When touring, venues do not be frightened by the few that give you complete freedom! This is a win. Don't run for the hills screaming. Laugh with joy! If the venue only offers the raw space, this means no limits. No vendor restrictions, boring meals, chair covers, weird décor and full control of your budget. You decide what is important to you. Not a package a stranger put together ten years ago.
Here are some great tips to help you plan your dream wedding on whatever budget you’ve determined and with the freedom to keep it personal!
1. FIGURE OUT YOUR BUDGET
Yes, hearing that you have total freedom to plug in your own vendors and décor is jumping up and down exciting but you need to consider costs first. Once you’ve received pricing on the space rental it is time to hit the pavement and do your research. Start thinking about other costs that will come into play and reach out to those vendors. Crunch your numbers! Figure out if everything works out before you sign the dotted line. The last thing you want is to blow your entire budget on just the space and have your family and friends sitting on the floor eating ramen in the dark. (could be cool?)
2. FIND OUT WHAT IS INCLUDED
All venues are not created equal. Some will offer lots of goodies and include them in the rental fee. Others might just throw you the keys to a big empty barn and wish you good luck! Make sure you find out what is included in the cost. If the venue is offering tables and chairs that is a big win! You won’t have to worry about rental drop offs or setting up/breaking down. You can rest easy knowing that the venue is responsible for helping with your floor plan and having enough seating mapped out. Phew! These are things to find out ahead of time. They will help you to know what you’ll need to go offsite for and how much it will end up costing you in the long run.
3. ARE THEY QUALIFIED TO TAKE ON THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE?!
You need to be careful when it comes to raw spaces. With unique wedding locations becoming more and more popular a lot of new places are popping up. Sometimes privately owned homes, barns, fields, farms, ski resorts! You name it. Just be sure that this isn’t just a clever money maker and that the staff or owners know a thing or two about weddings. You don’t want to be taking up your time teaching an innkeeper what needs to happen and when. It will be stressful and complicated. A lot goes into a wedding! Find a fun space that has an educated team or owners behind it. You want to feel safe and in good hands.
4. CATERING CONSIDERATIONS
Woohoo! The sky is the limit! This can be a bit overwhelming so first ask yourself what kind of food vibe you are going for. Are you looking for something more traditional? Casual? Consider the overall feel of your big day. Maybe you want your food service to be a fun and interactive experience! If this is the case, you might want to look into a food truck. They come in all shapes and sizes and offer a spin on traditional wedding catering. Serving things like sliders, wood fired pizza, mac and cheese and BBQ! If you are looking for something more traditional but want to keep it casual, consider selecting a few different options that fit a theme. Your guests can visit stations around the venue serving unique types of food such as an Italian, Mexican or a meat carving station. Food stations are always fun to decorate as well. Something as simple as a plated meal is also a great option. Plated doesn’t have to be boring. Spice up the usual chicken, steak or fish option. Let your guests decide what meal they’d like with a simple check box on your RSVP. Guests love feeling like they are part of the process!
5. THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BOOZE
Most raw spaces do not carry a liquor license. Mostly because it is expensive and can be tough to stock a bar when the venue is always changing and being used for different reasons. This means you have three options. Your first option is to find a catering company that carries a liquor license. That way they are taking care of everything food and drink related. This also means that they are responsible for tidying up both food and drink during your wedding. Your second option is to hire a bar only service to plug into your wedding along with your catering company. This means that your catering company is responsible for food only. The bar service will be responsible for drinks only. Many local bars offer this service. Maybe even your favorite one in town. Ask around. Your third option is to bring in your own. This option solely depends on your venue and the regulations in your state. In NY the only way you can do this is by applying for a special events permit. This allows you to serve beer, wine, and cider for a set amount of hours on your wedding day. The cost is $36.00 for the permit, and you must calculate how much alcohol you will need to satisfy your guests. This can be pretty tricky. On top of these costs, you will need to supply glassware assuming your venue does not supply. Disposables can be a cheap alternative to renting glass but remember these start to build up on tables and don't look that great. This option also requires liquor insurance for the day as well. When you are tending bar the liability of your guests falls on you. Play it safe! The one-day insurance riders usually take into account how many guests you have at your event. I have seen them range from $150.00-$500.00 depending on a few factors.
You can build a bar package depending on your budget. You can simply serve just beer and wine if you are trying to keep things affordable. Some couples have a signature drink along with a beer and wine package. This brings limited liquor into the mix but also makes things fun and personal. Maybe your budget allows for a full bar. Wonderful! Your guests will love being able to enjoy their favorite cocktails. Keep in mind if you are providing your own alcohol you are only allowed to serve beer, wine and cider (in NY at least). No liquor.
If you cannot afford to have a bar at your wedding refrain from a cash bar. I personally think that this is unfair to your guests and a bit tacky. Stick with a limited number of hours for the bar if you can’t afford to party all night. Don’t make your guests pay for drinks. Some of them have come to a long distance to celebrate with you. Don’t hit them with a bar tab.
6. GET IT IN WRITING!
If you have loosely chatted with your venue about them offering any services, setting up, providing rentals, greeting guest…etc. Please get it in writing. You will find that venues promise a lot of things and will yes you to death in hopes that you book. Make sure you get any promises in writing on your contract. That way you can guarantee it happens the way you planned, and everyone is on the same page (literally).
7. BOOK A DAY OF COORDINATOR
If the venue doesn’t already offer this as a service, you might want to consider adding this very important vendor to your A-team. When you have a DIY wedding, you need to think about who is going to do a lot of the setup and breakdown. It happens a lot where couples make a lot of décorations themselves and have a big setup plan but forget that they are going to be busy getting ready to GET MARRIED that day. Even the most laid back of weddings have a TON of behind the scenes stuff going on and a day of coordinator can be sure that nothing gets forgotten. A DOC can make sure you stay on schedule, be an extra set of hands for setup, communicate with guests, help with your ceremony logistics and a million other superhero things. Do it. Please.
8. HAVE FUN!
Smile and have fun in knowing that your wedding is 100% curated and decorated to fit your style and personality! Your guests are going to love it and bow down with envy and admiration. They are going to be talking about it for years to come as the party of the century! Say it with me… it was LEGENDARY!
Heidi Sicari, Owner & Coordinator
Takk House Weddings + Events