Your wedding date, your décor, your catering — they all depend on the space. To find yours, consider meaningful locations (have a favorite hotel or art museum?), like the best wedding venues in the U.S. or the most romantic spots to tie the knot around the world, as well as places and spaces to which you have emotional ties. When you've narrowed down some options and are ready to tour reception sites, keep these expert piece of advice, from planner Claire Bean, of Claire Bean Events, in mind.
1. Never visit more than three wedding venues in one day.
Or you'll experience sensory overload!
2. If you're having a religious ceremony, first reserve your house of worship.
Many have set ceremony times, which will dictate when your reception can start.
3. Exclude any place, however dreamy, that doesn't accommodate your head count.
Don't gamble on RSVPs lowering the final number. It never works!
4. Make a list of nonnegotiables.
Like, say, outdoor space — and avoid touring places that don't tick those boxes, advises Bean. Otherwise you risk falling in love and having to change your plans to make it work.
5. If the majority of your friends and family are traveling, consider a central location.
A remote estate that's a four-hour drive from the airport can be tough for guests.
6. Hotels sometimes book more than one wedding per weekend.
Be sure to ask about overlapping events and how that could affect your bash.
7. Find out how the venue handles catering.
Is it done on site? If so, can you customize the menu? If not, can you hire anyone you like, or do you have to pick from a list of approved vendors? If you're a foodie, ask about the venue's tasting policy. You might be able to sample the cuisine for a fee that gets credited back if you book there; if not, seek out referrals from past clients.
8. Do you want to party all night long?
Many venues (especially those in residential areas) have a curfew or a maximum decibel level for music. Check before you book.
9. Is your dream venue really on budget?
Before you sign that contract, make sure there aren't any hidden costs that will push you over your limit.
10. Is the site fee all-inclusive?
If not, you may have to shell out big-time for rentals (tables, chairs, china, flatware, et cetera). Ask if the total accounts for state tax and gratuity (known as a "plus plus").
11. If your ceremony is on site, you may be charged twice for setup.
Some venues double the fees for reception and ceremony prep, even if it's just to lay out chairs.
12. How much time is allowed for setup and tear down?
An hour of overtime can cost $1,000, according to Bean.
13. Check the power needs for a DJ or band.
If the site's supply isn't sufficient, you may have to rent a generator.
14. Will you need additional lighting?
15. Confirm the valet and security policy.
Venues can charge between $5 and $25 per car, while others tack on a flat fee, which could be several hundred dollars. (And don't forget tips — about $40 to $60 per attendant.)
16. Are there bathrooms there, or do you need to rent them?
Now, this is one you don't want to overlook!