Finding your wedding reception venue is one of the first most important thing on your checklist. Every girl dreams about the perfect venue – finding the perfect one for your situation can be difficult without some direction.
The first thing I recommend is research! Research, research, research. What are your needs and priorities? Capacity, catering, AV, open bar? These are all important things to consider when searching for your venue.
Start by simply searching the web for wedding venues in and around the area you wish to get married. More often than not, venue websites will have details answering many of your initial questions. Different rooms, maximum capacity, in house catering; some might have facility rental costs as well.
Compile a list of 5 venues you’d like to host your wedding and phone them with a few more questions to ask. This is when you’d like to ensure they provide all your priorities. Do they allow an open bar? Do they provide basic set up/tear down? Do they have in house audio-visual or a PA system? Once you’ve covered all your needs/priorities, cut your list down to 2-3 venues and book a walk through with the manager.
During your initial walk-thru I highly recommend taking photos! This will come in handy when deciding on décor later on. You’ll want to see all areas available to you: the kitchen, private wedding party room, the bar, and the bathrooms. Make sure everything is clean and tidy; ensure the bar and the bathrooms are large enough for all your guests, etc.
While the manager is showing you around, make sure you’re crossing off these important questions:
1. Who is in charge of the basic set up and tear down?
2. Do you offer buffet options, a plated dinner, or both?
3. What are the buffet/plated dinner menu options?
4. Do you include a tasting?
5. Do you provide a late lunch?
6. Does your venue provide liability insurance for an open bar?
7. Do they supply labor, glassware, mix, and ice for an open bar?
8. Can I bring in my own bartenders?
9. Is there a corkage fee?
10. What time is the venue available on the day of the wedding? This time is important to know so other vendors (like your florist or baker) know what time they can come in and set up.
11. What time is the venue available till? They can inform you of last call, music off, load out times.
12. Can the ceremony be held on site?
13. Is it wheelchair accessible?
14. Do you supply tables, chairs, linens, or place settings?
15. Is there heating/air conditioning?
16. Are there any décor limitations?
17. Are open flame candles allowed?
18. Are there restrictions for the photographer?
19. Is there a cake cutting fee?
20. Deposit date, balance date, cancellation policy?
Make sure you ask all the same questions at every venue. Keeping track of all the responses will help you choose the best venue for your day.
I booked my venue almost a year in advance, and even then, most places were already booked up. I would suggest trying to book a minimum of 1 to 1.5 years in advance to make sure you get the date you desire!