With approximately 600 wedding venues for rent in the St. Louis metro area, couples have a ton of options to navigate through when choosing the best venue for their wedding. Before heading out for venue tours many couples will print off their list of questions from their wedding search sites. Before you head out, make sure that these seven questions are on that list but more importantly, understand WHY these seven questions are on the list.
MATCHING THE GUEST LIST
Have a very clear idea of the approximate guest count before looking for a venue. While you won't have the final count until weeks before your wedding, you do need to have an idea of the max amount of guests you want to invite and be firm with that number. If your max number is 250, it is important that you book a space that can easily hold that 250 and more. WAIT...But if 250 is my max, then why does the venue have to hold more? I am not saying that all venues fib about the max amount able to fit, but I will say that some venues have a very different idea on "comfortably fitting." There is nothing worse than having an elegant wedding planned only to realize at the reception that your guests are sitting butt to butt. Nothing says "classy" like having servers give lap dances to guests to get around the table. Seriously, I have seen it! :-O
1. How many guests can comfortably be seated in the space for a sit-down dinner with a dance floor and stage for a band, or table for a DJ? Many times the number you see posted on a website or brochure is referring to a cocktail style event with people standing. Make sure that you tell them that you will have a dance floor and room for a stage for a band or table for a DJ.
2. Can we see sample floor plans of receptions with our max guest count? This will allow you to see how the space has been set up for past events. You will also be able to see if the tables are spaced enough for guests to easily move about the venue. If the tables appear close together on a floor plan, ask them what the scale is, or if they can show with a 2'x2' grid. Most venues should be able to give you a scaled floor plan of the room. If they cannot, or don't have the demensions, you might want to consider hiring a designer or planner to help you lay out the space, or moving on to another venue.
HOW YOU WANT TO USE THE SPACE
Are you planning on having your ceremony at the same venue? If so, is there another room where the ceremony can be setup and then transition to the reception space? There are several benefits of having a ceremony at the same venue as the reception, including ease for guest arrival, especially those from out of town who may not know the area well. At large venues that offer several options for the ceremony location within the venue, the couple can have all the benefits of one wedding venue, but still have a dedicated ceremony and reception space. This makes the day feel polished as guests move from one finished space into another. In some cases the venue may be wonderful, but lacks a separate space. In these cases a "room flip" might be necessary. When done correctly a room flip can be extremely fast and not overly obtrusive to the guests, but it is something to ask prior to booking the location to avoid any miscommunication.
Questions to ask
3. Do you have a separate ceremony space? If so, will it seat my max guest count plus any musicians and decor?
4. If you don't have a separate space, how many staff will "flip" the room? How long does the "flip" typically take? Is there a lobby or another space for guests to go during the "flip?"
It is important to know how long you have the space for the day. You want to make sure your vendors have enough time to deliver and set up prior to the event. Anything less than two-hours prior will cause potential logistic issues, limit the amount of decor your can use or cost premium for vendors to bring in extra staff to beat the time crunch.
Questions to ask
5. How many hours do we have access to the space? Sometimes venues can offer additional set up time if the venue is not rented earlier in the day, but typically they cannot guarantee this until 3-4 weeks prior. In this situation, it is best to assume that the space is not available until you find out it is. Vendors can rearrange to allocate for more time, but last minute time crunches can be costly for you.
6. Can items be dropped off and stored prior to the day? Sometimes venue have storage space and will allow you to drop off personal items (guestbooks, pictures, etc.) to be left early so you aren't lugging items from home on the wedding day. If they don't have the space, often times your wedding coordinator will take your items prior to the day and bring them to the venue to set them up on your behalf.
7. Can we store items at the end of the night? Many couples assume that a venue will allow them to leave the reception at the end of the night and return the next day to pick up their decor and rental items. Nine times out of ten, this is NOT the case. Most venues will require you to have your decor and rentals taken with you at the end of the night. Not asking this question will cost you dearly in "late-night rental pickup" fees or annoyed family members who are smashed in their cars with your totes of decor. Plan early for who will take which items and remember to remind them of their task. Tired and/or drunk family members will often forget their duties and leave your items behind. You don't want to arrive home from a wonderful night only to discover that your mom's heirloom cake knife was never picked up.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I hope it has given you some new things to think about. Many of the questions in this blog will already be addressed if you have a wedding planner. If you have already book the space and need help managing these issues or anything else that might come up, a wedding coordinator can help you manage those logistical details you overlooked when planning. Remember, no one ever said "My wedding was just too organized and smooth." ;-)
Photo Courtesy of Something Bleu Photography and Overlook Farms.