We tell our couples to think of their wedding venue as an extension of their home. Choosing a venue that fits you and your style is an important part of feeling good on your wedding day.
Oftentimes, we hear from couples that they have wedding venue fatigue. And what they mean by fatigue is:
- They find there are almost too many venue options in their area.
- They are tired trying to figure out how to compare venues equally in order to make the right decision for them and their budget.
Your venue is a big deal
Your venue is typically one of the bigger ticket items on your wedding budget. If you’re hosting a hotel wedding or a wedding at a venue that also provides the food and bar, then it will most definitely be your biggest wedding day expense.
This is why it’s so important to know how to compare all the venues you visit and see on an equal playing field.
In this post, you’ll find the questions to ask and items to look out for as you’re determining which wedding venue is right for you.
Location Location Location
Many times couples skip over considering the venue’s location and go straight to budget, but the venue’s location not only affects your budget, but guest arrival and departure experience as well.
Central location matters
This is something you’ll want to consider if you have a guest list full of out-of-towners. Choosing an easy to get to and centrally located venue creates ease in the minds of your guests before they’ve even arrived to your wedding.
As you compare venue locations check for the following:
- How easy is it for your guests to get there.
- What is the parking situation? Is there on site parking, valet or nearby parking available? One of the most frustrating guest arrival experiences is arriving at a wedding only to find out that there is no parking available on site or nearby and so they end up arriving late.
- If the venue is in a remote location, what are the transportation options available? Can you book a shuttle for guests or is there plenty of on site parking? Can Uber or Lyft get there easily?
As arrival and departure are the first and last memories of your wedding night, you’ll want it to be a breeze for your guests to come and go so their focus can be on how spectacular your wedding was.
Venue location affects your budget.
There are a few ways that your venue’s location can affect your budget and you’ll want to keep this in mind as you’re comparing your top choices.
- Do you have to provide transportation to/from your venue for your wedding party and guests? If so, this can quickly add up depending on the number of people you need to shuttle around.
- If your venue is farther away or less centrally located, you may incur higher delivery costs on rentals and possible travel expenses for your vendors.
Choosing a venue for it’s location does matter for both your budget and your guests.
As you continue your venue shopping you may notice that each venue quotes their rates in a different way. Some quote based on package prices, some quote based on food & beverage minimums while others, may do something else entirely different.
What’s important isn’t how they quote, but knowing how to put the numbers they give you into a spreadsheet or format where you can compare their fees and pricing side by side. By fully understanding each venue’s pricing structure and how it fits into your budget, you’ll be able to sign on the dotted line with confidence.
Breaking down pricing.
- Choose how you want to compare venue pricing:
- Per person pricing
- Overall food & beverage cost
- Once you’ve established how you want to standardize each venue’s quotes, it’s now time to start doing some math and plugging in the numbers.
Per Person Pricing
Here’s an example of how to standardize quotes into per person pricing for budget comparison purposes. This is based on a guest count of 100 to keep the math simple.
Venue 1 – Has given us a price of $15,000 minimum food & beverage spend
Venue 2 – Has given us a price of $95 per person for food & beverage
Venue 3 – Has given us a price of $75 per person, but a minimum spend of $10,000
# of Guests
Take $15,000 and divide by guest count of 100
Take guest count and multiply by $95
Take guest count and multiply by $75
*In the case of Venue 3, based on your guest count, you do not meet the minimum spend so will need to add on additional food & beverage to meet $10,000. So really with 100 person guest count, your per person spend will be $100 to meet the minimum.
Overall Food & Beverage Cost
To compare your estimates based on food & beverage spend, use the same chart above to multiply or divide quotes using your guest count so you can see your total cost line by line for each venue.
IMPORTANT Taxes, Service Charge and Gratuity Warning
Keep in mind as you’re calculating that some venues include all their tax, gratuity and service charge rates while others do not. When comparing pricing, it’s important to know what these rates are as they can easily add up to or surpass 10-20% in additional costs and sometimes make what seemed like a cheaper venue be more expensive or equal to another.
Building on the chart above, here’s what should come next. Add a column to estimate additional tax, gratuity and service charges and ask your venue contact what those percentages are. Bundle them together for the sake of your initial estimate.
Here’s a sample below to illustrate this step:
# of Guests
Tax, Gratuity, Service
Knowing What’s Included
Comparing the food, beverage and additional service percentages are fine and all, but you’ll also want to consider what each venue includes. If you’re leaning towards a venue with a lower food & beverage total, you’ll want to follow-up by asking what they provide.
Forgetting to ask this can result in thousands of dollars of additional and perhaps unplanned rentals and costs.
- Is all the serving ware provided by your venue for this price?
- Are tables and chairs provided complimentary or are they an additional cost?
- Ask about napkins and linens as well. What do they look like and are they provided?
- Is there anything I will likely want or need that is not included in the price you’ve quoted me? (ie lighting, staging, etc)
Beware of Hidden Extras
In addition to asking what’s included, you’ll want to finish things off with inquiring if there are any additional fees that have not been mentioned.
Some of the most common additional fees are:
- Ceremony or location rental fees
- Fees for all day set-up or next day load-out
- Staff overtime fees
- Parking fees
- Cleaning fees
- An on-site coordinator fee and overtime for them
Once you’ve covered all the information above with your venue contact, add additional columns to your comparison so you can tabulate everything and truly compare your top venue’s cost side by side.
After reviewing this post, you should be able to compare your top venue estimates apples to apples. When you can make a fair comparison, you should be able to make an educated decision on not only which venue is right for your budget, but for your guests’ experience as well.
As you start researching and comparing your venues, remember to refer back to this blog post if you forget what you should be asking or the information you need to gather in order to make an informed decision.