Securing a venue should always be one of the first boxes to check off your to-do list when planning an event. The venue will dictate how the rest of the planning will go, including decor, entertainment and food, so the venue selection process should be done carefully and thoughtfully.
As a professional event planner, I often compare scouting out an event venue to the homebuying process — both can be time-consuming and fraught with pitfalls if you’re not careful. Also, in both cases, seeking support from a professional is very helpful.
Whether you’re opting to go the path alone or with the help of an event planner, here are some expert tips to consider along the way.
Curate a potential venue list
Make a list of potential sites that fit the vision for the event, considering the following:
Location: This should include the proximity to where guests are staying or coming from and how easy it is for them to access the venue.
Size: Work on your guest list early. This will help you estimate how many guests may attend and the venue size that’s needed to accommodate them.
Flexibility: What are each venue’s policies? For example, if you know you’ll need a full day to set up, but a venue only allows for two hours in advance of the party to prepare, then that particular venue should not make the shortlist.
Cost: Each venue is likely to come with built-in costs. Often, venues don’t disclose all of those extra fees upfront. (Pro tip: This is where working with a professional is particularly helpful. As an experienced planner, I know the questions to ask to determine all of the costs being charged by a venue.)
Availability: Ask about each venue’s availability to accommodate the event at a desired date or time.
Do site visits
Schedule appointments to visit each venue on your list that has potential. (This is the part where I definitely feel like I’m wearing my real estate agent hat when working with clients!) Walk through each space with an eye for the following:
Layout: How will the size and layout work for the event? The ideal space should be accessible not only for guests but also for vendors.
Parking: Where is parking located in proximity to the venue? Evaluate if there are locations to self-park or if valet parking services will be needed. Additionally, inquire about drop-off points near entrances for valet use, along with spots for shuttles or drivers to drop off guests.
Restrooms: Scope out where the restrooms are in proximity to where the event will take place and make sure the quantity and quality of facilities will be adequate for your guests. At some outdoor or tented venues, you may need to rent restroom facilities — a key point to know when weighing your options.
Equipment: Ask the venue manager what items are included with the use of the space. For example, are tables, chairs, linens, dishes, et cetera provided? The more items that are included, the better the value of the venue cost.
Contracting the venue
After assessing all options, make a venue selection and move on to contracting. An expert can be helpful here; I request the contract, review all of its terms and assist my clients through the negotiating and signing process. Make sure a contract addresses these points:
Space and time: The specific space(s) that will be used should be listed. The contract also should include the time/duration of usage for each space.
Setup and teardown: Are there specific parameters for when setup and teardown of the event can take place? If so, that should be noted.
Payment schedule: Double-check the amount and instructions for each installment that’s due, from first deposit to final payment.
Insurance: Many venues require a liability policy to be purchased by the person contracting the event space. The contract should include the amount required and when proof of insurance is due.
Additional fees: These extras may include security, valet, outside food charges and equipment upgrades. If these apply, get them in writing.
While no plan is totally foolproof when it comes to event planning, these steps to researching and securing a venue that aligns with your goals and budget will certainly help you to get the party started on the right foot. PJC
Shari Zatman is the owner of Perfectly Planned by Shari. For more expert event planning tips, visit the Perfectly Planned by Shari blog at perfectlyplannedbyshari.com/blog. Content provided by advertising partner. PJC