Choosing a venue can be the most daunting — and priciest — part of wedding planning.
These days, the options are vast, yet certain dates are still at a premium.
So where does a couple begin?
Christi Henderson, owner of Livonia-based Events by Chris, recommends deciding on a venue first.
"I always recommend that couples don't get set on their date until they actually pick their venue," she said. "They have to pick the venue because so many places are completely booked out for a year."
Still, many couples choose the wedding date first, said Melissa Sicheneder, event planner for Berkley-based Flourish Event Design.
"Some people choose the date first, because it's important to them — it's their parents' anniversary or grandparents' anniversary or the day that they met," she said. "Some people don't stray from that date, so they'll find a venue that's available on that date."
Luckily for brides and grooms, the area is teeming with options — from banquet halls and golf courses to concert halls and barns, just to name a few.
"Our community has a lot to offer," Henderson said. "Probably more so than most.
"Just about anyplace that you really have a passion for, you can end up getting married there."
Finding what you want
"There are so many options," Sicheneder said. "I think the venue depends on the time of year. If you really want an outdoor wedding, you really have to take in the factor of the weather and guests traveling. If you're having a holiday wedding, you have to think of the airfare and the hotels.
"It depends on your guests and the feeling that you want them to have," she added.
What should couples look for in a venue?
"A place that provides value in terms of the charming historical ambiance they may desire for their wedding ceremony at a reasonable price," said Susan Broihan, business manager at Troy Historic Village. "You're looking at a combination of what you desire and how you picture your wedding ceremony to be, versus how much you can spend."
With wedding-planning reality TV shows and wedding-specific magazines, many brides and grooms are well-prepared before their first visit to a venue.
"We have really educated consumers these days," said Kim Weak, accounting manager at Burton Manor Banquet and Conference Center in Livonia. "So they just need to make sure that the venue that they pick doesn't have any hidden costs — make sure what their sales tax is, what their gratuity is and make sure that those items are clearly defined."
No matter how lengthy a couple's guest list is, there's a venue in the area to match.
For smaller events, Troy Historic Village offers a unique setting, Broihan said.
"Our venue is definitely geared toward a more intimate wedding, because our 1837 built church has a maximum guest capacity of 110 people," she said. "We also have a charming gazebo on the Village Green that is available for an outdoor wedding. It's a traditionalsetting, with 10 historical buildings within the village that we encourage guests to tour through either prior to or after the ceremony."
Larger venues remain busier than ever.
At the Hellenic Cultural Center in Westland, three wedding receptions can be held simultaneously.
"We have three large halls; they each accommodate 200 people. We can accommodate about 700 people altogether — so we're a large venue," Manager Liza Randazzo said. "We offer everything in-house. We do all of our catering on-site. We offer excellent food, a full bar. We have linens, chair covers, pretty much everything.
"We're super-friendly. We're very accommodating. I just think what we have to offer is pretty unbeatable."
And at Burton Manor, wedding receptions of up to 2,000 guests can be arranged, although most average 150-200 guests.
"We can hold up to four wedding receptions," Weak said. "We have six banquet rooms and we can hold close to 2,000 people. We can customize any menus. We have great entry-point pricing, but we can customize any menu for anybody that wants something a little higher-end."
Many wedding ceremonies and receptions are taking place at historic barns that have been re-purposed into ornate, yet rustic, wedding venues.
"I swear, I'm the barnyard queen (lately)," Henderson said. "You get married on-site, you do everything in one place. For some of the renovations at these barns, they've put over a million dollars into them to make them wedding venues. They're everywhere."
Sicheneder has noticed trends among her recent customers, too.
"I've actually been seeing a lot more non-traditional venues such as the Henry Ford Museum, concert venues like the Royal Oak Music Theatre," she said. "There's also a cool venue called the Ford Piquette (Avenue) Plant, where Ford first created automobiles; it's a museum during the day, but when you rent it out for weddings, you can walk around the floor and look at the cars. So if the groom is a huge automobile fan, it's the perfect venue for that.
"I had a bride get married at the Gem Theatre (in Detroit) in the fall. I feel like a lot of Detroit venues are starting to pop up that are really unique. It kind of gives that old-Detroit feel."
The often-blissful climate and scenery of autumn in Michigan has also become a favorite of brides and grooms.
"Fall has become very popular. September, October and early November are very popular right now," Randazzo said. "Those are the hot months where the dates are hard to find and, of course, you're going to pay more. If you're looking for a bargain, you definitely want to book in January, February or March."
Couples are spending more for weddings than ever before, an average of $29,858 (excluding honeymoon), according to The Knot 2013 Real Weddings Study, which surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms who married in 2013.
"When you choose a venue, it's important to know everything that it includes so you're not surprised," Sicheneder said.
"Price is such a huge issue," Henderson said. "Determine your budget and who's going to help with what. It's nice to dream, but if you don't have the money, it's probably not such a good idea."
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