Last week, I shared some tips and tricks for finding your perfect onsite venue. An onsite venue is a hotel, country club, banquet facility--any option that is a more all-inclusive, made-for-weddings option.
Today, I'll discuss offsite venues. Offsite venues can be anything from the beach to your own backyard. These are my favorite because of the endless options, but along with those options come challenges. Keep in mind that you'll have to bring everything in to the venue... and I do mean everything. If you're planning your wedding at an offsite venue or are just entertaining the idea, consider these before entirely committing to host your nuptials at your grandfather's ranch.
Rentals. Like I said, an offiste venue doesn't supply any of the rental items (tables, chairs, linens, tableware) that say, a hotel would. This means that it's your responsibility (and your wallet's) to rent these items and bring them in. Consider this in terms of your budget: the backyard might be free, but when you tally up every knife, fork, water glass, and napkin, are you really saving money? Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it's no, so be informed. Some offsite venues have great relationships with rental companies because they're such a natural reference. Be sure to ask your venue if they work with a specific rental company to offer a discount.
Use your caterer (Rentals part deux). Your venue doesn't provide catering, so you'll bringing that in as well. This is one of my favorite parts of an offsite venue! Have a favorite restaurant or a special appetizer in mind? You can have it at your wedding--the sky's the limit when working with offsite catering. Your caterer will be an excellent resource for your rental counts. Even as a wedding planner, I often defer to the caterer when discussing rentals. After all, they're the ones preparing the food and pouring the drinks so they often have a clearer idea of what equipment is needed.
Lighting. Most likely, you did a venue walk-through during the day. Maybe you fell in love with the gorgeous canopy of trees (gets me every time), the vineyard views, or the high ceilings of the empty loft. But what happens when the sun goes down? If you're indoors, there's probably lighting, but is it hideous and fluorescent? Will you even see those gorgeous oaks when it's dark? Lighting is HUGE part of your ambience, especially when discussing a venue that might not be completely set up for such an event. If possible, go back to see the venue at night. Notice where there are dark spots or opportunities to hang lanterns or chandeliers. A hundred feet of globe string lights can be magical and a few uplights on any vertical structure (column, tree, etc) will transform your space.
Bathrooms. Not the most glamorous, but one of the most important details to consider. Let's say you're using your parents' backyard for your wedding. In your mind, you've never questioned where to use the restroom because, well, hellooooo it's right inside. But are you going to say that to 200 of your nearest and dearest? As much as you trust and love your wedding guests, there's always a chance that Uncle Bill has mud on his shoes that he might track through the den on his way to the little boy's room. Not to mention that you likely don't have that many easily accessible restrooms available. Plan for 2 bathrooms per 100 guests (maybe more if your guest count shows a female majority) and be sure to budget for this expense. Portable bathrooms have come up in the world of luxury, but you'll pay for those amenities.
Alcohol. Another of my favorite topics when considering an offiste venue! With no onsite bar or caterer, you're not required to purchase your alcohol from any particular vendor. Don't want to serve $60 bottles of wine all night? Say goodbye to that budget killer! Have friends in high places or are you members of a wine club? Without restrictions on your alcohol source, you can really personalize your choices without penalty (woohooo for no corkage fees) and save money (BevMo nickel sale is a great place to start!) Just remember to clear alcohol choices with your venue (some restrict hard alcohol) and check with your caterer on what items you need to provide (don't forget ice!), and NEVER have an unlicensed bartender serve the drinks.
Insurance. This seemed a natural segue ;) Many offsite venues will require you to provide a liability insurance policy for your event. If your wedding will be at a private residence, chances are no one is requiring this. Get it anyway. Yes, I mean it. A $1,000,000 liability insurance policy for your wedding will only cost you around $200 and could save you a whole lot more than that if something goes wrong. Check out WedSafe for more info and a super easy process.
Wedding Planner. If ever there was a time to get a wedding planner, it's with an offsite venue. Between rentals, bathrooms, ice delivery, plus all the usual players, there are so many moving parts. This is not the time to trust your girlfriend or an aunt to execute the details and manage the vendors. Offsite venues offer so many possibilities with a wedding planner in tow, but without one, they can offer stress and frustration.