact the availability of the venue and their staff to get the space cleaned well and turned around in time,” Leenheer adds. “If your event design requires additional days to produce, you may need to rent additional days; it is best to know this from the beginning.”
Here’s the rule of thumb: The more stuff you have, the more time you’ll need for setup and breakdown. That includes rental furniture, decor, backdrops, floral arrangements, lighting equipment, signage, favors, alcohol, and anything else you’ll bring onsite. As you consult with venue managers, share your vision and let them explain how they can accommodate you and your vendor team.
Do you plan to add a few four-legged friends to your guest list? Keep that in mind as you work through your short list of wedding venues!
“For those couples that MUST have their fur baby present for the special day, don’t forget to ask the venue what their rules are regarding having a pet on their property,” reminds Veronica Silghigian of Pawfect for You, Inc. “Know all the rules since they can significantly impact your timeline. It’s always recommended that you hire a professional pet sitter for your special day, so ask the venue for recommendations.”
Pets can add lots of love and laughter to your celebration. But if you’re unprepared, you could end up stressing about your furry friend’s comfort onsite or making last-minute plans for someone to drive them back home. So start thinking about your pet’s involvement from the start!
There’s no doubt that budget, guest capacity, and aesthetics are defining factors for your ideal wedding venue. But don’t forget to consider these eight details as you narrow down your options so you can mitigate challenges and enjoy a stress-free planning experience.