When should I book my wedding venue?

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wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planning

Once you’re engaged (congrats!), it’s the logical question in wedding planning: “What is the first step in wedding planning? When does it need to be done?” The answer: find and book your wedding venue. Finding the right wedding venue is an important part of the process, and a step that determines many other steps of the wedding process. After all, you can’t send out wedding invites or hire a wedding caterer until you book a wedding venue.

When should I book my wedding venue?

When it comes to booking the right wedding venue, the sooner the better. At the very least, try to book your wedding venue for your date 9-12 months in advance. If you have less time before your big day, there is still hope. Use these tips to plan a wedding quickly. If your chosen wedding date isn’t available at your wedding venue, ask if another date around your chosen day is open (such as a Friday or Sunday).

How do I choose a wedding date?

Deciding on the right wedding date is also a process; it isn’t always as easy as opening your calendar and pointing. When you’re trying to coordinate your wedding date and wedding venue, you can use several different strategies to decide on the perfect special date:

  • Choose a season. If you have a strong affinity for a certain time of the year, this is your chance to enjoy every aspect of it (in your décor, photo opps, invites, every themed detail!). Another advantage of choosing a wedding date during your season is that you have a long list of wedding dates to choose from. Contact your wedding venue and ask them what dates are available during your favorite time of the year.
  • Ask your wedding venue what dates are available. A really special wedding venue can be a huge part of deciding on the right wedding date. If you want to hold your wedding at the venue, ask your venue what dates are open for your big day.
  • Zero in on a special date. The day of your first date. Your grandparent’s wedding anniversary. If you want to hold your wedding on a special day, add this question (“do you have this date available?”) to your list of wedding venue questions and use it as a deciding factor whether to tour the wedding venue.
  • Schedule your wedding date when you’re not scheduled. If you have a busy season at work, schedule your wedding for a time of year when life isn’t as stressful.

What do I do if my wedding venue is already booked on the date I want?

It happens. You contact a wedding venue you love about your chosen wedding date and they’re booked. If you have any flexibility, ask about days surrounding your favorite date (such as a Friday evening, Sunday brunch, or another weekend). A little bit of flexibility can guarantee you the venue you crave—and the first step of your wedding planning checked off (and booked so you can move on to the next detail!).

Wedding Décor on a Budget: Decoration Tips that Save Funds

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wedding reception with MR & MRS letters after wedding planning has started

Budgeting for the right wedding venue, dress, catering, photographer, videographer…it can seem like you don’t have any funds left after you’ve made all the big wedding planning decisions (like wedding décor!). Use these decisions to make the most of those wedding décor dollars and put together a beautiful wedding reception (on a budget!).

Choose a venue that doesn’t need a lot of décor.

If you want to make a statement at your wedding without dropping a lot of moola, make a concerted effort to find a wedding venue that doesn’t need a lot of décor. Depending on your vision, look for a building with the architectural details that make an impact. For an elegant wedding, look for sophisticated and stylish building details. If you’re planning a vintage wedding, search for history in every corner (a historical story, architecture, etc.)

Allocate your budget dollars accordingly.

As much as you might enjoy purchasing items for all those little touches, setting a wedding budget now can help you keep a lot of perspective later. Put simply, make sure you spend your dollars on the items that mean the most (i.e. wedding dress, centerpieces, etc.) so you have money for the items you need the most (and make the biggest impact).

Ask the pros for money-saving options.

You hired the experts. Use them. Ask your wedding planner (for a one-stop, hire the event planner at your venue) for recommendations of décor that can make a big impact without a big price tag. Your wedding planner may be able to make suggestions, such as high impact centerpieces or a way to minimize the amount of décor needed.

Look for deals.

Packaged deals, sale items, repurposed items from a local sale site. There are a lot of ways to save money on wedding décor—if you look for them. Keep your eyes peeled for items that other brides and grooms don’t need any more that you can use (i.e. chalkboards, centerpiece items, wedding games, etc.) and deals from your favorite wedding vendors.

Don’t assume that DIY is always the cheapest.

It’s natural to assume that do-it-yourself projects are easier on the budget than bought items, but proceed with caution. Sometimes you can find vendors that can do the project more affordably (tips for your search for wedding vendors here). With a little bit of research and some strategic choices (like the venue), you can coordinate the wedding of your dreams.

Beautiful Wedding Entrance Décor Ideas that Are Sure to Impress

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bride above a beautiful wedding reception

One of the most important parts of planning any event is the entrance; it’s your chance to make a statement about what’s to come and draw your guests in to the atmosphere (and fun) of your wedding reception!

wedding venue Milwaukee WI

Give them a beautiful scene.

The feeling of awe creates a powerful first impression. Watch your guests’ jaws hit the ground by choosing a beautiful venue, and use lighting and décor to leave their heads spinning. Look for wedding venues with distinct architectural details and lighting that accents those details and catches your guests’ eye.

place cards made after guest list is finalizedGive them direction.

If you want your guests to feel welcome, don’t leave them wondering what to do next. Use a sign to direct your guests where to go with a beautiful sign that welcomes and inspires. For a more subtle hint, set up a focal point for your guests: a creative arrangement of place cards that leads your guests to their table—and to your breath-taking reception.

welcoming wedding venue foyer with warm fireplace

Warm them up.

This is Wisconsin. It gets cold outside, which is why your guests’ll appreciate coming in to a warm and welcoming lobby. A roaring fire in the foyer, warm lighting, and the right décor makes your guests feel grateful to come in from the cold.

chalk sign on sidewalk to welcome wedding guests

Draw them in.

Exterior touches can be just as meaningful as your foyer. Use outside decorations (make sure it’s okay with your wedding venue) to make your guests look forward to your wedding reception.s

Be tasteful.

If you want to give your guests a taste of what’s to come, greet them with a delicious taste of what’s to come. Appetizers, interactive food stations, delectable comfort foods all create a scrumptious taste that leaves your guests hungry for more.

company holiday party entrance after using company holiday party checklistSet the mood.

A striking archway, gorgeous floral décor, or over-the-top décor touches make your guests feel like they have arrived, and are ready to be impressed by what’s coming next (your wedding reception!).

All Your Questions about Wedding Venues Answered

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wedding couple dancing at wedding venueLooking for the right wedding venue is an important (crazy important!) part of wedding planning. It’s the backdrop for every decision and every photo opp. Because it’s such a big decision, it’s also a choice you want to get right—and probably have a million questions about. We’ve tried to answer as many of those questions here (and would be more than happy to answer others via email or Facebook).

What questions should I ask my wedding venue?

As you screen potential wedding venues, make sure you ask questions that can help you make sure all the boxes are checked on your venue checklist. Always tour your venue (in person or ask someone you trust) because online pictures can be misleading. Ask your wedding venue staff these questions before the tour (and take their answers to heart).

  1. Is the date of my wedding available? Or are there any dates available around this date/month?
  2. What is cost of your venue? What does that amount cover? Are there are any additional fees (i.e. overtime fees, surcharges, etc.)?
  3. How many can your venue accommodate?
  4. Do you offer wedding planning if we need it?
  5. Is there parking available? What is the cost of parking?
  6. Are multiple events held at the same time at your venue?
  7. What is your venue policy? Can I bring in a vendor of my choice?
  8. Do you have space for the ceremony and reception? (If you need space for both.)
  9. What is your alcoholic beverage policy? Do you provide servers?
  10. Is your venue wheelchair accessible?
  11. Does your venue provide staff? Is there a staff member I can touch base with on my wedding day (in case of issues)?
  12. Do you have liability insurance? (Covers you in case of an on-site injury.)
  13. What is your policy in case of cancellation?
  14. Are there hotels nearby for my guests?
  15. Is there space for dinner, secure storage of my personal belongings, photo opportunity, changing rooms, etc.?
  16. When can I schedule a tour?

What is an open vendor policy?

It’s inevitable that you’ll hear the term “open vendor policy” as you plan your wedding. An open vendor policy allows you to bring in any vendor you want for catering, décor, etc. There are some requirements, such as that the caterer has a license, but other than that the choice is up to you. If you need guidance choosing vendors, look for a venue that offers event planning or a friendly staff member that’s easy to contact (and knowledgeable and friendly!).

Venues that do not have an open vendor policy have a list of select vendors that you can use during your wedding planning. For example, they have a list of caterers that you have to choose from or an in-house caterer you have to use.

How can I make sure that my wedding venue expenses fall within my budget?

Costs can add up as you plan your wedding; some wedding venues offer a final planning meeting with a final list of expenses. This meeting allows you to make final changes that allow you to stay within budget. As you plan, use this guide to save money at your wedding venue.

What size wedding venue do I need?

Like the old fairy tale, the right wedding venue is not too big and not too small. Once you have used compiled a tentative guest list, use that number to choose the right-sized wedding venue. When you interview your venue, ask the wedding venue staff about their maximum capacity—and make sure you don’t exceed that number. A maximum capacity is set in place for the safety of your guests.

If you choose a large wedding venue and only invite a few guests, your venue is going to look empty. The opposite decision can backfire as well; a wedding venue crammed full can send your wedding guests to the door because they are uncomfortable and feel crammed in.

What spaces do I need at my wedding venue?

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wait staff at wedding venueMaking sure you have the right spaces at your wedding venue may not be a glamorous criteria on your wedding venue checklist, but it’s a necessary part of scouting locations for your big day. Many a married couple and an event planner can tell you that having the right rooms at your wedding venue is an invaluable part of planning a smooth-running day. (After all, who wants to change into their wedding attire in the car?)

Space vs. spaces

Let’s start with a key differentiation; we’re talking about the spaces you need on your wedding day as opposed to square footage. For square footage, make sure you ask the wedding venue about their maximum capacity—and make sure you don’t exceed that number. A maximum capacity is set in place for the safety of your guests.

Like the old fairy tale, the right wedding venue is not too big and not too small. Once you have used these tips to craft a tentative guest list, use that number to choose the right sized wedding venue. If you choose a wedding venue and only invite a few guests, your venue is going to look empty. The opposite decision can backfire as well; a wedding venue crammed full can send your wedding guests to the door because they are uncomfortable and feel crammed in.

Spaces

As important as adequate wedding venue square footage is ensuring that the right wedding spaces are available for your big day. Ask your wedding venue about rooms you need for your big day, such as a room for changing, a secure area for your belongings, catering space, restrooms, and—most fun!—unique spaces for wonderful photography opps.

If you’re planning on holding your wedding ceremony and reception at your venue, add that space to your wedding venue checklist. Ask the wedding venue if they have adequate space for the ceremony without having to make your guests wait for the venue staff to take down and set up the wedding reception.

Another key consideration for many couples is locating a venue that can meet the special needs of their guests. If you have a guest on your guest list with special needs, look for a wedding venue with spaces that are accessible for your guests.

Some venues come with an in-house caterer; if you’d rather bring in your favorite caterer, look for a venue with an open vendor policy (and tips on how to choose the right wedding vendors for your special day). A venue with an open vendor policy allows you to bring in a caterer of your choice, as long as they have a valid catering license. In addition to an open vendor policy, ask the venue if they have space for your caterer or if they have space for a tent your caterer can use. These are the spaces that might not be as exciting as dress shopping, but are vital when you’re planning every detail of your big day.

Wedding Venue Checklist

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outside rennaissance place a beautiful wedding venueYour wedding venue is one of the most vital (if not the most important) parts of your wedding day, so why should your process to choose the right venue be haphazard? No, the search for the right wedding venue should be organized (other tips for organized wedding planning here) so you don’t end up spending all your money on your venue (with no money for a dress!) or choosing a wedding venue that’s way too big. Are you on the search for the perfect site for your big day? Use this wedding venue checklist to find the right wedding venue that you can say, “I do” to (and use as the foundation as you coordinate all your wedding details!).

__Cost – what is the total cost of the venue (i.e. watch for overtime fees, extra costs.etc.)?

__Date – is the venue available on my wedding date OR what dates are the venue available?

__Handicap access – does the venue have access for any of your guests with special needs?

__Location – is the venue in the area you want? How far is the venue from your ceremony site?

__Planning does the venue have a wedding planner on staff that can assist me?

__Parking – does the venue have parking space that your guests don’t have to pay a fortune for?

__Reviews – what do other couples say about the venue? Are there a lot of complaints about the staff? (Tip: check their social media reviews.)

__Size – can the venue hold the amount of guests on my estimated guest list?

__Space – does the venue have all the spaces you need for your wedding (i.e. ceremony space, changing rooms, etc.)?

__Staff – does the venue provide the staffing you need for your wedding? Or do you need to find staff for your big day?

__Style – does the style of the venue fit with our style?

__Vendors – does the venue require that you use certain vendors? Or does it have an open vendor policy?

__Viewingwhen can I see it? Can you envision your wedding there?

10 Wedding Budget Trimming Tips That Save (Beautifully!)

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heart cookies for wedding guestsWedding planning can seem like a balancing act. On one hand, you want a beautiful wedding day that’s exactly like your envisioned dream wedding. On the other hand, you don’t want to get in over your head financially. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips that’ll help you balance both goals—without feeling like you’re balancing precariously with no net (and no end in sight!).

  • Set a budget (and stick to it). If you want to keep down costs, don’t skip this important step: discuss your wedding budget with your fiance and organize the funds you available into a wedding budget that you can stick to. If you have any family members or friends that have offered to contribute, talk to them about the amount they want to contribute (and don’t forget to thank them!). Setting a wedding budget gives you numbers to stick to, so you don’t end up with a heaping stack of receipts for less significant wedding expenditures and no funds for the important items on your wedding planning checklist (i.e. venue, food, etc.).
  • Buy off the rack. The cost of a wedding dress can eat up most of your wedding budget, but only if you let it. Instead, browse through the clearance racks and search for a dress that can be altered to fit. Often, the cost of a clearance dress and the alterations can be less than a new dress.
  • Trim your guest list. It’s okay to drop your “the more, the merrier” approach when the wedding budget gets tight. Take distant family relations off your wedding guest list or make your wedding an adult-only affair. Use wording like ‘Please join us at our adults-only wedding reception.’ Or ‘Due to limitations, we can only accommodate adults at our wedding reception.’
  • Hold your wedding on an “off day” or “off month.” Many venues give discounts for days of the week of the week that aren’t traditional wedding days, such as a Friday or Sunday. The same goes for months that aren’t considered popular wedding months, such as January or April. Contact your favorite venue to find out what dates are available, and thin those days down to the right wedding day that fits your budget.
  • Choose a wedding venue that requires little décor. It’s a common wedding planning mistake: choose the cheapest wedding venue that needs tons of décor to make it beautiful. Instead, look for an affordable wedding venue that is a striking backdrop without investing a small fortune in décor.
  • Shop around for the right wedding vendors. Choosing the right vendors (here’s how) is one of the key ways you can trim dollars off your wedding budget. Note the term “right.” The right wedding vendor is not always the cheapest; you don’t want to choose a sub-par wedding vendor that delivers low-quality service (or even worse, no service).
  • Don’t buy too many (or too expensive) wedding favors. Wedding favors can be a really fun wedding detail, but it can also become a huge wedding expense if you are not careful. When dollars get tight, make sure you allocate funds for big impact items like a beautiful venue, and don’t overspend on wedding favors you don’t need.
  • DIY—within reason. Tackling certain tasks yourself can be a huge savings, if you’re diligent about your funds and time. Do your research before you take on a DIY project; often the amount of time and supplies needed can surpass the amount you would have spent to rent the item. If you do take on a DIY project, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help so you don’t get stressed out (here’s more tips so you can handle wedding planning stress) and get all the items checked off your wedding planning checklist.
  • Look into whether it’s cheaper to rent or buy. Before you sign on the dotted line to rent your décor, compare your options. In certain cases, it can be cheaper to purchase décor (new or used-check online) instead of renting (and you may be able to resell it afterward!).
  • Bring in the experts. A little bit of research can save you a lot in the long run; if you don’t have time, hire a wedding planner that can assist you in the process. Some venues have wedding planners on staff that are already familiar with your venue—and the local wedding vendors that can save you money.

Couples: How to De-Stress Your Wedding Planning

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wedding figures for top of cake after wedding budget planningChoosing the right wedding venue. Hiring a photographer. Selecting table décor. Setting the right menu…the list of wedding planning tasks can go on and on (just look at this wedding checklist); it’s easy to see why couples get overwhelmed juggling wedding planning, a career, and a life.

What’s not easy is to figure out a way to get rid of the wedding planning stress when you feel in over your head and just keep saying, “I just want to get married!” That’s why we compiled a list of tips, tricks, hacks, and ideas that’ll help you manage your stress and your wedding planning.

Stay organized

It’s hard to feel like you’re on a runaway wedding planning train when you feel like you’re on top of it. Don’t procrastinate tackling your wedding planning checklist (and use these other organizing tips too), and make sure you have a wedding app or binder to track your progress.

Lean on the pros

If you feel like you can’t connect all the dots of your wedding details, or you have too much on your plate already, don’t hesitate to hire a wedding planner to help with the process (with as little or as much guidance as you want to give). To minimize the amount of calls and emails you have to make, choose a wedding venue with an event planner on staff. An event planner at the wedding venue is already familiar with your wedding venue, and can turn your vision into a reality.

Head to the spa

Don’t be afraid to step away from wedding planning to take care of yourself. Head to the spa so you can feel rejuvenated and ready to take on your next wedding planning task.

Seek out expertise

The right wedding vendors make your wedding planning easier, not more complicated. Use these tips to seek out and choose the right companies and individuals that can make the process easier—and you feel comfortable communicating with (you’ll have to talk with them a lot).

Disconnect

When the weight of wedding planning is really starting to get to you, try disconnecting for a few hours or days. Leave all your devices behind, and give your chance to really enjoy an offline experience.

Go for a run (or bike ride or walk or hike or…)

Exercising causes your body to release chemicals in your brain called endorphins, which can give you a positive feeling—something you desperately need when you’re overwhelmed. Go for a run, head to a yoga class, take a walk, go for a hike, go swimming, or enjoy whatever your favorite exercise is to increase your positive outlook.

Ask for help

Don’t hesitate to ask your partner or trusted friends and family to help with wedding planning tasks. Make sure you give them a deadline, and follow up with them often; procrastination just leads to more stress.

Go on a date (with your fiance!)

When it feels like it’s all too much, and you’re both running around trying to get all your I’s dotted and t’s crossed, take some time to reconnect. Schedule regular dates throughout your wedding planning process—dates where you don’t talk about wedding planning. Just enjoy each other, and remember why you’re going through all this wedding planning in the first place.

Choose the Best Wedding Vendors for Your Big Day

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wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planningCaterers, photographers, videographers, décor. The list of wedding vendors needed to pull off your big day may be long, but that doesn’t mean that the vetting process should be complicated.

Before you go on the hunt for the right wedding vendors, make sure you are not violating any of the fine print in your contract with your venue; some venues only allow certain vendors and can provide you with a list of approved businesses they work with. Other venues have an open vendor policy, allowing you to select any vendor as long as they have the required licenses. Let the fun process of wedding vendor selection begin with these helpful tips.

Research your vendor options.

Shows, internet searches, asking friends…there are a million different ways to find the wedding vendors you need. Once you have compiled a list of potential vendors, let your fingers do the research. Make sure you look beyond the beautiful websites and snappy social media pages. Look for red flags, such as:

  • Poor business reviews
  • A residential address (may not be an issue, but can be a sign that the business is more of a hobby and may not be able to deliver all the services needed when needed)
  • Lack of experience

Instead, research each vendor and look for proof that they are an experienced business that can deliver. Look for favorable reviews, photos, videos, and satisfactory business ratings and customers (it doesn’t help if they are excellent at what they do if they can’t manage their appointments and finances).

Ask your venue staff for recommendations.

Wedding venue staff are in a unique position; they get to see the results (and interactions) of décor vendors, videographers, caterers at every event hosted at their venue. If you’re at a loss for a certain type of vendor or can’t find the right vendor, contact the venue staff for a list of vendors they’ve seen in action.

Set up a meeting.

A face-to-face meeting is one of the most important parts of selecting the right vendors for your wedding. If any of your wedding vendors are reluctant to do so, or don’t have a location to meet in, be prepared to walk away.

Make sure you have a wedding budget set (and all the important conversations done) before you meet with any vendors. Prioritize what vendors are most important to you so you can decide where to allocate the majority of your wedding budget.

Feel comfortable with your choice (and the method of communication).

When in the meeting, look for three important factors: compatibility, communication, experience. If you don’t feel comfortable with a vendor, or don’t communicate on the same wave length, follow your instinct and avoid signing on the bottom line. In the same way, ask for references and proof of experience from every vendor you meet with.

You don’t want your wedding to be the first experiment for your wedding vendor, but in the same way you don’t want to be one of so many that you don’t feel like they are focused on your special day. Your vendor should give their full attention to you during the meeting, and ask questions that let you know they are listening.

Ask your vendors how they plan and how you should communicate with them in the future. This is important so you don’t feel ignored and get the responsiveness you need. Make sure they have a line of communication you’re comfortable with; you don’t want to choose a vendor who’s only comfortable with electronics and ignores your phone calls (or vice versa).

Read the fine print.

Don’t sign a contract until you read through it thoroughly—or have someone you trust go through it with a fine tooth comb. You don’t want to miss any hidden fees, costs, or limitations (such as a certain number of hours, photos, etc.) that could make you regret your vendor choice.

What is an open vendor policy at a wedding venue? (And how to use it to your advantage!)

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wedding venue with fall wedding decorThere are a lot of reasons to choose a wedding venue (we’ve listed a few here). One of the lesser known reasons is an open vendor policy; that’s why we’ve put together information you need to decide whether a venue with an open vendor policy is right for your big day.

What is an open vendor policy?

As you go down your wedding planning checklist and research wedding venues, you’ll find that some wedding venues require that the couple use a certain vendor, or choose from a list of vendors. For instance, they may have a certain caterer they require you to use or a list of caterers to choose from.

A wedding venue with an open vendor policy allows you to choose any vendor you prefer. There are some requirements, such as that the caterer has a license, but other than that the choice is up to you.

What are the perks of an open vendor policy?

An open vendor policy can be used to your advantage during wedding planning. Choosing a wedding venue with an open vendor policy allows you to select your favorite vendor (like the caterer that makes your favorite dish the best!) and vendors that fit your wedding budget.

The good news is that you’re not entirely on your own through the process of choosing vendors. If you need recommendations for a good vendor for your wedding at 1451 Renaissance Place, the experienced staff can give you a list of local vendors (i.e. caterers, table décor, etc.) or you can see them at one of their open houses (watch our Facebook page for dates).