How to find the perfect wedding venue and avoid the most common budget pitfall with The Firefly Method
The most exciting step in wedding planning is often selecting the VENUE! Once you’ve locked this down, you’ll have the added bonus of picking a date. Hunting for a venue can feel equal parts exhilarating and daunting because there’s no denying that this one piece will inform almost every other decision you make going forward. Oh, and it’s the one vendor you can’t skip… Even if you’re eloping!
We’ll dig into the nitty-gritty of what makes a great venue, but first, you may want to download this cut + paste email template + checklist we’ve created! It includes all the info you’ll want to check off for each venue, so you can have everything you need on one page. PLUS, with our email template, we’ve included detailed questions to help you avoid the most common budget pitfall: missing hidden costs!
One more resource you may want to check out is our 5 steps to start planning your wedding like a pro. This worksheet lays out 5 simple steps you can take this weekend, that will get you ready to book your first and most important vendor… you guessed it, your venue!! Ok, let’s jump in…
(Photo by Heather Waraksa)
What’s your vision?
If you haven’t had a talk with your partner about the overall style of the wedding, now is the time to do it! Don’t get caught up in the details quite yet. Instead stick with the broad strokes, like rustic vs. modern, city vs. country, indoor vs. outdoor, etc. As you start researching venues, the number of options can feel overwhelming, so the first step is to clear the clutter and just focus in on the viable options. Another facet of the style conversation is season. If you love the idea of a winter wedding, you can probably take all outdoor venues off the table. The third thing to consider here is guest count, which we covered last week. If you’re expecting 150 guests, you can cross off any venues that can’t accommodate that. A quick word of advice: if you love a venue that can only hold 125 and you’re expecting 150, don’t try to “make it work”. It can lead to an uncomfortable guest experience and a clunky flow as everyone tries to find a way to fit themselves into the space. Instead, you want your guests to have room to breathe!
(Photo by Erich McVey)
How much can you spend?
Have you guys noticed that we LOVE talking about budgets!? Haha! So far we’ve brought it up in every post, but that’s because it’s a foundational document that we come back to as planners, daily. In our 2 step budget formula, we showed you how to break these numbers out based on your ideal spend for the whole wedding, plus the priorities that you would like to highlight or even skip altogether. Although there’s a line item in there for VENUE, you’ll need to consider your rentals, catering and possibly transportation, to get a clear picture of what the venue actually costs. Many venues are “full-service” meaning they provide you with the catering and all of your basic rentals, while others offer more of a raw space, meaning you have to bring all of those things in yourself. Then, of course, there are venues that fall somewhere in between.
Venue websites can often be outdated, misleading, or have no information at all (our personal fave), so use the email template we’ve provided to make sure you have a clear picture of what each venue is offering and do the calculations before booking an in-person visit. For instance, if the venue can provide all of your basic rentals, you can add that figure to the amount you can spend on the venue. Or, if a venue requires that you work with a certain caterer, you’ll want to contact that caterer for pricing and make sure they can work within your budget. Sometimes raw venues look cheaper in the beginning, but after running the numbers a full-service venue may actually cost the same or a little less!
(Photo by Les Loups)
Should you get married at a family home?
This is a question we’re asked all the time! While we love weddings at a family home, there are pros + cons to keep in mind. In the pro column, there’s nothing more personal than a backyard wedding! You may also have more flexibility when it comes to what time the event has to end and what vendors you can bring in (no required catering, here!). One con to keep in mind is the cost, which can be high as you may need to bring in things like tenting, extra power and bathrooms. Couples often think this is a “free” venue, but at the end of the day, a backyard wedding can cost almost as much, or more than a venue fee. Other things to keep in mind are that parking may be limited, your neighbors might be a concern, the property could suffer the wear and tear of a large event, and it may feel overwhelming for some people to have a large number of guests and vendors with access to their home.
(Photo by Heather Waraksa)
Always have your guests in mind!
This is one of our favorite mantras and it can’t be stated enough! You can probably list more than a few weddings that you’ve attended, where the guest experience was overlooked. Maybe it was that time you were left to fend for yourself during a 4-hour gap between the ceremony and the reception, or the time the nearest hotel was 30 minutes away and no transportation was provided. These are the details that can easily be overlooked when you get swept up in a venue that you’ve fallen in love with…but try to step back and pretend to be a guest! Things like bathrooms, shuttles, a shady spot to sit and a cool glass of water, can make ALL the difference for your guests. Make sure your venue can provide a comfortable experience for your guests, and if you need to fill in the gaps, get clear on what they are and what additional costs those may incur.
Grab our venue checklist + email template HERE, and let’s get to work finding that perfect venue, now!
Teissia + Alia
PS: Click here to catch up on the first three posts Teissia + Alia shared—a must for all you planning!