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Wedding Venues: Leah’s Pro Tips for Selecting the Perfect Venue

One of my favorite parts of wedding planning is helping Brides and Grooms select their perfect venue!

While touring potential wedding spaces, it’s important to have a detailed checklist to compare and contrast important features later.  Here are some of the most important venue elements to consider when choosing the setting for your wedding day.

1) Fee Structure:

All venues charge differently, so be sure that you total all costs before assuming that one venue is less expensive than another.  Some venues require the use of their in-house catering, while other venues allow you to select an outside caterer (more on that in #6).  Look for a facility rental fee, labor/staffing fees, food and beverage fees if applicable, as well as costs for parking and security.  Also consider the payment schedule: some venues may require a large deposit up front, while others may be more flexible with installments made over a year’s time.

Service Charge and Sales Tax may vary between venues as well.  Make sure you know which fees are eligible for service charge and tax.  These costs add up and should be included in your calculation for the total cost of each venue.

2) The Scenery and The Season:

Consider what the venue looks like on the inside and outside, check out potential locations for beautiful wedding photos, and ask if the venue will look any different during your wedding day.  Will there be different flowers blooming?  Will the trees be bare?  Consider your wedding’s season, along with the style and appearance of the venue.

3) Space and Time:

How much space will be reserved just for you (ceremony, cocktail hour and reception spaces), and how many guests will it accommodate comfortably?  Will there be other weddings or events taking place in the building as well?

How much time will you have for vendor setup (tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces and decor), event time, and vendor load-out time?

If you choose to extend your reception past the end time contracted, is that an option? If so, what is the overtime fee?

4) Rental Items Included:

The variety and quantity of rental items included in the venue’s facility fee varies greatly from one venue to another.  At some venues, your facility rental fee includes the four walls only.  Other venues include a generous array of rental items in this fee.  Make sure you know what is included (chairs, tables, linens, dance floor, glassware, china, flatware) and confirm that the venue has the quantities you will need.  Also make sure you’re aware of set-up and break-down fees for any of these items.

5) The Bar: 

You may encounter one of three unique scenarios.  A venue may require that you use their bar service (product and staff) but allow you to select your own caterer.  Other venues require you to use their food and beverage completely (including bar).  Finally, the venue may not offer bar packages and instead allow a “BYOB” option.  All three of these scenarios have pros and cons, and the most important thing is for you to know exactly what to expect from the venue.

Also look for a “Bar Minimum” or “Beverage Minimum” in the venue contract.  Remember that “minimum” typically means you will pay that amount regardless of if your guest’s consume that value in beverages.  So, make sure you’re comfortable with this cost before signing a contract.

6) Recommended and Required Vendors:

Many venues offer a Preferred Vendor List (sometimes called a Recommended Vendor List).  In some cases, selecting a vendor not listed will result in an additional fee to the venue.  In other cases, you are only permitted to use vendors on the venue’s list.  Make sure that you are familiar with the vendor policy, and where it applies.  For example, many venues require the use of their in-house food and beverage, but allow you to select any florist or entertainer you like.

7) Ceremony Fee:

If you are considering hosting your ceremony as well as your reception at the venue, make sure you know the ceremony fee and what is included.  Some ceremony fees include only the rental of the space; others include set-up and breakdown of chairs.  It’s important to have this information handy before selecting a space.

8) Guest Rooms:

Often, selecting a hotel or a bed and breakfast venue for your wedding will allow you the perk of a complimentary suite and some complimentary hotel rooms.  Consider the value of this perk if it’s offered, and also the convenience of having your guest rooms in the same building as the wedding and reception.

9) Parking:

Parking accommodations and costs vary from $25 valet fees, to $5 self-park fees, to complimentary parking on site.  Make sure you’re familiar with the parking arrangement for your guests and any costs associated.  I always recommend covering the cost of your guests’ parking if it is feasible within your budget.

10) Security:

Make sure you’re familiar with the security accommodations recommended or required by the venue.  Ask how many guards will be on site, when they will arrive and leave, and where they will be posted.  Also make sure you know the total cost of the on-site security.

I hope that this list helps you to select the perfect venue for your day!  Interested in more helpful tips and advice?  Schedule your complimentary planning consultation by sending me an e-mail: Leah@EEPEvents.com

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