When you get engaged your wedding venue is the first thing to nail down. Without the venue, you can’t pick a date! So, it all starts with the venue. And who better to ask about wedding venues than The Venue CEO!
On the podcast, we recently had the pleasure of chatting with Kate Dear of Fetewell Venues, also known as The Venue CEO. Kate is the owner of 3 of Maryland’s most authentic and unique celebration spaces and she gave us the inside scoop on what makes an event space so special.
Kate: I’m in love with historic structures, so a large part of what I do is adaptive reuse. I don’t do new build venues. Instead, I take existing structures, particularly historic ones, and give them new life.
My most recent one was the bank, which was built in 1908. My second venue was a brick warehouse in Baltimore. Finally, my first venue was the showroom of a Chevrolet dealership, built in 1930.
I actually do as little as possible when I renovate, and I try to keep as much of the original structure and character as possible. Primarily, I bring them up to modern code and make them safe and ADA compliant.
Kate: Finding a space with a ton of character can make for a really fun wedding.
After clients come in for a tour, they’ll say, “Wow, all I need to do is get some greenery and candles!” Because the space itself is so beautiful, there is no need for huge installations or major decorations, so the couple can save a ton on décor.
But at the same time, we always make sure that the space is still a blank enough slate to accommodate any sort of palette or style that the couple wants to add.
My venues also all come with tables and chairs, so the couple gets more with the space.
Finally, we have a 16-hour rental window, which is almost unheard of (about 8 hours is the industry standard).
When coming up with my business plan, I was thinking about it as somebody who’s been a bride before. I remember how annoying all the venue rules were — things like no red wine or they’d only allow makeup touch-ups and no getting ready on site. With rules like that, the enjoyment of your day is affected.
Since I’m only doing one event a day anyway, why not allow 16 hours? I think has really been part of the draw and why we’re so successful is because we’re thinking about those things.
Kate: It’s interesting because all three of my venues are quite different in terms of space and flow. But, I think it’s important that couples have a wedding planner or catering team that can see the space and help design the flow of the day. They are professionals who do this hundreds of times per year so they understand how to evaluate the space and envision what would work best based on your wants and needs.
Other than that, the number one thing I would tell clients is to remember that nothing stays the same the whole night. Things are always moving behind the scenes to make sure that everything is set up for the next phase of your timeline.
Kate: Our spaces are mostly indoor, so we don’t deal with that often. At the Main Street location, we have a patio, so in bad weather, we’ll just flip it to another space indoors.
If couples are looking at an outdoor venue, I’d recommend budgeting for a tent or having a tent on standby. It depends on your location as well, as some areas are more prone to rain or heat, so having an inclement weather plan becomes more important.
Kate: My favorite weddings are the ones where I see people having the most fun. This usually happens at weddings where the flow of the event is very mobile, with people moving around the venue. Maybe the bar is in one place, a photo booth is in another area, and so on. People have to get their butts out of seats to get what they want and that’s what gets people mingling and dancing!
I’ve also noticed that the dance floor needs to be pretty small and dark, so people don’t feel alone. A small dance floor that looks packed is always more conducive to more people getting in there and being comfortable. And live music always gets people excited to dance.
A big opportunity for fun is during the cocktail hour. Food trucks provide small bites or late-night snacks. A casual, relaxed vibe is often what I see people love. I’ve also seen vendors bring an entire arcade into the venue. It’s the arcade of your childhood dreams, but you’re grown up and you can drink. How fun!
Décor can bring the fun too. We often see people do really epic floral installs and things where everybody’s Instagramming and capturing the whole night.
With social media, people are always looking for that next fun, unique trend, that nobody has seen at a wedding, and I think that’s great. It really pushes us all to think outside the box!
Kate: Parking is never easy. Our venues are on main streets in downtown areas, but in small cities. So, it’s public parking but not a huge issue compared to major cities.
Any venue should usually have parking resources to help with this. If they don’t, you can reach out to the parking authority in your city because they’ll have some resources for garages and bulk parking.
Some areas will also have certain requirements. In one of our locations, our vendors have to reserve parking through the city before the event. I’d recommend just making sure that everybody knows what the expectations are for parking before your event.
Kate: I always tell clients that the acoustics of the space sound different on the tour than it does during the actual event. Because your guests and décor will absorb a lot of the sound on the day of your event. So, our venues have really high ceilings and echo, but when they’re full of people, the sound is actually really great.
We also try to place the DJ in areas where the ceilings are lower.
Kate: I love being surrounded by joy.
I used to work as a news producer where I would interview people on the worst day of their life. Usually, people make the news because they’re having the worst time. Being around that every day really gets to you. When I switched careers, I decided I wanted to be surrounded by joy.
The wedding industry is full of joy! Even though it’s an emotional industry, at the end of the day, you are with people who are celebrating. Every day I get to celebrate with people who are making these lifelong commitments, and I get to be a part of the creation of families.
People will come back to me two years later and be like, “Hey, we had a baby!” I love that it has so much meaning.
I think of all the decisions that people make when planning their weddings, the dress and the venue are probably two of the most emotional ones. So, it’s really an honor when people choose something I’ve created to be a part of that.
I’ve been doing this for almost a decade now, and it still blows me away every time.
We always say your wedding day is a very personal day. It’s all about you. So it is important to find the perfect wedding venue to match your vision!
If you are not already following Kate, please check her out @thevenueCEO on TikTok and Instagram, or online at fetewell.com.
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