Planning My Own Wedding: Finding A Venue

After almost two months of searching, looking at over 60 venues online, sending and receiving hundreds of emails, analyzing quotes, hunting for photos and visiting venues… Glen and I have finally found THE ONE!

We made the mistake of beginning to look for venues on Pinterest. Unless you live in America and have access to the perfect barn, you may have unrealistic expectations of what Cape Town has to offer.

As a wedding co-ordinator, I know a lot of venues (and I know their prices, capacity and venue managers too) so we were lucky enough to have a head start. There are hundreds of actual wedding venues, restaurants that could be used as venues and other environments such as beaches, gardens and forests that could be transformed into venues, so there really are a lot of options out there. There is no right or wrong way to find a wedding venue, but there are a few things you can do to minimize the stress factor.

My first piece of advice: Be organized!

1. Create an email address that you use solely for wedding purposes. We contacted all our venues from this email address so it made it easy to refer back to conversations and to find quotes we hadn’t yet saved on our computers.

2. Keep a spreadsheet of all the venues you look at. If you find a venue online, write down the name, email address and whether or not you have received a response. After a couple of weeks of feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere, you may need to follow up with some venues, so having their details on a spreadsheet will make the process that much simpler.

3. Ask for help. Even wedding co-ordinators don’t know all the venues out there. I had Glen’s parents helping us to find venues. They would sit online late at night hunting for venues for us when we were getting over it. Having that support is so valuable!

Have an idea of what you like

There are different types of venues:

– Big venues that can accommodate 350 guests or more or small venues that are better suited to intimate weddings. Have an idea of your head count (even a vague idea will help) so that you know which venues are too small or too big.

– Modern venues that could be described as ‘clean’. Think white table cloths and chair covers. Or rustic venues that are a little more wooden and organic. If you have a preference, keep that in mind when searching for venues. Both are beautiful in their own way, so if you aren’t fussy, you will have more options to choose from (which can end up being more overwhelming at the end of the day).

– ‘Real’ venues and makeshift venues. A ‘real’ venue is anything with a roof, electricity, an existing kitchen, toilet facilities and sometimes a manager or group of staff members. A makeshift wedding would be a beautiful garden, beach or forest that requires a marquee. We initially wanted to do something makeshift and after doing some calculations we realised that we had to go with an indoor wedding (the end of Autumn/beginning of Winter is too risky for an outdoor wedding) and we simply don’t have any big beautiful houses to use as a venue, and hiring a marquee and additional staff members and kitchen facilities would be more hassle than its worth. If it wasn’t for the 8 weddings I am co-ordinating between now and May, I may have considered the makeshift wedding venue, because we would have more time to make it awesome.

Additional parameters to keep in mind

If you have no parameters and you are happy to use any venue, you will have hundreds of options. This can be extremely overwhelming. Having too many venues to choose from sounds more appealing than it is. My advice: create a list of non-negotiables and a separate list of things you would like but are willing to budge on.

Our non-negotiables:

– The venue can’t be further than an hour away from our ceremony venue (this is for the comfort of some family members that are not able to travel and stay overnight as well as the convenience for all our guests who will end up having to drive far).

– We have to be able to seat 120 guests comfortably, with a dancefloor.

– We want plated food. A lot of venues offer buffets as a way to save money and if you are able to bring in your own caterer you could get away with food trucks, picnics and other more ‘relaxing’ meals (there is nothing wrong with doing that, we just really want our guests to have food served to them).

– We have set the date, so obviously we wanted to find a venue that is available on 1 May.

Our list of things we could sort of budge on included the overall look of the venue (we didn’t want a classic, modern, ‘clean’ looking venue so we wanted something a little more rustic, but we didn’t have a particular picture in mind). We were also a little bit flexible with the price we are willing to pay (there’s expensive and then there’s REALLY expensive – so we made sure we steered clear of anything ridiculously expensive, but we were realistic in expecting the average venue to come with a hefty price tag).

So, with our list in mind, we were eventually able to narrow down our choices to a small handful of venues that we liked and were available. We just had to visit them to see if they had the look we were going for and if the food met Glen’s standards (we are big fans of cooking shows and eating delicious food, so Glen has very high standards when it comes to good food – this is not something I’m complaining about because he is also a phenomenal cook).

We visited a venue last week and for the first time, we absolutely fell in love with it. The interior of the venue is rustic and beautiful but still a blank canvas, so we can bring in decor in any colour palette and it will fit in. There are also beautiful gardens surrounding the venue that we will be able to use. We have heard amazing things about the food (plated food that will be served by waiters!) and the venue manager said to us “I hope you like food, because ours is amazing”. You should have seen the look on Glen’s face.

Here is a sneak peek of what the venue looks like [without the white table cloths and candles]:

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Kelly Jane Mole is an on-the-day wedding co-ordinator that recently got engaged to the man of her dreams. She will be blogging about her wedding planning journey in the hopes that readers will learn something from her triumphs and mistakes. Follow the Illuminate My Event blog to see more!

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Filed under Planning My Own Wedding, Wedding, Wedding Wednesdays

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