Planning a wedding seems incredibly daunting because there are so many details that require attention.
If you’re wondering how to make decisions without feeling like you’re losing your mind, remember that several choices are optional.
The one decision that you shouldn’t take lightly is the location, especially since the venue will set the tone for your special day. It should be a beautiful space that fits your budget and can comfortably accommodate your guests. Thankfully, learning how to pick a wedding venue is easier than you might think. Here are 12 tips to help you select a venue that is truly magical.
- Start Your Search Early
It’s crucial to start researching possible venues right away. Whether you prefer a chapel, chalet, barn, ballroom, gallery, garden, warehouse, or winery, it can be heartbreaking to fall in love with an event space, only to discover that it’s unavailable.
Wedding venues tend to book up well in advance, sometimes up to a year or more. So, if you have a particular venue in mind, or you are working around a specific wedding date, you should schedule the site visits as soon as possible.
The Inlet in North Wildwood, NJ, features two amazing wedding venues, both with a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean. What could be more magical than a spectacular backdrop and the sound of waves crashing in the distance as you begin your new life together?
- Know Your Guest List
Know how many guests you expect to invite before you visit wedding venues! You might want to invite 200 guests, but that charming farmhouse only holds 75 people.
In addition to the ceremony, you will need adequate space for the reception. Is there enough room for people to sit comfortably around their tables? Can your guests mill about easily? Where is the dance floor?
Many venues require a deposit based on an estimated guest count, and you (and they) don’t want any major surprises. While it’s fine to add a few people to the guest list at the last minute (“Aunt Margaret and Uncle Pete are in town, so we invited them.”), you don’t want to overwhelm your caterer (“I decided to include everyone from the office.”).
Have the conversation at the outset and determine how many people you can reasonably afford to invite. A little planning can save you big headaches later.
- Keep Your Budget in Mind
Your venue and catering will make up about half of your wedding budget. Typically, couples spend anywhere from $2,700 to $10,500 on the venue alone.
The cost of renting a venue can vary significantly depending on the location, with event spaces in major cities typically being more expensive than those in rural areas.
Understanding Venue Costs
Many venues offer customizable wedding packages, but keep in mind that, in addition to the room rental fee, you may have to pay for tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, drinkware, catering, corkage, cake cutting, and parking. You will also be responsible for insurance, taxes, gratuities, and service charges.
Alternatively, some venues offer all-inclusive packages which may include an in-house wedding planner, floral arrangements, catering, tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, and drinkware, and in some cases, photographers and bar services. Parking, insurance, taxes, gratuities, and service charges are usually included in these packages.
The Inlet in North Wildwood, NJ, can help you create a dream wedding without breaking the bank. Speak to one of our event coordinators to learn more.
- Make Sure the Location is Right
Traditionally, weddings were held in the bride’s hometown, but nowadays, weddings can take place anywhere.
Do you want to exchange vows on the beach, under an arbor in a public garden, at a ski resort, on a ranch, an intimate restaurant, or a big city hotel?
Be sure to think about the practicalities of the location, including its proximity to airports and hotels. If your venue is remote, you might consider lining up transportation for your guest.
You will want to do everything possible to ensure that your guests have a comfortable experience on your special day.
- Prioritize Your Must-Haves
What elements do you want your wedding celebration to include? Here are a few examples:
- A spectacular view at sunset
- In-house catering that you can customize
- A diverse range of top-shelf drinks and specialty cocktails
- A DJ on site for dancing
- Exclusive use of the venue for complete privacy
Clearly communicating your preferences can help you determine if a particular venue can accommodate your requests.
The Inlet boasts a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean, along with experienced caterers who will work with you to create the perfect menu. Our selection of premium beers, wines, and spirits, as well as our award-winning signature cocktails, are sure to impress your guests. Finally, unwind and enjoy yourself while our DJ provides an unforgettable experience with lively music to dance the night away.
- Determine Style & Atmosphere
Consider your personal style as you choose the venue.
For instance, do you want your wedding to be formal or casual? Do you prefer an indoor wedding, or do you want to get married outdoors? Do you want to include children, or do you prefer an adults-only event?
How will all the elements for your wedding work together? What sort of backdrop will the venue provide for the event?
Think about your wedding in terms of a theme, with the venue, decorations, and menu creating a cohesive experience. If you want a rustic wedding, you probably don’t need to visit stately mansions and budget for a five-course meal. By contrast, if you prefer a sophisticated, modern affair, you don’t need to check out local barns with caterers that serve chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.
“Marrying” your style with the venue’s atmosphere can result in an enchanted wedding.
- Settle on Amenities & Services
After confirming that a venue meets your expectations, take the time to evaluate its amenities and services.
Some venues let you bring in your own vendors, while others expect you to use their preferred vendors, which could include caterers, florists, DJs, photographers, and wedding planners. Find out what your venue will allow.
Here are a few more questions you can ask:
- What type of seating will be available for the ceremony?
- Will the meal be a catered buffet or a full-service, sit-down meal?
- What are the parking arrangements for guests, and is there a fee?
- Is there a bridal suite on-site?
- Is there a groom’s suite available?
- Is there adequate space for a photo booth?
- Will we be able to access the venue for bridal or engagement photos?
- Discuss Catering Options
While designing a menu for your wedding can be exciting, it can be an overwhelming task if you aren’t prepared. You can minimize your stress with a few simple steps.
- First, determine what type of cuisine you and your partner want to serve on your wedding day. It’s important to consider the overall theme while selecting the food, as the menu should enhance the atmosphere, not detract from it.
- Next, decide whether you want to use the in-house caterer, or if you prefer to hire an independent caterer.
Not all venues provide their own caterers, but if your venue does, sign up for their open house. You will be able to sample their most popular dishes and see precisely how they decorate the tables. Additionally, you will see their servers in action.
If you opt to go with an independent caterer, be sure to schedule a (hopefully, private) taste testing. Ask if you will be working from a preset menu or if the caterer can create a custom menu. Also, ask if the caterer offers any event packages, or if everything is à la carte.
Typically, catering costs for weddings are presented on a per-person basis, often abbreviated as “pp” in brochures. However, it’s important to note that this charge usually does not include tax, gratuities, or service fees.
- Be sure to communicate any dietary restrictions or requirements to the caterer. This could include accommodating guests with food allergies and gluten intolerance or the need for kosher dishes.
If you expect children to attend the wedding, ask what the caterer charges for children’s meals.
Don’t forget about the other vendors who will be at the reception (e.g., the wedding coordinator, DJ, and photographer). How and when will these individuals be fed and how much will their meals cost?
As for the rest of your guests, be assured that an experienced caterer can accommodate a wide range of food preferences. Most caterers suggest that you provide three basic options: meat, seafood, and vegetarian or vegan dishes.
- Ask about the beverage service. Is the caterer licensed to serve alcohol? Can you bring your own drinks? Will you need any special permits?
- Next, ask if the caterer offers any upgrades, such as ice sculptures, chocolate fountains, or an espresso machine.
- Find out if the caterer provides the décor for appetizer stations or buffet tables. Some caterers offer turnkey packages that include cake service, lighting, floral arrangements, and more.
Remember to bring a calculator when you meet with the caterer. Keep in mind your budget and the number of guests you are expecting. You don’t necessarily need a fancy menu like Lobster Newberg, as a homestyle meal can be equally delicious.
The Inlet has been hosting weddings of all sizes for many years. Our professional catering staff can customize your menu to suit every taste and dietary preference. Whether your wedding occurs in the morning, afternoon, or afternoon, we’ve got you covered with delectable breakfasts, lunches, appetizers, and dinners. Reach out to a member of our hospitality for more information.
- Check the Reputation & Reviews
Before finalizing a contract with a wedding venue, it’s wise to speak with individuals who have previously organized events at that location.
Additionally, it’s beneficial to peruse online reviews from reliable sources such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google reviews, as well as the venue’s Facebook page.
It’s crucial to read both negative and positive reviews, and to take note of the venue’s response to grievances or concerns.
Furthermore, ensure that the venue has an adequate number of reviews, as this is indicative of its credibility.
Through this research, you may uncover details about the venue that you hadn’t previously considered, and you might also acquire valuable tips to ensure a smooth wedding day.
- Create a Shortlist
It can be a heady experience to book a wedding venue, especially if you or your partner fell in love with it.
However, before signing on the dotted line, take a moment to weigh the pros and cons.
Tour a few venues and discuss your options with your partner and both families. Compare and contrast each location and settle on the venue that satisfies most of your “must-haves.”
By the way, you and your partner should agree about this important decision. If one of you has concerns, maybe it’s best to step back and reevaluate.
In the end, you will find a venue that fits your taste, vision, and budget — and more importantly, is available when you need it!
- Enlist the Help of Wedding Planners
A wedding planner is an invaluable resource, largely because of their familiarity with the event space, including its layout and exciting design possibilities.
Moreover, your wedding planner will steward your time wisely and maximize your budget, transforming your vision into reality on the day of your wedding.
Concurrently, your wedding planner can attend to details you may not have the time or capacity to handle, such as arranging snacks and beverages in the bridal and groom’s suites or furnishing hairpins for your bridesmaid’s stray locks. They can also handle unexpected issues, such as missing flowers or sudden changes in weather.
During the wedding, your planner will ensure that everyone is in the right place at the right time, and provide you with a moment to breathe before your grand entrance. Their presence can help alleviate any unexpected tension on this special day.
- Trust Your Instinct
After visiting multiple venues, you may have a few viable options to consider. At this point, it’s essential to rely on your intuition.
Consider which venue made you feel most at ease and where the staff was the most attentive and professional. Which venue offered the best amenities and services?
If a venue meets your standards and is within your budget, choose the one that you feel the most comfortable with. Ultimately, your instincts will guide you towards the best choice for your wedding.
Learning how to pick a wedding venue can be an adventure. Just remember to start your search early!
Pay attention to your guest list and stay within your budget. Choose a location that is convenient for your guests and ticks all the boxes for your “must-haves.”
Settle on a theme, assess the venue’s amenities and services, then talk to a caterer.
Read reviews, weigh the pros and cons, then trust your instincts.
The perfect venue is out there, waiting for you!
If you want a romantic setting against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, consider The Inlet in North Wildwood, NJ. We offer full-service catering with award-winning food, beverages, and entertainment.Check out some of our past weddings on our Wedding Wednesday blog.