So the hunt for the venue has begun. If you're the conscientious kind of bride, you don't want to be surprised by any hidden costs along the way. Here are 8 things to keep in mind - and ask the resident event coordinator about - when visiting venues.
A lot of venues, especially the kind designed exclusively for weddings or big events, require you to use either their in-house catering or to choose from a list of approved catering services. As most catering options are cost-per-head, it would be wise to have a general idea of how many guests you are expecting.
If you were planning on using an outside budget-friendly service, a local restaurant's catering, or making your own food, this may severely limit your venue options. For ideas on venues that allow BYOF, check out this article.
Many venue packages will include an event coordinator for the day-of and servers, which will show up on the contract as a "service" charge, and may include a "gratuity" charge as well, which depends on your headcount. Oftentimes, this is not a cost you can cut, but it's something to be aware of.
3. Tables & Chairs
Established event venues will have their own tables and chairs or will have a party rental service they work with to provide those. If you're going with a backyard, park, or church hall wedding, you may either have to rent those yourself, or at the very least, you'll need to do your own setup. This is not only an extra cost to consider, but time and man-power as well. (Tip: put those manly groomsmen to work!)
4. Linens & Dinnerware
Venues that offer linens and dinnerware they own or through an affiliated party rental will often have options to choose from, including a basic budget option. Some even let you replace with disposable plates and utensils if that's something that you don't see as too "tacky" (it really depends on your theme - disposable went perfectly with every country wedding barbecue I've attended!). In the case of a community center, for example, they may have tables and chairs but you'll need to bring your own linens. Compare the cost of rentals to buying from Amazon, if that be the case!
Not everyone opts for alcohol at their wedding, but if you're the kind that does, that will be a big money question - open bar service vs. cash bar vs. BYOB. Decide with your spouse which option is best for your event, guests, and budget. And if you don't want alcohol or a bartender, make sure you tell the venue coordinator so they can nix it off the contract and save you a pretty sum!
(Champagne for toasts is another often cuttable cost if you're not into it)
6. Cake cutting
Some venues have an extra charge for cutting and serving cake. Some won't factor that into the service charge unless you specifically tell them to. If you don't want to have to worry about the cake getting cut and served (as you'll be too busy busting moves on the dance floor) check out these ideas for cake alternatives.
Some venues not suited specifically for weddings may need a little dressing up, either with bistro lights, christmas lights, lanterns, or uplighting. Be sure to factor in those costs if you want a little extra glow for your reception.
Often overlooked by the couple, but certainly not by the guests! Make sure there is ample space to park for the number of guests you plan to invite, and that you have the budget to pay for everyone's parking in the case of a paid lot! (Some city parks with paid entry will require you to pre-pay for your guests.) If it's metered parking, they probably won't mind paying themselves, just make sure you have clear parking instructions in your invites so no one shows up to a meter with no quarters!