It’s easy to fall in love with a wedding venue: those beautiful flowers, the perfect ribbon accents, or the woodsy decor are enough to draw anyone in and make them feel charmed. Once you’ve seen that venue in pictures or in person, it can be easy to rationalize in spite of the guidelines they offer: “Sure, we need space for 90 guests, but they say it will go up to 80… surely we can make it work?” or “We don’t need 190 guests’ worth of space, but look at those gorgeous windows! Our 120 guests will love it!” Here are a few ways to think about your wedding venue to make sure that you choose one that is truly the right size.
Have You Estimated Your Guest Count Accurately?
This is the first and most important part of getting an appropriately sized venue! While many think that they can count up the names on their guest list and go ahead with confidence, the truth is that the number will fluctuate. Consider some factors that could affect your final guest count. How far away is this venue from the guests’ homes? The farther away, the fewer of them will choose to attend. Are you offering plus-ones to single guests? If so, expect that some, but not all of them, will take you up on it. Have you possibly given your future mother-in-law or your own mother the option to invite some of their close friends? This can add to the list, especially if they aren’t clear with how many people are in each of the families they invite. Count children as well, since most children over the age of three will require a meal and a seat. Obviously, the number you land on will still be an estimate, and venues know this, but it’s good to estimate as well as you can.
Does the Venue’s Recommendation Change Based on the Structure of Your Reception?
Receptions can be so many things: passed hors d’oeuvres in a standing space with tall tables, picnic tables for a barbecue dinner, or round dinner tables for a cloth napkin banquet. These different choices also imply different spaces: the same wide-open room that can seat 140 for dinner may hold 200 for a cocktail hour. Talk to your venue about how you envision the reception and ask for their personalized recommendation on what can fit.
How Does the Venue Charge for Guests, Especially If You Go Over Your Count?
If you have a wedding venue that provides the catering, it’s more important than ever to get an accurate guest count and to hash out the contract details. After all, if a venue rarely hosts weddings of less than 150 guests and usually charges per-guest, your wedding for 120 people may end up being more expensive if they reserve the space at the 150-person rate. Make sure that if you choose “too much” venue for your guest count, you know what kinds of extra costs might be associated. Conversely, if you choose a charming little venue and try to squeeze extra guests in, make sure you are prepared for both the additional per-person rates and any extra things that must be added, like linens or rental table fees.
Will the Space Feel Empty or Crowded with Your Anticipated Amount of Guests?
This is much less a practical concern and much more an aesthetic one. Make sure that you discuss with the venue’s coordinator to find out if the space has held groups of your wedding’s size in the past. They will be able to tell you that, yes, they opened the sliding glass doors onto the patio and a few extra people didn’t feel like a problem at all, or no, having so few people in such a large space made it feel like no one came to the wedding. It’s a sad reason to turn down a venue completely, so if you get an answer you don’t like, talk about ways that the space can be partitioned or added to in order to get the open-but-bustling feeling you want for a wedding venue.
Have You Exhausted Venue Options or Are You Falling in Love with Every Venue You See?
This is an important self-reflective question, since it informs whether or not you commit to a high-demand venue quickly. If you aren’t sure, and don’t want to waste deposit dollars, it is often best to sleep on any venue decision. Not only can you take some time to make sure you aren’t overreacting to the beautiful chandeliers, but it also gives you a chance to be reminded what the other options are, or to look for other options. Your best bet if there is something wrong about your venue is to search for other options. If you realize that everything else is substantially less perfect, you will feel more at peace with committing to this venue and working to resolve any issues.
After asking yourself these questions, you’ll be much better prepared to tackle any other concerns that come your way with choosing the perfect wedding venue.