How to lock down the perfect wedding venue

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River Farm. (Photo/ Jennifer Dominick at Love Life Images)
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By Janet Daniels

You’re engaged and beginning to plan your dream wedding. Congratulations! Now, where do you start?

If you have the luxury of contracting a wedding planner for full planning services, then that person will guide you on every decision you need to make.

If you are taking on the planning yourself, the first step is to sit down with your fiancé and talk about what type of event you would like. Would you like to have a small intimate affair with only your parents and siblings in attendance? Would you like a full blow-out party with everyone, including your dentist? Establishing a general guest count is priority one and will help you determine venues to explore. A small intimate affair doesn’t need a giant ballroom, and the blow-out bash won’t fit in a barn.

Take into consideration any weddings you’ve attended in the past. Was there one that was held outdoors in February, where you didn’t have to chew your dinner because your teeth chattering did it for you? Or one where the DJ was so loud that you couldn’t hear your date right next to you?

Now that you have a rough guest count and a vibe in mind, you can start looking at venues. Look at wedding websites and social media to start. Talk to friends and colleagues about events they have attended. Visit the websites of the venues to check their pricing and capacities.

As you do your research, narrow down a list of no more than five venues to start, and make appointments to see them. This is where the fun begins.

With your Pinterest board and favorite wedding magazine in mind, tour the venues and try to imagine your event in the space. Ask questions about details you have in mind. Can you play corn hole? Can you have a cigar bar? Do they allow pets to join in your big day? Can you have a band or DJ? Take notes, take pictures and take any information the venue provides.

Now that you’ve taken the tours, you’re overwhelmed and your dearest darling’s eyes have glazed over, relax and digest all this information.

As you look back over each visit, try to identify which venue gave you “the feels.” Where did you feel the most comfortable? Which venue had staff that you liked? Which one said “yes” to most of your questions? This is an important aspect to consider when choosing any of your vendors. You will be working with these folks for the next six to 18 months. It’s a working relationship, and if you can’t imagine working with them, then don’t.

If any of your first five venues survive the cut, go back and ask all the questions that came up through the touring process. If something came up at the third venue that you didn’t even consider asking the first two, circle back and ask. If none of the first set of venues make the grade, then go to the next five on your list and work the process with them.

There’s one piece of advice I give to all my couples. The main objective of your wedding day is for you and your fiancé to end the day married. Nothing else matters. Things will happen that weren’t planned, and things that were planned won’t happen, but as long as you end the day married, mission accomplished.

The writer is rental events manager for River Farm, a 25-acre historic venue.

(Read more: Tying the Knot: Hometown kids find enduring love)

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