Where to have the wedding is one of the first decisions to be made after getting engaged. When I was getting married, my now-husband and I thought we'd wait a little bit before starting to plan the wedding so that we could enjoy our engagement. But we soon realized the ugly truth about planning a wedding -- venues start booking up to a year in advance! So if you want to make sure you have your choice of wedding dates at any particular venue, you should start thinking about your wedding venue asap.
First, ask yourself what type of ceremony you'd like to have. Have you always dreamed of a traditional religious wedding in a synagogue? Or do you envision yourself getting married outside in the open air? Today, couples can choose from a variety of different unique wedding locales: parks, historic mansions, hotel ballrooms, bed & breakfasts, golf resorts, museums, and more.
If you are planning on an outdoor ceremony, make sure the venue has a backup plan in case of rain. Is there an indoor room that can be used on a moment's notice if the weather isn't cooperating on the big day? Having that Plan B is essential!
Next, think about your reception. Do you want your ceremony and reception to happen at the same location? If so, does the venue have separate rooms for the ceremony and reception or will they have to turn over the same room during a cocktail hour? It's more and more popular to keep all the events in one place so that guests don't have to struggle to find their way around an unfamiliar city. Many synagogues now have reception facilities so that there is no need to travel to a separate reception venue.
Think about your guest list. What is the maximum number of people that could show up at your wedding? Once you get a general idea of that number, you'll be able to narrow down venues to those that can accommodate the size of your wedding.
You'll want to check whether the venue hosts more than one wedding or event on the same day. If so, inquire where the paths of the two weddings could cross within the space. How will the events be separated? Is there potential for music or noise from the other event to invade your festivities?
Nowadays, part of the wedding experience is getting ready with your bridesmaids before the ceremony. If you plan on getting dressed at the venue before the ceremony, you'll need to find a place that has extra rooms available to serve as a bridal suite and a groom's room. Hotels will usually include in their packages smaller rooms where the bridal party can gather before the ceremony and get ready together.
Make sure you get a sense of the true cost of the venue. A historic mansion or museum may have a cheaper rental fee, but they may not provide tables, chairs, linens, and place settings. Renting these necessities from an outside vendor or caterer adds an extra cost that is usually included in hotel weddings.
Who do you want to do the cooking? Do you have a specific caterer in mind or do you want to have food taken care of by the venue? Hotels usually provide the food for the event, whereas you'll have to hire a caterer for other venues. Are you able to customize the menu, and can you do a tasting? Also, ask whether the venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, which is often cheaper than what a caterer or hotel will provide.
Check whether the venue has a list of required or preferred vendors. Some venues may require you to choose from a list of certain florists, caterers, or other vendors. If you have a particular vendor in mind that is not on the list, you may have to clear it with the venue.
Does the venue have time restrictions? Often museums won't allow you to get into the space until it closes to the public for the day. Some venues may require that the wedding be over and cleaned up by a specific time. Make sure you know what time the venue allows the vendors to get into the space to start setting up, and whether there are any overtime charges if your guests keep partying the night away.
For ideas of venue possibilities, look in your local wedding magazines at pictures of real weddings. Also, consider hiring a wedding planner. A wedding planner will be able to point you to possible wedding venues that fit your needs. Once you have some potential venues picked out, you have to do some leg work! Make appointments with the site coordinators at the venues to view their facilities. At your appointments, take pictures! Pictures will help you remember the details of each locale when making your final decision.
Once you have booked your wedding venue, you are well on your way to planning your perfect wedding!