Location, Location, Location

Choosing a venue can be an exhausting experience.  You want to find one that is the right size, not too large or it will feel empty and not too small or everyone will be uncomfortable.  You also need to find one that has the right “feel” for your event.

As you look at venues, keep the following in mind:

How much work will I have to do to make it exactly as I want it?

Some venues are basically empty shells and you have them decorated.  The rental price for the facility can be really attractive, but then you need to add in all the décor.  Other venues are already decorated and you just need to do some finishing touches.  Though the rental price is likely higher, your total cost with décor can be less.  Do the math before making any decision.

Does it have enough space (think of the service staff also!)?

No one likes to be stuck at a table during a reception because there’s no room to get up and mingle.  I’ve seen many weddings where the couple fell in love with the venue and then tried to squeeze in the tables.  Pretty much everyone was uncomfortable and the service staff struggled to get to the tables.  My experience is that you need 5 feet between tables to have good flow and be comfortable.  This takes into account the person sitting at the tables and a comfortable space for walking between.  Also consider the needs of the service staff when preparing and serving the food.  If they are cramped into a back corner it will take more time for them to serve the food and accidents are more likely.

Is it easy to find? 

If the ceremony and reception aren’t at the same local, you’ve got to allow ample time to get between the two.  In addition if the directions are complex, you’ll likely have at least a few in the party that get lost.  Always provide a contact number of a local who knows the area on the directions sheet from the ceremony to the reception.

How far is it from the hotels? 

Everyone should be able to get to bed safely after the reception.  If your reception is in a remote local, make sure you’ve prearranged transportation for your guests back to the hotels, and factor this cost into your budget.

What are the hidden costs? 

Every last detail needs to be discussed and in the contract for a venue.  There are unscrupulous venues out there that will add hidden costs along the ways.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things to have in the contract:

  • Date and time the facility will be available for set-up – If they are responsible for any set-up, the time that this is to be complete also needs to be in writing.
  • Date and time the facility must be vacated
  • Number of venue staff on site during the event – At a minimum at least one custodial staff must be present to ensure the washrooms are kept tidy.  Are you required to feed the staff?
  • Décor restrictions – Are candles allowed?  Can décor be adhered to the wall?  If so, what can I use?
  • Fire Capacity for the facility in the layout of your event – The capacity of the room may be 300 people, but that is for a standing reception.  What is the capacity for a sit down meal?
  • Insurance – Who has it and how much?
  • Power capacity – Many old venues may not be able to handle modern light and sound systems.
  • Colour – If they are providing tablecloths, specify what colour.  If they are providing chairs, ensure that you see the chairs that will be used and that they are matching.


Finding a venue can be one of the most exhaustive parts of the planning process.  But by doing your due diligence, you can set a great foundation for the event.

Aaron is the Owner & Creative Director at Wise Events and has more than 15 years of experience planning events.

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