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What to consider when choosing your wedding location
Location, location, location. Think that mantra applies only to a house purchase? Think again. The average couple spends approximately 45 to 50 per cent of their wedding budget on their wedding venue and catering, so you want to make sure that you get it right.
In launching your search for the perfect wedding location you need to address a number of key questions:
Ask yourselves how far the most important people in your life will have to travel to attend your wedding and whether the location you want will work for them.
Are you looking at a small intimate wedding or do you need a location large enough to accommodate 300 people?
Do you want an indoor or outdoor ceremony and reception — or both? What about time of day? An evening outdoor ceremony may not work if there is not sufficient lighting available.
Does the venue provide sufficient accessibility for all your wedding guests?
Keep in mind that some venues that look great in winter do not look quite so stunning in summer. Which location will look great for your wedding season?
Is there some place that is not a traditional wedding venue but that holds a special place in your heart? If so, weigh the cost and time demands of holding your wedding in a unique locale against one that focuses on weddings. It might be well worth the extra bit of planning!
Answering these questions will automatically help to narrow your list of appropriate venues.
Quality, quantity or both?
Take a look at your budget to determine how much you can spend on a venue. Be sure to consider what each location provides. A seemingly inexpensive venue option may not be quite so cost efficient if you have to provide food, servers, tables, linens, etc., when compared to a venue with a higher fee but that provides such items as part of its package. If you want the high-end reception venue but you have a low-end budget, you will need to keep the numbers on your guest list in check.
If you want to have your ceremony at the same place as your reception, make sure this is permitted and that any licenses are arranged will in advance of the wedding day.
Find out whether the venue provides food or whether you need to bring in a caterer. If the meals must be provided by the venue, make sure they can accommodate any special food requirements your guests may have, including those who are diabetic, vegetarian vegan or who adhere to a particular diet due to their religious affiliations. Be sure to make an appointment to sample the menu so you know the quality of the food you are paying for.
Find out if there are accommodations available in the facility or nearby for out-of-town guests and reserve a block of rooms. This will help to ensure your guests are able to get a room. Be sure to negotiate a reduced rate for your guests; after all, the hotel will be benefitting from multiple reservations thanks to your wedding.
Most venues suggest booking at least a year and a half in advance, especially for Saturdays in the summer, and long weekends. A deposit is usually required at the time of booking with the remainder of fees paid before the wedding, save for any day-of costs such as a bar tab or dinner for unexpected guests. Keep in mind that venues often offer a discount for bookings that occur on non high-demand days, so you may want to consider booking a weekday wedding reception.
Be sure to carefully read your contract regarding decorating your venue. The use of such things as nails and thumbtacks or anything that can damage walls or ceilings, can often result in a steep damage fee on your final bill.
Be sure to visit all the venues that make it onto your shortlist. Some venues even offer wedding planners, so if you are thinking of using the help of an in-house planner, be sure to meet up with them on your scheduled visiting day to find out what services they and the venue provide.
Point of contact
If you don’t have a wedding planner, make sure you have a designated contact for the venue and find out if they will be available the day of the event. If they are not available that day, ensure that you will instead have an experienced event coordinator assigned to you for the duration.
Back up plans
Be sure to plan for the unexpected. Is there an indoor location for the ceremony and reception if the weather does not cooperate, or are arrangements for tents possible? Try to think of some worst case scenarios and plan accordingly.
The fine print
Always read the fine print with any venue you are considering. Some venues will not allow you to bring in your own photographer, audiovisual equipment, entertainment, etc. Instead, you must choose from its list of approved vendors.
Many couples do not realize there are many extra fees charged at venues. Be aware that most locations charge service or gratuity fees, corkage fees for your homemade wines, and plating fees for the serving of your wedding cake , even if you have provided it.
Get everything in writing and track all telephone calls and emails so you can refer back to them at any given time. Be sure to read and rerread and sign the necessary contracts in good time to ensure that your big day will be all that you want it to be.
Have a great day!
Take your time, ask a lot of questions, budget accordingly, and read the fine print. Oh, and have a wonderful wedding!
Source: Ottawa Wedding Magazine files.
- This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2013 edition of Ottawa Wedding Magazine.