How to Choose a Wedding Venue in Nigeria
Picking between wedding venues is a big deal. It’s expensive. It sets the tone and theme of the event. It’s the “meat” in the wedding jollof rice, in a manner of speaking. As a wedding planner who has seen clients regret their venue choices, or become incredibly overwhelmed with the venue search and booking process, I have a few tips—and a LOT of important questions to ask—that will help you figure out how to choose a wedding venue that is the best fit for you. Note that when doing a venue search it is always advisable to search and booking way ahead of your wedding date. 5-6months ahead will be most appropriate.
First, before you make any venue decisions, you need to make a draft budget. Don’t sign a contract with an expensive venue, only to realize down the line that you have no money left for Funke Bucknor-Obruthe’s decor you’ve been coveting. Second, prep yourself with the AMGvenues website and a venue research spreadsheet—a place to track all of your research on wedding venue ideas, so that you can organize it and then review it without losing your mind.
It is indeed easier to do your search for venues within a particular area on the site, other than having to embark on a journey to each venue, or to hop from one website to another, you can easily search your city or locality on the site and all the available venues. Adding filters narrows your search to specifics. You really don’t need a fire brigade approach to picking a venue. More often than not, it ends up a disaster. It is therefore advisable to start your search, 5-6 months before your wedding date and ultimately choose a wedding venue within two months left.
A Word of Warning: The most frustrating part of finding a venue is the initial research. Venues and their websites are all completely different. They offer a variety of information in various places, and sometimes they don’t offer any information at all, which is even more fun. Try not to get too frustrated by this. If you can’t find answers on a venue’s site, use the hints below to reach out with your questions or first hand info from AMGvenues. Often venues are stingy with info online, but if approached, they have a marketing packet ready to share that has a lot of the initial information you are looking for.
My research spreadsheet ideas on how to choose a wedding venue tends to include the following columns:
- Name of Venue
- Capacity: Make sure the capacity fits your event.
- Availability: If it matters to you, find out if your event date is available. If not strike off the venue.
- Type: Such as hotel, outdoor, marquee, restaurant.
- Layout: Note if it has space for all aspects of your wedding. Sometimes this isn’t clear till a site visit.
- Rates: Enter the rates that correspond with your budget.
- Parking: Make any notes regarding parking within and outside the venue. This is very important.
- Facility Extras: List here any items included with the venue: A/V equipment, chairs, tables, linens, security etc.
- Caterer: See if they have restrictions on catering, such as an in-house caterer (mostly hotels) or a preferred list of caterers you are required to work with.
Ask yourself some key questions as you do your research and fill out this spreadsheet.
- Can I afford this venue?(See what I did there? I mentioned budget again. ’Cause it’s important.) Don’t torture yourself and keep a N1m venue on your list when you can really only afford N800k or below. It’s just going to break your soul and waste your time.
- Is this venue available on the date (or month, or time of year) that I want? Some venues have online calendars; others you can email for rough availability. And I always recommend double-checking their availability in order to avoid confusion. For a quick check of availability and reservation, it’s easy to book on the AMGvenues, and this saves you the stress of having to wait endlessly for an email response for your booking. If the date is unavailable, MOVE ON!!!
- Does this venue’s capacity fit my estimated guest list? Like, really? Sometimes venues stretch what’s possible in order to make themselves more attractive to all couples. One way to discreetly figure this out is to ask at the site visit: “What number of guests is most successful in this space?” Just because you can fit 1000 people into a room, doesn’t mean you should. Most times, when you plan for 300 guest, 500 turn up. You definitely don’t want you wedding like a market place, thus you have to make room for this. If you’re expecting 700 guest, it is advisable to go for a 1000 (banquet style) capacity hall, to accommodate extras and free movement of people within the hall during the event.
- Does this venue’s layout/available space and features fit my needs? You should ensure that the venue has the basic amenities to cater for your guest. Does it have clean standard toilets for both male and female. By standard toilets, I mean; for men, 5 urinary and 3 toilets and for women, 5-7 toilets. It’s also advisable to have a huge mirror and good lighting in the Ladies for their selfies touch-up makeup. Standby generator, parking, steady power supply, security, working air conditioners etc, cannot be over emphasized. Speaking of security, it is very important to have good security to curb off petty thieves, un-invited guest (if it is strictly by invite), coordinate parking etc.
- Consider location. In Lagos, this is by far one of the most important factors to consider before picking a venue. Noting the unpredictable traffic situation in Lagos, you really don’t want your guest waiting or looking for you or vice versa. You can’t have your church service in Festac and reception at Ajah, I can assure you, no one would come for either. Thus, choosing a venue closer to where the church service is held is always the best option. Also, the directions to the venue should be EASY. So easy that google maps can find it.
- Does this venue have any catering restrictions? Sometimes a venue (mostly hotels) makes you use one exclusive caterer (who is usually really expensive—and therefore means this venue pushes your budget way too far). The catch with most of these kind of venues is that, the hall can actually be given for free whilst they make their money from the food and drinks. In other words, the hall is just an appendage. Other times you were dreaming of having your favorite Iyabeji cater your wedding with all sorts of delicacies, but this venue won’t allow non-traditional caterers—or they will, but at an additional cost.
- And before you finally choose a wedding venue, ask if the venue fits your general vibe? This is a hard one to nail down, as it’s usually a gut feeling and completely depends on the type of wedding you’re hoping to have. I do recommend you stay open to possibilities until you do a site visit. I’ve had lots of clients think they want one thing, only to visit a venue and then switch gears altogether. This is also where you should consider decor. Is the venue naturally beautiful and impressive, so it doesn’t require additional lighting or pizzazz? Or is it a blank slate that will need praying and fasting uplifting to warm it up, and additional decor? Take a close look at those marketing photos the venue shows you online or on their Instagram page—often they have a TON of uplighting and draping to decorate the space. Make sure you’ve either made room in your budget for that, or that you prefer the space as-is. Also beware of overzealous decors!
Now that you’ve done your preliminary research and completed your superstar spreadsheet, you’re all ready to narrow your options to about 2-3 venues and do some site visits! Remember to drop a comment on our site on each venue you visit. Many thanks and good luck in choosing a wedding venue!