How to Choose a Wedding Venue
Many brides say it's hardest part, but arguably the most important - it's also one of the first things you need to do. Here's how to make sure you get married in the perfect place!
If you got engaged over the holidays, congratulations! (And if you're engaged and reading this at some other point this year or in the future, we're so excited for you!)
Being engaged is one of the most fun seasons of your life, but it can also be one of the most stressful and difficult. We've talked with many brides-to-be recently who seemed to be more weighed down by all the unanswered questions and the daunting task of planning a wedding ahead of them than they are giddy about marrying the love of their life. First of all, if that's you, STOP that - take the time to enjoy this sweet and special time! Oogle at your ring at every possible moment; practice writing your soon to be last name; go on Pinterest and look at wedding dresses to your heart's content; go on a date with your fiance and just talk about your future dreams.
Buttttt inevitably the planning will begin at some point. There's an industry-wide debate about whether or not you should start with your guest list or your venue (we say guest list, and we'll tell you why shortly), but either way, choosing a wedding venue is one of the first things to do if you're going to plan a wedding. It's first (well, second, we think) because it's one thing that will invariably influence nearly every other choice you make about your wedding day. So it's a big deal! It's also notoriously difficult; there are so many factors to take into consideration, and this can make your venue hunt extremely frustrating or overwhelming or both.
The good news is that once you find a wedding venue, the hardest part is over (truly, we mean that). So how do you choose a wedding venue, and what considerations do you need to make?
Well, before you even start searching, first you need to consider your guest count(hence why we said this should probably be the first step in your planning process). Call any venue to inquire about availability and pricing and the first thing they will ask you is how many people are invited! Rarely if ever will venues give you a quote without a guest count, even if they make it up themselves (but this WILL influence cost).
Next, consider what you want the feel of your wedding to be. This is really, really important; the place sets the tone for the whole day. It's the backdrop of all of the pictures and influences the attitude of your guests, dress, and decor. Do you want an elegant wedding, a fun wedding, an eclectic wedding, a themed wedding, a rustic wedding, etc.? If you've always dreamed of chandeliers and a Cinderella-ballgown dress, you may want to focus on ballroom or indoor venues rather than barns, for example. If you and your fiance want a moodier tone, focus on industrial venues or theatres you can decorate to match your vision rather than a typical reception space.
Determine your budget early. Venues are expensive. Wedding budgets are notorious for getting out of hand fast, and one of the ways this happens is by brides and grooms not setting one early before they start making commitments or falling in love with different things they find. What are you willing to pay for a venue? What if it's all inclusive - what are you planning to pay for other items like catering? (All inclusive venues may be cheaper, but are more often more expensive than a la carte venues. You can likely find cheaper deals on other vendors on your own if the venue will let you select your own vendors.) Remember that the more you have to decorate the space, the more expensive your total cost will be. Decorations and florals are pricey, so the prettier the space naturally is, or if the venue includes decorations, the more you'll save.
Pick a few dates, if possible. Venues book quickly - some are sold out years in advance - so it's probable that several you check out won't have the same date available. If you can be flexible with your date, do so (especially since Friday weddings are sooo much cheaper than Saturday ones). Think about when and where you're having the wedding...that absolutely matters when it comes to picking a venue. If you're getting married in Florida or Arizona, and you want to get married outside but want the wedding to be formal, please don't get married in June on the beach or in the desert in the middle of the afternoon when it's 115 degrees. (The "where" is important - more people will be able to come to local weddings, which means more mouths to feed but also more gifts, and vice versa.)
Now that you know what you're looking for, start looking online
. Google venues, look at popular wedding sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire, and also, to find hidden gems, search "wedding photography [location]", find a photographer there, and look through their blog to see what pictures will actually look like. We've known several brides who have found amazing venues this way that weren't showing up in other places! Hunt for reviews
and make sure you read a variety, don't just look at the overall score of the place. Note what poor reviews may be saying or what good reviews are raving about. Make a list of ones that you like or reach out to them with an online inquiry. Ask specific questions if you'd like, but even just asking about their venue will usually prompt a member of their sales team to reach out to you
At this point, stop everything and make a separate email folder, or spreadsheet/Google sheet, to track your information. It can be really easy to forget which venues you've already contacted, which ones are above your budget or not available on your date, etc. Stay organized! You'll thank us later.
When you have a few possibilities, make a visit to your favorites (unless you're having a destination wedding and this will be absolutely impossible). Always try to visit the venues before making any decisions on whether to pursue them or not, and DEFINITELY before you book. In our experience, it pays to go see a couple you may not be too sure about, either. Online presences can be extraordinarily deceiving in good ways and bad ways (ask us how we know).
At the end of the day, location matters a lot. And once you have your venue, you can start planning the other fun stuff, like your dress, your cake, your flowers, and your bridesmaids gifts!
Do you have any other tips for choosing a venue? What are the prettiest/best wedding venues you've ever been to? Tell us in the comments! And keep up with our Kadlee blog for more planning advice about all things wedding!