This is the 3rd of this blog series following my trip to South Africa for a wedding.

View blog #1 (Intro)  and #2 (Planning 1).

Now I want to talk Venue.

Choosing a venue from afar is not easy. As I spoke of in the previous blog Planning Step 1 you should have your wedding planner (WP) on board by this point to be your eyes & ears in your destination.

You actually may have 2 decisions: the Ceremony and the Reception location- they can be the same site or if separate they need to be a very short drive apart. Here are some suggestions- but your WP must know (or find out) the local countries regional regulations of the public areas and the neighborhood rules of private areas and be sure of a power source in remote areas.

Having a separate ceremony puts you in your vision setting usually with minimal decor.  But transport is needed (shuttle, limo’s, private cars). Seating area is needed-especially important for oldsters and a restroom or portable toilet. Most other things are optional; tent, arch, sound system, music, food, flower arrangements, dressing rooms (or come dressed).

Here are a few suggestions for a ceremony location:

  • On the beach (public private), pier, beach restaurant or beach hotel
  • Park- gardens, pond, mountains, river, jungle
  • Local attraction-museum, historic site, hut, cathedral or church, mansion, town square
  • Vineyard, farm, private lands of an estate
  • Restaurant or hotel grounds or pool or water feature, private home or villa

Reception location- Any area appropriate for both dining & dancing. A good caterer can serve in a pasture, so any of the above suggestions will work if large enough. Always think tent(s) if the the space needs more room. See photo below of the tented area that the African wedding cleverly did for dining and the caterer served the 40 guests from the 3 car garage!

Both last years Grand Cayman wedding and the African wedding had venue disasters a few months out from the date. Last year the hotel went into renovation and the wedding grounds at the hotel were destroyed by construction trucks. This wedding in South Africa also had a venue disaster when a massive storm destroyed the venue. Hearing about it, I stepped in to advise. I reflected on the success of my daughters wedding where she had the ceremony on a separate public beach park and rented a private grand 5 bedroom view villa for both the reception and the wedding party accommodations- this could also have doubled for a ceremony as well.

The solution for the African wedding was renting a private GRAND beachfront home for both the ceremony and reception using it for wedding party accommodations as well.  The Grand Cayman solution was a beachfront restaurant with a tented outdoor deck.

Keep in mind you are booking this place a year or more in advance and things happen. As in the private vacation home venue in Africa the electricity was turned off. Getting the power turned on was a big issue requiring A, B & C alternative plans for another venue and accommodations. At the last moment of their given deadline the power was restored. Yet on the set-up day (day before), power was off again for construction reasons and to my surprise did not effect the set-up.

Consider these big issues when checking out venues:

  • Sound limitations
  • Alcohol requirements
  • Parking needs
  • Tenting opportunities
  • Cleanup and set up time allowance
  • End time requirements
  • Food limitations- Use of a specific caterer or bringing in own
  • Candle and decor limitatiions

Send out Save the Date cards immediately so travel plans can be made.

Make certain your WP keeps checks on the venue on a frequent basis during the year.

Here are photos of the three venues- South Africa, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas

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