When looking at venues, couples are often at the stage of just starting to understand what goes into planning a wedding planning checklist and scope of which it relates to their own special day. Luckily, venues can help with a lot of that. “Bring questions about weddings in general—the venue can help fill in some of the gaps in your understanding of how wedding processes work,” says Mandy Schmidt, event director of The Haven at Tomales, north of San Francisco.
“Don't feel like you have to just stick to venue-related questions. While the venue representative is not a wedding planner—and wedding planners are so important!—it can be helpful to have someone assist you with the big-picture questions when you are newly engaged. This can help you develop a better vision for what you do and don't want for your day in general.”
Venues can even help with questions you haven’t thought of yet. “I do my best to anticipate and lay out answers to all the questions our clients may not be asking,” says Kate Macconi, events manager at Utah’s Solitude Mountain Resort. “Some of them aren’t even thinking, ‘Will the venue require that I hire a day-of coordinator? Will I need to find a caterer, or does the venue require on-site catering? Can I get married off-site but throw a wedding reception at Solitude?’ These are all questions worth asking at every wedding venue.”
Wedding venue owners are inviting you into their home—figuratively in some cases and literally in cases such as private estates. “It’s an honor to host you, and we want everything to be as you imagined—we want to bring your guests to a magical place that will give them the most incredible wedding experience with the most memorable backdrop,” Schmidt notes. “However, we can't meet your expectations without communication! Be open about things that are high on your priority list at booking to make sure [that] the prospective ceremony site is truly a good fit. Have an honest and open discussion about what your vision is so that you can be guided down the right path.”
“My number one piece of advice is don’t hold back on vocalizing your vision and asking a lot of questions,” adds Macconi. “At this point, we have seen it all, and we have many resources to help your dream wedding come to fruition. The more advance notice we have, the better we will be able to attend to your unique needs and make your day perfect and extra-special.”
Have a general sense of your budget. “Although we encourage every couple to work with a wedding planner on penciling out a budget, it is helpful to have a ballpark idea of what your budget will be,” Schmidt says. “We can give you some input on whether it is a realistic figure based on the wedding structure you are describing.”
She adds that it’s key to discuss your vision for the venue with your partner before relaying the idea to your wedding photographers or wedding vendors—and it’s an important decision: “Your venue will set the tone to your wedding. Spend some time having a heart-to-heart about what you honestly picture as the backdrop to your wedding photos. Where do you want to gather and celebrate, surrounded[ed] with by your guests?”
Solitude is a working resort and open to the public, Macconi notes, so “while we will designate your wedding ceremony and reception venue as private, we won’t shut the resort down entirely. It’s worth asking about the scope of exclusive space: ‘Are there multiple parties being hosted on-site on my date? How much space will be exclusively for our wedding celebration, and during what times?’”
If a reception venue has tables and chairs included, but they don't fit your vision, that doesn't make it a benefit—you would still be renting additional tables and chairs. “Truly analyze which venue perks and modern amenities are actually contributing to your vision for the day, not just line items on a proposal,” Schmidt says.
“For example, if you envision the bridal party getting ready on-site and spending all day together, a venue that has two separate dressing spaces with all-day access will have meaningful value for your wedding day. Another example would be a venue with lots of natural beauty already in place, such as a well-manicured garden with lush greenery or a breathtaking view—you can save on adding decorative inputs if unique and beautiful aspects are already part of the gorgeous venue's natural landscape.”
“Analyze how a prospective venue is structured—is it a blank slate that you can decorate to your heart's content and completely customize, or is it relatively pre-established, such as a hotel, with lots of structure already in place?” Schmidt advises. “How much are you able to personalize the space, and how much do you want to be able to personalize the space?”
If you want to DIY, be sure to communicate that to the venue and make sure that your plans fit within their scope. “Read your agreement with the venue closely and understand what is or isn't going to be allowed,” she says. “Some things, such as tape or nails, might seem like a harmless way to hang decorations, but after a few weddings, the walls will likely never look the same. Work with your reception venue and wedding planner to make sure that everything will come out beautifully and avoid unintended damages.”
At Solitude Mountain Resort, “from the beginning of the planning process, we come up with the physical layout of the room(s) together, providing tables and linens as a blank canvas for clients or their designers to set up,” Macconi says. “This leaves room for a ton of creativity, and the sky really is the limit. However, anything they want to bring with them must be taken out of the venue on the night of the special event, so you’ll want to designate someone to do that.”
“If the rule is in your agreement, it is there for a reason—to help your day go smoothly!” Schmidt says. “But we are happy to explain why. We are working hard to help your day be a success. We have seen what does or does not work well in our spaces from previous wedding experiences and only want you and your guests to have the most positive experience possible, including a safe and comfortable environment and smooth guest flow. Our goal is an incredible guest experience in a memorable backdrop that is as unique as your love story is.”
Keep all these tips in mind because a venue is not just the setting for your wedding celebration—it’s the backdrop to most of your wedding memories. It’s vital to have a good working relationship with your venue to make sure that your day is a success. Remember that the venue wants to help you achieve your vision as much as you do. And one final piece of advice from Schmidt: “Ask your venue for the best time of year—microclimates exist!”
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