Starting your search for the perfect Shenandoah Valley wedding? Before you go, here are five tips for finding the right wedding venue.
Finding the Right Wedding Venue
The Shenandoah Valley offers a wonderful selection of wedding venues, from rustic barns to four season resorts. And while you have so many choices, it’s important to figure out a few things before finding the right wedding venue.
I colleague recently asked me to provide some assistance to her future SIL with her wedding plans. I was happy to oblige. But when I asked for details, the only thing the bride had was a date. To which I replied …
Tip #1 for finding the right wedding venue: If you don’t have a place, you don’t have a date
It’s great to announce that wedding date, but until you nail down a venue it’s only that – a date on the calendar. In the wedding industry, Saturdays are a valuable commodity – especially those in May through October. And you can guarantee any Saturday falling on the 20th of next year is going to be popular, like June 20, 2020.
If possible, try not to lock yourself initially into a specific date, but rather a season. The Shenandoah Valley offers beauty all year long. A barn venue surrounded by a blooming apple orchard is gorgeous in the Spring. Or picture a Summer evening by a lake. Fall offers stunning foliage backgrounds at pretty much every location. Even Winter has its charm when you host your wedding at a ski resort.
Tip #2: Get a grip on that guest list
Now you don’t need an exact headcount before you start your venue search. However, a solid idea of how many you want to invite (and what your budget can accommodate) is crucial. You’ll waste your time looking at venues for 125 if you know your guest list could possibly expand to 200. (This happened within days of starting venue research for my colleague’s SIL). Work on your guest list as a couple and if your parents have “skin in the game,” make sure they’re part of the conversation.
Tip #3: Yes, you need a budget – make it a priority
Before finding the right wedding venue, you need to have that “adult conversation” about how much this wedding is going to cost – and just as importantly, who is paying for what.
Prioritize the three or four things that matter most. And while it’s different for each couple, typically the majority of your budget is going to go into the reception (venue, food & beverage, any necessary rentals for starters), your photographer, entertainment, and wedding attire.
Remember, weddings with more “moving parts” usually cost more. A venue requiring an outside caterer and a lot of rentals may often be more than an all-inclusive reception space handling food and beverage in-house. And while home weddings sound inexpensive, they usually end up being more than you would think. Why? Because everything needs to be rented, including portable bathrooms. Can you imagine what 150 guests would do to the septic field of a three bathroom home? It’s not the most romantic thought, but it’s a necessary consideration.
After you’ve created your budget, add another 10% to cover expenses that you just wouldn’t think about – from gratuities for your wedding professionals to extra postage for those big, fat wedding invitations. If you have anything left over, congratulations. Go spend it on your honeymoon.
Tip #4: What’s your “wedding personality”?
Vision + practicality = wedding personality. Looking in the Shenandoah Valley for a wedding venue is part of your vision. You enjoy the area’s beauty and want it as a backdrop for your special day. Your guest list is the practical side of the equation. And it’s not only the headcount, but who your guests are as well. For example, if you have lots of out of town guests, you’ll want to consider venues with onsite accommodations or those located near hotels.
Here’s another example of the wedding personality equation. If you’re a DIYer, you might have a vision of making all kinds of great decor and florals for your reception. But the practical side of the equation is who will set it all up and then break it down. Is it the banquet staff or a day-of coordinator? And while friends and family members mean well, don’t you want them to be honored guests instead of free help?
Tip #5: Know before you go
Once you’ve answered these questions, then you’re ready to do your online research. When making calls or sending emails, be upfront about what you have to spend. It’s better to find out that a place is out of your financial reach before you take a tour and fall in love with it. And if you’re not tied down to a Saturday night, ask about Friday evening and Sunday afternoon weddings. This can be a great way to get your dream venue.
By getting your budget and guest count in order, focusing initially on the season instead of the date, doing your research, and determining your “wedding personality,” you’ll save time, and money, on the second most important part of your wedding day. And what’s the most important part? It’s making a commitment to the love of your life in front of family and friends – no matter where you hold the party.