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Before embarking on a full-fledged wedding venue search, it’s a good idea to figure out what kind of celebration you want and to establish your selection criteria early on. Here are some fundamentals:
The Geographical Location of Your Venue
For many couples, it’s critical that the venue they choose is easily accessible to the majority of their guests. However, whether you’re planning a local event or a destination wedding in another city, state, or country, you must consider the logistics of getting everyone to your event site.
Driving and Traffic Considerations
Guests may be driving a long distance to your wedding location. Sure, they can use Google Maps or another navigation tool to get directions to your venue, but those resources aren’t always 100 percent reliable. Given the possibility of freeway system confusion and traffic congestion, providing specific directions on a separate map drawn to scale, along with the invitation, will save your guests a lot of time and trouble.
Include direction symbols (north, south, etc.) as well as the names of the appropriate off-ramps. If you’re unsure about any exits, landmarks, or street names, do a dry run to ensure that everything on your map is accurate and easy to follow. If your event is after dark, take the test drive at night to identify well-lit landmarks that will keep your guests from getting lost on their way to and from your event.
If you’re planning a Friday evening event, keep commuters in mind, especially if your event site is in a congested area. One option is to plan your gathering after 7 p.m., when freeways are less congested.
Even if you have few constraints when choosing a location, it is still worthwhile to consider the total driving time to and from your destination. When it’s more than two hours, an overnight stay may be required, and you may be limited to a Saturday night event because your loved ones won’t be able to spend hours on the road during the week. If you’ll need lodging for some of your guests during your celebration, be sure to read the Guest Accommodations/Room Blocks section for ideas and information. If you have guests arriving by plane, having an airport nearby is very convenient, and if your coworkers, friends, or family enjoy drinking, try to house them close to the event site.
There’s no reason why you can’t plan a special event in an out-of-the-way location. Just keep in mind that if you’re planning a non-local wedding, an on-site coordinator or a wedding planner can be extremely helpful: Many have prior experience managing destination events and can be a valuable asset.
Do you have an idea of what kind of event you want? Is it going to be formal or informal? Is it better to have a traditional wedding or a modern, innovative party? Is it going to be held at night or during the day? Is it better to be inside or outside? Is a garden ceremony or gourmet cuisine a deal breaker? You can really narrow your search by identifying the geographical area and the most important elements of your dream wedding before you start looking for a venue.
Count of Guests
How many people are expected? Many venues will ask for a rough estimate 60–90 days in advance of your event, and they will require a deposit based on the figure you provide. Typically, a confirmed guest count or guarantee is required 72 hours before the event.
It’s critical to have a firm estimate of your guest list early on in order to plan your budget and choose the best ceremony or reception location.
It is also critical to ensure that the guest count provided to the facility prior to your event does not change during your event. Believe it or not, your reception may have more guests than you anticipated. How? Some people who did not RSVP may decide to show up anyway. In one case we know of, the bride’s parents were charged an additional $1,200 on the event day because there were 30 “surprise” guests who were wined and dined in addition to the guaranteed guest count.
To avoid this happening to you, it’s a good idea to contact everyone who did not RSVP, especially if you’re having a large reception where it’s difficult to keep track of all the guests. Inform them as politely as possible that you will need their response by a certain date in order to finalise food and beverage totals.
The Weather Influence
The weather can be a major consideration, especially if you plan to hold part or all of your event outside. It’s great to celebrate under clear skies, but keep an eye on the temperature when it rises in the inland areas. A canopy or tables with umbrellas are required for sun protection. In fact, you should inquire with each facility manager about the sun’s direction and intensity in relation to the time of day and month of your event. During a ceremony, guests will be uncomfortable facing the sun, and white walls and enclosed areas will bounce light around and trap heat. If your event is scheduled for midday in July, make a note on your location map to bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. It will help guests know how to dress if you include words like “poolside,” “yacht deck,” or “lawn seating” on the map. In the summer, an evening celebration may be preferable to a midday celebration.
Not only is the air cooler, but you may also be treated to a spectacular sunset.
If you’re planning an outdoor party when the weather is unpredictable and could turn cold or wet, have a backup plan in place: it’s a good idea to have access to an indoor space or a tent.
There are times when places have strict rules and regulations. If the majority of your guests smoke, choose a venue that does not prohibit smoking. If alcohol will be consumed, ensure that it is permitted and that bar service is licenced. If dancing and a big band are essential, then limit yourself to venues that can accommodate them and the associated decibels.
Do you have any children, seniors or disabled guests, vegetarians or kosher food eaters on your guest list? If this is the case, you must plan for them as well. Before you sign a contract, you must identify the special factors that are important for your event.
Choosing a Date for Your Event
Let’s say you’re looking for the perfect venue on the first day, and the second place you see is an enchanting garden that happens to be available on the date you want. You like it a lot, but because you’ve only seen two locations, you’re not sure if this is the right place for you. Not a problem. You make a tentative reservation to keep your options open.
Congratulations, says the site coordinator as she pencils your name into her schedule book. You say, “Thank you,” and we say, “We have a few more places (like 25) to check out, but this one looks fantastic.” Then you go, knowing that if none of the other places you visit work out, you still have this lovely garden to look forward to.
The nightmare begins a few weeks, if not months, later when you’ve finished your comparison shopping and call the first place you liked to finalise the details. I’m so sorry, says the coordinator.
We gave away your date because a) one of the other gals who works here accidentally erased your name (after all, it was only pencilled in), b) we didn’t hear back from you quickly enough, or c) you never confirmed your reservation with a deposit. You can also check out travel company in Jaipur
For a brief moment, you imagine yourself inflicting bodily harm on the coordinator or slapping the facility with a lawsuit, but there’s not much you can do. You’re out of luck, whether it was a genuine mistake or the facility purposefully gave your date to another, possibly more lucrative party (this happens sometimes with hotels who’d rather book a big convention on your date than a small wedding).
Here’s what we recommend to avoid the pain (and subsequent panic) of being bumped: Instead of simply pencilling in a date, ask if you can write a refundable $100–250 check to hold the date for a limited time. If the person in charge is willing to do this but requires the full deposit up front (which is usually nonrefundable), you’ll need to decide whether you can afford to lose the entire amount if a more appealing location becomes available later. When the coordinator or salesperson accepts your money, you become more difficult to bump. Make sure you receive a receipt that includes the event date, year, time, and space(s) reserved, as well as the date your tentative reservation expires.Then, just to be safe, check in with the facility once a week while you’re looking at other options to avoid any potential “mistakes.” When you finally decide on a location, get a signed contract or at the very least a confirmation letter. If you haven’t received written confirmation within a week, pester the coordinator until you do, even if it means driving to the sales office and standing there until they hand it over. Even after you’ve paid your deposit and received a letter and/or contract confirming your reservation, call the coordinator every other month to reconfirm your reservation. It pays to stay on top of this, no matter how firmly entrenched you believe you are.
Parking is rarely an issue if you get married outside of an urban area, but if you’re planning a party in a parking-constrained area like downtown Los Angeles or New York City, make sure you know how it will be handled.
A map is a useful addition to any invitation, and there is usually enough space on it to indicate how and where vehicles should be parked. Depending on the location, you may want to include a note suggesting carpooling or mentioning the availability of a shuttle service or valet parking. If there is a parking fee, determine the expected cost per car and the locations of the nearest parking lots.
The last thing you want are surprised and disgruntled guests who can’t find a parking spot or are surprised by the $20–40 parking fee.
If you’re a busy person with little time to plan and execute a party, choose a venue that provides full coordination services, from catering to flowers to decorations and music. Or, even better, hire a professional event or wedding planner. In either case, having someone else handle the details will make your life much easier. And, in many cases, the relationships these professionals have with vendors can result in you saving money as well.
Quality of Food and Alcohol
Food and alcohol consume the majority of an event’s budget; thus, food and beverage selections are critical. Given the amount of money you’ll spend on this category alone, you should be concerned about the type, quantity, and quality of food and drink you consume. If in-house catering is available, we recommend that you sample different menu options before making a facility deposit. If you want to see how a venue handles food setup and presentation, ask the caterer to arrange a visit to someone else’s party about a half hour before it begins. It’s a good idea to sample wines and beers ahead of time, and to be very specific about hard alcohol selections.