Looking for a Venue
At this stage in planning, it seems like the biggest and most daunting hurdle is the venue. The venue will determine many factors about the wedding day: the date, whether it’s inside or outside, how many guests can be accommodated, what décor you’ll need or want, what rentals you will need, and so many other important details that will shape your event.
Cost, of course, is a huge factor. Before we began looking for venues, I had no idea of what the site fees would be or what they would include, making it hard to start off with a solid budget. With such a variety of places all over the Sonoma and Napa areas, I found that site fees can range from around $3,000 at minimum to well over $20,000, and what those fees include vary from just the event space to almost everything.
To narrow it down, I’ve found it helpful to have an idea of the style of venue you’d like (farm, ranch, winery, etc.) and then to compare costs and what that cost includes between similar sites. That will you give an idea of what the average cost would be for what you want, plus it gives you insight on what places are offering better deals. If there are two similar sites with similar fees, but one is offering all the tables and chairs you’d need while the other doesn’t offer anything but the event space, you know which one is offering more for your money.
Some other factors to consider when it comes to the venue and cost:
Lodging: If you’re looking at a resort or B&B, do they require you to purchase rooms?
Vendors: Does the venue require you to choose vendors off of their preferred list, or can you bring in your own?
Wine: If you’re looking at a winery, do they require you to purchase cases of their wine? Do they have corkage fees?
Day of Coordinator: Does the site require you to hire an outside coordinator or is one provided?
Rentals: What items (tables, chairs, glassware, etc.) do they provide that would otherwise need to be rented? What do they look like? (What everything looks like is important; if what they have doesn’t fit with your style or is outdated, you will probably end up renting those items after all.)
When you’re ready to start planning your site visits, be sure to have your questions ready, take pictures, and write down notes of what you liked and disliked about the venue. If you have a lot of places to see, it’s easy to forget the details. If you like a site, ask for a sample contract and look in to blocking out a few dates while you’re there; most places should allow you to place a hold on dates for a certain period of time at no charge, and you’ll definitely want to read the fine print in the contract before you agree to anything.
There’s a lot to consider, but don’t forget to have fun!