Tips for brides: {What to know when booking your Arizona Wedding Venue}

Booking your wedding venue is one of the first vendors and most expensive vendors that you are going to book for your wedding day.  The venue is also going to be a big part of setting the tone, style and overall feel of your wedding day.  When I booked my wedding venue almost four years ago I received an education by fire.  I quickly learned that it’s not all about just loving the location.  It has to fit your wedding on many levels.  Here are a few things to consider when booking the perfect venue!

{Ceremony-I do!!}

Most venues have a separate fee for the ceremony site.  Often times they have multiple ceremony sites and may charge different rates for different sites.  If there are multiple ceremony sites there is a good chance that there could be more than one wedding going on in the same day.  Venues will do their best to keep wedding parties separate by placing signage around the venue to direct your guests to the right location, but there is a good chance that your guests will see more than one bride on your wedding day.  If this bothers you, you might want to look for a location with only one wedding per day.

You will also want to check and see what their policy is on the decor of the ceremony site.  When will the site be available for you/family/vendors to come and set-up.  I have seen so many times that the florist or family member shows up three hours before the wedding to decorate and the venue is not ready.  If the florist has another wedding that day they are usually on a tight timeline and need to set-up and move on to their next event.  This ultimately causes unnecessary stress and frustration.  Be sure to consult with your venue coordinator to put together a timeline that works for everyone.

{Reception-Let the party begin}

The reception is a huge part of your wedding day.  This is where you will dance your first dance as a married couple and where you will have a chance to mingle with your guests.  This is also where you will spend a HUGE part of your wedding budget.

You will start to hear phrases like food and beverage (F&B) minimum and room fee.  Some venues charge a room fee on-top of any food and beverage costs.  Next, there will most likely be a food and beverage minimum.  Meaning, you have to spend this minimum amount of money to book the room.  This ensures that the venue makes enough money on the event to make it worth having the staff, lights, air conditioning/heating etc going.  Your food and beverage cost will be calculated based on the food and beverage selections you make.  Usually the cost is presented as the cost per guest.  Kids and vendors count too!  Side note-please feed your vendors:)

If you plan on having a small wedding (say 50-80 guests) it might be difficult to reach the F&B minimum.  You can look at options of adding an open bar, additional Hors d’oeuvres or more expensive choices for your main course.

This brings you to the menu cost/options.  The venue should be able to provide a summary of all of their menu items from Hors d’oeuvres, salads, main courses and desserts (if they are providing the cake).  A bar menu/cost should also be provided.  This is usually presented as a cost per hour per person.  Check to see what drinks are  included (e.g. house beer and wine or mixed drinks as well).

{Aesthetics-Oh so pretty!}

This is so important, but so easy to overlook.  You take a site tour of the venue, love the lush plant life, the green grass and the beautiful lobby of the venue.  Everything about it is perfect and you book it!  8 months later your wedding day arrives and the plant life died in the summer heat, the grass is dead because they are getting ready to over-seed, the entrance is going thru a major remodel and the parking lot is a dirt mess.  This is not the venue you booked!!

Look closely at the landscape in general.  Is there a rose garden that you just love?  Will it be in bloom on your wedding date or will they have all died from the summer heat?  Ask for pictures of previous weddings scheduled in the same month as your wedding.  Be specific though.  If you wedding date is early October pictures from a wedding in late October may not be accurate.

Lots of golf courses provide a great location and backdrop for weddings.  The golf course staff and the wedding staff are not always on the same page unfortunately.  The golf staff is primarily concerned about their golf revenue and this means over-seeding the grass in early to mid October.  The grass is a brown ugly color until the new winter grass comes in.  When it does, usually mid to late October, the golf staff does not want any foot traffic on their grass.  This can limit the options for photographs, ceremony sites etc.  It is extremely important to know what the over-seeding schedule is when booking at a golf course (or any place with lots of grass).

Periodically, venues will go thru renovations.  This could be anything from replacing carpet, re-doing pools, updating the entire lobby, etc.  Be sure to ask if anything is planned and what the status would be on the date of your wedding.

{Dates/Discounts/Payments-Let’s talk money honey!}

Don’t be afraid to ask!

Is your date available?

Are there any discounts for different times of the year or days of the week?  In Arizona most venues will provide some kind of discount between June and August.  Friday and Sunday weddings are becoming more and more popular, so discounts for weekend days are more rare, but discounts for weekdays are still available.  You will want to consider your guests though.  If you choose a weekday wedding or a Sunday wedding most guests will be coming from work and have to go to work the next day.  This might damper their desire to stay late and party the night away.

Just like any other wedding vendor an initial payment will be required to secure your date.  This may be a flat fee or a percentage of your total estimated cost.  It’s important to know what the payment schedule is and the cancellation/refund policy.  Very few sites (if any) will refund any of your down payment.  If you cancel within 30 days of your event you may contractually be obligated to still pay for the entire event.  READ the fine print of your contract!!!

{What have we learned?}

Ceremony

  • How much does the venue charge for the ceremony site?
  • Are there more than one ceremony sites?  If so, what is the cost of each? Does this mean there could be more than one wedding at the venue on my wedding day?

Reception

  • Is there a room fee?
  • What is the food and beverage minimum?
  • What are the menu costs/options?
  • What are the bar costs/options?

Aesthetics

  • Landscape-what will the landscape look like on the date of your wedding?  Are there any pictures available?
  • What is the over-seeding schedule?  Will there be any restrictions on the grass on your wedding date?
  • Is there any planned construction or renovations for the venue?  If so, what will the status be on your wedding date?

Dates/Discounts/Payments

  • Is  your date available?
  • Are there any discounts available for different times of the year or days of the week?
  • What is the payment plan/policy?
  • What is the refund/cancellation policy?

You can click here download a PDF here of all of these important questions to ask!

Happy bookingJ

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