What Is a Wedding Venue?
Wedding venues (locations) are curious places. Technically, a wedding venue is simply a place where you can host a wedding. Of course, when most people hear the words “wedding venue,” they automatically think about those places in big cities that provide not only the event space, but also catering, tables, chairs, linens, china, and even waitstaff along with their wedding packages.
These places typically market themselves online and in wedding magazines as “wedding venues,” and include locations such as hotels, warehouses, art galleries, and fancy buildings with columns and gardens featuring different rooms and areas specifically set up for weddings.
This doesn’t mean that a great location such as your backyard, a friend or family member’s home, a field, the middle of the woods, a mountaintop, or even the middle of a lake, that doesn’t have amenities, a staff, or even a required contract, can’t also be a wedding venue. All a location truly needs in order to qualify as a venue, is room for a bride, a groom, an officiant, and two witnesses to stand, sit, swim, fly, fall, lay down, or simply occupy.
We will look at both types of wedding venues, traditional and non-traditional, (Traditional meaning what everyone typically uses) with a focus on traditional.
Ideas for Some Truly Unique Wedding Venues
- Art gallery
- Baseball or football stadium
- Botanical garden
- College campus
- Cruise ship
- Dude ranch
- Historic mansion
- Industrial loft
- National park
- Opera house
- Private home
- Private yacht
- Ski lodge
- Theme park
- Island resort
When booking a traditional wedding venue, many will tell you that they take care of everything for you, but it’s important to know what those “things” are that they take care of. Typically, this means that they provide their clients with a room or rooms in which to host their wedding, the tables and chairs, the linens and dishes, probably the catering and the waitstaff. However, most of them do not provide anything else: the dress, the photographer, the stationery, the florist, the cake, the videographer, music, officiant, makeup, hair, and transportation.
Wedding venues also have many restrictions for the events they host. The most common restrictions are for the use of open flame candles, sparklers, and tossing anything at the bride and groom at the end of the wedding. They are worried about liability issues and cleaning up the mess afterward.
You’d be surprised at the damage that is done, mostly by guests, when candles and sparklers are present. Every wedding I’ve ever planned that included candles also included holes burned in expensive linen napkins and at least one fancy linen tablecloth on fire. Wedding guests simply are not as conscientious about others’ belongings.
Most also have the same restrictions on decorating the facility, music, and scheduling, all for liability and convenience reasons. If music is too loud or goes on too late, there might be complaints. They may even have restrictions themselves depending on where they are located. If furniture is moved around or the client decorates the venue, the venue staff has to clean it up afterward. Their strict scheduling guidelines are usually based around having to pay staff to be there early or late, or have the same restrictions as for music, for parties going on too late in a certain area. Some sites charge up to $500 an hour for extending your schedule earlier or for overstaying. It’s important to know these things before choosing a venue.
Would you consider an alternative wedding venue?
Most wedding venues also have a preferred vendor list, meaning that anyone booking the venue has to also use the specific names on their preferred list for every other wedding service they hire (photography, entertainment, rentals, lighting, etc.) The most common preferred vendor situation is the food and beverage minimum (or catering minimum) that comes with 99% of wedding venue contracts. If you sign a contract with the venue, you are also required to use their in-house catering and bar services, and you have to spend a minimum amount of money with them. These catering and bar services are usually more expensive than anything you could find on your own.
If they do allow outside services, there is usually a fee that accompanies using them, from the venue. There is also typically a corkage fee, regardless of whether you provide your own alcohol or use theirs, which is generally sold at a triple markup. This fee is simply because they have to open the bottles. And don’t forget about cake cutting fee that venues charge, simply for cutting the wedding cake at the reception. Finally, upon signing, you will be required to provide a security deposit, normally non-refundable. It’s important to ask all these questions when researching wedding venues in your area to make sure that you are educated before making any decisions or making any suggestions.
All of these traditional venue qualities are what make non-traditional wedding venues SO attractive to so many couples. There are typically no deposits, and if so they are low, few restrictions due to having no liability for your actions, and there will definitely be no hidden fees. However, non-traditional venues come with their own headaches, as the customers are now responsible for providing the required necessities for guests and other wedding vendors.
Fancier locations will offer their clients a variety of products and services to make their locations more attractive, but some of the more unique locations, like those above we’ve mentioned, will likely have requirements in order to legally provide for the traditional ceremony and reception you’ll be coordinating.
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness