When I was planning our wedding, I found it pretty challenging to find resources that fit my planning needs. Many wedding blog photos were of weddings clearly out of my budget range and the budget wedding resources were pretty unrealistic for me. Suggestions like don’t serve alcohol, or get married on a Friday on a family farm in rural *insert state here* just weren’t options for us. I needed a “how to plan a pretty Saturday wedding on a reasonable budget (without room to go over) for the young professional who has a life outside of planning her wedding”. Turns out, that doesn’t really exist. Or at least, I couldn’t find it. So I’ve decided to write it myself. I’ll share over a few posts advice for planning, saving money, and general advice I gathered along the way. If you have any specific questions -- let me know!
First up: finding your venue.
As many of you know, I’m an event manager professionally so it’s probably not a surprise that I found wedding planning actually really enjoyable. The hardest and most stressful part of wedding planning was securing a venue. In fact, I only cried once throughout the whole planning process and it was while I was trying to find a venue. That being said, once the venue is booked, everything else just falls into place.
To search for and narrow down venues, I used Here Comes the Guide to get a general sense of prices. Hardly any venues list the price on their website so you spend a ton of time sending out requests for info. Here Comes the Guide helped me rule out places out of budget immediately. I also learned the hard way that venues in the Bay Area book up fast. I looked for my venue in late August/early September 2015 and some places were already booking for spring 2017. So my advice is two fold: take some time off to enjoy the newly engaged phase (it is so special!) but be ready to hit the ground running once you’re ready to plan if you’re planning a year out.
\\ DOES IT COME WITH A DAY OF COORDINATOR? IF NOT, IS ONE REQUIRED?
Having a day of coordinator is hugely helpful but also an added cost. Our venue came with a day of coordinator and I saw other venues that required one. I even saw a few venues that required a coordinator to have certain certifications which may limit your ability to hire whoever you work best with.
\\ WILL THE VENUE HAVE ANY OTHER WEDDINGS THAT WEEKEND?
Some places have weddings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I knew that I wanted to have the complete attention of my venue and I also wanted to be sure I wasn’t competing for time with another wedding. Our venue only has one wedding per weekend which ensured we were able to have our rehearsal on Friday as well as have access to the venue all day on Saturday. We arrived for hair and make up at 9am!
\\ WHAT DOES THE VENUE FEE INCLUDE?
Find out exactly what the fee includes. Some venue fees are only for the space itself; other fees include tables, chairs, linens, staff, etc. If the fee includes table and chairs, find out how many of each size. You will want to factor in the cost of renting and delivering tables/chairs (if needed) into your budget.
\\ HOW MANY HOURS ARE INCLUDED IN THE RENTAL FEE?
Find out how much time is allotted for the actual ceremony and for your reception.You should also find out how much time you have for set up as well as clean up. You may want to have a late night dance party or arrive early to set up yourself. Either way, the number of hours total is important.
\\ ARE THERE NOISE RESTRICTIONS?
Some outdoor venues have restrictions on how loud amplified noise can be played so if you want to dance all night under the stars, make sure the venue will allow your DJ to keep playing.
\\ CAN YOU BRING IN YOUR OWN ALCOHOL? IF SO, IS THERE A CORKAGE FEE?
Bringing your own alcohol is a huge cost saver. Seriously, it is probably the easiest way to save a significant amount of money. We saw a few places that offered packages that included an open bar for a cost per person which seems tempting but it is a lot cheaper to pay based on consumption. A $30 open bar may seem like a steal for you and your friends, but is your grandpa really going to drink $30 worth of booze? That being said, it is only a cost saver if there isn’t a corkage fee so be sure to double check!
While we’re on the subject of alcohol, can the venue serve liquor (if that's important to you)? Not all venues have spirit licenses so if you want to have liquor at your wedding, be sure to ask about the license available. Some venues will allow you to have a signature cocktail rather than a full bar.
\\ ARE THERE PREFERRED OR REQUIRED VENDORS?
This is a big one, guys. Preferred vendors are great because they presumably know the space well and you won’t have to worry about managing them much on the day of. Required vendors are another thing. It wasn’t a deal breaker to me, but you should know if there are any required vendors in case you have your heart set on another vendor. If the venue does have a required vendor (most often this is a catering vendor), be sure to sign an agreement with that vendor before signing with the venue. Once you've signed with the venue, you will lose a lot of leverage in negotiating contracts because you have to use the required vendor. The eternal optimist in me doesn’t think vendors are looking to price gouge you but negotiating contracts (especially catering contracts) is an easy ways to trim costs. So you don’t want to limit your ability to do so because you’ve signed a contract with the venue and therefore must accept the required vendor’s terms.
Do you have any specific questions about finding venues? We loved our venue Las Positas Vineyards but also looked at a ton of other Bay Area venues so if you have any questions -- fire away!