Imagine you’ve been asked to organize a party, a graduation, a bar mitzvah or even a wedding. You’ve never done anything like it before, but you accept. After all, how hard can it be? You roll up your sleeves and start to make a list of everything that has to be done. The list keeps growing, and growing, and growing. Lists begin to sprout sub-lists, and the number of things to think about just keeps expanding.
If you’ve organized a party before, you don’t have to imagine this. You know for a fact that it can be stressful if you don’t have the information and support to make quality decisions from top to bottom. And with everybody counting on you to deliver results, the pressure can be high—especially if this is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Choosing a venue is one of the most important things you’re going to do. You’ll have to decide between indoor and outdoor, formal or casual. You’ll have to take the nature and style of the event, food and people into account. In a sense, the venue is the foundation of the entire event.
Where to begin
The first thing you want to do is give your event some definition. Is it formal or casual? Is it rustic or sleek and modern? What kind of technology and amenities will you require? You also need a solid idea of how many people are expected to attend the event.
The reality is, some venues will cost a pretty penny while others will be downright cheap. Getting the best venue for the budget you have can be tricky. If the date of the event is flexible, this can save you some money. Certain seasons and days of the week (a Saturday in September, for instance) will come at a higher price.
Knowing your guest list, and where most people are coming from, can help you choose the best-located venue. Directions are generally less of a problem now with the prevalence of GPS, but people still appreciate a convenient location.
Food and beverage
Who is your caterer? This can be an important factor in selecting a venue. In fact, many of the most reputable catering companies will have a list of premium venues for you to consider, and will help you choose based on the style of your event and the food being served. Catering companies might also be able to get you a special rate on your venue.
The decor and overall “vibe” of the venue are hugely important. Pay close attention to the architecture and interior designs, whether you’re visiting in person or viewing photos online. Does it match or enhance the type of event you’re putting on?
This is another important point, and you’ll want to closely confer with your catering company to make sure the venue has all of the necessary amenities. Some venues have exclusive agreements with certain caterers, which can limit your options—it’s important to know about these things. What about the tables, chairs, cutlery and other fine points? Do you need any audio-visual setups? Make sure you choose a venue that doesn’t cut corners in these vital areas, and provides clear and detailed information on what’s available.
You’ll also need to think about parking, accessibility to people with disabilities and the elderly, the acoustics and sound (this is important of you’re going to have performances and/or speeches during your event), and the total capacity of the venue.
Making the right call
There are two things you should definitely consider when navigating through these options and choosing a venue: First, check online reviews and focus on venues that have plenty of positive feedback from happy clients. This is a very good sign. Second, ask your professional catering company if they have any ideas on venue choice. These are people who work full-time in the industry, catering hundreds of events each year, and the often know all there is to know about venues in the area.