Selecting a wedding venue is one of the first — and most important — decisions a couple will make planning their wedding and settling on a date. The location will determine which vendor, décor and visitor attire is utilized. Here is a breakdown of tips for couples weighing different options: Where is the right venue for your event?
Estimate how many people you’ll be inviting.
Aimee Andrews, owner of Backwoods Venue 222 in Gower, Missouri, says this allows the venue to prepare to make accommodations in setting up if necessary.
She says the re-purposed antique barn with two balconies can house up to 300 guests in a climate-controlled building or couples may choose to hold the ceremony outside.
Since not all places can accommodate a wide variety of wedding sizes, it is important to narrow down the list before settling on a facility.
Nearly every venue will have a guest count minimum. Venue owners advise couples to aim low in their numbers because it’s easier to add guests than to deduct costs associated with food and related services such as decorations.
Pick a date as soon as possible
Andrews said the busiest time for her venue is April through November and the weekends can fill up quickly.
“I have people that are booking a year and a half in advance,” Andrews says. “They don’t have weddings last minute anymore. They are planning ahead.”
Local venue owners say it’s helpful to decide on the date a year in advance. Since dates can book up quickly at popular venues, call to check on date availability before going to see places in person.
Schedule a tour with family members
Andrews encourages couples to plan to meet face to face with the venue owner to compare options in order to determine which facility fits their needs the best.
“A referral is the best compliment,” Andrews says. “It is great interacting and getting to know the couple, and I love meeting the people and getting to know their personalities.”
In addition, it may be helpful to bring members of the wedding party or family members to receive input on the best choice for the guests.
Agree to a wedding budget
Couples should determine how much money they want to allot to renting the venue location in their wedding budget, which will help to select a location within their price range.
Kevin Carver, organizer and owner of Castle Bridge in St. Joseph, says couples can save money by being flexible with their date. A lower rate is available for weekday events instead of weekends.
Castle Bridge is made of recycled and reclaimed lumber that was shipped in the 1880s by rail from the state of Oregon to build the stockyards. Carver recently completed a renovation to the building.
Several venues also offer a 10 percent discount for members of the military.
The time of year, day of the week and length of the engagement will impact the negotiating leverage with vendors.
Select a location that is willing to work with other businesses
The owner of the facility will need to incorporate scheduling with those coming to set up the décor, food services and the music.
Carver says the facility offers different drink packages and popcorn at the venue. Food or beverages also can be purchased from outside the venue and brought inside.
Check for insurance liability and cancellation policy
Before signing a contact, couples are recommended to verify the business has liability insurance. In case the wedding is canceled or postponed, it is advised to work out a plan in advance with the venue owner.
Verify that accessible parking is available
Roderick Dryden, owner of Paradise Park in Oregon, Missouri, says the park offers a barn, a chapel and a two-tiered shelter house for the rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and reception dinner afterward.
There’s also access to a bridge walkway for photographs.
He says the venue offers a custom golf cart service for guests who have physical limitations from the parking lot in the 10-acre park.
Bring a check or credit card for the venue tour
Dryden says if the preferred wedding date is available, the couple can plunk down a deposit payment to save the date. The deposit fee goes towards the price of the total wedding package. Customers can pay with check, cash or a charge card.