It’s the most important factor in real estate and it should be considered the most important decision to make when planning your ceremony and reception. There are many factors that go into deciding a location and usually cost is the first and foremost. Everyone wants a beautiful setting but the question is can you afford it? Location costs can go anywhere from free at a family or friends residence to $20,000 for a luxury estate. Whether your location is free or costs a bundle there are a few factors you need to consider before signing on the dotted line. How big is the venue? Can the site accommodate a ceremony and reception? Every location will have a maximum capacity. Some separate their capacities by indoor and outdoor events and by ceremonies and receptions. When calling around this should be the first question you ask if you have a large guest list. It could speed up your search immensely if you find out the locations you are calling have a 50 person limit. Usually halls, hotels and larger estates can accommodate the bigger receptions. Wineries, small estates and private residences often have limited space. What’s included? One would think with a $10,000 dollar site fee something would be included in that price? Not necessarily and not usually. The more desirable the site the more they can charge. Always ask what’s included. Sometimes sites will include things like tables and chairs, maybe even white linens. This could save you some money on rentals. Venues that are already set up for catering, such as hotels or community halls usually have these basics. Private residences and estates are at the top of the list when it comes to high cost receptions. They usually do not have the space or the desire to keep rentals on hand so you have to bring or rent everything for the event and this could cost you a pretty penny. What are the restrictions? When reading through a location contract you will always see a section of restrictions. This is to protect everyone involved. Some may seem silly, others too strict, but they are rarely negotiable. One of my favorite restrictions is “Only water is allowed in the fountain.” This came about because a not-so-sober bride jumped in it with her wedding dress on. Here are some you are likely to see: • Curfew: Some sites have a curfew because of the residents living nearby. Some will say no music past 10pm others may say no guests past 10pm. Just make sure it works well with your timeline. • Alcohol: To drink or not to drink, some sites will not allow a full bar. These venues have it written on their insurance rider that guests can not bring outside alcohol onto the premises. Usually wine and beer are okay. Just check if you are considering a full bar. • No cars on site. If you have a large guest list and the ceremony or reception is at a private residence, up a windy hill, you may see “need transportation” in the contract. This means no cars are allowed to park in front of or around the residence. In this case a shuttle or valet service will be required. Ask for preferred vendors. An established site will have a list of vendors they work with often. Some of my clients, in the past, have concern about working with “preferred vendors” because they think it will cost more. Well, it’s quite the contrary. In the long run, if you work with a vendor who knows the location they usually have many smart ways to save you money and time. Plus, it makes your life so much easier if you don’t have to second-guess everything they do. If they know the space, they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and less things fall through the cracks. Practice makes perfect. Plan B. No one likes to think about their wedding day not being perfect but make sure the site is set up for changes from Mother Nature or anything else thrown your way. If any part of your event is outdoors make sure you have a rain plan. Can you rent a tent? Can you move the party inside? What is the last day to cancel? If you do cancel, do you get any of your deposit back? You probably won’t need to act on any of these but just in case you’ll be prepared. Go with your gut. If you have the fortunate situation that you can’t decide between two or three locations go with what feels right. Imagine yourself walking down the aisle. Try to envision the reception set up. If it’s outside, will there be flowers in bloom? If it’s inside, will it be easy to deck it out. Whatever you choose the venue will set the stage of what’s to come.