10 Tips on How to Choose a Wedding Venue
Both at Thornewood Castle or Elsewhere
We have written this brief guide to highlight important considerations in selecting and planning for the use of your physical wedding/reception site, or "venue."
Comments about Thornewood Castle are shown in italics. Especially see our [*This saves you money*] notes below on how our wedding package prices save you money at Thornewood Castle. Many couples have told us that our wedding packages are the best value available—especially for such a unique site.
1. First, narrow down and pick the date.
You will be more likely to get your desired best wedding venue [and possibly save $ money] if you can be a little flexible in your perfect date. Saturdays always fill up first, then Sundays, then Fridays, and then occasional weekdays. Most venues will charge extra for Saturdays. For weekdays, you have a wider choice of dates. If you want an outdoor wedding, wedding sites with nice outdoor locations will book the summer weekends very fast, often a year in advance. Be sure you eventually pick a date that will not change. Most sites will require a non-refundable deposit and/or payment in full to hold your selected date.
At Thornewood Castle: All the above applies to us. Because our sunken garden is so beautiful in the summer for an outdoor wedding, our summer weekends (May/June to September/October) book very early. December is another very busy month and you want to plan ahead as much as possible if a holiday motif is your heart’s desire. Thornewood is exceptionally beautiful during the holiday period. Our Christmas/Holiday decorations are usually up in November.
2. Then decide how many wedding/reception guests you plan on having.
This is a very important decision—both your (1) site selection and (2) your total costs will hinge directly on this number (the caterer, for example). Every site has a maximum number of guests that it can accommodate (regulated by the Fire Marshall). Most wedding sites will also charge extra for guests above a certain number, for the extra wear, tear and personnel it takes. Your total number of guests will significantly narrow your choices of wedding sites. Your wedding guest count will either be (1) too large for a site to accommodate, or (2) too small (i.e. the site’s minimum charge is too large to be practical for your size group), or (3) you will fit right in the group size range that fits (numbers and $ cost) for that wedding site. Also, all caterers quote their prices per guest. So your group size is very important and the earlier you can estimate this number (and hold to it without changes) the better for you.
At Thornewood Castle: Our facility size and rental fees work very well for wedding groups up to 100-150+ guests. We can host a much smaller group, with a smaller rental fee, and our best value is a weekday. [This can save you money].
3. Next, decide if you will host your wedding ceremony and your reception at the same or different locations.
Generally, it will cost more the longer your time requirements and two sites will cost more than one. Also decide your time preferences, for the ceremony and reception. Many sites host two weddings a day and you will have to select from time slots that are available. Almost all locations will have both a time of day/night limit and an overall event time limit.
At Thornewood Castle: Our most common wedding event is the combined ceremony and reception [This saves you money], but we can accommodate just the ceremony and/or just the reception. We also host only one wedding on a given day which gives you more time flexibility.
4. Decide if you will serve alcohol.
And which kinds (champagne, wine, beer, keg beer, hard liquor, etc.). Many sites will have different policies on this and you will want to find one that matches your preferences. Be aware that some sites will prohibit red wine (for the stains). All venues will require that all Washington State Laws be followed regarding alcohol service. Some sites will require you to purchase all alcohol through them and thus the alcohol is catered by the facility. This arrangement is typically the most expensive for you. Some sites will allow to you to bring your own, perhaps with an extra corkage fee (you will have to purchase the State Banquet Permit for a nominal $10 fee from any state liquor store). Sometimes the alcohol is catered in by a business or caterer licensed by the state to do so. You will have to shut the bar down well before the scheduled end of your event. Many wedding venues have learned that the hardest part of hosting wedding parties is ending them, by the scheduled time, if alcohol service is not ended before the scheduled ending time. You will want to do your part to make sure that everyone safely enjoys himself or herself.
At Thornewood Castle: We do permit you to bring your own alcohol, [This saves you a LOT of money], with a $10 state banquet permit. We do not permit keg beer or hard liquor. We do require an alcohol server (i.e. no self-service of alcohol). We can share some sources of bartenders used by other weddings, if needed. Alcohol service must end one hour before your event scheduled end time (it’s needed for clean-up time anyway). Alcohol may also be catered in by any business licensed by the State to serve in such a manner, often your caterer of choice.
5. Clarify your catering and setup options.
Determine what catering restrictions the venue has. Many have exclusive caterers. Clarify what tables, chairs, if any and any other equipment comes with your site rental. Most sites will require your caterer to be responsible for all tables and chairs associated with food service. Many sites will require you (or your caterer) to be responsible for renting chairs for your ceremony/reception (including set up and take down). Decide and clarify what decorations you will need or want and what is permitted. Many venues will also charge your caterer a percentage of the caterer’s fees to you, which fee is usually buried in your bill form the caterer.
At Thornewood Castle: We do allow your choice of caterers [This saves you money], subject to their meeting all health code requirements (and we haven’t had prior bad experiences with them)[This saves you money]. We also do NOT charge your caterer the customary 10-20% percentage or more of their catering contract with you, so the caterer can charge you a lower price [This saves you money]. We can share a list of caterers with you who have been here before, if you want some sources. Our wedding package rental fee includes all chairs for your ceremony (including our labor to set and take down, either in the garden or inside the house) [This saves you money] plus chairs and tables in the ballroom for about 100 people [This saves you money]. Your caterer will need to provide their food service tables and any other tables required. We can also rent you and set up these extra tables for a small extra fee [This saves you money].
6. If your wedding is outdoors...
Outdoor weddings can be very lovely, but you should have a plan B, in case of bad weather, such as tent rentals and bathroom facilities.
At Thornewood Castle: Fortunately, our home is large enough to accommodate your entire wedding party inside OR outside, so this is not an issue for 100 guests. [This saves you money (i.e. no tent or porta-potty rentals)] For a larger number of guests, please speak with venue manager regarding inclement weather arrangements.
7. Consider parking.
Your guest list will determine the number of car parking spaces required. Determine where you guests will park and any necessary parking arrangements. Be sure to discuss this with your potential venue. Some sites have limited on-site parking and you will need to arrange for a shuttle to and from an off-site parking location. You have a lot of options for the shuttle. You can arrange for valet parking or self-parking with a shuttle. The shuttle can range from a rented car or van to a small shuttle bus. You can hire a parking company to handle all details or hire just a vehicle and driver. Be sure your wedding invitations specify the parking arrangements and where your guests should first drive to. Often some car-pooling is helpful. Be sure to confirm valet liability insurance.
At Thornewood Castle: For a wedding party of 100-150+ guests, we have on-site parking and an available adjoining parking area. No shuttle is needed [This saves you money].
8. Understand all restrictions and/or availability of any other requests, additional equipment or personnel requests you have.
Examples include DJ’s, music, dancing, gift tables, photograph easels, projection screen, coat racks, handicap requirements, rose petals on the lawn, throwing rice on your departure, limousine parking, space to unload your horse & carriage, helicopter landing site, sea plane accessibility, etc. (We have had them all).
At Thornewood Castle: We have or allow most all of the above and have space to accommodate a wide variety of requests. We also have a professional sound system, including microphones that you may use in the house. Just bring your iPod or CD’s [This saves you money]. We also have a large 10’ x 8’ projection screen that drops from the ceiling [This saves you money] (bring your projector).
9. Get a written contract.
Be sure to read it very carefully, asking questions about anything you do not understand. If you want something that is different than what is in the written contract, do not rely on a verbal statement that you will get what you want and to ignore the written contract. This is very important. The purpose of the written contract is to clarify what everybody is to do and exactly what you will receive (who, what, where, when and how). Especially understand when payments are due, what is and what is not refundable and potential cancellation costs/conditions and any other venue restrictions. Don’t ignore these restrictions and assume they don’t matter.
At Thornewood Castle: We work especially hard to make sure everything is in our written contract with you. We go an extra mile and will also furnish brief letters to each of your selected "sub contractors” (such as caterer, photographer, D.J., etc.) that summarize your key contract requirements (such as event times, clean up, etc.).
10. Confirm Price and what is included.
Take your time to review your contract and think of any additional questions. Get your answers and then sign. Congratulations!
11. Bonus—Consider convenient overnight accommodations for out of town guests and/or the two new extended families (or even the honeymoon couple).
If you book Thornewood Castle you can book our overnight suites, for a sizable discount [This will save you money] with a wedding. Lots of new in-law families have commented on how great it was to all spend some informal time and meals together in such a spectacular setting.
How to Book Your Perfect Wedding at Thornewood Castle
- Please call us at (253) 584-4393 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to check availability of your preferred date(s) and your estimated number of guests.
- Schedule a date and time to meet at Thornewood Castle and for a tour and discussion of your perfect wedding arrangements.
- Read the proposed contract and ask questions about any part of the contract that you do not totally understand. Then sign the event rental contract.
- Congratulations! Your have booked your perfect wedding venue!