Friday, March 7, 2014

Viewing Venues | Part 2: Choosing the right venue for you

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In Part 1 of "Venues", we discussed the different types of venues that are available for a ceremony and reception. So, it's on to step two, and that means it's decision time.

While you might have a general sense of what you want your wedding to look like, whether it’s a formal affair or a casual afternoon gathering, finding the right venue and reception style requires asking yourself a few more questions.

Let’s start with the basics—make sure your reception venue has enough space for your guests, the type of food you want to serve, and other necessary amenities to make your reception a success. Some venues, such as the Holiday Inn Chicago North Shore Hotel, is willing to work with all couples to find a wedding that works for them. “We host a variety of weddings from afternoon brunches to cocktail receptions with international foods to South Asian galas, Kosher weddings, and more traditional sit-down dinners,” says director of catering Toni Mengarelli.

Beyond that, you should feel comfortable with the space. If you’re hoping to plan a black-tie wedding for 300 people, you need to make sure there’s enough room for guests so that they don’t feel crowded. Also, look for venues that have in-house planners so that you can have the peace of mind that everything is being taken care of.

“When you chose a venue that is more nontraditional, you have more flexibility to stray from the normal expectations of a modern wedding, says Lori Stephenson of LOLA Event Productions. “If you walk into the ballroom at the Four Seasons, you expect white-glove service and a fivecourse meal. If you walk into Architectural Artifacts, all bets are off ! You can get as crazy and inventive as the venue itself, as long as it makes sense in all aspects of the event.”

While we all wish we had a sky-high budget, the reality is that the venue has to fit your financial constraints. Coordinators at local venues realize that and are willing to work within your budget to make a fabulous soiree at any price point.

The venue’s staff can make or break your wedding-planning experience, so you want to be comfortable with the event personnel. Look for a staff that is hands-on and willing to really go the extra mile to make your day special. Says Mengarelli, “We feel it is important to work with every bride and groom to create an event that truly reflects their personalities from a winter wonderland to sports theme to a Hawaiian luau—even a fallen soldier table at a recent military wedding.” Make sure the staff at your venue, whether it’s big or small, gives you personal attention.

If you plan to have your wedding in December, it’s obvious that an outdoor garden won’t work for you. But it goes beyond that—if you’re hosting a winter wedding, the weather will likely be dreary, gray, and perhaps snowy. So while that wedding venue with floor to ceiling windows might boast a spectacular view when the sun is out, it’s less likely to impress when all it does is remind guests of how cold it is outside. A better venue might be something that’s cozy, perhaps with a fireplace, and enough architectural intrigue inside to keep guests’ minds off the dismal weather outside.

In most cases, tuxedos and gowns look out of place in city parks, but just right in a luxurious hotel ballroom. One of the first decisions you need to make is whether you want a casual or formal wedding, and let your wedding venue reinforce that decision. Without ever putting the words “black tie” on the invitation, guests automatically know that an afternoon wedding at a park is much less formal than an evening affair at a historic mansion.

Farrah Singh of Simply Azure Events offers a good set of guidelines, from casual to black-tie, although, she notes, sometimes switching it up makes the wedding more intriguing. “Cocktail receptions can be very fun in an art gallery, aquarium, boat, top of buildings, old-school movie theaters, and lofts, while sit-down dinners are pretty classic in hotels, reception halls, or tents. Black-tie affairs can be in any of the above, as long as the idea is communicated well.”

Popular venue themes include rustic chic, which works well in venues such as restored barns and gardens; vintage glamour, perfect for a historic mansion; and Italian wine night, just right for a vineyard or a classic restaurant. 

Having a unique wedding location can more unique the wedding location, the less likely it is to have hosted nuptials in the past—and the more work you’ll have to do to make it a success.

Venues such as banquet halls and hotel ballrooms might seem a little too overdone for your wedding, but there’s a reason why so many couples gravitate toward these wedding reception hot spots. With built-in wedding planners, catering experts, and all-inclusive wedding packages, these venues make set your wedding apart. However, the it easy to plan a wedding on a busy schedule. However, if you’re willing to really put in a lot of effort and hire professionals who know how to create an amazing soiree style, then your wedding could really stand out for having such a unique location.

It seems superficial, but making sure your wedding colors complement the colors in which the room is decorated goes a long way in finding the right style for your wedding. A red, black, and white wedding could clash with a venue that has lime green carpeting. Luckily, a lot of venues recognize that decorating in bright colors could limit their appeal to couples, so the buildings are decorated in a neutral color scheme. By adding flowers, linens, and other embellishments to the room, you can turn that neutral color scheme into a fabulous soiree style.

If you've always dreamt of an ornate, highly decorated wedding, then there are a multitude of options. However, there is another route you could go—find a venue that doesn’t need a lot of decoration. For example, a charter yacht offers beautiful views of the Chicago skyline.

Some venues are very rigid in their offerings and might not allow you to make substitutions in menus, bring in your own linens or chair rentals, or incorporate a fun wedding trend such as a candy buffet or photo booth. Many venues even require selecting vendors from a list of approved clients, meaning you can’t even bring in the DJ that you saw at your cousin’s wedding last year or your friend who has a passion for baking wedding cakes.

Now, there are always ways to personalize a space, such as using unique centerpieces or giving away interesting favors, but if you have your heart set on making your wedding a truly personal affair, then ask the venue what their limitations are. Often, you’ll be surprised at how accommodating they can be.

With the right venue, your soiree in the city will showcase your style and that of your husband-to-be, making it a night to remember.

This post was originally featured in our magazine and on our website. Visit our website to view this article and others like it.

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