Choosing a wedding venue is perhaps one of the biggest — if not the biggest decision that you're going to make for your wedding day. The venue's availability can dictate your actual wedding date, and its style can play a huge role in your overall aesthetic. And because of this, it needs to be one of the first decisions that you make during your planning process … and it's usually one of the most expensive. But it doesn't have to be! Check out our latest episode on Inclusively Yours podcast, or keep reading for our chat with the the queen of savings, Jessica Bishop from The Budget Savvy Bride and author of the best-selling book, “The Budget Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer.” She's sharing her money-saving tips and tricks to finding and booking your venue.
Jessica's known as THE budget wedding expert, and has shared her money saving tips and tricks with outlets such as Good Morning America, Brides, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Refinery 29 and more. Her first book, “The Budget Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer” is an Amazon best-seller.
First Step to Finding a Venue: Talk Budget
The first step to finding a venue, you need a budget in place! And the first step to getting a budget in place is sitting down with your partner and any contributors. “You should discuss what the two of you would be comfortable spending or could realistically afford to spend. Some couples will decide to delay their wedding or have a longer engagement so they can save up,” says Jessica.
And if you're lucky enough to have financial contributors, it's important to sit down with them as well and set those expectations for what things typically costs. “There's a site called costofwedding.com that I always recommend couples checking out. You can actually look based on geographical area,” adds Jessica.
Then sitting down with all those contributing parties and making a plan — are they going to cover things when a bill comes in? Are they going to give you the money all at once in a lump sum? Setting those expectations at the beginning is the best way to avoid stress and conflict throughout the process.
How much of your budget should you set aside for your wedding venue?
On average, you should expect 40-50% of your budget be allocated to reception costs: venue fee, rentals, catering, the bar and entertainment. “It really depends on if you choose like an all-inclusive venue that includes all of those odds and ends versus a raw space where you're bringing everything in.”
Venue budget breakdown and sneaky costs to look out for:
“Things that can surprise you are things like cake-cutting fees and clean up/setup fees. If there needs to be extra like attendants on-site to liaise with the event vendors who are bringing in different items for the wedding day. Those are good things to look out for.”
“And then of course your timeline. Do you only have a certain amount of time set aside? What's the earliest you can come in, what's the latest you can be there? Is there an additional fee if you overstay that time limit? Because that can cut into your party time if you need to have everything cleaned up and be out of there by that deadline. So those are definitely some good things to keep in mind.”
“I think it's so cool when couples choose kind of a less traditional venue, and they do tend to be a bit more cost-effective. Because they're a lower fee, and you do have more control over each different aspect — you can select the caterer, the rentals that best suit your budget or your aesthetic, whichever might be a priority,” says Jessica.
“We're going to be featuring some of these offbeat, a little bit alternative wedding venues in order to try to share those hidden gems with the couples who are looking for them. They tend to be places like community centers or like VFW halls or lodges, local unionized groups who rent their spaces out, and it's really affordable and you can easily customize them, because they're kind of just blank spaces.”
Things to keep in mind when touring an out-of-the-box venue:
Make sure there are power outlets for lighting and DJ, easily-accessible bathrooms, and see if they have basic rentals such as tables, linens and chairs, or if those will need to be sourced. “Basically every single line item detail that you would need to put together a wedding reception. It's a good idea to ask – just line by line, all those details. I actually have a great downloadable, printable form on The Budget Savvy Bride, with some great questions to keep in mind and ask when you visit a venue.”
Other Secrets to Savings:
Choosing a less popular day of the week or time of the year can save you a lot of money. “I'm dying to be invited to a brunch wedding, because I love brunch,” laughs Jessica. “So Sundays, Fridays — I'm hearing that people are doing mid-week weddings. I haven't been invited to one personally, but obviously it'll depend a lot on your guest list and who you think might be able to attend an event that's not on a weekend. But you can save significantly by choosing a date other than Saturday. And also, knowing what kind of peak seasons are in your area. It obviously depends on the area of the country that you're in. But generally spring and fall are the busy wedding seasons. And then if you're in a really, really hot area — sometimes even going in like the dead of summer can save you potentially.”
“Another thing I really encourage all couples who are like looking to save as much as possible, is to keep an eye out for venues that will allow you to bring in your own alcohol. It can be a huge saver, just because you have so much more control over the cost per bottle of liquor or wine — so that can save you significantly, honestly. Because the markup tends to be so high with caterers — so that's a big one.”