Sure, getting engaged can be stressful (how do you know your partner is going to say yes?) but once that ring is finally on the finger that’s when the real fun comes in. And by fun we mean the planning, planning, and more planning. For some people picking out the perfect spot to have your nuptials comes easy. For everyone else, there’s Tommy Smythe.
The design guru brings his know-how to brides and grooms everywhere with the premiere of Gusto’s new wedding program, Where To I Do (Thursdays at 8 p.m.). In each episode of the series Smythe and his team get to know a couple’s personality before helping them select the perfect place to host the biggest party of their lives, proving there’s a destination out there for everyone.
With so much experience under the guy’s cummerbund, we took the opportunity to ask Smythe just what questions every engaged couple should inquire before they pick their own magical venues. Here’s what he had to share.
1. What’s the overall vibe?
What are you going for on your big day, exactly? Whatever it is, figure out what you really want before you start looking at all kinds of venues, otherwise you may find yourselves worn down and having a little less fun than you’d expected.
“The first thing I do is sit down with the couple and learn about the general vibe they want for their wedding,” Smythe explains. “Do they want to be in a barn, do they want to be on a beach, do they want to be on a rooftop patio in the city with twinkling lights in the background? And from there I talk to them a little bit about what their specific needs are.”
2. What does your partner want?
You may be all gung ho about realizing the wedding of your dreams, but are you dreams perfectly in sync with your partner’s? Unless you sit down and have a real discussion about your needs and wants, you could find yourselves struggling to connect when it comes time to making the big decisions… like picking a venue.
“Each person has to ask the other person, ‘What is your vision for this wedding?’ And if you’re not on the same page then you have to find Tommy Smythe and figure out a venue that meets halfway,” the host jokes. “I have opposites who attracted and I’m thrilled that they’re married but their visions for their wedding were so different. It was a challenge for me and the team to find the right spot.”
3. Does it reflect your personalities?
There’s nothing worse than attending a wedding where the couple have been so focused on impressing everyone else that they forget to actually showcase what makes them so great as lifelong partners. So when it comes time to picking a venue, be sure to choose one that actually reflects your personalities.
“If you’re a hippie chick who wants a Boho wedding with her lumberjack fiancé then you should be outside and you should be in bare feat,” Smythe says. “You shouldn’t be eating on fine china with sterling silver flatware; that doesn’t make sense for that couple.”
4. How many people are on your guest list?
Smythe is a big proponent of knowing how many people you want to invite to the big day ahead of time, otherwise you could be looking at all the wrong venues. And in some cases, you could total alter the tone of the event you were looking to have in the first place if you pick a venue first and then pare down or add guests later.
“It’s critically important that you know how many people are going to come to your wedding when you’re choosing a venue because it narrows the field significantly,” he says. “If you’re looking to have 1000 people at your wedding there are very, very, very few places that can accommodate that number of people.”
5. What kind of dinner do you want to serve?
Are you looking to do a sit-down dinner or would you rather guests walk around with canapés a la the wedding of Will and Kate? If you don’t need the space for people to actually sit down for a five-course meal, you could look at more creative venues, like a rooftop or a trendy restaurant, says Smythe.
6. Will it be open bar?
To booze or not to booze, that is the question. And it’s a big one when it comes time to picking a venue. While most wedding halls and restaurants will have access to servers and a liquor license, if it’s an outdoor, out-of-the way place you’re after then you might have to make certain contingencies in order to water your guests.
7. What does your budget look like?
Smythe is also a big fan of knowing how much cash you’ve got to drop on this party in advance, otherwise how do you know just how big and lavish you can actually go?
“Having a budget for anything you do in your entire life including going out for lunch is probably a good idea,” he notes. “You have to know how many people you can afford to feed and water. Because that stuff costs a lot of money and many wedding venues have food and beverage as a part of the package, but then of course [sometimes] you have to bring everything in from outside vendors and that can get really pricey really quickly, so it affects the overall cost of your wedding too.”
8. Do you want a cultural aspect to it?
If you want to bring religion or culture into your special day, it’s important to make sure the venue you select can accommodate that. Otherwise you could be at risk of losing out on one of the most important aspects of your entire wedding.
“We had some amazing couples from all kinds of different cultures and when you see their weddings at the end of the show, there are some beautiful, magical, incredible culture-specific or faith-specific moments that are the most beautiful moments of their entire day,” Smythe says.
9. Is there a contingency plan?
If you’ve settled on the right venue — especially if it happens to be an outdoor venue — be sure that the organizers have some sort of contingency plan in place for rain, floods or other potential disasters. Because otherwise, you might not end up with the dreamy day you’ve been anticipating if things do go wrong.
“A lot of couples struggle with that unexpected weather thing and that’s why the perfect wedding venue for a couple who wants an outdoor wedding always comes with a really good backup plan,” Smythe advises.
10. Does it feel right?
At the end of the day and above all else, you also have to go with your gut when it comes to choosing the spot where you and your partner are going to celebrate the start of the rest of your lives together. As Smythe notes, the venue is maybe the biggest decision you’re going to make after deciding to get married in the first place, and it sets the tone for everything else to follow. So make sure that you feel okay with your decision before proceeding.
“The interesting thing about picking a venue is that it affects everything… even the style of the dress can be informed by the style of the wedding, or the invitations, which need an address on them,” he says. “Every subsequent decision really comes after, ‘Where are we going to get married?’”
Well at least Smythe is on board to help answer that one.
Where To I Do premieres Thursday, May 17 at 8 p.m. ET on Gusto.