If I told you there was a hidden gem of a wedding venue tucked neatly into downtown Austin, that features gorgeous 1874 European architecture, an intimate courtyard perfect for ceremonies and free parking to boot.. would you even believe me?
I photographed my first wedding at Chateau Bellevue in November. May I just say: wow. Of all the weddings I’ve photographed in Texas, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, California and certainly Austin – I can’t think of a wedding venue that’s similar. This is not a “cookie cutter” venue. Chateau Bellevue is a memorable place to get married — but it’s also photographers dream! I’ve illustrated this blog post with photographs I took at Chateau Bellevue to show you just how photogenic it is.
Today I’m delighted to share with you the sage advice of Stacy Harrell, who is the Sales and Event Manager at Chateau Bellevue. She’s a wedding pro who has worked with literally hundreds of Austin brides and grooms and has learned a thing or two about decision-making along the way.
I asked Stacy if she would share her best “insider” tips on what kinds of questions are absolutely essential to ask before booking your Austin wedding venue. If taking some of the stress out of your decision-making process sounds good (yes please!) check out her advice below. Its packed with nuggets of wisdom, and even some money-saving ideas.
It’s true what they say: once you decide on a venue everything else falls naturally into place. But first you have to find your venue! Here’s what to look for when choosing the right Austin wedding venue:
ONE >> Do you want a downtown location, a lake view, a hotel ballroom or a barn/country kind of venue? Are you going for a rustic feel, vintage or something grand and elegant?
In Austin the options for wedding venues are so vast (and can be overwhelming). While some brides have an idea of where they want to get married, there are many that don’t know where to begin. For those brides, I suggest asking yourself these basic questions:
- Will the majority of your guests be from out of town? If so, you may want to consider a downtown location where guests can choose hotels within walking distances and can explore the city on their down time.
- Would you need to provide transportation for guests if you chose a venue further out and if so, is it worth the extra cost?
- If the ceremony is taking place at a church, how far realistically do you want the reception to be?
- Are you looking for a place that can accommodate ceremony and reception?
- Do you want indoor/outdoor, indoor only or outdoor only space?
The answers to these basic questions can narrow your search down dramatically!
TWO >> What all does the venue include in their package?
After years of working with newly engaged couples in Austin, I’ve seen that one of the biggest things brides don’t realize until they’re knee deep into the wedding planning process, is exactly how much work planning a wedding really is! Seriously, why give yourself more work by picking a venue that requires you to bring everything in? Simply put, the less vendors you have to work with, the less stressful (and possibly less expensive) your life will be.
I would recommend finding a venue that includes at minimum your tables, chairs and linens. That alone can save you an average of $1,500. A venue with onsite catering is a great advantage. Just like catering companies, venues will give you a complimentary tasting. Venues with onsite catering will also have the resources to take care of the staffing for the evening, another major thing you can take off that to-do list.
Additionally, one of the biggest things to look out for is the number of hours given — and whether set up and clean up is included in that package. There is nothing worse than having to ask your friends and family to stay behind and sweep the floor or help put out chairs for the ceremony. After all, they are there to celebrate your big day and not work it.
THREE >> What is the venue’s parking situation and rain plan?
Venues are notorious for hidden costs. If a venue is mostly outdoors, then chances are your rain plan is an expensive tent — which can add on $2000 or more to your budget. In Austin, with our rollercoaster weather, you can never predict what Mother Nature is going to do. So having a Plan B is so important.
What about parking? This is mostly an issue if you go with a downtown Austin location. Many venues require valet parking, which of course is an additional cost. And many venues require you to pay for their parking lots.
FOUR >> Are you allowed to bring in your own alcohol?
It’s true that many venues take care of the alcohol for you. But they can charge $25 and up per person, even if not everyone drinks! At a wedding of 100 guests that can add $2500 on to your final bill. The worst part is you don’t get to take home the leftover alcohol you paid for.
Then there are some venues that charge you based on the drinks your guests order throughout the evening. Therefore, there is no way to know what your final bill will be until after the wedding. At $6/beer and $10/mixed drink, you can see how quickly that can add up. Why not save that money or put it to another good use and pick a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol? You can control what your guests drink, so they don’t make the habit of indulging in an expensive scotch all night long.
Here’s a tip: If you’ve booked a venue that allows you to bring in your own alcohol, consider Spec’s. At Chateau Bellevue weddings I’ve seen that Spec’s makes things pretty easy. It’s about $40 for delivery and you can return leftover/unopened bottles.
FIVE >> Are you comparing apples to apples?
What makes the venue search so hard is that every venue is so different. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, I suggest that the very first thing you do (even before you start looking) is come up with your wedding budget and estimated guest count. From there, you can hit the internet and search for Austin wedding venues that fit your budget and accommodate your guest count – and that you also find appealing. Some great resources are WeddingWire, The Knot and Austin Wedding Guide. Narrow down your list to venues that fit your budget and then schedule showings from that list.
Come armed with the questions above and then do the math! One place might be less expensive on food but require you to pay for parking along with your tables and chairs. Another venue could be more expensive on food but includes your tables and chairs. Yet, both come out to the same total cost.
After you’ve done the math, I suggest narrowing down the list to your favorite two venues. And when you get to that point its all about listing the pros and cons of each!
Ultimately, I believe finding the right venue is a lot like finding the perfect wedding dress. You get that “feeling” and you just know this is where you are meant to get married!