My friend, Carlotta, suggested that I write about my wedding experience to help others who will eventually go through the same struggles I am facing. So, here I am. I think, at least so far, that finding a venue has been the most stressful part of planning this wedding. I gave myself a month to 6 weeks to find a venue, and luckily I accomplished this goal. Here are my tips, I hope they help.
What to consider when looking for a venue:
1. While many people said that less people are booking weddings a year in advance (and more so 9 months in advance), I found that several dates were already booked for a year from now. I would suggest searching for a venue ASAP when you figure out the month or date you want to get married on. I did not care what day I was married on, as long as it was in April/Spring so it made it easier for me to find venues.
2. If you are Catholic, you pretty much have no chance at having an outdoor Catholic wedding. You have to get written permission from the bishop of your Diocese…. and that could take months. So good luck with that. I opted, after talking with a few friends, to have a church wedding for just our immediate families. This way, our marriage would be blessed, and I could have the outdoor wedding I wanted as well. Make sure you schedule an appointment to meet with your priest/pastor early because you will probably have to take classes and jump through some hoops to lock in your date 🙂
3. Having your ceremony and reception at the same place is a lot easier, but you will probably pay more money for it. I am having the ceremony and reception at two different places, but am saving around $1,000 to $1,500 dollars this way. Some places only offer one or the other anyway.
4. If you plan out a budget ahead of time, be prepared to go over it. Yes, you can stick to it, but only if you’re willing to make sacrifices. I planned on a 7,000 to 8,000 dollar wedding… and that definitely isn’t happening because I would have to sacrifice food, a spectacular cake (Rossmoor Pastries anyone?), and a great dress to stay in my budget. You only get married once, and I figure I worked hard for my money and want to spend it this way. If you are willing to sacrifice though, all the more power to you.
When looking for a venue:
1. To look for venues, Google and friend recommendations really are your best bets.
Check out these two websites: theknot.com (make an account), herecomestheguide.com, and weddingspot.com
Also, if you are on a budget, check out gardens and arboretums at local universities, as well as city and state parks, community centers, and nature centers. These options are usually a little bit cheaper than the places listed on the above two sites. Golf clubs and hotels, for the most part, will be costly. One of my best friend’s, Laura, found my ceremony site and told me about it. So also make sure to ask friends for suggestions.
I probably spent 20 to 30 hours searching for venues, so be prepared. It will be frustrating, and it will take time.
2. Food: if you select a venue with byo catering, there are many affordable options. I found a place that offered meals for as little as $15 per person (I live in SoCal so don’t go cray on me if you think that’s outrageous). If you must byo alcohol, be aware that you will probably need to get a city permit, and may even need to hire a licensed bartender.
How to contact venues:
1. I do not like talking on the phone and the only time I did call a venue, it was a waste of time and the person talked for way too long. So, I suggest emailing the venues (if you have the time to wait) and waiting for a reply about their pricing and policies. They will send you a menu with pricing, and many will send you their rules or a sample contract. Some places reply within a day, some within 2 weeks, so keep track of who you contact.
2. You really need to contact venues because most of them list very little about their services online. In addition, setting up and going on a tour of the venue really brings things into perspective, as most venues are willing to compromise and personalize packages to get your business when you meet with them. You just need to ask.
3. After you email the venues and decide on some that you like, you should set up a meeting and visit their facilities. Bring a list of questions with you, and make sure you get the same amenities at each place for better price comparisons. I visited about 5 to 7 places before I decided on my venue.
I hope I covered everything! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!