From the Desk of Desirae: Picking Your Venue

Choosing your venue is one of the first big decisions you will make while planning your wedding. For this post I’m going to share my experience and the top tips I give when looking for a venue.

My fiancé and I decided to get married in our hometown of Flagstaff, AZ – it made sense after all, that’s where we grew up and met. However, finding a venue was more difficult than I had hoped it would be. When we were first looking we had some specific criteria: we wanted it to be outside, with a weather back-up, and we didn’t want it to be too far from hotels. This seemed like it would be easy! But then things got a little more difficult.

The first venue was too small and too far from town.

The second venue couldn’t provide an outside space.

The third venue was too… rustic.

Five venues later, we found what we thought would be THE PERFECT VENUE. We were so excited and planned a weekend to go up and see it – we were ready to sign a contract! When we met with the sales woman of the brand new venue, not only did she seem less than thrilled to be giving us a tour, she didn’t seem to want to answer our questions. The venue was offering an “All-Inclusive” package that included the ceremony space, tented reception, food, décor, flowers, and linens. Throughout our conversation a few red flags popped up: 1. She wouldn’t give us a discount if we weren’t using the ceremony space. 2. We couldn’t bring in outside florals (That’s not a real rule anywhere else!). 3. She wouldn’t say where she rented the tent or the linens. And 4. She wouldn’t break down the All-Inclusive cost. Needless to say, I was UNHAPPY.

In the end it worked out, we re-thought our plans and are ending up with a venue that is perfect for us, even though it is nowhere near what we thought we wanted!

Here are my top tips:

  1. Ask a lot of questions. If your sales person is withholding information, that is a huge red flag. Why won’t they tell you? What else aren’t they telling you? Any great venue should be willing to answer all of your questions.
  2. You should get a warm-fuzzy feeling from your venue staff. They will be a big part of your day – they should be excited for you!
  3. Look at the bathrooms. I know this sounds silly, but a gross bathroom can ruin a guest’s experience.
  4. Shop Around. Even if you have a venue you love, look at a few others to compare what others are offering and how the price compares.
  5. Ask about catering. Do you have to use their in-house caterer? If so, see if you can do a tasting before you sign the venue contract. After all, wouldn’t you taste the caterer’s food before signing a contract with them directly?
  6. Ask about timing. How long do you have the space? Are you the only event in the space? When can you get there to set up?
  7. What’s included? Are tables, chairs, and linens provided? Do they provide staffing to help with the wedding or will they just have someone onsite (remember, that may mean they sit in their office all night)?
  8. What if the wedding lasts longer than expected? Does that impact pricing?
  9. Is there a limit to how late you can play music?
  10. Are bar services provided in-house? Ask about drink packages vs. drinks on consumption. The packages are usually much more affordable and in the case of some venues you can bring in your own liquor which can be very favorable!

Don’t be overwhelmed and don’t feel like you are asking too many questions – these are important things for you to know. You should love your venue!

Happy venue hunting!