Picking and booking a wedding ceremony and reception venue can be the most difficult part of the wedding planning process. Your venue(s) can eat up 40%-50% of your budget. The cheapest option can be a backyard wedding. People do it all the time and I've seen some backyards transform into gorgeous locations for a wedding.
Unfortunately, my fiance and I don't have a large enough backyard to hold all of our guests. So now we must decide on a venue.
As of now, we haven't officially booked our venues. But in the last three weeks, we have been busy scouring the 'Net and visiting potential sites. We're close to deciding on a location, and here are a few tips I found helpful during our venue search:
Decide on the type of wedding you want
My fiance and I were both pretty flexible on where we wanted to have our wedding. We didn't have our hearts set on a reception near the beach or country club wedding. We both thought rather simply we'd choose the location that was both affordable and nice. This opens up our search options. Our budget set aside $5000 for a wedding reception. We decided early on that locations without on-site catering might not be feasible since venue fees on top of catering may come out to more than what our budget allows. While community centers may seem like a thrifty choice, we didn't want to deal with the set-up and clean-up responsibilities. Besides, we want our guests to enjoy themselves, not put them to work!
We are leaning toward a restaurant option as many of them have their own banquet facilties. There often isn't a venue fee as long as you reach a food and beverage minimum. Also, the rooms come with their own tables, chairs and linens.
We are also opting for a lunch menu as they're much cheaper than dinner options. Since our budget is at $5000, we're looking at menus of $30 a person. On top of hors d'oeuvres, beverages, service charges and tips, that brings us to the $5000 range.
Decide on the location of your wedding
While a destination wedding would be great, it doesn't really fit into our budget. To make the planning easier and hassle-free, we decided to host the wedding closer to home. We chose Pasadena as a central place to get married. Old Town Pasadena offers quite a few scenic shots for wedding photos.
Where will you have your wedding ceremony?
My fiance and I are both from different religious backgrounds (I'm Catholic and he's Mormon), but we mutually decided to have our wedding ceremony in a Catholic church. A lot of people opt to hold their ceremonies in the same venue as their reception for an added fee. I've seen this fee range from $700-$1500. Some might find this to be a cheaper option, but in most Catholic parishes, the most you can expect to pay is "suggested donation." Depending on which parish you select, this donation can range from $200-$1,000. Keep in mind, certain churches (Catholic or Non-Catholic) may have specific requirements you must fulfill before you can marry in their church. In most Catholic churches, you must attend marriage counseling months before your wedding date. It may be best to look into your church's requirements at least 6-8 months before your wedding.
Also, if you're having your ceremony away from your reception site, try to arrange them close to one another. If you only have your reception facility up to certain time, you don't want travel time from the ceremony to the reception take up the hours you reserved.
Search the Web and ask around
Where would we be without the Web? Thanks to Internet, my fiance and I instantly found locations that fit our budget range. When I first sat at my computer and googled venues, I didn't know know where to begin. The sites that I found to be extremely helpful were http://www.theknot.com/, http://www.weddingwire.com/, http://www.projectwedding.com/ , http://www.blogger.com/www.weddingmapper.com and http://www.herecomestheguide.com/ (this site offers 360 degree virtual tours of the venues). It also helps to check message boards and research some of the locations other couples have used. One thing I like to keep in mind are photo opportunities at a venue. I like to check out wedding photographer sites to get ideas for receptions.
Of course, don't underestimate the power of word of mouth. Many venues are not advertised as wedding venues and aren't always listed. A friend of mine had her wedding reception in a barn house for a rustically elegant reception. One of my animal lover friends held her reception at the zoo. Ask around, someone might know of a true gem!
Visit the sites
This is a no-brainer. What you see online and in pictures isn't always what you see in person. We visited Almansor Court in Alhambra, excited by the prospect of an affordable menu and a scenic lake and gazebo. When we walked in, the venue smelled oddly of stale food. The venue was also located in questionable neighborhood. In other words, the venue was a big fat NO! Go with your gut feeling. Don't settle for a place you don't love. Even with a budget, with a little creativity you can find something you adore!
Next up: hopefully we'll have a venue picked! I will keep you updated!