Category Archives: choosing a wedding venue

What should I look for in my wedding venue tour?

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wedding venue Milwaukee WI

There are a lot of emotions that wash over you when you visit a wedding venue. Awe. Satisfied. That sweet feeling of finding the “one.” This is the backdrop for your wedding day, after all. This is also a decision that shouldn’t be dictated solely by emotion.

Your wedding venue is more than a beautiful backdrop. It’s also a logistical and practical investment that both you and your guests appreciate. No one wants to be trekking for miles because there’s no nearby parking in their best shoes. Or cramped because the venue isn’t big enough to hold all the guests that were invited. Your attendants certainly don’t want to be locking their valuables in the trunk or changing in their car. The list of wedding venue faux pas can go on and on…which is why it makes cents (literally) to pay attention to more than just aesthetics during your wedding venue tour.

Space

Like the old fairy tale, the right wedding venue is not too big and not too small. For that reason, come up with a tentative guest list count (use these wedding guest list tips) before you contact a wedding venue. Ask every wedding venue how many guests they can accommodate and make sure that every space in the venue (i.e. bar, dance floor, foyer) looks like just the right size.

Rooms

Just as important as adequate wedding venue square footage is the right wedding spaces. Ask your wedding venue about rooms you need for your big day, such as a dance floor, (large) room for changing, a secure area for your belongings, catering space, and restrooms (yes, for your guests’ sake, you even have to visit the restrooms).

Ceremony site

If you need a wedding ceremony site, look for the perfect location for that as well. Use one note of caution, however; if the wedding ceremony site is outside, look for a indoor Plan B site just in case there is inclement weather (or extreme temperatures) on your big day (this is Wisconsin, our temps can be unpredictable!).

Photo opportunities

bride and groom on steps of elegant historic wedding venueYou don’t have to be a pro to look for unique wedding photo opportunities. Keep an eye out for areas that would look terrific in your wedding album—but still give your wedding photographer the liberty to find (and take!) great photos. Look around for unique architectural details, such as stained glass windows, beautiful doorways, and a unique entrance.

Parking (please!)

While you can get dropped off on your big day, not all your guests have that same option. Ask to see the venue’s options for parking—and make sure that it is as close as the staff member says. “Yes, it’s just around the corner” just won’t cut it. Once you have verified parking, make sure that it’s not going to cost your guests an arm and a leg. If there is a small fee, let your guests know by adding the information to your wedding invite and website.

Entertainment Needs

If you want your wedding entertainment to be a big hit, make sure the venue has the electrical system that fits your band or DJ’s needs (and any uplighting they offer). You might feel like you don’t have the expertise even if you did see the outlets or electrical panel; in that case, ask the venue staff if they have had bands, DJs, and lighting at the venue in the past.

Access (for everyone)

Many wedding venues were built in a time or for a function (such as barns) that didn’t suit the needs of people with mobility issues. Ask if the wedding venue is handicap accessible (especially if there are a lot of stairs) and if you can see the alternative entrances. This simple step ensures that all of your guests can attend and enjoy themselves or if you need to make arrangements that can assist those guests. ALL of your guests’ll appreciate your due diligence.

Red Flags to Watch for When Booking Your Wedding Venue

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elegant historic wedding venue

The road to confirming your wedding venue is a process. From asking the right wedding venue questions to touring the site, there are a lot of moments along the way that signify that this is the perfect site for your wedding day. On the flip side, there can also be a few red flags that should set off warning bells before you sign on the dotted line.

Overtime Fees

To be clear, there are usually many costs associated with renting a wedding venue, such as table and chair rental fees. This is fairly standard. What’s not common is additional costs, such as over time fees if your wedding reception runs over a certain length of time. When you first contact the venue, and in subsequent visits, ask for a full list of expenses and how long the rental fee covers.

Unreliable staff contacts

Booking a wedding venue is about more than just using the facility. It’s an experience with the wedding venue and venue staff. Most likely, you are going to have to contact the venue multiple times during the wedding planning process. If they don’t return your calls, respond to your messages, or promptly meet with you, listen to your inner voice. Don’t let your wedding planning process (or your wedding day!) be soured because the staff isn’t conscientious of your time.

Overwhelming Fine Print

Most wedding venues provide couples with a multi-page contract. Don’t shy away from the contract; reading the fine print can save you from unpleasant surprises later. However, if the contract is overly complicated and hard to understand, heed the warning bells. Never sign on the dotted line of a contract if you don’t understand what you’re signing or are worried about any language in the contract.

Lack of wedding experience

Proceed with caution if you rent a venue that doesn’t typically host weddings; the staff may not have the experience to assist you with planning and facility may not have all the spaces you need for your wedding day. There is some value in working with a venue with a knowledgeable staff that’s “been there”—especially if you need wedding planning assistance (many venues offer wedding planning-just ask!). Don’t check off a venue from your wedding venue checklist just because the site hosts weddings; instead embrace their knowledge and use it to make your day uniquely you.

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?

11 Things to Consider When Picking the Best Wedding Venue

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wedding venue with tables and special lighting 1451 Renaissance PlaceIf you’re wedding planning, selecting the perfect wedding venue should be at the top of your wedding planning checklist. So much of your wedding revolves around your wedding site, and almost every detail you plan is dependent on the venue you choose. It’s important. So how can you pick the best wedding venue from all your options? We’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself so you can find the right location for your big day.

What is the date of your wedding?

Some couples have an exact date (an anniversary, holiday, etc.) and others don’t have as clear of a choice. You don’t have to know the exact day, but it is helpful to have a month (or months) and year to limit your venue options.

What style wedding do you want?

This is a good time to look at who you are as a couple. What is your style? Do you want an elegant wedding? A vintage wedding? A country chic event? Decide on this important detail before you book your wedding venue. A cohesive wedding has a common thread that ties it all together, starting with the ceremony site.

Do you need a wedding venue with a ceremony site and space for a reception?

wedding day venueYou don’t have to have a schedule planned down to the minute, but you should decide whether you are holding your ceremony at a separate location or all at one venue. Some venues may not have the space for your ceremony and reception so be sure to ask right away.

How many guests are you expecting?

All you need is a general idea of your guest estimate. This is another “deal breaker” when narrowing down your options; be certain you choose a wedding venue that can fit all your expected guests comfortably (so they don’t feel like they are a sardine).

What budget do you have?

Don’t let the fact that this question is halfway down the list fool you; this is a VERY important question in your list. Sit down with your fiance, and any family or friends involved in the budget process, and set a budget. This eliminates a lot of heartache later when you have your heart set on a wedding venue that is way above your budget.

What do your guests need?

Do you have any guests with special needs, such as a family member in a wheel chair? Take this into account sooner than later so you don’t book a venue that is difficult for the ones you love. If you have out-of-town guests, look for a venue with lodging accommodations nearby and transportation options.

Do you need a full service wedding venue?

In general, there seems to be two types of wedding venues: venues with everything needed and location only venues. A full-service venue offers it all: an on-site coordinator, all the staff you’ll need (coat check, servers, etc.), event planning and other amenities and services for your big day. If you choose a venue without those services, make sure you factor other costs into your budget. Though these venues are often cheaper, other costs could drive your total higher.

Do you have a vendor you want to use for your wedding?

If you have a particular caterer you want to use, seek out venues with an open-vendor policy. Some wedding halls require that you use their in-house caterer or have a short list of caterers allowed in their facility.

Do you have any strong preferences that could limit your wedding venue search?

If you any specific requests (or requirements) for your wedding, such as serving alcohol or a very, very late reception end time, make sure you add that question to your list to ask each wedding venue. You may find that a reception hall you love is not the wedding venue for you due to limitations (i.e. curfew time, restrictions on alcohol served, etc.).

What is important to me?

Are you comfortable holding your wedding at a venue that is dependent on weather? This is especially true if you are considering booking an outdoor site or building without heating or cooling; you may need to book a tent or other shelter in case of inclement weather. Do you need event planning services? (If so, narrow down venues to those that offer wedding planning services.) Make a chart or spreadsheet with your preferences and a list of wedding venues. Organizing your thoughts and options can help you decide what wedding venues are worth visiting.

When can I see it?

wedding venue with candles and uplightingDon’t book a wedding venue without viewing it and resist the temptation to rely entirely on pictures you see on social media or on the website. Schedule a private tour of the facility or visit during an open house. For best results, set your visit for the same time as your wedding ceremony or reception. Seeing your wedding venue in person, and finding out if it satisfies all your requirements, can help you decide which venue is the ‘one.’