Your choice of venue sets the stage for your entire special event! It will dictate what type of experiences you can offer to your guests and what activities you can and cannot do! Once the venue choice is made, then, you can finalize the date, select the vendors, your entertainment and your decor! It all starts with the venue choice...
Before looking for a venue, you will first set up a budget, set an estimated guest size, define the type of space you will require, consider your technological needs, and set an estimated event date and time.
The key is to start looking EARLY! Good venues fill up quickly. In most areas a good starting point is one year ahead, but now (especially in larger cities) some venues are allowing two-year advance commitments. If you are going to an unfamiliar area, contact the area's local Convention and Visitor's Bureau to get recommendations for your type of event and guest size.
When looking for an event location, our clients are most often concerned about: (1) location and its proximity to other sites; (2) service level and courteousness of the venue owners; (3) size and type appropriateness; and (4) their budget, price and the amenities included! Once we have a list, we suggest looking at photo gallery pictures on the venues' website to get a feel of what you can expect before visiting your choices.
Now let's look at our eight key factors in selecting a venue:
* Location, Location, Location...(Accessibility)
If your venue is out of town for most of your guests, the closer your venue is to major transportation hubs, the better...train stations, airports, major highways. This affects your guests' costs to get to your event! The closer you are located to major depots, the more accommodations are available to your guests. Competition in hotel chains nearby means you can negotiate better room block discounts for your guests. Venue selection near city attractions are an even bigger draw for your guests. They get to come in town early or stay late to enjoy other attractions...it's even better when you set up some planned tours for them to enjoy during their stay.
If your event is mainly comprised of out-of-towners and is being held during late hours, a hotel with event facilities is the safest and most accommodating location for your guests. Price negotiation for guest rooms is usually a big plus here.
* Your date...
Be flexible, if you can, when checking out venues! Being flexible on your event date when speaking with venue owners can reduce a lot of frustration for you. When you are set on a particular date, especially one on or near a holiday, you limit your choices tremendously. But if you are set on that date, start very early!
Look for any major events occurring on or near your date in your area such as festivals, sports events, concerts, etc. (or check online or with the Visitor's Bureau) to see if there is anything that may impact hotel availability and traffic congestion. Be aware of not only the date but the time of day you would like your event.
It is also very important to know if any other events are going on at your venue at the same time as yours. Find out if your event is the only one being held that day or will you be in competition for parking, restrooms, music noise levels, etc.
Select a venue that reflects your style! Select a venue that allows you to do the things that are important to you during your special event.
Some hosts decide to build their wedding theme around their venue choice. This is especially true if they select a specialty location such as an art gallery, a beach location, or a museum. Some venues, particularly hotels, have facilities that limit your color selection. The carpet, wall color, chair colors (if not using chair covers), etc. may all be a monochrome that clashes with your planned decor.
* Total price...
Get quotes from different venues before making a final decision and make sure you are getting the best value! Sometimes you are able to use these comparisons to get a better deal by discussing options with the venue owners. Compile your list of all possible expenses that you may incur with your venue and use this list as your basis for selection. You don't want any surprise expenses pop up. Have your list include things like the cost of the facility (considering the number of hours included for your event; setup and breakdown time allowed), food and beverage expenses, payment options, rental of equipment, and staffing needs (including setup and clean up fees).
* Venue Size...
You will need a space that can adequately handle you estimated number of guests. A space that is too large will make your event appear under-attended and your decor seem lost or inadequate. A space that is too small will cause your guests to feel crammed and uncomfortable and they will not stick around very long.
If you can find a venue with a complimentary parking lot, your guests will love you! If you cannot, then consider paying for valet parking for your guests or using a paid valet service.
If most of the guests are out-of-towners, consider chartering transportation to and from the main hotel location. Even consider negotiating with Uber or Lyft for discounted prices for your guests.
Your event plans will greatly affect which venue you decide to select. If you have an outside caterer you love to use, your choice is limited a tad bit because many sites have required on-site catering or a preferred vendor list you must use. It is a great idea to know the reputation of the on-site catering for the venue before selecting them (word of mouth or reviews work wonders here). By the time the food tasting comes, you have already signed the contract...it's too late then. If you are able to use an off-site caterer, check for kitchen facilities at the venue. It is great to find a caterer that has worked at the venue previously.
It is very, very, very important to have a venue with adequate restrooms for your guests...enough said. Also, if your event hosts need changing quarters, that will affect your selection.
Venues that provide you with linens, tables, and chairs can save you tons of money! Even if you have to pay for them, it is usually a lower fee than that charged by rental companies.
The ideal venue for the event manager is one that has a setup and clean up crew. If not, you will need to put this into your budget or set up a volunteer list of this purpose. Most venues will ask you to provide a floor layout and they will set up your tables and chairs accordingly.
Another plus for a venue choice is one that supplies audio-visual equipment. Such things as a big screen tv with HDMI connection for your computer or other hookups for videos, wireless mike and sound system, and projector and screen can save you a lot of additional rental costs. If you have a speaker for your event, it is very important to check for adequate acoustics in the venue. If you are using any event technology, check to see if the venue has Wi-Fi availability and if it is reliable.
* And last but not least, POLICY...
Before signing on the dotted line, check all the terms and conditions and cancellation policies. Ensure you have a facility that gives you adequate setup and breakdown time. Be aware of customs, if you going to a foreign destination, that exclude some of your anticipated activities. Be aware of what type of decorations you can use...do they allow a fireworks display?...do they allow lighted candles?...are balloons allowed?...can you hang things on the walls or from the ceiling? Know whether the temperature level is adjustable. What accommodations do they have for people with physical disabilities...are there elevators, ramps, etc.?...check your venue policy first! Know who will be available at the venue on the day of your event, for emergencies and otherwise. Have adequate contact information.
It is very important to check on the liquor license requirements for the venue and liquor laws in the area.
So, 'happy venue searching'! There are some fabulous venue and venue owners out there waiting to meet you!