Photo: Nathan Smith for Ira Lippke Studios
You've got the ring, picked the date and you've got a rough idea of your guest list headcount. Now it's time to figure out where you're getting married. (Hopefully, you already know if you're getting married in your hometown or having a destination wedding. That's important so you don't waste your time shopping venues all over creation.) Once you know where and when you're tying the knot, you can go on the wedding ceremony and reception venue hunt — but don't underestimate the challenge!
1. Make sure the venues you're considering can handle the size of your group.
Don't waste time if something will be a little snug — if more people accept your invitation than estimated, you could find yourself in a real pinch. Some venues will not allow any wiggle room on maximum capacity.
2. Find out whether the venue will charge you a fee for the space, or if you just have to hit a minimum on catering food and beverage.
Most event spaces will have a minimum amount you must spend in order not to pay for actually using the space. Sometimes that policy applies to members-only of clubs and such. Many fancy hotels will make you pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of using the space in addition to paying a couple of hundred dollars per person for the actual food and booze. Be clear on what's included, how much the additional service charges will be, and the minimum number of guests you must have for the venue to honor those prices.
See more: The Best Wedding Venues in the U.S.
3. Be clear on whether the venue will allow you to execute the wedding plan you have in mind.
Some venues don't permit activities after 10 p.m. or have other strict curfews or rules. If that's not the kind of party-scene you had envisioned, find another venue.
4. Find out what is included in your wedding package at the venue.
If you're simply renting a villa and paying an event fee, you're probably responsible for everything. That means tables, décor, linens, lighting, etc. It adds up. At a hotel venue, you have to find out if all of those things are included and what décor is provided in your package. You might think you've paid for it all and learn that you have nothing in the middle of your dinner tables.
5. Figure out alternate accommodations with a variety of price points for your guests if you've chosen a pricey hotel for your wedding location.
Not everyone can afford to stay in a multi-star hotel, so give them options that increase the likelihood they won't decline your wedding invitation.
Owner of Weddings in Vieques, a destination-wedding planning company off the coast of Puerto Rico, Sandy Malone has helped countless couples plan their big day since 2007.