Even if the properties you want to see don't require an appointment, making one definitely has its perks.

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Whether you've stumbled across a rustic pavilion on the shores of your favorite lake or spotted a chic, minimalist space across from your new yoga studio, the temptation to pop into a potential wedding venue can be nearly impossible to resist. And while not every visit requires an appointment, most sites recommend you make one, especially for a location that's hard to access, has strict visiting policies, or is located on private property. But in the long run, scheduling an appointment can help your decision-making go more smoothly, says planner Virginia Edelson of Bluebird Productions in Aspen, Colorado-if you do it right.

You'll see the venue at its best.

"Seeing a blank canvas of a venue can often be hard for couples," says Edelson. This is where having a staffer from the location along for your visit can make a huge difference, since she can answer questions about everything from where you'll set up the band to whether you can bring your own bartenders, and offer the answers to questions you might not have even thought of yet. "The venue can make sure the spaces are presentable (or forewarn if they aren't), prepare pricing, and prepare photographs to show the variety of ways a venue has been used," says Edelson. "The client will fully be able to understand the policies of the venue and the pro can explain ways to enhance the space-we see no con in doing this."

You can get ideas for your own event.

Stopping in without an appointment in the middle of the afternoon might leave you with a vision of your dream venue at its worst: Bare tables, no florals, dull chairs. As a courtesy to their clients, most venues won't offer you an appointment while an event is in full swing, but, says Edelson, you might be able to request a visit during the end of setup. Choose one in your season or with a similar number of guests and you'll be able to better visualize how your own day might look-as long as you don't let it interfere with your own vision. "We love it when a client can visit a venue at a similar time of year as they event they are hosting-this helps the client to use their imagination for more creative things than, 'What will it look like when it's green or when leaves are on the trees,'" she says. "But I prefer that clients see a blank space so they do not too married to the way that particular event was set up or styled."

You can bring guests.

Sneaking into a venue on your own for a quick glimpse may satisfy your immediate need to see it, but you'll still want to set a time to bring your team-"Your key decision makers," says Edelson, "but not every opinion under the sun." Having an appointment and a representative from the venue there can give you a neutral third party to smooth over any harsh opinions-by reassuring your mother-in-law that her table won't be too close to the kitchen or giving your father a glimpse of the wine selection. But don't let your scouting party get too large, says Edelson; she recommends limiting it to your parents, if they're involved in the planning; your planner; and a close friend. "Fewer opinions," she says, "are often better."


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