- Guest List: The size of the wedding can determine your budget and may rule out certain facilities. Have a number of guests in mind before contacting wedding locations, and be aware that many sites have several venues to accommodate different event sizes.
- Atmosphere: Is this a casual or formal event? Don't waste time looking at an affordable barn if you know you want a grand and traditional reception.
- The Look: Stop and look at the background of your ceremony and reception venues. Even if the room is the right size, if it has horrible carpeting, bad lighting, or questionable restrooms, then it may not be the perfect location for your wedding day dreams.
- Facilities: Don't forget the details. Is there enough parking and is it secure and well-lit? Is there a coatroom? Are there enough restrooms and electrical outlets? Will all your tables fit comfortably in the space?
- Inclusions: Find out what's included in the price of the site rental. Ask about (and look at) any tables, chairs, silverware, glassware, and china that is provided. (Do you like it?) More to inquire about: linens, bar service, cake cutting, toasting flutes, candles, changing rooms, dance floors, wait staff, and hours.
- Timing: Visit the reception site at the same time of day you'll be holding your reception. What looks warm and cozy at high noon may look cavernous by nightfall. If yours is an evening wedding, check the lighting and signage as well.
- Understanding: Make certain you understand the facility rules about deliveries and outside vendors. What times of day are deliveries allowed? Is there space to store equipment like tables and chairs if these items arrive a day ahead of the event? What time should the cake be delivered and where should it be placed? When can the florist begin setting up? Are there coolers for bouquets and centerpieces?
- DIY: Ask what you are allowed to bring onto the property. Can you have wine or a cake delivered -- or must you purchase these items from the site? Can you rent your own linens, china, or dance floor?
- Commitment: Think about how much time and energy you would need to invest in a space so that it will be wedding-ready for you. Nontraditional sites, such as a college campus, a park, or a beach, may rent space -- but may not offer equipment or help. All the work of bringing in tents, chairs, kitchen equipment, lights, and the like -- will be left to you. (Don't forget that someone will have to cart it all away at the end of the reception, too!)
- Deposits: Inquire about deposits and payment requirements and if you need to bring a check on the wedding day. Ask about taxes, service charges, and extra fees so you can budget accordingly. Also, be sure to keep your site rental contract in your wedding notebook so you can refer to it as needed.
- Weather: Partying outdoors? Have a backup plan in place (no matter where you live) so your event is not spoiled by an unexpected change in weather during the ceremony or reception. Look for a facility that has both indoor and outdoor sites so you easily can make a move inside or under cover. Remember, rain is not the only "bad" weather for a wedding; excessive heat, wind, fog, or cold may also affect your plans.
- Distance: Holding the ceremony and reception in one place is ideal but not always possible. In general, don't ask your guests to travel any more than necessary. Always be sure to provide maps with written directions and a phone number to call for assistance.
- Referrals: Wedding facilitators for many sites often keep lists of vendors. If you need a bakery, photographer, band, or rental china, ask your site contact for recommendations.
- Lists: About a month before the wedding, prepare a detailed checklist of items needed at the site. Then place each item into a chronological timeline of the day and assign a friend or relative to be in charge of each detail. This is a great way to ensure that the guestbook and pen(s) are set out (and collected after the reception); that guest favors are distributed on tables; that the bride's suitcase and purse are secured during the wedding.
- Cleanup: Who will be responsible for cleaning up after the event is over? Do rentals need to be removed right away or can they wait for pickup the next day? Assign a few relatives to corral leftover food, cake, favors, wine, and flowers if you want to take these things home. (Bring boxes and bags for this activity, too!)
Big surprises can sneak up on a bride when planning a tented wedding or reception. To avoid being thrown for a loop, follow this advice from JoAnn Gregoli.Check your town's sound ordinances and be sure to follow them. Gregoli also offers this helpful hint: "If you're going to have a wedding on your property, bake some cookies and deliver them while letting the neighbors know a wedding will be going on. Maybe they won't call the cops. A little ounce of kindness goes a long way."
Have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather. This could be as simple as having umbrellas on hand for escorting guests, or it could mean securing an indoor location as a backup space. "The Weather Channel will become your best friend," Gregoli says.
Forgetting small details can lead to big disasters. Be sure the space you are using has enough restrooms to handle your guest count. Find out in advance if you need a generator to handle power for the band, caterer, and lighting. Be sure there is enough parking, and that it is well lit (if not, consider giving flashlights as favors). Turn off sprinkler systems. Don't stake the tent over the septic system.
Don't go it alone. "This is one of the more difficult weddings to do," Gregoli says. "You need a support team that has done this before. Someone needs to give you advice so you're not stressing."
Found on the Better Homes and Gardens website.
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