Choosing a wedding venue is huge. It sets the tone of the day. And it’s the most expensive part
of your wedding. As a wedding planner I have several suggestions that will help you figure out
how to choose a wedding venue that is the best fit for you.
I know you’re excited and want to get started on planning the most beautiful wedding possible. But the budget comes first. After you’ve put together your wedding draft budget, you should then start looking for your venue. Don’t sign a contract with an expensive venue, only to realize down the road that you have no money left for other important vendors. Second, prep yourself with a venue research spreadsheet—a place to track all of your research on wedding venue ideas. This will help in choosing the perfect venue and keep your list organized.
I would put together a spreadsheet with columns with the headers listed below. Check venues online first to get an idea of what amenities the venues have, dates available, etc. A site visit at a later date is always preferable. If you hire a wedding planner, this person can take care of this for you.
Here are some key questions when you fill out your spreadsheet.
A Can we afford this venue? Once you take a look at your budget and figure that your reception venue takes a big chunk, get a dollar figure in your head. Don’t fret over a venue that is $15,000 for the day, when you can only afford $5,000.
B. Consider location Does the centrally located venue allow for guests to get themselves there via walking or public transportation? If everyone is driving, is there ample parking (paid or unpaid)? Again, transportation can be a fairly big line item on your budget if you’re bussing or shuttling people to and fro. Always consider your guests first.
C. Does this venue’s capacity fit my estimated guest list? The best way to make sure the capacity is correct is to schedule a site visit: “What number of guests is most successful in this space?” Just because you can fit a particular number of people into a room, doesn’t mean you should. You want to make sure your guests are comfortable in the space provided.
D. Is this venue available on your special day (or month, or time of year)? Some venues have online calendars, others you can email for rough availability. And I always recommend double-checking their availability at the site visit. Leave this up to your wedding planner to get accurate dates.
E. Have you considered the type of venue thoroughly? Depending on the number of guests, you should fit the venue to the size of your group. If you have a large guest list, you might consider a hotel, since they have large ballrooms. A restaurant would be perfect for a smaller group of people.
F. Does this venue’s layout/available space fit my needs? Is the venue well versed in doing multiple function weddings, such as a ceremony, cocktails, and reception all in one venue? Do they have three separate spaces for all of those events? If not, can they provide the typical “flip” by changing the ceremony space into the reception space during cocktail hour, when guests are in another area? Make sure they are done at the venue often, and ask how they are done. This is where you can recognize potential hidden costs and hidden issues. It’s also important to talk through the flow of the ceremony if you’re having your wedding there.
G. Do you want to have a religious ceremony? There are a couple things to consider.
H. Are there any catering restrictions? The menu is a huge consideration for your wedding. And it may be a determining factor when choosing your venue. Sometimes a venue makes you use one exclusive caterer. So keep in mind if it fits within your style and budget. Is the menu what you want to serve to your guests? Sometimes the venue will not allow non-traditional caterers—or if they do, will there be an additional cost?
I. Does this venue fit your personality? You will know the first minute you walk in the venue whether you love it or hate it! If you’re a casual BBQ person, the historic, marble-laden hall isn’t the best fit. Or a black tie barn wedding might not make those guests in stilettos and gowns very happy. I do recommend you stay open to possibilities until you do a site visit. I’ve had some clients think they want one thing, only to visit a venue and change their minds. If you’re a decorating diva, this is where your expertise can help. Is the venue naturally beautiful, so it doesn’t require additional lighting? Or will it blossom with uplighting to warm it up, and additional decor? Uplighting can make or break a space if used in the perfect situation.
J. How much work are you willing to take on?
Depending on the location, you may have to do some heavy lifting. Before you commit to an “I do”-it-yourself undertaking, weigh the pluses and minuses of these settings:
Now that you’ve done your preliminary research and completed your awesome spreadsheet, you’re all ready to narrow your options and do some site visits with your planner. So keep in mind how much work you want to put into your wedding. I have more ideas just for you. Let me know if you have any questions going forward. A wedding planner is always there to help.
Starry Night Events, LLC