Choosing a venue for your wedding or special event can be a daunting task! Over the years I've seen what can make or break a client experience. Your experience can be great based on everything from the staff to the dance floor. Being the first time you've planned this large of a gala, I'd like to share some input I think can be helpful when planning your Phoenix or Chicago based wedding. Please note the only thing I don't really share my input on is food. To me, that's an easy "yes or no." Most venues will have a tasting as well.
That's right, staff. How quickly does the staff set and clear meals can either help or become a detriment to your party. Just the other weekend I Dj'd a wedding where the staff was mostly high school and college students, but the venue was a beautiful, family-run banquet hall. Needless to say the owner came up and complained about his staff and "kids-these-days" using cell phones and not "remembering" simple tasks. I had to agree! However, my questions I pondered is "why were they allowed to have cell phones in the first place?" Anyways, we did introductions (later than I'd liked), cut the cake, did the blessing and went into dinner. We were holding off on speeches until after the salad course. We waited and waited for soup to be served. About 10 minutes went by and I went to check in with the bride and she asked me what the hold up was... Unfortunately, I didn't have an answer; I could only guess they may have been short staffed. We thought maybe we'd go into speeches so there wasn't so much "down-time." But then the staff began serving. Each course took just as long and our start time for the first dance was pushed back about 30 minutes.
Point - Make sure you have a clear understanding of the expectations of the staff. Younger, inexperienced staff will definitely be more of a detriment than an experienced one.
What about the bar? Obviously we all need a bar to serve drinks, but the location of the bar is just as important. I've always said at my wedding (yes, I hold the record for time-engaged) I'd have a beer tub, so guests can help themselves. Where would this be? Right on the edge of the dance floor; well, maybe a few feet away.
I've struggled with why venues would place the bar in a different room or even in the hallway. They have invented "portable bars." However, many venues don't even have a bar in the room. Make sure your room has a bar. This ultimately makes our job easier and encourages guests to stay in the room and not wander off to another wedding or event! (talking about you Billy J.. A friend of mine is notorious for that when we "attend" weddings)
Outside spaces are awesome! Especially rustic barn outdoor spaces. Much like a bar located in a different room, an outdoor space can encourage guests to leave the main room and essentially leave the dance floor empty. Some clients are OK with this, some aren't. My advice is to try to have interactive events to keep them in the room during dancing and try to limit time outside. This is obviously a difficult thing to do if it's a gorgeous evening (which it will be!).
Dance Floor and Room Size
With audio speakers, bigger is usually better; with dance floors and room sizes, my experience has been the opposite. For example: some clients will tell me that the venue is going to open an "air wall" and give them "2 rooms" instead of one because there is nothing "going on" in the room next-door. Let's say you have 150 guests at your wedding; the room capacity is 250; you then open up the air wall for another 250 for a total of 500 guest-capacity. You're now going to have a room that looks EMPTY! In my opinion, I'd rather be cramped and closer to a table and even able to talk to a table, rather than spread out. Psychologically, your guests are going to think the party is "dead."
The same holds true for your dance floor. Some venues have a dance floor built-in and it extends through the entire space. Even if every guest is on the floor, it's still going to look empty. I've included some recommended dance floor sizes below for your guest count.
Well, that's about it! Hopefully you've found this helpful. I know it's not the first thing you think of when booking a venue, but there are some important insights.
Feel free to call me with any questions about your venue selection!