Amongst the dozens of decisions you will make as you travel along the wedding planning path, your choice of venue, for both ceremony and reception, is undoubtedly the decision that holds the most weight, and on which hangs the greatest possibility for spectacular success or sad regret.
After all, when you look back years from now on the most important day of your life, will you remember if your chair sashes were tied in a bow or a rosette? Probably not. Will you remember every detail of the venue where the day unfolded from one magical moment to the next? You bet you will.
Apart from anything else, it is highly likely that your venue will gobble up the biggest chunk of your budget, so on that count alone you will be wise to consider carefully. The old saying ‘choose in haste, repent at leisure’ is in this case a wise adage.
Here we have assembled, from our experience, some considerations to take into account:
1. Budget. Yes, money raises its ugly head again. But this has got to be your starting point. Venue costs can fluctuate from the modest (or even free in the case of some outdoor ceremony spaces) to the wildly extravagant. The base cost of some venues can seem modest at first, but consider….that outdoor park setting is tempting because it is cheap, but the price of importing all services, including tenting and catering, will rapidly climb to the point where costs can become prohibitive. Suddenly, the hotel ballroom that seemed so expensive, begins to be competitive when you consider what is included in the cost.
2. Guest count – Well this is a big one, obviously. If you cannot imagine tying the knot without everyone you have ever known and loved watching the event and being included in your day, then this may narrow your selection. If, on the other hand, you dream of a small and intimate affair, your choice of venues expands accordingly.
3. Dates and Availability. It seems like a no-brainer, but really, there is no point setting your heart on a dream venue until you know whether it is already booked. Popular venues can book up way more than a year ahead, especially in the peak summer months, so until you know your date (so important to firm up that date asap!) be flexible in your choices. Have a range of similar venues in mind, to avoid disappointment. If your first choice turns out to be booked, don’t torment yourself over regret – move on.
4. Venue dictates Theme and Style – We have said this before, but it is much easier to choose a venue, and then plan your theme around it, than to be determined on a theme and style, and then search for a venue that suits. Of course you will be wise to have a rough idea of a style you want, before embarking on a venue search. Bling is your thing and you love glamour and glitz? – you can probably narrow your search to grand hotel and restaurant venues, plus some of the more unique and atmospheric venues on offer in Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor. You dream of a simple and rustic affair with country and nature details thrown in? Then your search can steer you away from the luxe hotel environment and towards more of a ‘blank canvas’ venue that can more easily be dressed for any theme.
When styling a hotel ballroom, be sure to take into account those features of the room that cannot be changed, when considering your colour palette – fixed room features such as wall colour, window coverings, light fixtures, and carpet, should be considered in order to avoid clashing colours.
5. Ceremony and reception in the same place? Or not? – Yes that’s right, you may want to look at TWO venues, not one. A very popular option with our couples is to select a ceremony venue quite separate from the reception and party venue. They may choose a church ceremony with the reception in a hotel or restaurant. Or, an outdoor ceremony with the reception indoors. Or a casual mountaintop ceremony with a lavish reception in the village. The choices are endless.
6. Travel time – Here in Whistler, we are fortunate that all or most venue locations are pretty close together when it comes to travel time. But still…consider carefully. How are the bridal party and guests travelling to the venue? How are you getting from ceremony to reception, if in different locations? It’s a great idea to do a timed practice run-through the day before or earlier, if you can, and ALWAYS allow more time than you think you will need. Under ‘travel time’ you also need to allow a big enough window if any décor items are being transferred from ceremony site to reception site. Of course as wedding planners, this is something we are experts at! But it is good to be realistic about this ahead of time.
7. Yes, we know it is ‘my day, my way’ but the considerate couple will always include the comfort and convenience of their guests as part of the venue choice. If you have your heart set on an outdoors, mountain top ceremony, or a secluded forest glade, consider the difficulties such choices may create for any elderly, infirm, or disabled guests, and plan accordingly. Likewise with guests who have small children or babies in tow. And speaking of children – if you plan to invite several of the smaller set to your wedding, you may be wise to look at venues which provide a separate space where they can retreat at some point during the evening (maybe with hired babysitters and entertainment) to let off steam or spend some downtime after the excitements of the day.
The moment you identify and tie down the venue for your Big Day is one of the most thrilling moments you will experience in the planning process – suddenly, it all begins to seem very, very real. And then the fun part begins – choosing style and theme and all that go with them; colours, dress, bridal party, music, cake, all those wonderful details that put your own unique stamp on your day.
But venue comes first – and we hope this has kick-started a train of thought that will help you in a search that will result in many happy wedding memories!
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