Want a Unique Event? Start with a Unique Event Space.
Unique Event Spaces Are All The Rage
You can have a spectacular event planned, but if you host it at a ho-hum event space, you and your guests will get a ho-hum experience. Before you even get started looking for a unique event space, you have to know your event budget. Your budget will keep everything else in context and help you make easier yes/no decisions.
No matter your budget, the venue matters. It sets the tone and backdrop for the event. Choosing a unique event space can be fun, but make sure you know what to look for and when to start looking.
The Makings of a Unique Event Space
You’ve heard it before, but location is just as important for an event as it is with real estate. Unless you are specifically focusing on a destination wedding, you should think about how easy your desired location is to get to for your guests. Think, too, about where it’s located in context to its surroundings. Do you really want a convenient store or soccer field with screaming fans next door? Does the venue offer a unique event space, one that provides a memorable experience for you and your guests?
Curb appeal doesn’t just apply to buying a house. When you drive up to your event space, how do you feel? Does it portray the image you want for your event? Are the grounds and structure(s) well-maintained? Depending on the vibe you’re looking for, is it somewhere your guest will see and instantly understand why you chose that location? Keep in mind that people will judge your event within the first 30 seconds of arrival. Make sure you’re venue impresses.
Design and Decor
When you and your guests enter the space, what kind of ambiance are you wanting them to sense? If you are hosting an intimate wedding and want an earthy, natural feel to it, you probably don’t want fluorescent lighting, worn red carpet and metal office chairs. While this may seem exaggerated, you’d be surprised what some venues say is “charming.” Instead, you may look for natural wood floors, large windows and wood chairs, for instance. Whatever your taste, make sure the event space can accommodate your design ideas and set the stage for your event. From tables and chairs to bars, stages, and room decor, all furniture should be in good taste and look like it belongs.
How large (or small) is the space for your event? With COVID-19 still a factor, you may be looking at a smaller venue. Make sure the space has plenty of room for your guests to roam about, converse, sit and feel comfortable. Crowded rooms may look like more fun, but you want to keep your guests safe and give them some breathing room.
Related: The Best Wedding Venues in Austin: Even During a Pandemic
Your event may not require outdoor space, but it is always nice to have the option, particularly with COVID-19. Check out the outdoor space the venue offers to make sure it’s truly event-worthy. Some venues say they have outdoor space, but it may or may not be up to par for the atmosphere you’re trying to create. Make sure your guests can get around easy enough outside, with paths and patios or manicured lawns, seating, and a pleasant view. If your event is during the day, especially if it is warm, be sure you can offer plenty of shade. If it will be chilly, does the venue offer heating elements?
Lighting plays a major role in creating the perfect ambiance. From string lights in the trees and dimmable indoor lights to natural light and spotlights, lighting is a game changer. Restaurants know this well. Here’s how one expert puts it:
“Most of us don’t notice restaurant lighting until it’s done badly - too bright, too dark, off-trend Edison bulbs, track lighting, unflattering overhead fluorescents...Lighting is the first impression.”
While you aren’t opening a restaurant, you can use the advice. Lighting is the first impression your guests will have when they walk into your event, and it sets the mood for the entire event. If you aren’t sure what kind of lighting is best for your particular event, work with the venue to get suggestions, and think about what you would appreciate if you were a guest at your event.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being invited to an event and getting there only to realize there is nowhere to park. Your venue will tell you how many parking spots they have available for your guests. Compare that with the number of cars you believe will arrive and decide if you should either choose another location if parking will be an issue or ask your guests to consider carpooling or using a ride app (full transparency goes a long way). You may also want to offer valet parking. Ask the venues you are considering if they offer valet service as an add-on cost or if you can hire your own valet service.
Sound and Video
Unique event spaces understand audio/visual needs are a key component of most events. Chances are, your event will need some sort of sound system to enable microphones, music, video or all of three - indoor and possibly outdoors as well. When you’re considering venues, ask them about their AV capabilities and whether they provide staff to set it up for you before the event and manage it while you are there.
Most events don’t happen without a team of people working together before, during and after the event. You may want to bring in your own people or you may want an all-inclusive package that utilizes the venue’s staff. Whatever you choose, make sure you ask your venue what is allowed, who your money pays for, and if those people are trained. Depending on your event, you may need to consider servers and wait staff, bar tenders, lighting and sound specialists, valet/parking attendants, photographer, caterer and staff, and a clean-up crew.
Some venues just rent out a room and let you do the rest. Others offer all kinds of services to help streamline your event planning and cover every detail. Your budget may determine what level of service you receive and how many add-ons you can include, but talk with each venue to see what is included in their pricing. Check to see if they have all-inclusive packages, too. You can save a lot of money, time and hassles with these packages. Just make sure you understand the fine print and any areas you can customize. For instance, if a venue offers catering as part of their package, be sure you know which caterer they use and whether you can choose items on the menu or a type of food served.
When to Book a Unique Event Space
Planning an event is exciting, can be overwhelming, and involves a lot of thought. You may be wondering when the best time to choose your event space is during the planning phase. This is sort of like asking whether the chicken or the egg came first. Some people fall in love with a unique event space and plan their event around the venue, while others have a certain date they have to have their event and choose a venue based on availability, for example.
If you lie somewhere in between, these are the steps we recommend:
Make Your Guest List
Before you can know where you want your event, you need to know how many people the venue needs to accommodate and who your guests will be. If you have a particular place in mind already, you may have to work backward and make your list in context to how many people you are allowed to bring.
Come Up with Multiple Possible Dates
You may have your heart set on a certain date, but depending on venue availability, you should try to be as flexible as possible. Of course, the earlier you book your venue, the better the chance you have to get the date you want. Prioritize possible dates and be ready to shift the date or time if necessary.
Think About What Setting You Want
What kind of event are you hosting? A wedding? A conference? A team building event? A family reunion or birthday party? You will save a ton of time if you have an event setting in mind before you start looking for a unique event space. You will be able to cross venues off of your list before you start the search. On the other hand, you may allow the venue to inspire new ideas.
Start Your Venue Search
With all of the above in mind, you are ready to begin looking at venues. Start online to find out where unique event spaces are in the location you’re desiring. Look at gallery pictures, but try to see the venues in person if possible. Pictures often don’t tell the whole story. Schedule appointments with each venue and put yourself in your guests’ shoes the entire time, from driving up to the venue to the walk-through. What impression does the venue make and is that what you want your guests to experience?
If your event will be in the evening, see if the venue manager will allow you to come by in the evening so you can see the indoor and outdoor lighting. If it is during the day, try to make your appointment around the same time as you’d like your event so you can evaluate the natural lighting.
You’re all set for hosting a fantastic, unique event. One last point - customer service is everything. Be sure you factor how easy the venue manager is to work with, how well they accommodate your requests, and how much help they can provide. They should be able to offer you recommendations and advice, as well as connect you with people who can help make your event spectacular.