Picking the perfect wedding location can make or break your budget. Yes, shopping for the dress is fun, but picking your location should be your priority. There are tons of options, but it’s up to you to decide which venue you like best and estimate the number of additional costs.
Additional costs can be basic things like chairs, tables, table cloths, silverware, serving dishes, tents if you’re outdoors, a dancing floor and so much more. A lot of locations cost less because you have to rent all of these items. Do you have any idea how much it costs to rent a punch bowl and spoon? It’s ridiculous! Rental companies charge down to the last coffee cup. They also charge per day yet most aren’t open on the weekends. In the end you’ll have to pick up everything on a Friday, store it somewhere – hopefully at your reception location – and return it on Monday unless you want to pay extra for delivery and pickup. In my opinion, you have to really love your location to be willing to go through all of this. It’s a hassle and can easily double the amount you’re paying for your location by just purchasing the basics. That’s not even looking into decorations, an aisle runner, or flowers.
Before you start falling in love with locations, here are some basic tips to help get you started.
- Do some research online and schedule some appointments. Pick a variety because websites can be very misleading.
- Consider some unique locations such as parks, golf courses and camps. They’re used to having large events and won’t cost as much as the fancier locations will.
- Consider getting married on a Friday or a Sunday when the cost for your location is almost cut in half.
- Know how many people you plan on inviting and how many will actually come.
- Get a notebook and write down the pros and cons of each location. Accompany this with pictures you take of each location. After a while all of your locations will start to blend together. Your notes will help immensely along with the pictures as you go back through your options.
- Try to visit during the time of year your wedding will take place or look at pictures of weddings that took place at that time of the year. This way you can get an idea of what it will look like during the season.
- Try to visit during the time of day that your wedding will take place. During the day everything might be bucolic, but at night there could be barking dogs, moaning cows or loud neighbors/companies/guests to compete with.
- How far away from civilization is it? If it’s too far it will be very difficult to get last minute forgotten items and trust me, there’s always something you forgot. Also, extremely rural locales can be quaint or even picturesque, but, offer their own set of unique conditions. One of our location possibilities got ruled out by my husband when he had to step over a snake on the way to the “public use” restroom. Just imagine your future mother-in-law splayed across the ground with a bruised or broken hip the day of your nuptials after trying to dodge the local “residents”!
- Is it difficult to find? Guests tend to get lost on wedding days unless the roads are marked clearly. The last thing you want is for someone you love to miss the ceremony because they drove past the turn several times. (Another possible additional cost would be signs)
- Do guests have to travel from the wedding location to the reception? Sadly, a lot of guests slip away when there are two separate locations. Don’t ask me why, but if they don’t have to get in their cars a second time they are more apt to stick around.
- If it’s outdoors, are there a lot of bugs? Does it smell? Is it well kept or are your guests going to be walking through a lot of mud?
- Is the location private or are you the center of attention? I have seen venues where receptions are placed in the middle of heavy walking traffic so you get to share your special moment with everyone who walks by.
- What does the rainy day location look like? We all dream that it will be beautiful and sunny on our wedding day. However, you have to plan for the worst. You have to know if you’d be just as happy if you had to get married at that rainy day location.
- Is there enough parking or will you have to shuttle people in? (If it’s not provided there’s another additional cost)
- Does the location have their own sound system or do you have to rent a microphone and speaker? You might be able to save costs and create your own music mix instead of hiring a DJ. It’s not as personalized, but keeps you in control of the music.
- Do you have to rent chairs, tables, and other basic items?
- What kind of decorations would you want? If the location is very plain you’ll need more decorations than you would for one that is already beautiful.
- Do you have to use their catering company? How much per person do they typically charge? Is there an additional fee if you bring your own hors d’oeuvres?
- How much do they charge for you to serve alcohol? Is there a corking fee? Is it an open bar, limited bar or do they charge per drink? Wedding alcohol bills can go through the roof if you’re not careful. Guests love an open bar, but they also get out of hand when they’ve indulged too much. Decide if you want to limit the alcohol or simply offer your guests a ride back to their hotel.
- How many extra charges are there? Do you have to pay extra for the staff to setup and clear tables? Every location has a fee or two, it’s to be expected. It’s simply a question of how many.
For our wedding we got married at a golf course on a Sunday. The wedding and reception were in the same location so more guests stayed. The golf course had its own caterer so we were able to work out a deal for a nice buffet. We didn’t have an open bar and decided to have one signature drink. We had less than 50 people at the wedding and only half of them drank alcohol, so we purchased 3 gallons of a special alcoholic punch. I did my research and everyone swore 3 gallons was enough for 30 people. We should have doubled it. The reception was beautiful and came with the chairs, tables, plates, silverware, tablecloths and more. We did simple centerpieces and decorations since the location was already breathtaking. The best part: we were given free range of the golf carts so the wedding party got to race around the golf course to different picture locations. It was a lot of fun!
Here’s my two cents: when it comes to weddings, people forget the little details unless you do something truly amazing. A lot of people will forget the centerpieces or what color the flowers were. They want to go to a wedding, have fun and not starve. Just keep that in mind when you’re looking at whether you want to purchase a fancy cake cutter or simply use the one provided by your caterer. No one else will remember but you.