Selecting the Right Venue
You’re recently engaged and are ready to start planning the perfect wedding. You’re in charge of the next business conference at work. You’re wanting to plan a team building and employee appreciation event for your crew.
No matter the occasion, one of the first steps in planning any event is selecting the venue. The venue will dictate how most of your budget is used, it might decide the date, it could decide your food + beverage options - you can’t move forward in the planning process until you know where you are going (and then, when you are going). Picking the WRONG venue can blow up your budget or totally change the format of your event, if not chosen carefully. A few things to consider when selecting your site;
If your date is not flexible, the first thing you’ll want to inquire about is availability. If the date isn’t available, no point wasting any more time talking through details. Keep in mind, some venues offer different prices/rates based on day of the week, month, number of people, etc. so if your date is flexible, make sure to get all the info on availability.
Price (and inclusions)
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But it’s a bigger question than just “what’s the price?”. You need to know what that price includes; tables & chairs? Catering? Set up/breakdown? On site area for prep? Parking? If additional items need to be secured on top of the venue rental rate, you need to take that into consideration for the overall budget. Are there any other fees associated with the venue (service, processing, administrative, etc) ?
Does this venue have a set caterer? Set bar/service provider? If there are any exclusive vendors or contractors you have to go through, their services and pricing must be included in the overall budget and decision regarding the venue. The venue may be a steal, but if their exclusive caterer has a $50,000 food and beverage minimum and your total budget is $30,000, we need to move on.
Terms and Conditions
Are there rules or regulations with the venue that don’t match your event? For example, you’re planning a beer festival but the venue you love doesn’t allow alcohol. Or you’re hosting a wedding reception and the venue doesn’t allow events to go past 9:00 PM, but your ceremony isn’t until 6:00 PM. Some rules may be deal breakers, some may not, but you need to know all the terms and conditions before finalizing any contract.
Sometimes you work your capacity (or guest count) around the venue, like a wedding. But sometimes your capacity is set, like a company event. You’ll want to make sure the venue can accommodate your guest count, which also means all the “stuff”. A venue may be able to hold 300 people but is that seated, theater, or cocktail style? If seated, does that leave space for a dance floor area, a band/DJ set up, food tables and a bar? Think through what needs you have and/or how you might like to set up the event, and make sure the venue can accommodate this set up before singing on the dotted line.
This is two fold; 1.) How easy is it for your guests to find and access? Is it down a long, country road with gravel and no signage…. and GPS has trouble locating it? If so, you might need to add street signage and/or parking attendants to the budget. Is there easy accessibility for any handicap guests? Or for your vendors like entertainment and catering? 2) What is the accessibility for you as the client, what time can you get in prior to the event (For set up) and how much time do you have post-event to clean up/breakdown? If the turnaround time is short, you may need to hire additional staffing for set up or breakdown, which should be added into the budget as part of the venue rental expense.
Style & Decor
Does this match the feel for your event? If you’re trying to create an enchanted garden ceremony, you won’t want to go to an indoor hotel/banquet space. If you’re wanting a formal, fancy reception - then you don’t want to go to a barn/outdoor space. If you’re needing a lot of power or you have a large guest count, you’ll want to consider an indoor space versus an outdoor space - one that has existing services (bathrooms, power, water, etc). If your venue doesn’t match the overall feel or ambiance, you may need to budget a little bit extra for decor to re-create the space.
No matter the event, there are so many things to consider when selecting the venue. And all of it effects the rest of the planning, but mostly the overall cost. The decision shouldn’t be made lightly!