Ten questions to ask before choosing a nontraditional wedding venue
Forget church pews and hotel ballrooms. Your idea of the perfect wedding is a little less traditional. Hosting a wedding in a warehouse or a home on the shore of Lake Norman will create a wow factor—not to mention the incredible photo opportunities—but nontraditional venues have challenges too.
“It takes a lot of extra planning to pull together a wedding in a nontraditional venue,” explains Tina Staz, owner of A Simple Affair Events. “Couples need to think through the logistics before booking their event.”
Here are ten questions to ask before choosing a nontraditional venue.
How much will it cost?
One of the biggest misconceptions about choosing a nontraditional venue is that it will be less expensive than a country club or hotel ballroom. The cost to rent tables, chairs, linens, and catering equipment—items that are included in the fee at most conventional wedding venues—can be budget-busting, according to Jennifer Wouters, event planner and owner of Wouters Creative.
“You’ll have a lot of extra costs because it’s a nontraditional venue,” she says.
Is the caterer prepared?
Without access to a commercial kitchen, caterers will have to prepare foods offsite (which can limit menu options) or set up a makeshift kitchen at the venue. “Some caterers may not have the equipment, experience, or the willingness to work in a nontraditional venue,” Wouters says.
Even if a caterer is willing to do the event, ask for references, especially from brides who held their weddings in unconventional locations, to make sure the caterer can handle it.
Where will the bridal party get ready?
Conventional venues offer separate suites for the bride and groom to get dressed (and avoid seeing each other before the wedding), but nontraditional venues might not have dressing rooms.
Elizabeth Webb, wedding planner and co-owner of Hall & Webb Event Design, suggests renting a hotel room and coordinating transportation to the event. Setting up a “dressing tent” outdoors might work—but there are downsides. “In the summer, temperatures can be over 90 degrees, and it won’t be comfortable to be doing hair and makeup outdoors,” Webb explains.
Where will guests park?
Particularly for a wedding at a private home, parking can be a significant challenge. Even if street parking is an option (check local ordinances and HOA regulations), guests could end up walking a great distance from their cars to the venue.
Hiring a valet is one solution. Webb suggests operating a shuttle service that picks guests up at their hotels and transports them to the venue at prearranged times. Remember, guests might not appreciate having to wait for a shuttle at the end of the night.
Will vendors require additional power?
Catering, lighting, music … it takes a lot of power to host a wedding. Some vendors will have specific electrical requirements (often bands have details about their power needs in their riders), but all will need to draw power. “The last thing you want is to be tripping the power breakers all night,” says Webb.
It’s possible to hire an electrician to evaluate whether the venue can accommodate wedding-night wattage. Renting generators ensures there is ample power for the event.
Do you need permits?
To keep the police or fire marshal from making a surprise wedding-night appearance, researching city, county, and state laws and permit requirements relating to everything from noise to alcohol must be on the top of the to-do list for weddings at nontraditional venues.
“You should research the neighborhood covenants too in case there are separate restrictions,” says Wouters.
Let the neighbors know about the wedding (and extend an invitation to the event). The gesture reduces the likelihood of noise complaints and the possibility that a neighbor will mow their lawn during the vows.
Is there an event contract?
Venues that are not used to hosting weddings might not have a specific event contract. Instead of relying on a verbal agreement, get the details in writing.
According to Webb, an event contract should include the length of the event (including enough time for setup and teardown), what is included in the fee, restrictions, and the venue’s requirements for insurance and permits.
Consider purchasing event insurance to cover injuries, damage, or other unforeseen circumstances that a nontraditional venue might not cover. Most insurance companies offer the policies.
Are the restrooms sufficient?
No one likes talking about it, but planning for the restroom needs of guests is essential.
In addition to the potential for long lines at the restroom in a private home, Staz notes that noncommercial plumbing often can’t accommodate 100-plus guests flushing all night long. Who will check the stock of paper, soap, and towels throughout the event? Renting port-a-potties might be the best option.
Can a planner help?
Planning a wedding at a nontraditional venue requires event-planning skills. A wedding planner can manage the details and ensure the ceremony and reception are picture-perfect.
“All of the details have to be well-thought-out in the beginning for the wedding to be a success,” Staz says.
A wedding planner will also have suggestions for vendors who excel in out-of-the-box situations, including nontraditional venues that require creativity.