The question has been asked, the ring is on your finger and the date has been chosen. It’s time to choose where to hold the most important day of your life!
Where you have your wedding ceremony and reception will be something you remember forever. After your wedding day has come and gone, it will be captured forever in your photos, so choosing a meaningful venue will serve you well in the years to come.
Use this guide as a way to help you clarify how your venue of choice will contribute to the overall feel of your big day. These tips and tricks are here to help you choose the perfect spot to say “I do”.
Let your wedding vision lead the way
It goes without saying that you want your wedding day to have an overall “feel”, right? So if you’re wanting a laid-back, all-natural ceremony with just a few close friends, you probably wouldn’t choose a modern art gallery as your venue.
And on the other side of that coin, if you’re looking for a very elegant, polished wedding day, dragging chairs through the sand on the beach probably won’t work. Use your wedding vision as a starting point to narrow down the list of venue possibilities.
Once you’ve got an idea of how you want your wedding to look, feel and be remembered in photos, the next step is to find a wedding venue that fits your style. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Nothing is more beautiful than a wedding that lets the bride and groom’s relationship speak for itself. Traditional wedding venues evoke a sense of history and legacy, and let the specialness of the day shine without fuss or distraction. A beautiful church, country club or golf course may provide the perfect backdrop for a couple wanting a timeless and classic feel to their wedding day.
Clean, crisp and minimalistic are words that describe a modern wedding ceremony. Look for venues with elegant, open spaces without a lot of “busy” backdrops. Art galleries, modern restaurants, loft venues and warehouses can provide a blank canvas kind of space for your wedding vision to come to life.
For a more bohemian vibe, get outdoors. An al fresco wedding gives your nuptials a fresh, organic feel that wraps you and your guests in the best that nature has to offer. Think about an ocean-front ceremony on the beach or a beautiful wedding on the lawn of the park where you met. Botanical gardens are also a good option for a natural feel that have a weather-proof guarantee!
For a more down-home feel, a rustic venue can provide simple elegance for a wedding celebration. With the flexibility to be both indoors and out, a rustic venue allows your personality to shine through. Think barn venues, farms, ranches and wineries.
A couple with an old soul will appreciate the details that an historic venue has to offer. The intimate setting of an old library or the marble floors of a 19th century post office remind people of a simpler time. A wedding in a vintage location is charming and nostalgic.
Soft, twinkling lights and cascading florals whisk your guests to the fairytale wedding you’ve always dreamed of. Romantic venues amplify the love that you’re celebrating on your wedding day and guests will swoon when you choose to have your wedding in an elegant hotel ballroom, a historic mansion or even a castle.
If you’re dreaming of a Caribbean beach wedding or nuptials on the freshly-powdered ski slopes, remember that guests may be traveling a very long way. A smaller guest list makes destination weddings intimate and memorable, not to mention the unforgettable photos you’ll have forever!
Your guests matter
When you are choosing a wedding venue, your guest list will play a big role in where you ultimately tie the knot. The biggest factor your guests will play is how many people can actually fit into your venue space.
A guest list that’s pushing 300 people won’t work in an intimate country church. Your guests may not all be able to physically fit inside the church. If you do manage to fit everyone inside, chances are they would be squished together into pews or tucked into uncomfortable corners on folding chairs. They’ll be uncomfortable, and they came to see your wedding, not the back of someone’s head or a support beam of the building. Plus, you don’t want your wedding photos to show your guests piled into a venue like sardines.
When you have your guest list narrowed down to the most important people, have this number ready when you make your venue tour plan. By calling ahead and finding out how many people can be accommodated, you’ll know right away whether or not a venue will work.
Another way your guests can affect which venue you choose is by assessing the venue’s accessibility. If some of your important guests can’t easily walk down a forest path or aren’t able to sit outdoors comfortably, you must think about how your venue can accommodate these needs.
Your guests’ comfort is another thing to consider. If you choose an outdoor space, is there shade available in case the sun is very hot? Is there an alternate space in case of inclement weather? Will guests be able to see your ceremony and reception events from every angle in the venue or are there some obstructed viewpoints?
Making sure your guests have a good time is important, but don’t let that be the only thing you think about when choosing a venue. It’s your big day, after all! Look to find a balance between the things you want and accessibility for your guests.
Do some research
As you begin your search for the perfect venue, some simple online research may help you narrow the field.
Not sure where to start? Wedding blogs and forums are a great way to see what other brides have done and what has worked well in different types of venues. These sites can spur your imagination and help you visualise what you want your wedding day to look like.
Once you have a “potential venue list”, search for real weddings that have taken place at those venues. Try doing a quick Google images search by entering “venue name + wedding” into the search bar. You should start finding photographs of past weddings held at the venue location. If you do some more digging, you might even discover links to the vendors these past couples used for their special day.
Looking at real weddings will further help you understand the logistical elements of the venue, as well as give you some photography ideas. Photographers will also post images of weddings they’ve photographed in various locations.
Bonus tip: If you find images you love from a particular venue, keep them in a file on your computer or create a Pinterest board to show your photographer later!
Things to consider
Aside from choosing a venue that suits your wedding’s vision, there are a number of other things that can really make a difference when choosing the perfect wedding day spot.
Make sure your venue has ample lighting for each stage of your wedding day. You want your photographer able to capture all the important moments. If there isn’t enough lighting, ask the venue if they provide it or if you’d need to rent equipment separately.
Many venues offer a coordinator dedicated to your event. This can be helpful for knowing the ins and outs of your venue, especially if someone needs something quickly or for vendors that have questions that you won’t have to deal with. Be mindful that a venue coordinator is not your wedding planner.
Ask if your venue has a “preferred” list of vendors or if you can use any vendor you like. If you must use preferred vendors, ask if there is a discount. Similarly, ask if there is a fee for choosing vendors outside the venue’s vetted list. If there is a particular vendor you have your eye on, you’ll want to know if you can hire them to work for your wedding at the venue you choose.
If your venue offers in-house catering, ask if you can have a tasting before you choose the menu. If you opt out of in-house catering, ask if there are restrictions on certain foods the venue will allow.
Will your wedding be the only event hosted at the venue that day? If not, you will need to make sure your guests know where and when to find your wedding so nobody gets lost. Having more than one event at your venue could also tie up photo spots depending on how the day is scheduled.
Extend the celebration
Many couples are choosing to make their big day even bigger. Especially if you’re welcoming many guests from far away, a weekend of celebrating makes the event last longer and seem even more special.
Think a welcome dinner for out of town guests, the rehearsal dinner for the wedding party, the reception and even a brunch or gift-opening lunch after the wedding day. If you’re leaning toward hosting a bigger celebration, a venue may give you a discount or package deal for booking multiple events with them.
Ask for a breakdown of costs
An easy way to narrow down your list of venue options is to see what fits in your budget. The venue eats up a good portion of your wedding budget, so knowing what you can spend is very important.
Try not to have your heart set on any venues that are outside of your budget. It’s easy to fall in love with a venue, but if it’s too expensive or doesn’t have the services you need, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment. That being said, if you’re 100% decided on a particular venue, you must be prepared to compromise in other areas in order to make your dream wedding a reality.
Ask the venue coordinator for a breakdown of all of the costs associated with hosting a wedding there. Many venues don’t have pricing information on their websites as an incentive for you to contact them. After a call or email they may provide basic package pricing for you, but it won’t be a complete list of all fees and charges. It’s important to ask some in-depth pricing questions to ensure a venue truly fits into your wedding budget.
Selecting your wedding venue finalists
Once you’ve used your guest list and budget to narrow down your potential venue list, it’s time to schedule some time to visit and tour the venues.
This is a critical step, as you won’t know how a venue truly feels until you’ve been there. You may think you have a top choice in mind, but when visiting find out that it doesn’t give you the same feeling as you had hoped for.
You can download this handy Venue Profile template to help you compare different venues against each other so you can get one step closer to choosing the perfect venue for your wedding.
When you visit the on-site coordinator or property manager, make sure to ask the right questions. We have a great list of questions that you can bring along with you for each venue tour so you don’t forget to ask.
Don’t be pressured into choosing the first venue you tour, and don’t sign a contract until you’re sure you’ve found the right place. However, keep in mind that your date is not secured until you’ve signed a contract.
Bonus Tip: If you’re given a top-level view of the costs, ask for a detailed, itemized list. This will help you find out if there are any extra fees you may not have budgeted for.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a wedding venue, but chances are you’ll know when you walk in if it’s right for you. Once the venue is set, the real fun begins!