Getting married at a raw space is a great experience for DIY couples, and for those who thoroughly enjoy the process of building something from scratch. It lets you get very creative and you can personalize your wedding, thus making it unique and truly representing yourselves.
However, because a raw space is a blank canvas to work with—transforming it into the wedding of your dreams requires careful planning. Unlike an all-inclusive restaurant or a banquet hall, arranging everything else is then likely to become your responsibility.
This would mean organizing a caterer, bartenders, staffing, renting of tables, chairs, barware, flatware, decor and lighting installations, figuring out the floor plan, renting of linens, napkins, and the list goes on.
And so, to make sure you're heading in the right direction, and are not feeling overwhelmed, here's a list of questions I want you to make sure you have concrete answers to while working with a raw space:
- Is the venue going to charge you a flat rental fee? What does this fee include? Is there a minimum headcount?
- Does the venue allow you to serve alcohol?
- Does your venue have a preferred vendors’ list that they prefer working with? Will they allow you to bring vendors from outside. If yes, is there a fee associated with this?
- Does your venue have additional vendor recommendations such as nearby photo ops, a full list of hotels, rehearsal dinner venues, and ceremony locations?
- What's the wifi situation at the venue?
- Does the venue have a First aid kit? Note: Make sure to orient yourself with the nearest fire exit and fire extinguishers onsite.
- What time can you start setting up at the venue and what time is hard out? What happens if a vendor or the venue in-charge takes longer to get out, on the day-of? What are the associated costs for overtime? Note: Usually venues will allow set up to begin post noon or at 3pm for a 6pm-1am event. Make sure your timings are mentioned in your contract, keeping in mind set up generally takes 3-4 hours and breakdown 2 hours—unless it's a massive set up and you need the space for longer.
- Will your catering company take responsibility of providing staff for bussing, set up, cleaning and final breakdown? Will they help you place order for the rentals? Note: A popular company is Broadway Party Rentals. However, they usually provide a 3-4 hour time slot to deliver and pick up their items. And so, you need to make sure the delivery and pick up timings is included within your contract, or else you will be charged extra for using the space overtime.
- Does the space have a working kitchen, or will you need to work with your caterer to ensure they come with the food prepared and ready to serve? Does it have an oven? Does it have a refrigerator? Does it allow deep-frying? Can you use electric deep-fryers? Do you need additional power or a backup generator?
- Does the bartending company need to bring their ice buckets, ice, garbage cans, etc.?
- Does your space allow live stations? Or ice-cream trucks? Or buffet with sternos, etc.?
- Does the space have handicap accessibility, with ramps or elevators if needed?
- Where is the loading area for vendors to access the space for set up?
- If your wedding is taking place in a multi-storey building, does it have a freight elevator? Who will operate the elevator on the day-of?
- What is the status of parking around the area and will you be providing valet services?
- If it's a fall or winter wedding, who will handle the coat check services and where will it be set up in the venue? Note: This should be near the entry to the venue.
- Raw spaces require their venues to be left in broom-clean condition, after the event gets over. Who will be responsible to take care of this? Catering's staffing company or someone else?
- Who will collect all your cards and gifts after the wedding for you?
- Do your vendors have the required licenses/Certificate of Insurance (COI), needed by the venue? Have they sent it over to them?
- Does your venue require you to purchase insurance? Note: It's always safe to purchase wedding insurance for raw spaces. Normally venues will have partnerships with insurance companies, but if not, some good recommendations are: WedSafe and EventHelper.
- Does your bartending company have all the permits and license required to serve alcohol at the venue?
- If catering and bartending are from two different companies, who will be using what area of the kitchen? Note: have them meet at the space together, to decide how they will be using the kitchen space between them. This is to make sure they have no friction on the day-of.
- Who will collect your wedding cake box for you to take home (if you've requested for this)?
- Does the venue provide toiletries for the restroom or do you have to provide baskets with all the good stuff?
- Are candles allowed in the venue? Note: Many couples use candles to fill the air with a fresh fragrance before the wedding celebrations begin. My personal favorite is Diptyque.
- Have the DJ/live band and the AV team visited the space and figured out the power situation? Do they need to bring extension chords, mics and more wire?
- If you plan to have live band, have they checked the acoustics in the room to make sure the sound travels well?
- If you’re having artificial lighting, are they on dimmers? Last thing you need is an overly lit bright room. Note: Bistro lighting is a lot of fun as well.
- Have you made a clear list of all the DIY items that need to be placed around in the space, along with the person responsible for its set up and breakdown?
- Have you created a floor plan? Note: A good site is allseated.com for creating floor plans which couples can use. However, check with your venue to see what they use for floor planning.
- Does your venue have an in-house inventory list that you can rent from? Note: Some venues such as the Green Building and Ramscale Studios have in-house inventory of chairs, tables, high boys, etc. Find out if that is included in your package or if they can rent it out to you at a discounted rate. The rest of the items you can rent from outside.
- Have all your key vendors come in for a site visit (especially if they haven’t worked in the space before)?
- Have you scheduled a final walkthrough with all the key vendors at the venue, to go over all the details together one last time?
- Have you checked with each vendor, how long they will need for set up and breakdown and at what time will they arrive, given the event timings?
- Have you created a timeline which lists all these timings in one place, and which you can share with all the vendors?
- Have you/your photographer visited the space around the time your ceremony will actually take place? This will ensure that you know what the natural lighting for the space will look like for that time of day.
- Who will choreograph your wedding ceremony and cue the wedding party and yourselves, on the day-of? What about cues for the speeches, toasts, first dance, etc.
- Who will be your main point of contact from the venue, on the day-of?
- Will the venue assign you a security guard for the day-of? Or are you supposed to source it out yourselves?
- What is the rule with the exit doors? Note: Usually exit doors must have a four-foot clearance in front of them at all times.
That would be all for now! I am sure you will think of more questions when you get deep into planning and also because each venue is dynamic in nature. However, I am confident that by knowing answers to the questions above, you will have a great head start towards planning for your big day.
All the best and wish you a fabulous wedding.
Dee | firstname.lastname@example.org