Picking a venue for your event is a big deal. It’s expensive. It sets the tone. It’s the “meat” in the event sandwich, if you will. It’s also an incredibly overwhelming process. How can you possibly find a venue that A) you can afford, B) you actually like, C) is convenient for your guests, and D) isn’t already booked?
FIRST: Before you make any venue decisions, you need to make a draft budget. Don’t sign a contract with a venue, regardless of the price, only to realize down the line that you have no money left for that DJ you’ve been coveting.
SECOND: Prep yourself with a venue research spreadsheet—a place to track all of your research on venue ideas, so that you can organize it and then review it without losing your mind. Also figure out if you’re more of an all-inclusive couple or looking for a la carte options. This will help you narrow down your options further.
Your Cost: Once you’ve done your initial online research and have a healthy list of places you’re interested in, we recommend going back to the venues you like the most and giving yourself a VERY rough sense of what this venue will cost you. Things to consider: What it will cost for your size and timing of the event (for example, will you need to pay for an extra hour)? What extras are included (chairs and tables means cheaper rental costs down the line, free parking means no transportation needed)?
ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS TO PICK A WEDDING VENUE
- Can I afford this venue? (See what we did there? We mentioned budget again. ’Cause it’s important.) Don’t torture yourself and keep a R100 000 venue on your list when you can really only afford R20 000. It’s just going to break your soul and waste your time.
- Is this venue available on the date (or month, or time of year) that I want? Some venues have online calendars, others you can email for rough availability. And always double check their availability at the site visit.
- Does this venue’s capacity fit my estimated guest list? Sometimes venues stretch what’s possible in order to make themselves more attractive to all couples. One way to discreetly figure this out is to ask at the site visit: “What number of guests is most successful in this space?” Just because you can fit 150 people into a room, doesn’t mean you should.
- Does this venue’s layout/available space fit my needs? For example, if you’re doing ceremony, cocktails, and reception all in one venue, does it have three separate spaces for all of those events? If not, do they recommend a “flip?” The typical “flip” is changing the ceremony space into the reception space during cocktail hour, when guests are in another area. Flips are a great way to make a venue work for you. However, make sure they are done at the venue often, and ask how they are done: Where are the reception tables and decor stored? Does it require a space that is weather dependent (such as an outdoor space)? This is where you can recognize potential hidden costs and hidden issues. It’s also important to talk through the flow of the ceremony if you’re having one there. Where is the couple kept prior to processional? Are there multiple places if they don’t want to see each other beforehand? Where do people process from? Is there a typical ceremony layout or “altar?”
- Consider location. Are you okay with needing to provide transportation for guests from a hotel to your remote venue? Does the centrally located venue allow for guests to get themselves there via walking or public transportation? If everyone is driving, is there ample parking (paid or unpaid)? Again, transportation can be a fairly big line item on your budget if you’re bussing or shuttling people to and fro.
- Does this venue have any catering restrictions? Sometimes a venue makes you use one exclusive caterer (who is usually really expensive—and therefore means this venue pushes your budget too far). Other times you were dreaming of having your favorite Mexican restaurant cater your wedding, but this venue won’t allow non-traditional caterers—or they will, but at an additional cost.
- Does this venue fit your general vibe? This is a hard one to nail down, as it’s usually a gut feeling and completely depends on the type of wedding you’re hoping to have. If you’re looking for a casual barbecue wedding, a historic, marble-laden hall isn’t the best fit. Or a black tie barn wedding might not make those guests in stilettos and gowns very happy. I do recommend you stay open to possibilities until you do a site visit. I’ve had lots of clients think they want one thing, only to visit a venue and then switch gears altogether. This is also where you should consider decor. Is the venue naturally beautiful and impressive, so it doesn’t require additional lighting or pizzazz? Or is it a blank slate that will need uplighting to warm it up, and additional decor? Take a close look at those marketing photos the venue shows you online—often they have a TON of uplighting and draping to decorate the space. Make sure you’ve either made room in your budget for that, or that you prefer the space as-is.
- And finally, if you’re going the all-inclusive route, what does that really mean for you and your budget? ”
Now that you have made a short list of a few venues you are interested in and that suite your budget, you can make appointments for site visits. We do site visits weekly except on Sundays. Sometimes we make an exception to do site visits on Sundays if clients are in the area, or flying in or out.
We look forward to meet with you at the potential site visit and to start planning your special day to make it most memorable!
See you soon!
Franschhoek Wedding and events coordinator