One of the first questions people will ask you, after "How did he propose?" and "When is the wedding?", is "Where will it be?". The venue you choose will determine a lot about your celebration, from the style and formality to how much you'll spend on things like rentals and decor. You might have dreamed of a charming Southern plantation, a sprawling California vineyard, or an industrial urban loft, and narrowing down to the best options can be a daunting task. There's so much to consider: What is included in the rental? Are there additional costs involved? How much will you need to budget to decorate it the way you'd like? Every bride wants to strike that balance between "dream venue" and "great deal," so we asked an expert, lead planner and creative director Taylor Walkowicz of Kelly Karli Weddings and Events, to break down what you should keep an eye out for while you're figuring out where to have your wedding.
Keep the location in mind.
While the venue you've fallen in love with may be lovely in and of itself, don't forget to consider where the venue is actually located — and how your guests will get there. "Transportation is an added cost that most couples don't think about while they're picking a venue," says Walkowicz. "You need to consider how the logistics will be handled. Will it be a huge hassle for guests to get there? Is there parking available? Or will booking shuttles add transportation times to your schedule and a hefty amount to your bottom line?"
Ask about what is included...
"Most venue rentals should include the standard items they showcase in their venue on a daily basis," explains Walkowicz. "For example, if they have lawn games set up during your tour, or a furnished lounge area by the entrance, you should be able to use those items on your wedding day." Other basics, like chairs, tables, flooring, staging, linens, tableware, flatware, and glassware, should be included in a standard rental (with the ability for you to rent upgraded versions to fit your vision). If a venue is a complete blank canvas and requires that you rent any and all items, basic and otherwise, you'll be adding a lot to your costs.
...And what isn't.
The portfolios and images you're looking at will usually feature the most highly designed events the venue has hosted, which means a big part of what transformed the space is rentals, not items the venue has in their own inventory. "You may see gorgeous chairs in all of the pictures you've spotted on Pinterest, then later find out that the chairs don't belong to the venue. Make sure to ask about what they do have in their inventory, what they can offer at an additional price, and what you'll have to rent on your own," Walkowicz explains.
Understand the add-ons.
Venues often have a standard set of items (like linens and flatware) that are included in the rental fee, as well as a nicer set that you can use for an additional fee. Be aware of what you're offered, what the costs are, and what you might need to bring in yourself — and don't be afraid to explore other options and find out if renting prettier linens from an outside company could come in at a lower price.
Familiarize yourself with the fees.
Proposals can be covered in "++" notations, which can really up your cost by the time all things are considered. "Those '++' marks are for service fees, facility fees, labor and gratuity fees... the list goes on. Don't stop reading the proposal halfway through. Be sure to get a look at the overall cost, including those fees, to find out if the venue is really in your budget," says Walkowicz.
Get to know the logistics.
While stunning views or a picture-perfect ballroom may be what drew you to the venue in the first place, don't forget to think about how the venue will (or won't!) work for you. "Are the spaces big enough to hold your guest list? Is there a good rain back-up? Will you really be okay with seating 20 guests on the covered porch while everyone else is seated in the dining room if you go over your guest count?" asks Walkowicz. "It might look amazing in photographs, but don't forget to figure out if the venue actually fits what you're looking for. Even if it's a great deal and has some fantastic options included in the price, those way the venue affects your guests' experience might be enough to send you looking elsewhere."