There’s so much wedding planning advice out there. ‘Start with a vision’. ‘Book your wedding venue a year early’. ‘Save on decor and splurge on food’. Some of the wedding planning advice out there is useful for everybody, while some other applies to couples with certain priorities more than others – and it can be hard to know which one is which.
One of the most important pieces of wedding planning advice that applies to all is this: select your wedding venue almost as carefully as you select… your fiancé(e).
Do it whether you obsess about the wedding or are quite laid-back about it. Do it whether you have two years or two months to plan everything. Just because it is one of the first items on your to-do list, and you are a little overwhelmed by everything else, do not rush through this or base your decision on superficial reasons.
For example, you know that, in choosing a life partner, looks are not everything. In fact, personality and quirks are much more important. Hopefully you’ve thought about how your two personalities work together and decided that, not perfect as you both are, you are right for each other.
Yet you may think that once you find a venue that looks gorgeous, you’ll simply adjust your guestlist and your budget, and everything else will fall into place. Before you do that, we’d like to give you a preview of how everything else about your wedding will be affected by this decision.
From the perspective of wedding planning, a wedding venue is the epicenter of your entire wedding planning experience. It’s not just because it could be the most expensive item on the list. Of all your wedding vendors, the venue has the most influence over how things will look, who will be a part of it, and how much work it will be on your part. And, of all your wedding vendors, the venue probably is the one that cannot be substituted halfway through if something goes wrong.
Some of it is pretty obvious.
The venue will define the look of the day – light or dark, opulent or casual, indoor or outdoor. Also, the venue will also impose limitations on your guestlist. A little less, and the place looks a little empty; a little more, and the venue violates its fire safety regulations. If the venue has specific limitations, such as early closing time or no wheelchair accessibility, you will need to find ways to work with that. And if you finally decide that the venue no longer works for you, it would have to be a piece of bridal heroics and unbelievable luck to find a different venue which is available on the same date, works for all your existing vendors, and fits your theme.
Some of it, couples learn the hard way.
The trade-off between ease of planning and flexibility, for example, can make or break your wedding experience.
Ease of planning. Many wedding venues know exactly what most brides and grooms want from a venue of their kind, and they supply that. Setup and disassembly, food and beverage service, built-in audio-visual system, back-up options for outdoor spaces – everything is there, you just have to show up. Many venues partner up with one exclusive (or several preferred) vendors (such as caterer, day-of coordinator, DJ and lighting systems) and will not work with anyone else. Having less choice works great for busy couples who just want to marry in style. Working with people who know the venue inside and out means you don’t have to worry about whether the band will have an outlet available to plug in their speakers, you don’t have to ensure the person hired to get the furniture set up knows where linens are, and you don’t have to scramble on the day-of to find an extra table.
What you gain in ease of planning, you lose in flexibility. If you don’t like the chairs or the Christmas tree, too bad; the venue cannot remove them from the premises on your request. If you are extremely sensitive to costs, you may be concerned that you cannot shop around for the price of the services. If you are particular about a service, or just don’t like how long it takes a vendor to get back to you, you may have no flexibility to go elsewhere. Just because you think the venue itself is great, does not mean that you will love everyone they work with.
Ultimate flexibility. At an extreme, some venues supply four walls and a roof, and let you do whatever you want with it. You can rent a tent, chairs, arch, tables, microphones, speakers, hire your own servers, etc – or you can just have a picnic wedding. You can shop around for each individual item that you want, and you have absolute control over costs – but if you forget to plan for something, it will be missing.
The location of the venue is quite important as well. Will it be convenient for your guests to get there? How will you ensure nobody’s drinking and driving at the end of the night? And is the location convenient enough for you to drop by, or drop something off, while planning the wedding?
Before you book a venue, therefore, it’s important to know how much you value flexibility, ease of planning, and location, and make sure that the venue of your choice can accommodate all of that. Think of your venue selection as another ‘I will’.