Our wedding venue, the George G. Golleher Alumni House at Cal State Fullerton
As both a former bride and current wedding coordinator, I can honestly say that finding a wedding venue is the typically the most difficult part of the wedding planning process. There are so many different things to consider when looking for a venue: location, amenities, capacity, preferred vendors, restrictions…it is a lot to take in and consider. Some tips on finding the perfect venue…
1. First, know your budget. Your venue is going to be one of your biggest wedding expenses. You should in no way shape or form begin looking for wedding venues if you have no idea how much you can spend. Also, keep in mind that many venues require you to book their vendors. Some of these vendors might charge more than you are willing to spend. Be armed with a comprehensive budget before you begin your search.
2. Know your guest count. This seems obvious, but I have had brides inquire about venues when they don’t know how many guests to expect. Of course, this number is a little flexible, but you don’t want to fall in love with a venue that holds 100 if you are inviting 250.
3. Think about the season. If you are planning on getting married in the fall or winter (or even spring, depending on where you are!), an indoor option is a must, even if it’s just a plan B. Even here in sunny So Cal, you always want to have a back-up plan in case there is yucky weather. Also, make sure you visit your venue during the season your wedding will take place (if possible). A garden is going to look a lot different in May then it will in October.
4. Take venue restrictions into consideration. Most venues have set hours you can use their space, which limits your time before the wedding to set up and after the wedding to clean up. Many venues have rules about amplified music. Some have rules about alcohol consumption. Some won’t let you throw rose petals down the aisle. These might seem like small details, but they can have an impact on your day—think about the restrictions carefully.
5. Read the fine print. A lot of venues seem inexpensive at first glance. But then they charge a deposit, cleaning fee, alcohol fee, insurance fee, security fee, etc. Some venues require you to hire a day-of coordinator. Before you know it, you’ve tacked on $1000 (or more) to the site rental fee.
6. If you’re on a budget (and aren’t we all) explore community centers, museums, state beaches, colleges/universities, and local parks. Many of these have gorgeous locations for much less than your typical hotel or banquet hall. My husband and I got married at the alumni house at his college (see above pics!). It was convenient, affordable, beautiful, and flexible (we even got to buy our own booze, which saved us MUCHO moola).
7. Many of your wedding planning decisions will be influenced by your venue, including your color scheme, theme and overall tone. You can’t have a black tie wedding on a sandy beach, just like you can’t have a modern city wedding on a horse farm. If you rent a ballroom with bright red carpet, pink flowers are probably not going to look super chic. If you have your heart set on colors, theme or feel, take those into consideration before booking your venue.
8. Ask questions. A lot of questions. Your venue is not only a big expense, it may determine many other important vendors like caterers and photographers. Most venues are happy to address any concerns you may have (and if they aren’t, you probably don’t want to get married there in the first place).
9. Feel free to try to negotiate. The worse that can happen is that the venue says no, but many places are willing to work with you. If you want to get married at a local museum or community center, offer to volunteer for a small discount. It doesn’t hurt to ask (just make sure you are asking and not demanding).
10. This may sound cheesy, but just like you knew you had found the right partner, you will know when you find the right venue. You will get that feeling in your gut that you found the place where you want to get married. Listen to that feeling!
Once you have found the perfect place, the fun stuff can begin! Be patient and thorough and you will end up with a venue that is the perfect fit for you and your partner.