February 17, 2020
Finding the perfect wedding venue is one of the first steps in planning your wedding and it can be one of the most challenging aspects of wedding planning. Today I’m going to dive deep into how to do it without making yourself crazy. There is a lot that goes into the decision. And there are a number of things to consider before you begin looking all over the internet, and before you start visiting venues.
Before you begin searching online for your perfect wedding venue, and certainly before you go to visit any venue in person (do not do this until you have done your research and made an appointment), you need to consider your guest count, budget, style, and where/when you would like to get married. You don’t need to have a specific date. In fact, don’t do that to yourself–it’s a good idea to go into this with an open mind about the exact date. But knowing a time of year, or simply the length of your preferred engagement is a good place to begin. You should consider the day of the week as well. Are you dead set on a Saturday night? Or, do you need a Sunday? Would you do a Thursday night wedding to save money and book your dream venue, sooner? You don’t need to decide, but it’s all items to consider before beginning your search. It’s ok to change your mind through out the process (trust me, you likely will) but you should have some idea of your non-negotiables first. If you are looking for a comprehensive list of Long Beach Island wedding venue options, check out our list here. If you are looking to find information on wedding venues all over the state of New Jersey, visit my friends at Idalia Photography and check out their site for even more information on NJ wedding venues.
We really have to break your guest count down into a number of important considerations. In order to begin you must have an idea of the type of wedding you would like to have, large vs. small. To know this, you should have some idea of the size of your guest count. It’s ok to begin with a ball-park number or range. You will want to spend a bit of time, with your betrothed creating a list of the people you can’t imagine getting married without! This becomes your minimum. Then add your friends, coworkers, and close family friends. Speak to both sets of parents to see who they might be considering a “must have” on their invitation list. Obviously you don’t have to invite everyone, but it’s something to discuss. It can get complicated, but this also gives you an opportunity to discuss budget and your guest list with those who might be contributing to the overall cost of the wedding.
Once you have a general idea of your count, you can begin to look at venues that will fit your guest count without looking half-empty or feel stuffed and crowded. Just an insider secret: When a venue tells you they can hold up to 300, they can, but you should never put the maximum in the space. It will be crowded! Nor do you want to invite 325 thinking that you will have people turn you down, what will you do when you end up with 301 guests?
Another Insider Secret: Typically about 15% of your total invited guests will say no. But this percentage can fluctuate dramatically depending on how far in advance you give people the wedding date and when you send your save the dates out.
Once you have a solid estimate for the size of your guest list, you need to think about your budget. It’s really easy to look at venues and caterers online and see prices listed as packages, with a “per person” cost attached. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can simply multiply that number by your guest count and know what you are spending on your wedding. You must factor the following into your per person count (and keep in mind, that this may not include liquor, cake, and specialty food items). In addition, you will want to save room in your total budget for other wedding items, like attire, photography, flowers, etc.
It’s hard to say what your total budget will be, but do not get caught up in the “per person” cycle. While food and beverage are a per-person expense, most of your other wedding budget items (like photo, video, attire, and to a certain extent florals and rentals) will not be, and their role in your budget will depend on many factors such as vendor quality and experience, and the market where you plan on getting married.
Choosing a wedding venue that is over budget will eliminate other aspects of your wedding plans is probably not a great fit. Choosing a venue that means you have to DIY your centerpieces and ask your uncle to photograph the wedding is not going to make for a happy planning process and certainly will lead to regrets down the road. Nothing feels worse than trying to scrape together money at the last minute or going into debt to pay for your dream wedding venue. And trying to plan as wedding that you are not sure you can afford is a very difficult and stressful road to go down. To be honest, it’s not a great way to start off a marriage.
You already might have a good idea about the look and feel you want for your wedding venue. Most couples do. Do not be swayed. If you are not a horse-riding-cow-milking farm girl, a barn (although pretty and perhaps cost effective) is probably not going to be the right venue for your big day. And if you’re not a crystal accents kinda couple, then a ballroom setting might not be what you are looking for either. I desperately wanted to get married on the beach, but it turned out to be logistically impossible. We live near the beach. We were getting married near the beach. But my father (one of my must-have wedding guests) could not handle the sand and dunes. So we picked a venue that had everything we needed within a relatively small geographic footprint. Instead of being beachie, our venue had a light airy rustic feel and a historical touch, which appealed to our history-nerd tendencies.
There are three “seasons” for weddings in New Jersey.
While you can get married in the winter season, many Long Beach Island wedding venues are closed. It’s good to know the “seasons” because it does affect your pricing and logistics. In addition, some venues, like some of the yacht clubs do not offer wedding dates during the summer months because those dates are reserved for their members. Be careful of the in-season wedding at the shore. There are additional logistical challenges. Crowded beaches, difficult parking, and heat to name just a few.
I knew I was not going to get married on a golf course (at least not a place that was obviously a golf course). But I didn’t discover this until I went to see a golf course venue. You may discover similar things about yourself while wedding planning. But you should know before you begin venue research if you plan on getting married in a church. If it’s your church, that will limit you geographically. If not, some churches have rules about who can and can’t get married in them. And some venues have spaces that double as a chapel. Getting married in the same location as your venue is an added convenience for your guests and will save you money. But that is not a good reason to skip the church if that is important to your and your family. If you want to get married at the beach or in garden, you will want to look at venues that have those options, but also include a rain plan…
Do you really want an outdoor ceremony? Would you consider tenting a space to ensure you can have some outdoor elements in case of bad weather? More things to think about. When you go to look at an LBI wedding venue, you must ask about their rain plan. And keep in mind, the “rain” plan can also be required in the event of high temperatures, high winds, or thunder and lightening even if it’s in the distance (remember lightening can travel over a large distance, and NOTHING would be worse than the rumble of thunder while your guests are sitting on the beach for your ceremony). If you visit a venue and you don’t like the rain plan, do not say to yourself that it will be ok because it’s unlikely to rain. You just jinxed it. And you will spend months worrying about weather patterns! There are a number of ways to solve the rain plan problem. But you will want to have a good solution before you book your venue! Please, please, please, ask about the wind capacity for your tent if you choose to rent one! Please!
Many of the following items may or may not be deal-breakers. But you will want to have them on your radar once you begin taking a closer look at venues.
What’s the vibe you get form the wedding venue’s staff? Are they responsive to your emails? Are they friendly? If you don’t get a good vibe, move on. Or, consider hiring a professional go-between (a wedding planner, perhaps).
Once you have taken all of this into account, begin looking at wedding venues online. Make sure hit your major “wants.” Then call or email to make an appointment to go and visit. Do not “drop in” at a venue. You will want to make sure that there is a good person who is knowledgeable about weddings and the space to answer all of your questions. Good luck! And, lemme just put it out there: once you have your venue, many decision become a lot easier. It’s one of the trickiest!
Thank you to the photographers who allow us to use their images on our site:
Ashley Mac Photographs, Heather Palecek Photography, Idalia Photography, Jessica Erb Photography, Susan Elizabeth Photography, Delaney Dobson Photography, Ann Coen Photography, Lovesick Inc., K Hulett Photography & Melanie Cassie Photography
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