Found your future spouse? Check!
Got the ring? Check!
Now you need a wedding date. And a venue. Or a venue and a date. But which comes first?
This is going to be an EPIC (long-ish) GUIDE broken into 5 parts. All of it is going to help you decide on a wedding date. And…Go.
PART 1: Decide Your Priorities
What will you base your wedding date decision on?
-a special anniversary: All couples have dates that are special to them. First kiss? First date? The proposal? If you have a set wedding date in mind and are not willing to compromise on it, start contacting those venues and Find. That. Date. Many times, venues book 12-18 months in advance, so if that doesn’t work out, how flexible are you?
-venue availability: this is what I recommend- choose the time of year and narrow down your top 2-3 picks for venues. Tour them and make notes of all the available dates they have open. You should be able to make your decision based on openings and pick the perfect date!
-your personal availability: perhaps you fall into one of the categories below (special circumstances) and have a limited window of time to consider. Choose several dates and while contacting venues, find out their availability and start touring.
-budget: when you contact venues, ask how to get the lowest rates at their location. For The Springs Events, weekdays are 40% off the Saturday rate and often, vendors have special rates for non-Saturday events. Choosing a non-Saturday date is undoubtedly the BEST way to save BIG on your overall budget. Also, a short-term engagement, with a new reservation booked within 2 months of the big day will sometimes earn a discounted rate and in turn, will also give you negotiating room with all other vendors who still have the date open.
PART 2: 7 Unique Circumstances to Consider
Not all wedding guests are equal. (I said it, not you, so no guilt on your part). Think about the essential people that must be available to make your wedding happen: the bride & groom, immediate family or wedding party. Now, with tunnel vision on your “essentials”, are any of them…
1.) Educators? Consider asking them first if you are leaning towards a date near finals weeks, testing dates, or the start and end of the school year. I was a high school teacher for 7 years and my principal always had blackout dates for time off. For example, a Friday or Monday following a holiday weekend or a state assessment day in the Spring was a no-no.
2.) College Students? For the same reasons above, plus throw in mid-terms, summer school and graduation. On the upside, there’s always a break for summer, Christmas vacation, and Spring Break. For Spring Break, STS Travel does a great job of keeping a database of major college & university dates. For most of Texas and Oklahoma, Spring Break at college is the second full week of March, but make sure to check with the registrar’s office for your university.
4.) Die-Hard Sports Fans? Consider major sporting dates: Superbowl (early February), Final Four (early April), World Series (late October), NBA Finals (mid June), BCS Playoffs & Bowl Games (late Dec – early January).
- Superbowl: 2/7/16, 2/5/17, 2/4/18
- Final Four: Apr 2 & 4 in 2016; Apr 1 & 3 in 2017; Mar 31 & Apr 2 in 2018. For more about the NCAA tournament dates: http://goo.gl/0KXh64
- World Series: These dates aren’t usually scheduled until closer, but they tend to be late October. For more information, check the MLB site: http://goo.gl/eWzNmE
- NBA Finals: These dates haven’t been announced yet, but tend to be mid-June. For more information, check the NBA important dates here http://goo.gl/M4p7z9
- BCS & Bowl Games: Late December through Early January. For more information: http://goo.gl/7vvqT
5.) Religious? If one of your “essential” peoples are devout (name the religion), you might consider major religious holidays.
6.) Accountants? It seems obvious, but tax day is April 15th. Anyone involved with preparing taxes is neck deep in numbers and paperwork from the beginning of the year to mid-Spring.
7.) Military? Be mindful of blackout dates, training, deployments, etc. If any of your irreplaceable wedding members are active duty, make sure to consider wedding insurance and find out what the terms of each vendor contract are for transferring your date should something come up. The most important thing is to communicate and know all the facts before you decide on a date.
PART 3: Novelty Dates – Fun or Unique Wedding Dates
I’m a numbers girl. And after years of looking at potential wedding dates with couples as a venue manager, I get tickled when the numbers line up. Palindromes make me swoon… that’s when the numbers go forwards and backwards. For example, May 15, 2015 was a personal favorite this year. It was on a Friday and 5-15-15 looked pretty cool! The double bonus about novelty dates is that they’re super easy to remember, for you, and for him.
PART 4: How Choosing a Date Affects Your Budget
Non-Saturday Rates– This is without a doubt, the #1 way to save on your wedding date. Saturdays are peak, not only for venue rentals, but also for vendor services, travel, and hotel rooms. Choosing a weekday, or other day of the weekend (Fri / Sun) is becoming more and more common. Just take a look at the venue calendar from THE SPRINGS in Edmond below for October 2015 (more on this in a moment).
If the idea of a non-Saturday date is unappealing, think about it this way: you’ll send out save-the-date cards well in advance (some send these almost a year out, especially if it’s a destination wedding!) People will make arrangements. They’ll be there. They love you.
This also gives your guests a mini-vacation & you more time over a weekend to spend with those who have travelled to attend.
Friday is the new Saturday
For example, say you choose a Friday. Cha-Ching! At The Springs Events, this is up to $1900 less than a Saturday. Fridays often work better for destination weddings than a Saturday, though it seems counterintuitive. Guests travel in Friday to enjoy your wedding. The bride tends to be heavy into hair / make up and decorating, the groom is playing golf or at the shooting range, etc. and the only real time you spend with any of those guests? 1-2 minutes each at the reception. Even local guests will stay out late on Friday nights (no work the next day). Now you have Saturday to plan something fun together with those that wish. Sunday, everyone heads home.
Holiday Weekends – If you take a look at the handy infographic to the left, these are the federal holidays (no work!) for 2016, 2017, 2018. Guests are likely to have time off work and be able to spend more time with you. Turn the event into a mini-vacation for everyone; consider a brunch the following morning or organizing outings & things-to-do for your guests. Holidays that are tricky (but not impossible!) to plan a wedding around are Mother’s Day (Sundays: 5/8/16, 5/14/17, 5/13/18) and Valentine’s Day due to floral arrangements. As long as you know this ahead of time, then you’re gold and can make special arrangements as well as budget a little more for floral.
Off-Season – Depending on location, the varying climates will determine when off-season falls for weddings. It’s common for venues and vendors to offer off-season rates. Some will even negotiate if business is slow and calendars are not filled.
In Texas, April and October are the #1 months of the year to marry. The weather’s great and many brides choose Spring and Fall weddings.
In the Texas Hill Country, peak season for tourism is between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so if you’re choosing a late-summer to early-fall wedding and it’ll be destination, you’ll want to budget a little extra for hotels.
In Oklahoma, peak wedding season is late March through November. When I asked Nancy Vance, venue manager at THE SPRINGS in Edmond what she’s seeing for calendar trends in Oklahoma, she said, “We really have two times. Late March thru November (is wedding season) and then it slows down some November thru the end of February. August is a little lighter but I still have every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August booked. While the other months, especially June, July, September and October I have a hand full of dates available… only 6-7 days left.”
At The Springs Events, we only reserve one wedding per day, so after looking at her calendar for June, July, September and October, she has 87 weddings to host! It also indicates that couples are choosing non-Saturday dates regularly, a very savvy budget strategy.
PART 5: Two Questions to Ask BEFORE Touring Venues
As a former venue manager at Boulder Springs, I sat across from many couples in the office after a tour trying to narrow down dates with them. But finding the perfect date started well before those meetings, for both of our sakes. It was rare that a couple would arrive to a tour without knowing 2 things: our pricing schedule of four flat rates and our availability. If a couple was set on a date, with no flexibility and we toured together (they loved it!) only to find out we don’t have the date available… Awk-ward. That scenario’s not in anyone’s best interest. Couples should always work with venues that are upfront about their pricing and their availability. It’s how I would want to shop and I appreciate working for a company that feels honesty and upfront disclosure on those two points is a priority. The cool part about The Springs Events too, is that if you are set on a specific date, you can call any of the locations and inquire with the staff to see where that date is open among all 13 TSE locations. Neat-o!
Here’s what I recommend: Pick your top 3 venues. Pick your top 3 dates. Discuss your overall budget.
Your perfect venue will be the place where all three align.