The venue! This singular decision will dictate the direction of all aspects of your event. A shindig in your house means zero hire cost but much more work. Hiring a venue is more expensive but could mean less worries and may end up being more cost effective if they include additional elements.
It basically comes down to a few questions that you need to ask yourself:
How long do you have to plan your event?
What is your budget?
What is your events theme/vibe/feel?
How many guests will be attending?
The venue you choose will in some way be determined by the inflexible aspects of your event - the things you definitely want and will not substitute - a live band, 3 course meal, 500 guests etc.
Here is a comprehensive list of areas to consider and questions to ask when choosing your venue:
Budget - What is your venue budget?
Catering & Bar - Can you have external caterers or are you limited to the in-house kitchen only? Is there a bar/table service? Can you take your own alcohol? Do they charge corkage?
Capacity - Will the venue hold your guests comfortably?
Seating - What table & chairs are included? Do they provide highchairs?
Timings - What times does the hire include? Can you set up the previous day/clear up the following day? What is the rate/penalty for going past midnight for example?
Insurance - What insurance does the venue hold? Will you need additional public liability etc? If you leave items there the previous night/until the day after are they covered by the venue?
T&Cs - check the terms and conditions - especially in regard to deposit, damages etc
Accessibility & Facilities - Is the disabled access/lighting suitable? Are there enough toilets, ramps, lifts etc where are they located? Is there a cloakroom?
Layout - Do a detailed walkthrough from the organisers POV - guests arrival, converting the dining area to disco dancefloor etc and from your guest's POV - is it easy to know where to go and when?
Entertainment - Your DJ, Live Band, Fire Breathers, Face Painters, Games etc will need appropriate access to electricity, tables, chairs, changing room etc. Are you restricted in terms of health & safety or noise restrictions?
Location & Parking - Can your guests and contractors find the venue easily? Is there enough parking? Is signage clear at night? Will guests be walking through mud to get to the party? Always check the address and postcode on google maps and a sat nav.
Decorations & Lighting - Are decorations/table cloths etc provided? Are you allowed your own decorations? Check fire/health & safety and restrictions to fixing to the building/walls. Naked flames are almost always prohibited indoors but you could use flameless/battery candles. Check the electricity supply is compatible with hired lighting.
Venue Contact & Staff - If your main contact (usually venue/events manager) is unexpectedly absent on the day you want to make sure whoever is standing in for them has been cc'd in on all correspondence - Your event relies on staff knowing what to do when - a good venue manager/representative will ensure smooth running of the venue and staff and be ready to help you at any point during your day/night.
Security & Safety - This relates to the security of the venue, your belongings/hire items and more importantly your guests! You may require security guards to keep out unwanted guests etc. Remember to check fire safety protocols too.
Weather - If your venue is reliant on good weather, make sure you have a contingency in place if the heavens decide to open. Does your venue have umbrellas for guests, or indoor area for guests to congregate?
That should cover most aspects concerning your choice in venue, join us next time for our next instalment!