Those who are my friends on Facebook know this, but this is the question that started it all. I spent 30 consecutive days asking wedding-related question after wedding-related question because I was determined, for Steven and me and our guests, to learn as much as I could before making decisions about things I've never purchased before and likely won't again for some time -- linens, flowers, entertainment, etc.
Generic online budgets too often assign a blanket percentage that people should spend: say, 10% on the gown, 10% on flowers, 30% on food. But not everything is as important to everyone, and one's budget should follow one's priorities. So, if your fiancé and you love karaoke, maybe spending $250 (or bartering) to have it on your big day is well worth it to you. (Like us!) If not, maybe you'd spend $250 on something else, such as a photo booth or chocolate fountain.
If you know the theme you want, consider doing what we did. We chose an inexpensive venue that fits the rustic theme we were after, which minimizes how much decoration we have to add, which saves money. See what I mean?
Others like ours leave a lot to be quarterbacked by the bride and groom. Our venue has chairs and tables, but has left the responsibility for centerpieces, flowers and linens, uplighting and on-site catering, to us. My advice: Pick a venue such as this if you have the time. It can take a while to find and/or make everything you need.
According to my Facebook friends, here are questions to ask of a venue, or ways to find the right one:
- Find a place that allows you to BYOB. Then, when you do go to buy the alcohol for your party, find a distributor that will sell to you "on commission." That's code for "will accept back any cases of beer and wine that are unopened." That way, if you buy too much, you can return some if you desire.
- If there's a catering company you really like, ask them for venues they recommend.
- Ask about climate control. Some of my friends said that neglecting to ask about air conditioning made for sweaty conditions in hot churches and venues. It's also not a bad idea to ask when your venue/church will turn the air on.
- University banquet halls apparently will discount prices for alumni.
- Ask any venue whether security fees will be incurred if you serve alcohol, or for other reasons.
- Don't forget that pavilions and gazebos at local parks often cost a nominal fee or nothing. Make sure, though, that you reserve the space for your party. Contacting the local parks and recreation department is a good first step.
- A sorority sister of mine recommended considering the aisle width: When she walked the aisle with her parents, they were stepping on her dress because it was so narrow.
- It's personal preference, of course, but we also chose a venue where we could host both our ceremony and reception to keep navigation simple for our many out-of-town guests.