This is the next post in my wedding series. My first wedding series blog post was the wedding checklist, showing a timeline of what you should be planning and when. The first major thing will be picking a wedding venue. I’ve been to all types of weddings so just decide what you want overall i.e. destination, local, non-traditional location, etc.
We wanted a local venue because I wanted to get married in my church and it just made most sense for our family and friends. I contacted 18 places…this is going to be a long blog, so sit back and get comfy.
So yea, 18 venues…and that may seem insane, but then again, have you read this blog?! I contacted so many wedding venues because I wanted to understand all my options. Once a wedding venue didn’t fit the criteria we wanted, they were off the list. It became easy to whittle down the venues list based on my suggestions below. Also, I knew there would be some wedding venues that wouldn’t respond back to me. There were 3 places that completely ignored me. I guess they don’t like money….a**holes.
I contacted hotels, event halls, golf courses, two museums and a theatre. The prices varied, but below are the main details that helped narrow down our list and weed through the losers.
The Wedding Venue Itself
Pick a few dates that you’re interested in. We were fairly flexible. We wanted something mid-May to June but not on a long weekend. This made it easier to figure out what dates were available at my church and wedding reception venues. Anything that doesn’t fit in that range is off the list.
Have a general idea on the amount of people that you’re planning on inviting before contacting venues. Asking for quotes when you have no idea if it’s 50 or 250 will make you look like an unorganized dope #TrueSay. Make a rough estimate of what family, friends, acquaintances, and losers you don’t like but will be forced to invite for your guest list. Take into consideration that 10-20% will not attend. Cross off any venues that cannot accommodate your estimates.
Also, decide if you will have the ceremony and reception in one place like a heathen (lol) or a church/religious ceremony elsewhere? These both cost money. As mentioned, we got married in a church and had our wedding reception at a hotel.
What hours are available at the wedding venue? We wanted to have as long as a reception as we could so we had to pay additional to start earlier and end later, which was fine. Figure out your timeline and cross off those that don’t work.
I had a list of some special requests to Polish up the festivities and I knew if the wedding venue wouldn’t accommodate, they’d be axed. I wanted a vodka shot receiving line during cocktail hour, so when our guests arrived, they were greeted by our dads who would do a shot of vodka with them. It’s a Polish tradition and thought it was a great way to set the tone of the evening, which was having fun. Obviously our dads had shots of water because we would prefer that they lived past the cocktail hour.
I also made some changes to the menu and requested Polish food for the late night buffet. It was ruskie pierogi (farmers cheese and potato) and krokiety. It was so good that my friend Vanessa is doing the same for her wedding, and believe me, she likes good things.
Anyway, figure out what special requests you have and if you’re willing to throw money at the situation, most venues will accommodate. One venue would not make any changes to their menu so I said Bye Felicia and moved on to the next.
Food & Bevies
So what most people care about, food and booze. Some venues will only allow you to use their on-site catering, some the opposite. There was an event space that only would allow their shit in-house catering and even though it was a cool, new space, it was a pass for us. Most wedding venues won’t give you a tasting without actually signing a contract because as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Check their website and social media platforms for any photos.
We were able to further narrow down our list by viewing the menus, asking about changes/flexibility, and any additions like cocktail hour, midnight buffet, etc. It was also important to me to have Polish vodka and beer and not be charged an insane amount.
One place that looks like a communist ski lodge from the outside stated that the rubbing alcohol known as Smirnoff was their in-house vodka and that if we wanted the Polish one I wanted (that was of a similar price), we’d have to pay an additional $25 per bottle on top of the regular cost. It was so insane but that event coordinator such a disorganized doofus, I was happy to cross that shit hole off the list.
For the Vendors
Wedding venues provide/don’t provide a bunch of stuff and you need to know those before putting pen to paper. Does the venue provide any decorations such as centrepieces, draping, gift tables, or even an easel for the seating plan? Anything they can provide that you don’t have to worry about is extremely helpful. Our hotel supplied the table numbers which was one less thing I had to worry about. But of course, make sure they’re not ugly pieces of crap.
One big thing to ask is if linens are included in the price or are they extra? If so, do their available linen colour options match your theme?
If you’re still undecided about the *right* wedding venue, ask to visit their next scheduled wedding to check out the decor. Visit the space and be sure to ask what is included, what is not and ensure that is explicitly stated in the contract so you don’t have any surprises.
If you have a decorator or florist, loop them into the planning. I had an excellent decorator that was very knowledgeable and when I talked to her about the contract and what the hotel coordinator was suggesting, she provided a lot of valuable insight. She 100% had our backs rather than the hotel coordinator who was basically following what was convenient/cheapest for them.
Tell the venue upfront about your other vendors so that everyone is on the same page, like any live music, dj, the cake person, and the timelines for setup. Also tell them about your wedding party (or lack of) and MC.
Now Down to Brass Tacks…
The main reason we picked the wedding venue that we did was the value. We narrowed down the list to two hotels and picked the place where we received the best value. It wasn’t the cheapest nor was it the most expensive. Rather it ticked off all the items we wanted and for a fair price.
When you get the contract, you need to figure out what you’re actually paying. Does it include taxes, gratuities, and any other fees? If not, you need to understand the final cost. Do you get anything extra like a free night stay on the wedding night and/or a discounted room rate for your guests? This was important to us since we knew a lot of people would be staying at the hotel and if they’re making the trip down, we want them to get the best rate possible.
You also need to know what you’re on the hook for payment-wise. So in our case, we invited 120ish people but our contract stated 100 people. We were able to add more guests but our contract was for 100 and could have up to 10% people decline without being penalized. If we had 120 people in the contract, but less actually attending (less the 10% decline rate), then we would still have to pay for the difference. Find out the deadline for the final attendee number.
Finally, read the contract carefully. I printed a hard copy and reviewed it a few times. I circled anything that I didn’t like or had questions about. I wanted to ensure that we were able to do all the things we wanted to do. One specific thing I ensured was that there wasn’t anything about shots. Some places don’t want shots but I knew that both sides would want to partake and if we’re paying for an open bar, we didn’t want our guests being told no.
As Rick James says, It’s a celebration b*tches. I made sure there was no language in the contract but I didn’t say anything until we were in the final stages and signed the contract months earlier. I told the hotel coordinator about the vodka shot receiving line that we wanted (which was extra money but that was expected) but then when the hotel coordinator said they didn’t do shots otherwise, I let her know that there wasn’t anything in the contract about that and she dropped it.
One thing I didn’t ask but I wish I did was about non-drinkers. There were a few people that attended that don’t drink, yet the pricing didn’t change for them. I did get a discount on the underage teens (which I’m pretty sure they indulged anyway, but see the Rick James quote above). Also we had some kids under 12 that had cheaper meals since kids are picky af. I mean, why eat a steak when you can defrost some chicken tenders?!
In the end, my husband and I were really happy with the wedding venue. I know this was a giant blog post but I tried to be very thorough in scrutinizing all the wedding venues and provide as much information as I could to help my 10 blog readers. Plus, judging is a specialty of mine.