Selecting the Site

There are two sites that need to be chosen: one for the ceremony and one for the reception. When considering each one, don’t choose them in isolation; consider how one will complement the other. So, for example, it would be strange for a very conservative church wedding where it’s inappropriate for guests to show too much skin to precede a beach reception where people are encouraged to get involved with a game of volleyball! Also, the proximity of the two venues is something to consider. Do you really want your guests to be stuck in traffic as they drive all the way across town from the ceremony to the reception? That’s valuable hors d’oeuvre munching time they’d be wasting!

Most likely, you’ll look at a whole bunch of venues before you make a decision. Some, you’ll immediately think, “No way, José!” and want to get out of there before the offensively patterned carpet or peculiar smell start making you consider eloping. Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of venues, write out the pros and cons of each one to establish which would be the best for you.

Where to Start

Couples get married in all sorts of places, and informal weddings can be as individual as you are. Weddings have been booked in grand old buildings, movie-studio lots, theatres, the zoo, an amusement park, on boats, on skis and even on surfboards. Just remember to book well in advance; another couple might be as creative as you!

If the Internet search is drawing a blank, check out these other research tools:

  • Phone book. Start with the Yellow Pages, where you can look under churches and chapels, synagogues, banquet facilities, clubs, halls and auditoriums, hotels, museums, parks and restaurants.
  • Local parks department. A parks department administers most city and county parks, and historical areas. Ask them which sites are most popular for wedding ceremonies.
  • Historical societies and local tourism offices. Here you can learn about landmarks and notable buildings.

Beautiful surroundings play a role in most wedding fantasies. Are you up on the most popular sites for weddings and receptions?

  • Religious centers
  • Your own home, or that of a family member/friend
  • Private mansions
  • Country clubs
  • Parks and clubhouses
  • Catering halls
  • Hotel ballrooms
  • Trendy restaurants
  • Backyard tents
  • Gallery spaces and arts clubs
  • Country inns
  • Party rooms
  • Museums
  • Outdoor dining halls
  • Hilltops, meadows, beaches and other outdoor wonders.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Site

How much will it cost to rent your facility? Do I have to be a member of the congregation or club to get rental privileges?
Sometimes a friend who holds a membership can sponsor you. For more on this, visit Church Wedding for a Non-Member
What hours are available on my wedding date?
If the facility isn’t “all yours” on a particular date, find out what other events are being held that day. Make sure you have ample set-up and clean-up time between events.
What are your event rules and guidelines, including restrictions, set-up times and clean-up requirements?
Avoid surprises by studying all the rules before booking the site. Make sure you approve of their restrictions on photography, decorating or any other key matters.
Who is my contact at the site?
Meet the site’s event coordinator as soon as you can. Establish a rapport early to prevent miscommunications. This professional can be an invaluable source of referrals for other wedding services.
How many guests will the facility hold?
Don’t pick a place that won’t comfortably accommodate your expected guest attendance.
How much is the expected donation or fee for the site?
Find out how much you will pay and when you should pay it.
Will there be additional reimbursement fees for the officiant?
Learn any travel, rehearsal or other fees you need to cover for the officiant.
What equipment must be rented for my wedding and how much will it cost?
You may still be required to pay a rental fee, even though the needed equipment may be located at the site.
Is pre-wedding counseling required?
Religious sites may require couples to attend pre-wedding counseling. Others require you to promise to raise your children in that religion. Find out any commitments you’ll be asked to make.
Can we provide our own catering?
You want to be aware of all your catering options. Ask if there are any penalties or service fees involved when using independent caterers or cake makers.
More questions?
For other questions to ask, visit Questions to Ask When You Tour a Venue

The Contract

A contract with the site(s) of your ceremony and reception serves as a guarantee of services and fees. It’s also a written reference for all agreements made. Be sure these details are covered in your written contract. And remember not to sign anything until you’re completely satisfied.

Your site contract(s) should include:

  • A total cost and an exact line-item breakdown
  • Service specifics, including detailed list of everything (tables, chairs and linens, for example) to be provided
  • by site
  • All billing details, including deposit amount and date
  • paid
  • Payment schedule
  • Exact date and time of your event(s)
  • Exact location of your event(s)
  • Names of site representative who will assist at your event(s) and an acceptable substitute
  • Proof of liability insurance and liquor license
  • Cancellation/refund policy
  • Details of any special requests or agreements.

Before you sign on the dotted line, read this: Check the Venue’s Fine Print!