Venue-hunting? Don't sign that contract before reading these savvy money-saving tips from Bridal Guide's web producer (and real bride) Stefania Sainato!
The Venetian: The venue we ended up booking!
1. DON'T rule out venues automatically: Unless a potential venue is historic and world-renowned, or your name is David Tutera, it's pretty darn near impossible to guesstimate how much it's going to set you back in the long run based on photos alone. Give yourself free reign to visit any and all wedding locations that pique your interest-whether they're must-sees or just maybes-if you have the time and aren't getting hitched in 6 months or less. When we walked into The Palazzo Room at The Venetian, a venue in Garfield, NJ, Jason nearly passed out when he saw the sky-high ceilings and glittering chandeliers. But when we started to comparison-shop and crunched some numbers, we realized it matched up with many other venues in price, but actually offered more food options and amenities than others.
Related: Browse photos from real weddings here!
3. DON'T lose sight of your priorities: During the wedding-planning process, it's easy to get swept away in the thought that this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so accruing debt is inevitable. Every bride has their moments where judgment jumps out the window-mine was when I begged Jason to see Oheka Castle, knowing full well that it was far past our budget max (a Jonas brother got married there, for goodness sake!) Being the great fiancé that he is, we went for a tour anyway, and I somehow deluded myself into thinking that we could swing the cost. That is, before he pointed out that we wouldn't be able to have a single flower, song, or piece of cake. Whoops.
Related: Who Pays for What?
5. DO take advantage of word-of-mouth: Those three little words are of the utmost importance to vendors, since most brides take into account what kind of experience their friends and family members may have had at a particular wedding venue. Tell your assigned sales rep about real-life couples who got married at their establishment and recommended it to you, and they may throw in some small extras or lower the price a smidge. It doesn't hurt to try!
Related: How to Negotiate with Your Wedding Vendors
Related: 33 Money-Saving Secrets from Wedding Pros
8. DON'T forget about extra fees: Ask your sales rep to calculate the total cost per person, including the 20% service charge and tax for your state. Often, they will just quote you for the sum excluding those two figures, which can make a big difference in your total cost. Also be wary of venues that may charge extra costs for services like cake-cutting, parking, or using outside vendors.
Related: 4 Ways to Get Cheaper Cocktails
9. DO ask about preferred vendors: Most wedding venues have a list of photographers, DJs, and florists that they recommend who have worked with them on events in the past. Be sure to ask about the rules regarding bringing in outside vendors. For example, my venue just invested in a state-of-the-art lighting system, so they only allow their affiliated lighting company to use their equipment, rather than whichever DJ I may choose.
10. DON'T wait until the last minute: Dates book up much more quickly than most brides would expect, so don't hesitate if you know you're going to select a certain venue in the end. If you're having a long engagement, like I am, trying to book your venue early so that you get quoted that year's prices versus the year you're actually getting married. I got 2011 rates rather than 2013, which saved me at least 15%. Also be aware that most venues don't allow you to switch the date once you've signed their contract, so you're locked into "I Do."
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