The Nutcracker

Checklist to the right choice of Wedding Venue:

Over the past 10 years, we have come to a greater understanding of what is important when deciding upon your dream wedding location.

From a single night razzle or morning gathering to a full weekend getaway, we are generally spoilt for choice as venues pop up around us. How do we know we making the right choice?

The Essential Checklist:

The Venue:

Budget is usually the key driver in deciding where to get married, be sure to get some Comparative pricing – request a proforma invoice with all possible add-ons / related services. This is a good starting point as costs can quickly escalate. It’s far easier to eliminate items than later on find hidden charges.

A key consideration, is whether the venue presents itself as a blank canvas in which case you may need to spend a pretty penny getting it to resemble your dream, the alternative to that, is a venue decorated with beautiful mirrors and interior, befitting of the ideal wedding reception hall.

Ensure that your understanding of, “Venue Hire”, includes the chairs, tables, basic cutlery, crockery, glassware, and napkins” – there needs to be a clear outline of the items listed under the term “Venue Hire” – you don’t want any surprises and additional costs relating to items you assumed were part of the Hire.

Ask about closing times and surcharges and exclusivity to the establishment, perhaps requesting a booking list or policy regarding other functions that the establishment may have on-site whilst your wedding is taking place. You may find yourself listening to speeches whilst the function next door is having their first dance – exclusivity is preferred on your wedding day.

Consider where the dance floor is in proximity to the bar facilities and the main reception area, this may well impact on the dynamic and vibe you wish to experience. Great parties involve people, the dance floor, bar facilities, and dining all in close proximity – ideally within the same four walls – splitting people creates a disjointed experience.

The ideal venue will lend itself to great photo opportunities without needing to drive off-site.  Get a feel for the place and walk around, perhaps get some references of photographers that are familiar with the venue so as to not experiment on the day and very possibly lose out on the greatest shots.

Oh, yes – ask if they have an electricity generator, there is no fun having your main speech or first dance interrupted by a spell of load shedding.

The Chapel:

The special place your vows are exchanged is so much more than the little space it occupies, you most likely to remember the scene for the remainder of your life, a stamp on your subconscious, it’s where the seriousness of marriage is brought to light and the exchange of vows takes place. It’s a special place and should be considered as such.

The location of venue to chapel will affect the flow of your day. The Chapel should be well-ventilated, possibly open on the sides and not cramped and stuffy, the seating should obviously be sufficient. Check for power points should musicians or DJ require electrical points.

Outdoor ceremonies are often a desirable choice should there be sufficient shade and a cool flowing breeze, be warned about the basking sun and the need for umbrellas and check the ground should it be sandy and dusty, you don’t want your dress to resemble a washrag before you have had your first dance. One should most definitely consider the impact rain may have should the ceremony be outside in the rainy season.

Flowers and Decor:

Many venues have a catalogue of items for hire. Your theme or colour scheme may be very different from that which is on offer; however, be sure to get a full list from the vendor to take advantage of that which is already on site.

Request a list of service providers and be certain to have a budget in mind when having these discussions. Depending on the venue, some establishments provide very little window period to set-up and place décor and flowers – It’s not uncommon to get a 2-3 hour window period to get this done (pressure pressure), be sure to have your ducks in a row in this regard.

Some establishments are more flexible when it gets to the set-up. It’s best you understand this up front it would determine the resources you require to make it happen.

Many people head to the flower market and do their own flowers, this can involve little work or a whole lot, depending on what you have in mind; however, doing it yourself can be a whole lot of fun and a good time for those involved. It’s suggested you have someone on your side that has a gift for this along with the desire and willingness to assist in this very important role. A refrigeration room is a must If you doing this yourself and if your choice is to use sensitive flowers i.e. tulips, roses, etc.

Music and DJ offering:

“Are you entertained?”- The best advice we are able to provide is spending time on your song playlist. Don’t leave it all up to the DJ or musician to use their initiative. Spend a few hours compiling a decent song list and your favourite songs & genres of music, at least you will be hearing familiar songs and not left with an empty dancefloor.

Discuss whether the DJ is able to do the backtrack during the ceremony and whether they able to play background music for the duration of your photoshoot prior to entering the main reception whilst you may be taking photos or during the afternoon snack.

A reputable DJ should have decent quality sound equipment and a cordless microphone is a very hand piece of equipment.

The SPA:

A spa is a nice to have and affords you the opportunity to attend to last-minute touch-ups or a relaxing massage. You will most likely find spas in the vicinity close to your Venue. Request a reference list of make-up artists and hairdressers who are able to travel to the venue.

The Bridal Preparation Suite:

This is where it all goes down!

Should you not be staying on-site and requiring a suite to get ready, it’s a good idea to get an idea of what’s on offer. Ask your venue for a recommendation that would suit both your budget and style.

We highly recommend making use of facilities on-site, brides and bridesmaids enjoy the preparation hour’s together, sufficient space to accommodate a few bubbly gals sipping champagne or enough space for the makeup artist and hairdresser. The bridal suite is often a hive of activity during the hours before the ceremony starts.

On-site facilities assist in affords you the opportunity to stretch the last few minutes and attend to last-minute touch-ups.

The Food:

Food, Food, glorious food.

Many venues have a menu from which you able to select your menu of choice, whether it is plated, buffet or a harvest table, make sure you are getting good value for money.

Good value means sufficient portions with a good variety of options i.e. buffet. Plated is limited in both portion size and choice. Quality goes without saying – there is nothing worse than overcooked fillet or underdone chicken. The presentation of Buffet / and or Harvest table is essential.

Other venues cater on-demand and as such may only be able to provide you an option of a tasting. Be warned here as a tasting can obscure matters slightly as cooking for a few people is vastly different to cooking say for 80/100/120 guests. You need only ask anyone who has catered for that number of guests to find out that there are many tricks and considerations when it gets to the workings of kitchen and catering for large numbers of guests. Are your dietary requirements able to be met i.e. vegetarian, vegan, Halaal and even allergies?

Consider a picnic as a starter, i.e. canapes, mezze platters, offering much variety a satisfying the more sophisticated pallets is easy to attend to with so many options and great foodie ideas for picnics.

The main meal can take on a more conventional feel so consider a more relaxed country feel whereby the harvest table would be suitable.

In our previous write-up, we discussed the idea of smaller plates of food with a larger variety. This is a trend for 2020. You may be able to incorporate some really nice food ideas.

Should you have kids attending the wedding ask about a separate menu more suitable to their palette and the pricing for the various age groups, below 5 years and below 11 years.

Bar Facilities:

Should bar facilities be available; consider the pricelist as this aspect of the venue can sometimes be overlooked. Ensure that the mainstream items on the bar list are priced reasonably and that you have confidence that they are able to attend to the majority of your needs, i.e. choice and selection. Also, consider whether they have card facilities or able to manage tabs.

Corkage is an option at some venues, perhaps weigh this up against their list of wine and champagne vs what you would prefer. Some venues encourage corkage as it affords the couple the opportunity to bring in their own choice of drinks outside that which is on offer.

A good idea is to capitalise on the corkage is to make use of a wine station which minimises waste. Also, consider what is a reasonable corkage fee.

The Co-ordination:

The success of the day has much to do with the coordination of the day. Some people make use of wedding planners, others’ a friend or nominated person who is tasked with managing the ins and outs. It’s a good idea to determine upfront what the role of the wedding coordinator is at your chosen venue, you re then able to fill in the gaps

The role of the coordinator should not be confused with that of the duties of the best man/ men, The MC and that of the Brides Maids. In some instances, the venue may assist thus saving on wedding coordinator/planner fees.

The Accommodation:

Accommodation on site is ideal and should at least accommodate the bridal party and a few additional close relatives and friends. Should you wish to make a weekend of your wedding, find a venue that is able to provide other amenities, i.e. lapas, swimming pools, and other activities in the area for those whom are staying over or wish to make use of the time prior to the actual wedding ceremony, this makes for a more enjoyable and worthwhile weekend wedding getaway.

A reference list of nearby accommodation should be available and obtained from your Venue. Consider the various price ranges so as to make it more affordable for those wishing to stay over.

The town of Parys situated a mere 1hr and 20 minutes outside Johannesburg offers a wide range of activities from white river rafting, air ballooning, sky diving, golf, off-road biking, birding and an extensive network of gravel roads for the eager mountain biker. Parys is also renowned for its quaint antique shops and spots to grab a traditional vetkoek or farmhouse breakfast or head to popular eateries to savour the choices on offer.

I believe that a wedding weekend getaway is a great way to celebrate the union of families and allows for more time for everyone to meet and get to know one another. It’s far greater value for money as you not cramming many months of planning and money into an 8-10-hour wedding day that passes in an instant.

A shuttle service may be available to those wishing to stay off-site and preferring not to drive. It’s best to provide these details to your guests, allow them to manage the bookings and pick up arrangements. See if they are flexible in collection and drop-off times as this may vary through the evening.