One of the most important steps in the wedding planning process is deciding where and how you’ll officially tie the knot. Most often, especially with religious ceremonies, couples choose to get married in a church, but we’ve been a part of many wedding ceremonies in all sorts of venues whether it be an outdoor location such as a garden, backyard, park, beach, or lake front, or an indoor venue of which there are many beautiful options. Yet wherever you are thinking of having your ceremony, be sure to consider the following before signing any contracts or turning over any deposits:
1) How many guests will it comfortably hold or seat? Make sure that you’ve compiled a complete guest list before you book any venues. Rough numbers won’t help you when you decide later that you actually want to invite 100 more guests than you originally estimated and now realize your venue won’t hold that many. Be sure that there will be enough seats for everyone and leave a little wiggle room in case more guests RSVP than you planned on.
2) How many hours will you have access to the venue? You’d be amazed how many couples don’t think through the number of hours you’ll need. While you’re ceremony might take only 20-30 minutes, you need to factor in another 30-45 for guests to arrive (during the prelude), typically about 2 hours minimum for photography, an hour for set-up and another hour for guests to clear out and to remove decorations. Therefore most ceremonies require a minimum of 5 hours at the venue. If you’re planning on a receiving line after the ceremony or a lot of family photos, factor in another hour or two.
3) Are there any restrictions in regards to decorating, music, photography, and videography? You should expect some rules when it comes to decorations as obviously they won’t want you nailing things to the wall. But often couples don’t realize just how particular venues are about candles (most require them to be contained in glass, not free-standing), rose petals (many require them to be fake, otherwise they can stain the floor), and other items. Find out if there are restrictions about what type of music can be played. Some religious venues do not allow secular music or certain instruments. If you have your heart set on walking down the aisle to a song by Bruce Springsteen (as I did) it would be a bummer to find out after you signed an agreement that you can’t do that. Lastly ask about photography and videography restrictions. I’ll admit it really irks me when venues only allow photography or video from the balcony (or even worse, not during the ceremony at all). If you really want a shot of your father giving you away or your first kiss as husband and wife, then be sure your venue will allow it.
4) Who is in charge and how involved is this person? Ok I couldn’t write a post about ceremony venues without mentioning the church coordinators. I will say that we have worked with some wonderfully sweet church coordinators and some downright rude and obnoxious church coordinators. So if the venue has a coordinator and you are required to use him/her, be sure you like that person. The last thing you want is to be annoyed right before you walk down the aisle. Often however venues aren’t clear about the responsibilities of their coordinator so be sure you ask exactly what their role is. I’ve had many couples that were told that the coordinator will “coordinate and cue” the processional but they don’t actually attend the rehearsal and only arrive at the venue about 15 minutes before the ceremony is to begin. How is this person supposed to know what is going on if he/she just got there? This is where it can definitely be helpful to have your own wedding coordinator and not rely on what is provided by the venue.
Happy venue hunting!
Images by Lovely Union