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By Dee Gaubert

Everyone wants the perfect, one-of-a-kind, unforgettable wedding day (well, it seems like it, anyways!). More and more couples are electing to rent ‘unique’ venues – landmarks, renovated buildings (from art-deco 1920s department stores to literal smog shops), and ethereal parks. From my ten-plus-years of experience working the most unusual event spaces, here’s my tips on how to choose a unique wedding venue perfect for you.

Budget First!

Create a budget before doing anything else – and if you don’t know where to start check out this post and this one, too. Once you have a ballpark figure in mind, then you can start inquiring. As you do, remember: Most unique venues DO NOT include tables, chairs, catering, bar service, lighting, even plumbing in many cases, whereas a hotel or inclusive venue (like country club or banquet hall) has most or all of these things. This means a lot more ‘line items’ on your budget, so….

….Create A Thorough List of Questions to Ask Each Venue

Such as:

What’s included? Parking, catering, security, tables, chairs, restrooms, etc?

How much time do we get for venue rental?

Are there noise restrictions?

Do we need to secure any permits? (Private homes may require this by the city.)

SmogShoppe offered unique decor (like these tchotchke-filled bookshelves and rolling table) for our clients’ rich, vivid design. Photo by Juan Turcios.

Make Sure There’s a Rain Plan

Many venues, including beautiful state and city parks, are all outdoors. Can you tent? If so, can the tent vendor access the property early or the day before to raise the tent? Be sure to budget in additional venue rental hours and rental costs for the tent to have in your back pocket. And the second you see rain on the forecast – two weeks ahead, if possible – reserve that tent!

Hire a Wedding Coordinator

I know, you’re thinking: This is a website run by a wedding planner/coordinator. She suggests this in EVERY SINGLE BLOG POST. But I mean it (and I don’t plan full time any more so I swear this isn’t a commercial for myself, lol!). When you work a unique venue, you need someone who really knows their stuff about managing tons of vendors and working in unusual spaces. For example, Adamson House in LA allows only 2.5 hours for EVERY VENDOR to set up, with ONE DRIVEWAY- thus each truck is parked right behind another, limiting flexibility in regards to locating trucks close to where the items need to be installed. When I say every vendor, I mean: LIGHTING. BATHROOMS. CATERER. RENTALS. EVERRRRYYYTHING. It’s bonkers – and a total disaster if you don’t have a wedding coordinator to pull in all the logistics and run the show.

Case in point: I worked a wedding for a caterer, serving as their floor manager, for an Adamnson House wedding, and the couple finally brought on a coordinator THREE DAYS PRIOR so I did all the due diligence and caught multiple safety issues as well as realizing they were missing several rental items. Coulda been a nightmare! So strongly consider at least a month-of coordinator when choosing a unique wedding venue; if you don’t know where to start, ask the venue manager who they recommend. (Definitely smart to get their preferred vendor list for ALL vendors, if setup and breakdown are challenging. Having a vendor team who know the venue well is vital for a smooth wedding day.)

Your wedding day will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience if you choose a unique wedding venue carefully, and keep all the important concepts in mind: Budget, inclusions, and best of all, if that venue really fits your personalities and vision. Add a coordinator to keep it all coming together beautifully, and you have a recipe for a fun and beautiful wedding celebration!