Welcome back to another Wedding Wednesday! 🎉 Ben and I finally bit the bullet and signed the venue contract + set our date for June 9, 2019!
We’re so excited, but it didn’t come without work. Since I absolutely love wedding planning, here are the steps I think you should take to choose your perfect venue. I’d love to hear any you’d add to the list in the comments below!
Style: What do you want the venue to look like?
(Or DON’T want it to look like, in my case.)
When I started out, I wasn’t exactly sure what “look” I wanted but I did know one thing – what I didn’t want. A ballroom. Nope. I’m just not interested in having my wedding at a hotel. (PLEASE DO NOT TAKE OFFENSE IF YOU USED A BALLROOM – IT WAS JUST NOT MY TASTE.) After planning events for a few years, I just wasn’t feelin’ it that look.
Once I figured out what I didn’t want, that narrowed my search quite a bit. I started looking more into the rustic yet feminine route and that’s where I found my dream venue. I reached out to SO many beautiful modern and rustic venues, but based on budget (which we’re talking about next!) we were really stuck on one. Once we saw it in person, I got goosebumps and it was all over for me.
So, basically start narrowing things down. Meet with your fiancee and talk about the look and feel you’re going for. Is there anything you absolutely DO NOT like? Is there anything you love? Make a list and start emailing venues to get their price sheets and galleries! Also, TheKnot.com is amazing for reviews, which I highly recommend reading.
TIP: Look into non-traditional venues like Air BnB’s on the lake or in a forest, restaurants, parks, barns (although those are becoming trendy), destination locations, etc.
Budget: How much are you willing to spend?
This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. Ben and I are doing a “budget wedding” according to industry standards (aka we’re not spending a college education on one day) so this was important. While I didn’t have a set price I wanted to spend on the venue, we DID have a set overall price that we’d want to stay within. So we worked backwards from that. The more we spend on a venue, the less we have for everything else. The venue will probably be one of the most expensive parts of your day (or THE most expensive part) so it’s important to pay attention to that. If your budget is $15K and your venue is $9K, that’s going to make it pretty much impossible unless you cut a LOT of other areas or you have some extra things included in that price (see the next step for that!)
Once Ben and I decided on our budget, we split everything out into a budget tracker in my wedding spreadsheet (hells yes I have a wedding spreadsheet) and figured out where we were going to allocate our money for each part. If you’d like a copy of my budget, send me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll send a blank copy over for you to get started!
TIP: Have a Sunday wedding (or M-Th). Fridays are becoming just as expensive as a Saturday wedding now, so why not a Sunday? We’re saving almost $4K just by having ours on a Sunday and no one that’s coming is upset about it!
TIP 2: Watch out for food and beverage minimums!! I found a bunch of restaurants in the Chicago city limits that I loved where the venue price was within my budget, but then I was hit with a $15,000 food and beverage minimum. WHAT. That’s almost $20,000 just for the venue and food! No, thanks. Sometimes restaurants can be a cheaper venue, but just watch out for that hidden cost.
Value: What’s included with each venue you like?
This is key 🔑 – maybe your venue is a little higher in price, but the food is included. Or maybe, like me, my venue is a little less but food is NOT included plus we’re required to use their food vendor list. Pay attention to those little intricacies that might be in fine print.
For us, our venue includes a day-of coordinator, gorrrrgggeous wooden tables, and most decor. I’ll only need to bring a few flowers and decorations, which helps me save tons of money on the decor/floral part of my budget. We get the whole venue for the whole day (yes, I’ve been to a venue where they allow people to walk around while you’re getting ready – what?!) + a bridal suite and groomsmen suite (with video games, so Ben’s excited.) The only extra charges we’ll have are for anything we’d like to rent through them (like backdrops or signs) and a $500 security deposit that comes out right before the wedding to CYA.
TIP: Watch out for things that AREN’T allowed. My venue does not allow real candles due to fire hazard and doesn’t allow you to bring your own alcohol into the bridal suite. I’m fine with both of those things (plus, they’re giving us champagne so we’ll still have mimosas!) and will probably rent their candle (they’re flameless) special so I don’t have to worry about it. They’re very strict with people being over-served, which for Ben and me is perfect, but I’ve been to quite a few weddings right after college where alcohol was very important. Just make sure you read every little thing and ask questions before you sign on that dotted line!
I have a bazillion more tips (and TONS of research) so if you’d like to hear anything else, let me know in the comments below! Otherwise, I hope this was helpful to any newbie brides out there or interesting to my married sistas. ❤️