If you are recently engaged and working on finding your venue, know that this is one of the hardest tasks you have to accomplish! Choosing the venue for your ceremony and reception is a difficult and time consuming process as it is usually the first step into the wild world of wedding planning. You will quickly learn about things and even words that you have never heard or thought of–Food & Beverage minimum, off-site venue, service charge, ceremony fees, and so on. What do all of these things mean?
If you live in Southern California, the options are literally endless but the biggest question is–what can you afford? A hotel ballroom, unique wedding venue, restaurant, or park? Before you even go look at venues you need to know what your budget can allow. The reception venue and all costs for the reception such as food, beverages, staff, taxes, and service charges need to take up NO MORE than 40%-50% of your entire budget. This means, if you have a $30,000 budget, your reception should cost no more than $15,000. You really need to know this before you fall in love with the venue that has a $30,000 Food and Beverage Minimum!
The Food & Beverage Minimum (F&B min.) is not what your wedding reception will cost, but what your reception costs will start at. Saturdays are prime real estate in any city, so if you are on a tight budget, I recommend steering clear of Saturdays as they have the highest F&B min. and vendors are less likely to negotiate with you. Once you determine if a venue has a F&B min that you can handle, you will need to get an estimate of what all costs involved will be: this would include the room rental fee, set up fees, food and beverage for X number of guests, Audio Visual costs for microphones or screens, staff, taxes, and the service charge. Many times, to hook you to book at the venue, the sales person you are working with will leave off the (9.25%) tax and (20-22%) service charge on the proposal that they send to you. You may not find out about this charge until much later when you have booked them, and a 30% surprise is not a fun one!
Offsite venues are what we in the industry call blank spaces where you bring everything in–catering, rentals, lighting, A/V, etc. Depending on what venue you choose, what caterer you bring in and whether or not they own their own cooking equipment (many times the stoves and hot boxes are rented from the rental company), and the rentals you choose, these weddings can save you money, but more often they end up being much more expensive in the end. It’s the little stuff that adds up–for instance, if you plan on serving coffee to your 150 guests, you will spend around $250 on just the rental of the coffee cup, saucer, and spoon. If you decide to serve Martinis, Champagne, Wine, and Beer at the bar, you need glasses for each of those drinks.
I recommend finding a few venues in your budget range and making a PRO/CON list to compare them to each other. There are very few 100% perfect venues that will match each criteria, but you need to decide which negative aspects will bother you the least–is it the fact that you can hear the 10 Freeway roaring by your ceremony, or is it the fact that this amazing venue has a locker room for a bridal changing room? Make sure that you can live with the negative aspects of your venue because once you are locked in it is very hard to undo.
Below is a sample of what my venue scout reports look like for the clients that hire me for it. It is an incredibly time consuming process and so beneficial for the busy bride and groom to have me do this!