So you’re ready to choose your wedding venue – how exciting! Your venue will drive much of the vibe (and cost!) of your big day, so it’s no small feat. And with dozens of options, venue types, and styles, it can feel overwhelming. I definitely spent hours poring over websites, information packages, and photos, trying to narrow down our options. While it was a time-consuming experience, my fiancé and I are both THRILLED with the venue we chose and learned a lot along the way.
With that in mind, here is my advice for booking a wedding venue you’ll absolutely love.
(Want to know what type of Bride you are? Take the free quiz!)
Start With Your Vision
As I talked about in my post about how to plan your wedding with intention, it’s critical that you and your partner get clear on your vision for the day. What would make your wedding special for the two of you? What types of things are most important? You can find more questions and thought-starters in that post.
Using this vision, jot down some preliminary thoughts for venue ideas. Are you looking for a space that lets you hold the ceremony outside, weather permitting? Or are you and your partner beach bums who would love to get married in the Caribbean at a resort? Are you both outdoorsy and do you want a rustic feel to your big day? Or are you looking for something ultra luxe and fancy?
For us, we wanted our wedding to feel warm and homey, not pretentious or overdone. We gravitated towards vineyards and barns that were a few hours outside the hubbub of the city. That really helped us narrow down our options from the start.
Check in on Your Budget and Guest List
Before getting too far down the path of research, get clear on the budget you’re working with and your expected guest list. This will help you rule out options that are too costly and those that won’t accommodate your group. And ruling out non-feasible options out early will save you a lot of time (and disappointment!) down the road.
We knew our budget and that we were looking for a place that would not only be able to contain 100 guests, but that would fit the number. A ballroom with a capacity of 250 would probably feel empty with our numbers, so we avoided those options.
Consider the Flow of the Day
Give some thought to whether you want to have your ceremony and reception at the same place, and how you see the day unfolding. If you want both to happen at the same venue, that’s something to consider in evaluating your options. (And it can save on cost!)
But if you plan on getting married at a religious site like a church, temple, or synagogue, consider things like timing and transportation to the reception afterwards. Ideally, you want to choose an option that’s frictionless and easy to coordinate.
List Out Your Most Important Factors
When it comes to the venue, decide how you’ll be assessing each option. What criteria do they need to meet? Some examples may include:
- Price and ability to fall within your budget
- Availability on your desired date(s)
- Proximity to where the majority of your guests live
- Accessibility for out of town guests
- Proximity to where you live (to make it easier to meet with local vendors, for example)
- Ambiance, atmosphere, and style
- Ability to house ceremony and reception in the same place
- Rain plan (if you’re planning on having an outdoor ceremony)
As you do your research and add options to the list, rate them according to these factors. That will also take some of the emotion out of the decision making and let you have greater clarity as to how they stack up.
Look at What’s Included
As you evaluate your options, keep an eye to what each venue includes. Some examples are:
Some venues include a planner on-site who helps with the day-of coordination. This would include making sure everything is set up, managing the ceremony procession, and acting as the point person for any day-of vendors. Having a coordinator saves the cost of hiring your own, and can make the day go more smoothly.
Some vendors may offer in-house catering, while others may have you choose from a list of approved vendors or source your own. This can impact the price greatly, and in some cases, choosing a vendor that does their own catering may be more cost-effective. At the same time, it gives you less choice. Keep this in mind when you’re comparing prices to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
My post How to Choose the Right Wedding Suppliers for Your Big Day has more advice on comparing vendors.
Linens, Glassware, Etc.
Look into whether things like tablecloths and napkins, tableware, glassware, and more are included in the venue cost. If not, be sure to add them in to your pricing calculations. And if you need to source your own, give some thought to the cost (and time!) associated.
Go for Tours
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few top contenders, book venue tours to see them in person. There’s something about being there in person that brings a place to life more than a million pictures ever could. Walk around the venue, look at the set up, and see if you can picture having your big day there.
For us, it took only a few minutes at each venue we visited before we knew whether or not it would work. And going there in person to check it out was well worth the time.
Trust Your Gut
At the end of the day, you can put as many spreadsheets together as you like (and I LOVE a good spreadsheet!) but it really comes down to how you and your partner feel. Go with the option that feels right, meets your vision, and ticks off the important boxes.
Looking for advice on planning a wedding you can afford (and reducing additional costs)? Check out my post full of money saving ideas. And read my post 12 of the Best Wedding Hacks Every Bride Should Know to save yourself some stress leading up to the big day.
And check out the Ultimate Wedding Planning Bundle for some amazing planning resources!
P.S. Want to know what type of Bride you are? Take the free quiz!