As I mentioned in my previous post, joint planning with my fiancé Spencer is extremely important to me. When we first got engaged, I was asked over and over if, as a wedding coordinator, I already had the whole event planned. And each time I politely responded by saying I had a few ideas, but nothing was set in stone. Even though I had already seen many of the potential venues in St. Louis and was fairly confident which ones would appeal to our style the most, we still took the time to tour each and every one of them together, as a couple. In the end we considered 10, which in hindsight was probably a little too ambitious. We looked at large and small, modern and classic, neutral and colorful. We asked questions, took notes, and compared them all. Here’s my advice as you embark on the important first step towards planning a wedding:
Don’t waste your time
Have an honest conversation about your true budget before booking any appointments. With all the excitement it’s easy to rush into venue tours, only to find yourself extremely confused. Take a moment to discuss your realistic vision for the wedding – together! Touring can be abundantly overwhelming and time consuming. Many spaces in St. Louis are only available for tours during the day, meaning you might even need to take time off of work to see them. It’s important to outline that critical budget element first so you aren’t wasting your precious time and energy on a space that would never make you happy.
Define your style
That might mean a ballroom with 300 guests or a winery with 50 of your closest friends and family. And you’ll probably find that your first conversation on the subject doesn’t completely gel with your partner’s expectations. I had always dreamed of a large wedding, but when we sat down to talk about it, we realized we would rather have a more intimate gathering for our special day. Many of the venues we considered felt too spacious for the event we want to have, which helped us quickly cross a few off the list.
Ponder the layout
This is extremely important when comparing venues. Each space is unique when it comes to how an event is setup, so do your best to visualize how everything will flow when it’s your day. Is there a separate space for cocktail hour? What’s the backup plan if it rains on your garden reception? Where will the band/DJ be stationed? Is there room for an additional bar location or photo booth? Make sure you consider all these elements before signing on the dotted line.
State the obvious
Once you get to the actual appointment, you’ll find that things you expected to be included often aren’t. Ask many questions and search for all the clarification you can. Are colored linens an upgrade? Will you need to pay extra for valet parking? Is there a security guard on duty? Don’t leave the meeting until you feel completely confident in your understanding of renting that particular space.
Consider the extras
We definitely have a few surprises up our sleeves when it comes to our wedding reception, and we made sure to mention these during our tours. This was a smart move because many of the venues expressed reservations about these elements, once again leading us to our final decision. For some couples this may be as basic as a candy bar for your guests or a sparkler send-off. Nevertheless, it’s important to clarify these ideas up front so you aren’t disappointed if they are later rejected.
In the end Spencer and I chose the Boo Cat Club near Forest Park, and here’s why:
-We love the intimate setting provided by the multiple rooms rather than an open concept layout
-It’s within the St. Louis city limits
-It has a gorgeous stage with a red velvet curtain to feature the band we hope to have
-As the original home to the St. Louis Artist’s Guild, the architecture is absolutely mind blowing
-The multiple fireplaces suit our late November wedding date, as well as our cozy theme
-It’s brand new! They just finished renovations on the space and opened it as a venue last month.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you go forward in search of the perfect venue. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below!
*This post is part of the series From Miss to Mrs, one wedding coordinator’s personal journey from the proposal to “I do”, and everything in between.