Finding a venue for your wedding or any celebration can be challenging. Most people are looking for the most beautiful option, a place with a late curfew or even a spot that “feels right”. And more commonly, they’re looking for all of those things plus a few more. As a planning and design team, we too want those things for our clients, but we are actually looking for a lot more. Here’s the top details we have our eye out for when scouting a wedding venue:
HOW WILL GUESTS ARRIVE
Is there parking at the venue or should we plan to shuttle guests in? If shuttling, what is the best hotel option or other pickup location if a hotel doesn’t make sense for the group?
WHAT IS THE MOST LIKELY PATH GUESTS WILL TAKE
While it’s rare to know the exact flow of the event upon first visit, we’re already assessing the most likely path the guests will be taking. We’re looking at this for a few reasons. Logistically, we need to assess if there is enough existing lighting on the paths the guests will take to the reception, to the restrooms to valet or shuttles or really any area they may walk once the sun sets. Aesthetically, we are looking at this pathway for any eye sores or any moments worth celebrating. If guests are entering through a beautiful door as they arrive to the venue, we may want to consider adding a design moment to make the entry more special. On the other hand, if the neighboring property is doing construction, we are assessing the best way to conceal this distraction.
WHAT IS THE INFRASTRUCTURE LIKE, IF ANY?
If we’re scouting a private estate or open field, the first thing we’re looking for is if there is any infrastructure nearby. ie, is there existing power, running water, restrooms or even a space for the caterer to cook their meal. Most venues have some of these elements but not all and many venues have none of them. We’re assessing this the moment we arrive on property to properly prepare our clients for the investments they may not immediately think of when considering each location.
WHAT DOES THE ONSITE SUPPORT LOOK LIKE?
Is there a property manager? A banquet team? A crew to move existing furniture and so on? While we can easily accommodate for the lack in any of these areas, knowing what support we have vs. what we need to bring in is important to our success logistically and also makes an impact on our client’s budget financially.
WHAT’S THE TERRAIN?
What’s the ground like? Will our guests need to walk for more than a minute or two on soft grass or gravel? Is there a chance someone would ruin their shoes during this time or be uncomfortable with the walk? Keeping these things in mind, helps us prepare for the options to combat these potential issues. For instance, if the walk is long, but beautiful, we may suggest golf carts or a similar option to get guests to and from each location. Or, if it’s a really rough path, we may want to consider flooring a walkway accordingly. Or, more simply, we may just opt to assess and communicate with the guests what they can expect via the invitation or wedding website. A simple “We’ve selected a beautiful outdoor venue and will be celebrating on grass. Please keep this in mind when selecting your attire for the evening.” goes a long way in setting guest expectations.
WHERE WILL THE FOOD BE PREPARED?
As mentioned, many venues don’t have the proper kitchen option for catering. Even at some hotels the wedding locations a bit further from the existing banquet kitchen and require us to bring in a kitchen for the caterer. Knowing where things like cocktail hour and dinner will be and understanding the nearest facilities, can help us understand if we need more staffing, rental equipment and so on to ensure the food is delivered to guests hot and in a timely manner.
HOW MUCH WORK DOES THE VENUE NEED AESTHETICALLY?
Aesthetics are always on my mind and while I feel confident working in just about any space, the truth is, some venues require more transformation and production than others. As I’m visualizing what the venue could be, I’m also mentally tallying the financial cost and team required to make the venue a suitable space aesthetically.
WHAT ELEMENTS CAN WE EXPECT?
Is there existing shade? Is the venue based in an area that is known to have surprise winds or thunderstorms on occasion? What elements do we anticipate needing to combat to make guests comfortable and the event successful?
Ultimately, as a wedding planner, scouting wedding venues before a client books the space, can be invaluable when it comes to avoiding surprises both logistical and financial at a later date. We’re always looking for the potential of the venue to meet the client’s vision but beyond that knowing all of the above information sets everyone up for a much more successful process and wedding day. I’ll be back soon to dive deeper into this topic as it relates to scouting for a destination wedding. In the meantime, happy hunting!