Choose a wedding venue and set the date! But, before you do a Google search for all the wedding venues in your area, there are 9 very important things that you’ll want to consider first! (Trust us) This is going to make finding and choosing a wedding venue so much easier! We are starting at the very beginning with “Wedding Planning 101.” Ready to get started? Let’s have some fun!
Listen, we know you are excited! (And you should be!) Getting married is such an exciting time in your life! But planning a wedding can be a really expensive undertaking, especially if you want all the bells and whistles and the pick of the litter when it comes to vendors.
So before you get your heart set on a specific venue, or a specific wedding dress, or even specific wedding decor, first figure out what is going to work within your budget and about how many people you think you’ll need to accommodate for.
Your guest count (and your budget) is a HUGE factor when it comes to choosing the right venue for your wedding.
Once you have an idea of about how many guests you think will attend, you can then begin to compile a list of venues that fit within your budget and have the space that you need for your guests.
Some venues seat 500 people . . . some seat 50. So knowing your wedding “numbers” will help you decide which venues you may want to go tour and take a look at.
Because here’s the thing. . .
If you book a venue that’s got a capacity for 500 people and you only need space for about 75, that space is really going to swallow up your guest count and leave you with a lot of empty space, which makes it much more difficult to use that space effectively. (And it doesn’t make for great acoustics either)
But if you do have a guest count of about 500 people, that’s automatically going to eliminate those smaller-sized venues.
So before you fall in love with a venue, and before you start booking appointments to tour the spaces – save yourself a little time (and maybe even a little heartache) and check their capacity first.
(The time of year, not necessarily the date itself)
Depending on what time of year you’d like to get married in, whether it’s Spring, Fall, Summer, or Winter, it’s good to first ask yourself “Okay, well where are we in the year right now? How long do I want to wait to get married? And how much time do I want to give myself to actually plan the event.”
If you have your heart set on a beautiful fall wedding and you just got engaged in the Spring, realize that you absolutely can! But. . . it may be difficult to find a venue that has open availability, has the capacity you’re looking for, and can fit within your budget on such short notice. Being engaged and being a fiancé is also a lot of fun so we always recommend to just enjoy being engaged and give yourself the amount of time that makes sense for you to be able to plan the wedding you’ve always wanted.
Now that you’ve scoped out some venues that work within your budget, your guest count, and the time of year you’d like to get married. Start booking some appointments.
Yes, it’s also good to read through the reviews online and to look through all the beautiful pictures on their website, but you can’t really get a feel for the space until you are physically there.
(And let’s be honest, sometimes pictures can be a little deceiving . . . or there could be some like weird, unpleasant smell, or the area surrounding the venue isn’t the most ideal)
So trust us, it’s just best to check it out in person.
The one exception is if you are planning a destination wedding.
That may be a little harder to see in person. (Unless – you’ve got the time, the cash, and you’re in need of a little vaca anyways!)
But in the instance that you can’t tour the venue yourself, we recommend is to have a planner in the area (or someone in the area that you trust) give you some recommendations of venues that they have been to recently, because you don’t want to book a venue based off pictures alone.
It’s important to understand that not all venues are created equal.
There are some venues that are more full service, meaning that they come with a coordinator, bar packages, catering, tables, chairs, servers,. . . the whole shebang. And that is going to reflect in their pricing. And there are other venues where you are essentially renting the space. . . and that’s about it.
If you’ve ever wondered why one venue is so much more expensive than another, it’s most likely because they are offering more services than just the space.
So that’s definitely something else that you want to consider when you are looking at venues. What all will you have to make plans for and be responsible for (on the day of!) for that particular venue and is it worth the additional cost-savings.
And in addition to things like. . . who’s providing the tables and chairs, who’s setting them up, who’s decorating the tables, who’s tearing everything down at the end of the night. . .
Maybe the venue you are looking at has beautiful farm tables with gorgeous matching chairs that perfectly match the vibe you’re going for. Then you can just use what they have as is and you won’t have to worry about finding linens or chair covers to dress up plastic tables and chairs to match the rest of your decor.
Depending on the venue and your budget, you may have to play a little game of give and take so it is just very important to find out exactly what the venue is offering to provide and to be very upfront and specific about what you are paying for.
This is very important if you choose an open-air venue
Ask your venue what they can do in case it rains. Can they comfortably accommodate moving 200 people somewhere inside?
Rain is always the first thing that everyone thinks about when they are planning an outside wedding but wind can also be a real party pooper sometimes too. It could be a beautiful day but if it’s really windy, things could get blown over, flowers crashing, things spilling (you get the picture.)
And depending on where you’re located, what if it’s unexpectedly chilly or so hot and humid that it is just unbearable to be outside?
The point is that weather is unpredictable so it is a great idea to ask your potential venue what options they may have to help shield your guests from mother nature. If they don’t have anything specific that they can do to help, they may at least have suggestions for what people have done in the past. Whether it be that past couples have rented huge tents and had them installed the day before the wedding or maybe other couples were able to bring those portable stand heaters. Whatever the case may be, just make sure you 100% know what your options are.
Which brings us to. . .
Some venues will have a dedicated space where you can have your ceremony. Some may even have a chapel on the premises. But a lot of times it may just be a spot outside with a beautiful scenic backdrop.
If you choose to have your wedding ceremony and your reception at the same venue, check to see what options they have for sound at the ceremony. If the venue has a chapel on-site, it may have a hard-wired sound system in it already. But if not, that is something that you’ll want to talk with your DJ about. (We dive deeper into wedding DJs in our conversation about wedding vendors, which you can check out here.)
You may also decide that you would just prefer to get married in a church and then have the reception elsewhere. So it’s good to keep in mind where the reception will be in proximity to the ceremony.
Timing can get a little funky if your ceremony is at one location and the reception is at another because now you have to work with availability between the two places and factor in the travel time. For instance, the church may be available at 1 pm for a ceremony, but the venue may not be available until 5 or 6 pm that evening. That leaves a pretty substantial gap of time for your guests to figure out something to do (while they’re all dressed up) until it’s time for the reception.
And that is totally ok if that’s just how it’s got to be on the day of! You could always provide your guests with some recommendations to help them fill the time. But at the very least it is definitely just something you’ll want to consider.
We highly recommend that you take a little time to think about what getting ready is going to look like on the day of your wedding. You’ll be getting your hair done and make-up on. There’s going to be people everywhere. So you’ll definitely want to have a comfortable space, with plenty of room, lots of mirrors, and a bathroom so that you and your bridal party can get ready together.
Many wedding venues may offer a bridal suite for this exact purpose! A lot of times they are decorated super cute (making it a perfect spot for photo ops) and you may be able to bring in some food and drinks so that you can keep your strength up and stay hydrated before you walk down the aisle.
It’s a really nice option to have but if you don’t, you’ll just want to make sure that you plan accordingly so that getting ready is more fun and exciting than it is stressful.
As you are touring venues and thinking about your big day, try and imagine how the day is going to go and make sure that the space is going to work for everything that you have in mind.
Think through where the ceremony is going to be held, where guests will go next for a cocktail hour, where people are going to gather for dinner and the reception, etc.
Because if the venue you are looking at is this impressive (and gorgeous) two-story building where guests will be moving from one floor to another, that’s something that you are going to want to factor in for your guests, but also for your wedding vendors too!
Imagine where guests will be (or where guests will need to be) when things are happening throughout the event and more importantly, thinking through what would be the most ideal scenario and will that potential venue be the best fit.
(This is also something that your wedding planner can help you with! They can help you walk through the vision of your big day and help you figure out what’s going to work the best! Check out our virtual wedding planning packages here!)
For you to be able to successfully plan your wedding, it is crucial to 100% understand what you can and can’t do at the venue, when you can have access to the venue, how long you have that access for, and whether or not you will be sharing your time with another event.
Will there be enough time for the ceremony, introductions, dinner, speeches, cake cutting, party time, or whatever else you may have envisioned for your wedding day? Understanding those details will give you a really good idea if the venue you are looking at is going to meet your needs.
You really want to make sure that there is clear communication between you and the venue you choose and that both you and the venue understand what the expectations are for one another. So if there are things in your contract that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your venue to explain! It’s what they are there for!
Phew! We’ve covered a lot about venues! Have more questions about finding the perfect wedding venue? Drop them in the comments below! We are here to help!
Feeling pretty good about choosing a wedding venue? Let’s talk about wedding vendors! Check out our post: How to Vet Your Wedding Vendors (Part 1)
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