How do you choose a wedding venue that is just right, and budget friendly?

Stripes has noticed how time seems to fly – she said almost desperately the other day that we are already halfway through engagement season! Engagement season normally kicks off as the last corporate year-end party finishes and runs through up until Ester. 3 months of loving bliss, hearts and chirping birds everywhere. She just loves this time. Directly after engagement season, we get the second busiest time of the year – hunting season. That time when all newly engaged couples start looking for a venue, just to realise one of 4 things:

  1. Budget – either they have not thought of the costs at all, or they realise that their budget will never stretch far enough to cover their dream wedding
  2. Time – all of the popular venues are already fully booked, or only have less desirable dates available. Or they do have a date available, at a good price, but it’s in 3 weeks’ time and that is simply not enough time to pull together all your plans.
  3. Family – either they are too far away, so you know you will most likely have to celebrate your special day without all of them there or they are too close, sticking their noses in everywhere.
  4. Dreams – you dreamt too big, or you never even thought of your wedding and now you need to answer all these difficult questions like the feel and colour and cake flavours

Planning a wedding is tough, and takes many hours and days of hard work. We always say that the first wedding you plan is seldom a 100% success, so why practice on your own. But if you have the guts, patience and support to attempt to plan your own wedding, at least allow us to help in this small way.

We believe that the success of a wedding lies in 3 things:

  1. The food. Guests will always judge a wedding according to the food. Good food = good wedding. Bad food = disaster. Spend as much as you can on the food, and ensure you get a reputable caterer with enough experience. If the venue does the food, insist on a tasting to ensure you are happy with the quality. Ask the tough questions regarding quantity, ingredients, serving style, and more.
  2. The photos. In the end, they are all that you will have left to remember the day. Spend on your photographer.
  3. Happy guests. We know it is your special day, and should theoretically revolve around you and your partner, but unfortunately, that is not completely how it works. If you wanted to celebrate it alone you would have eloped, and sharing your joy comes with a bit of responsibility. You have to ensure your guests are comfortable, and that includes being warm (or cool in summer), dry, fed, hydrated and entertained. That is where your venue comes in. Choosing the right venue can help you ensure the happiness of your guests, which in turn will contribute to your enjoyment of the day.

The venue is a big deal. So how do you chose the right one? That is a difficult question, and almost everybody (especially the “experts” such as us 😉 has their own opinion. More than half of them will most likely not agree with us. But according to us, your venue needs to meet the following requirements:

  1. It needs to be affordable.

You cannot spend your entire budget, or even most of it, on the venue. The “experts” recommend spending only 10% of your budget on your venue. Of course, there are exceptions, and we will discuss one such an exception a bit later on.

  1. It needs to be accessible.

That includes transport and accommodation. If you plan on having a destination wedding you need to ensure that there is enough accommodation available for your guests. Assist in arranging transport by giving guests the relevant booking information, or ask the venue if they can negotiate a special price with a transport company.

  1. It needs to be flexible.

Do they only allow certain service providers, or are you only allowed certain themes? How adaptable are they to changes in for instance the weather, or guest list. If they are doing the food, can they provide special dietary requirements if needed? Also, life happens and things change – how will they handle changes such as postponements, or even cancellations. Before you book, always first read their policies on handling these and other situations.

  1. How customisable is the venue?

How much of the venue can you change to ensure your guests feel as if they are at your wedding, and not at just another generic one? Things you might want to customize: the menu, the seating plan, the program, service providers, colours, décor, drinks, etc. And will there be costs associated with these changes?

  1. They need to be transparent and upfront about all costs.

You don’t want any surprises. Before deciding on a final venue, make 100% sure you know what is included and exactly what the specifications are. Sometimes it is even more important to find out what is not included or allowed since these restrictions usually have a monetary “punishment” attached to breaking the rules. Ask as many questions as you need, and if they become iffy or funny about answering I would seriously reconsider booking them.

  1. It needs to be suitable.

Can the venue accommodate your probable group size, do they have a minimum and maximum guest count, will the venue be comfortable in the season that you which to get married in, is there a plan B if plan A fails. Also, are they available on the dates that you are considering?

  1. What is included.

This is, in our opinion, the most important point to consider when weighing up the pros and cons of venues. Remember we said your venue should be no more than 10% of your entire budget? Well, that percentage can change depending on how big the venue’s package is. E.g. if only the venue, stick to the 10% “rule”, but if the package includes the food, or drinks such as the welcoming drink or even sparkling wine for a toast, or a bridal suite, the percentage changes.

The best advice that Stripes can give? Pick a venue that includes as much as possible, because getting all of those items and paying for them individually not only adds up but also leaves a lot of boxes for you to tick. If the venue offers these things, it becomes their responsibility to deliver. You also have the peace of mind knowing that the suppliers that the venue has chosen as part of the package most likely have worked there before, making them knowledgeable and reliable.

I don’t know if you have noticed but we have not mentioned style or look or feel as one of the recommended considerations for choosing the right venue. The reason for this is sometimes we stare ourselves blind against what we think we need and ignore everything else. Meanwhile, there might be something better out there. Also, the venue is only the backdrop and even though you want something spectacular, you should also want to avoid debt and discomfort. So by keeping our 7 points front of mind, you will be able to choose the most beautiful venue that meets those requirements. No breaking the bank. Remember, you can make almost any venue look magical, and bring in your own look and feel with a few smart touches. Themes can be changed or slightly adapted to suit the venue. A good photographer can make your venue look amazing. Pair that with good food and happy guests and you have the makings of the perfect wedding, regardless of the venue.

Those are our top tips for choosing the right venue. If you have something to add, or a question, please feel free to comment!

And to all the newly-engaged couples, Stripes says, happy hunting.