Just a few days ago a friend got engaged. Only hours later, she posted on Facebook, “looking for ideas on where I should have my wedding?” The insanely diverse responses blew my mind. (Well, not really since everyone on Facebook seems to be a professional at giving advice on nearly any topic. Heck, Facebook seems to be the place now where you go to ask for advice on anything ranging from what type of car to buy, to the best place to get sushi, to favorite places to vacation).
The biased and inappropriate wide range of answers she received prompted me to write this advice giving blog for future brides.
As a wedding industry professional, I immediately picked up the phone and called this soon-to-be bride. I asked the following important questions prior to offering any advice.
- How many guests do you think you are going to have?
- In regards to budget, are you looking for an ultra luxurious, middle-of-the-road, or value based wedding venue?
- Do you have a vibe or vision such as a waterfront wedding, a classic feel, a contemporary style, a barn/vintage feel, etc.
- Do you have an idea of the ideal geographic area? (North Jersey Vs. Jersey Shore Vs Princeton Area, and New Hope PA as examples).
- Will your ceremony be on site?
The responses to these questions then allow a sensible means of narrowing down and offering suggestions.
Her responses were:
- 80-100 guests
- Middle of the road budget
- Contemporary/Modern Feel
- Central Jersey ideally
- Yes, ceremony on site.
Now… I had a real basis to work from. Here were the next steps:
- I eliminated the venues that require a guaranteed guest count over 125
- I eliminated the venues known for $175+ per guest
- I suggested venues that remain and have a contemporary feel which are located in the Central NJ region and allow for a convenient, beautiful, onsite ceremony.
So, if you (or someone you know) is getting married, how can you apply this approach to your search? It’s easy… When my wife and I were seeking a wedding venue, we made a spreadsheet and then turned to google. This allowed us to narrow the selection down to approximately 10 venues to visit pretty quickly. Then, within the venue visiting stage, the answer was easy… one venue just “felt perfect.” (My friend referenced above had the same feeling when she found her venue too).
Here are the nine simple steps I can suggest to selecting the right venue:
- Make a spreadsheet with the venues you are considering. Base this list from places you have either attended, heard about, or have had friends/family suggest.
- Google each venue and look at photos and reviews. This should give you some great insight on the style of the venue and how past guests felt about their experience at prior weddings.
- Call the venue which still feels right and ask important questions.
- What is your starting price?
- Do you have a minimum number of required guests?
- (If you have a date or few dates in mind) ask if your dates are available. Add other important details to the spreadsheet such as:
- Are hotel rooms on site or how far is the nearest hotel?
- What’s the bridal suite situation like?
- How many weddings take place at a time (or on the same day)?
- Does this venue offer certain features you are looking for like an outdoor ceremony option or city skyline views.
- Next, schedule visits for your top contenders according to how they rank on your spreadsheet. (Do not just assume you can visit for a tour. It’s very important to make an appointment so you can get the proper time and attention you require).
- These site visits should have helped decrease those remaining on your list.
- Feel free to negotiate. Many venues will work with you to accommodate your needs. You may need to be flexible too. Off peak dates offer better flexibility.
- Chat with industry professionals. Ask entertainers, florists, photographers, etc. their experiences at these venues.
- Based on all your homework above, the general feel, the staff’s friendliness and compatibility of the venue matching your needs, you should be able to pretty easily select the perfect choice for your wedding.
Selecting the right venue is the first of many wedding day decisions you are going to face. Be sure the venue fits your needs. You are only planning on having one wedding in your lifetime; Therefore, do it right!