Choosing a wedding venue (and date) is one of the first to-dos engaged couples check off their list. After all, what's a wedding without a spot to have it in? While choosing the wedding venue is definitely an important planning task, it shouldn't be a decision you make quickly in order to move on to the next task; selecting the right spot to say "I do" requires careful attention to detail to ensure that the rest of your planning goes smoothly. "Your venue will be the backdrop for all of your wedding photos, and it will be where your family and friends join together to celebrate your big day," says Lauren Chitwood, wedding and corporate event planner and owner of Lauren Chitwood Events. "That's why, when deciding on your venue, it's important to have an idea of what kind of guest experience you want and need to have." For starters, wedding planners recommend avoiding these all-too-common wedding venue mistakes.
Not making an appointment beforehand.
To the type A brides- and grooms-to-be, this might sound silly, but, believe it or not, plenty of folks think it's fine to show up to a potential venue without a tour or appointment on the books. "Without one, the correct salesperson may not be available to answer all of your wedding-specific questions, take you on a tour of the premises and help you envision your wedding day," says Lindsey Nickel, wedding planner and owner of Lovely Day Events. Her recommendation: Do your research about venues you want to see and make appointments to meet with the wedding salesperson.
Waiting to create the guest list until after the venue is booked.
It might seem like you have plenty of time to create a wedding guest list, but you'll actually want to have a rough idea of who you'd like to invite (or at least how many people) before you book your venue. "No one wants to attend a wedding crammed with people to the point where they can barely move, or, worse, booking a venue that has a cap and having to cut down on important people to accommodate it!" says Chitwood.
Spending more than you budgeted for.
It happens all too often—you find the wedding venue of your dreams and it far exceeds what you originally said you wanted (or realistically should) spend. "To consider the true cost of a venue, couples need to understand not only the topline venue rental fee, but also the food and beverage minimum (if catering is managed in house), service fees, taxes, and gratuity," says Lindsey Sachs, a wedding planner and owner of COLLECTIVE/by Sachs. "When all costs are added together, the investment can quickly exceed budget forcing many couples to overspend." She suggests asking the venue manager for a detailed cost estimate based on your guest count, desired meal type (plated, buffet, stations, etc.), alcohol, and all fees ahead of time. "This estimate will provide you with a helpful reference point to compare against your budget," she says.
Neglecting the importance of nearby accommodations.
Prior to signing on the dotted line, Sachs recommends scouting out the accessibility and availability of nearby guest accommodations. "For any guests travelling from out of state or out of town, couples can increase the likeliness of a 'yes' RSVP from those guests if their accommodations are taken into consideration," she says. "Many venues are incredible, yet may be off the beaten path, so it's important to know what you're getting yourselves (and your guests) into before committing to a venue."
Not having a weather backup plan.
No one wants to picture pouring rain or a snowstorm on their wedding day, but the weather is one aspect of your big day that will be totally out of your control. That's why experts recommend establishing a weather backup plan no matter your destination or time of year. "Outdoor space is lovely, but think about all of what is included in the cost. Will you need to rent a tent due to rain? Heaters for the cold? Fans for the heat?" asks Claudia Casanova, wedding planner at One Darling Day. "These extra costs add up quick so be sure to ask the venue rep for a list of what is included and add a section on your budget for these potential costs," she says.