Choosing your date and venue will likely be at the top of your wedding to-do list post-engagement. Booking your venue may actually impact the date of your party, especially if you are hot on a particular locale and availability is limited. As venue booking is the most important (and, in many cases, expensive) decision you make in your planning process, it’s a big one and can come with a lot of pressure and a lot of questions. You must feel comfortable with all that’s entailed in signing on…and there definitely are many things to consider, some of which you may not be aware of. In the era of COVID-19 of course venue booking has become a little more complicated like all aspects of life! Venues have put special booking guidelines and policies in place to accommodate the new normal so when you are looking at places, be sure to be upfront and ask about them.
We asked Aly Armstrong, owner of Aly Armstrong Events in Vancouver to share her insider list of things to consider before saying yes to your venue. Here are things to keep in mind while shopping for your perfect wedding space.
Create a non-negotiable list
Do you prefer an indoor or outdoor event? Is live music an important component? Put together a list of items that are most important to you in order to capture your vision and make your wedding unique. This will help to narrow down both your venue choice and ensure that the venue you have in mind can accommodate your non-negotiables. All of this should be discussed with the venue coordinator in advance and included in your contract.
It’s important to consider the amount of time vendors will have to set-up before your event start time. If you are planning an elaborate affair with a lot of decor and flowers, ample set-up time will be needed. Knowing your event end time is also an important factor. Some outdoor venues require music off at 10pm or 11pm due to the bylaws in their city. If having a long party or loud music is important, make sure you’re on the same page with your venue.
Find out what is included
If you’re booking at a hotel, rentals like tables, chairs, plates and glassware are typically included. If you are selecting a warehouse or open space, do the due diligence first to determine what your rental costs will be before you commit to the venue rental fee to ensure it works with your budget.
Research food and beverage commitments
Most hotels and full-service venues will waive a room rental fee if you reach a minimum food and beverage commitment. You need to feel comfortable with this commitment and should calculate guest count by the estimated food and beverage spend per person. For example: if you want to have an intimate wedding with 60 people, it may not make sense to sign-off on a $25,000 minimum commitment as it would be difficult to reach that. On average, couples spend $150/person. This is a good starting point when calculating your budget. You can request a proposal with an estimated food and beverage spend in advance of signing the contract for reassurance.
Look into alcohol options
Selecting a venue that allows you to bring in your own alcohol is a great way to save on costs. However, most venues have their own liquor license and strict rules around this. Their guidelines should be clearly outlined and included in the contract so there are no surprises. Tip: if you are planning your wedding at a venue that provides the alcohol, you can reduce the offerings available to your guests. You can restrict shots and doubles in your contract, which will help to keep costs at bay. Offering beer and wine only or hosting beer and wine only and offering a cash bar for highballs and premium options is another way to still allow guests those options without exceeding your budget.
Read the fine print and check for “hidden fees”
There can be charges such as: audio/visual, cake cutting, coat check attendants, security and parking that are not included in the initial contract but charged by the venue on the final bill. Ask the venue coordinator to clearly outline what fees may be charged in addition to the rental fee plus food and beverage costs. You should also have a contingency fund for any unforeseen expenses. And if this budget isn’t used in the end, than you have some bonus cash for your honeymoon and future!