After you’re ready to start the wedding planning process, one of the first things you’ll want to do is secure your venue.
Venues can book out over a year in advance, especially for peak wedding months (late spring through early fall). Personally, I found it difficult to tackle anything else on the planning “to do” list until we had our venue. It served as the blank canvas for our day driving the overall look and feel of every detail from my dress to our decor needs.
Being fairly new to Seattle and not knowing all of the venue options, I didn’t want to leave any rock unturned. I may have researched a little more than the average bride, but I learned a few things along the way. Whether you’re planning a destination wedding or celebrating in your home town, there’s a couple steps I’d recommend following to guide your venue selection.
- Research, research, research. Reference local wedding magazines, online directories, Google and Yelp to compile a master spreadsheet of all your options. More on this below.
- Then narrow it down. Based on criteria that was important to us, we slowly crossed options off the list based on: seated capacity, distance from downtown/lodging, cost, F&B options, and general aesthetic/design.
- Schedule a visit. After narrowing it down, reach out to secure formal quotes and schedule site tours. How responsive and easy to work with the venue is during this phase is likely a good indication of what your full experience working with them will be like.
If you’re unsure of how to organize your research, I’d recommend an Excel doc with your venue options listed across rows and your selection criteria as the columns. To get your started, use the following selection criteria to guide your search:
- Status: bucket your venue options into sortable categories like: researching, requested info, tour scheduled, disqualified (include reason – such as cost, capacity, style, location)
- Venue: list your venue and link to their website
- Address: list your venue address
- Distance from “main hub”: whether distance from the airport, downtown, lodging, or other locations (like ceremony location/church) are important to you, include this to assist in your final decision and logistics planning
- Seated Capacity: note – be sure to distinguish whether the seated capacity is ceremony seating, banquet-style dinner, and/or rounds seating for dinner
- Rental Fee: venue rental fee and details for what’s included like number of rental hours, quantity of tables and chairs, decor pieces, projector and sound system, etc.
- F&B Restrictions: i.e. does the venue restrict you to in-house catering only, a set list of approved vendors, or allow you to bring in whatever F&B you’d like?
- F&B Minimum: does the in-house catering company or approved vendor require a minimum spend? Are there additional charges for staff members and service fees that should be included?
- Additional Charges: may include setup fee, cleaning fee, damage deposit, additional hours charge, etc.
- Tables and Chairs: list quantity, type, dimensions, and color if included with venue rental
- Linens: list quantity, type, dimensions, and color if included with venue rental
- Flatware: list quantity, type, dimensions, and color if included with venue rental
- Glassware: list quantity, type, dimensions, and color if included with venue rental
- China: list quantity, type, dimensions, and color if included with venue rental
- Parking: list number of spots, type (lot, street, valet), cost, etc.
- Additional Amenities: may include setup and clean-up, A/V and lighting packages, additional furniture or decor, day-of event coordination, etc.
Thanks for following along my DIY wedding planning journey. If you want to see more behind-the-scenes and the occasional hand-lettered kitchen pun, follow me on Instagram at @SundayMorningPost