HOW TO PICK A WEDDING VENUE
Where do you even start when it comes to deciding how to pick a wedding venue? After all, it is one of the first and most important steps in the wedding planning process. Since the wedding venue sets the backdrop for the whole event and locks in the date for your wedding, it’s important to get it finalized before moving on to other details. The further in advance you’re able to start looking at venues, the better chance you’ll have of finding one that fits your needs and is also available for the dates you want. Getting started early also gives you the opportunity to view numerous wedding venues, giving you a better sense of what exactly you’re looking for and what’s important to you.
When focusing on how to choose a wedding venue, there are a number of things to take into consideration, like the venue’s size, location, parking availability, bathroom options, and so much more! Finding your dream venue can be a tricky process, so we have pieced together advice on what to consider when selecting the place that’s just right for you and your special day. Don’t forget to print out our comprehensive list of questions to ask your wedding venue, as you start your site visits!
17 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A WEDDING VENUE:
- 1. Budget / Cost: There’s nothing more disappointing than finding what feels like your dream venue but then realizing later down the line that it doesn’t fit into your wedding budget. To help you get started, we’ve created a handy guide on how to create a wedding budget so you can draft a wedding budget before you start your wedding venue hunt. Think about how much you’re willing to spend on the entirety of your wedding and how much of that should be allocated to the venue specifically. Don’t forget to consider the cost of the venue holistically. Some venues might provide some important event services already in their overall price quote while others might charge extra for the same services. Expenses can add up quickly if you have to rent tables, chairs, a dancefloor, lighting, and other key day-of elements. Your budget is usually the leading factor in how to choose a wedding venue right for you. Sometimes off-season weddings or Sunday weddings can yield a lower price tag. We've also put together a list of affordable wedding venue ideas you might not have considered.
- 2. Availability: If you’re dead set on a particular date for your wedding, try and start looking at venues on the earlier side to increase your chance of venues still being available. If your date is more flexible, you should still start well in advance but chances are you’ll have more options since you can pick your date based on the venue’s availability rather than being constrained to a certain date.
- 3. Does It Match Your Wedding Theme?: Since the wedding venue sets the tone of the wedding, you should at least have a general theme for the wedding in mind when choosing a location. For example, if you’re going for a rustic theme, you probably don’t want to have your wedding at a luxury hotel. Or if you’re having a black-tie affair, a barn probably isn’t your best bet. You want to consider how all the elements of your wedding are going to fit together, from your venue to decorations and menu selections, in order to achieve a cohesive aesthetic and feel. For some inspiration in finding the wedding style that’s right for you, check out our creative ideas for weddings that are backyard, rustic, beach or bohemian themed.
- 4. What Is The Maximum Capacity? Does It Match Your Guest List Size?: When choosing your venue you’ll want to have at least a rough idea of how many people you will be inviting to your wedding. This will ensure you choose a place that’s the appropriate size for your guest list. Having a venue that’s too large with a smaller guest list can make the place seem a bit empty. On the other hand, you also don’t want to pack 250 guests into a venue that has a max capacity of exactly 250 people. Your guests may end up bumping elbows at the dinner tables and on the dance floor. Having an estimate of how many people will likely attend your celebration is also key in figuring out how tables will be arranged and how best to configure your available space. If you need some guidance on how to create your wedding guest list, we’ve created a detailed guide that will help you navigate the process in a simple, stress-free way.
- 5. Are There Indoor And Outdoor Options?: When it comes to weather, it’s a good idea to hope for the best but prepare for the worst! Since weather can be unpredictable, if you’re planning to have an outdoor venue it’s worth asking if there are covered or indoor options in the case of bad weather such as rain. If the venue has both indoor and outdoor options, you can always have a plan B that is easy to execute. Just make sure you also like the backup indoor option, since the reality may be that you end up needing to use it. Keep in mind that some primarily outdoor options can provide a large tent with sides that can be pulled down to keep out the rain. You will just have to ask. If you are planning a winter wedding or early spring wedding, be sure to keep this indoor vs. outdoor consideration front of mind. You might want to also look at some historic temperatures for your date and location to determine how to pick a wedding venue that makes the most sense.
- 6. What About The Surrounding Area And Nearby Accommodations?: In addition to making sure the venue itself meets your needs and wants, be sure to also think about the venue’s location overall. Think about how close it might be to a popular airport, nearby accommodations (or if the venue itself has accommodations), and if the area feels safe. For example, if you choose a secluded castle or barn in the countryside, it might be difficult for guests to find accommodation close by. If you’re getting married in a city, say in a museum, think about the safety of the surrounding neighborhood guests might need to walk through to get to the venue.
- 7. What is the Privacy Like?When searching for your wedding venue, you want to make sure you find a place that is personal and private enough for you. Sometimes a venue will be hosting multiple events or weddings on the same day. If this is the case, ask how much of the place you’ll have to yourselves or how separated the different parties will be. Sometimes venues will also allow you to pay to book out the whole place for an extra cost. If you’re leaning toward an outdoor location, also think about how private it is. Is there a possibility strangers could snoop in or watch from afar? This could be a big distraction for all your guests.
- 8. Did You Get a Vibe From the Site Visit?: While you’re visiting the venue, try and get a feel for the overall vibe of the place. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and see if the venue seems to be accommodating. Consider if they have very strict rules or seem to charge for every additional add on (such as cake cutting, chair set up, etc.). Also, try and gauge your interaction experienced with the venue coordinator. You want to ensure you feel comfortable and have an easy time communicating with them. After all, you or your wedding planner will be in touch a lot with them about the details of your wedding.
- 9. Consider Accessibility: Be sure to consider the needs of all your guests when looking at venues. Check and ask how ADA accessible the facilities are, including the accessibility of entrances/exits, functional elevators, bathrooms, parking, and seating options. If any grandparents are in attendance, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to enjoy themselves. Thinking about these elements early in the planning process is a great way to make your wedding as inclusive as possible!
- 10. Take Note of Parking Options: Especially if your wedding location is a bit isolated or in a busy downtown area, it’s important to check if there are good parking options or how accessible it is to get a cab or rideshare. Ask about how many parking spaces there are and if guests would need to pay for parking. In the case that there aren’t great options for parking, you can consider hiring a bus or shuttle to bring people to and from the venue. Just make sure you add this expense into your wedding budget!
- 11. Please Tell Me There Are Bathrooms: Although it’s not the most glamorous part of the process, it is important to consider the bathroom situation when choosing your venue. If you’re having a barn or beach wedding, for example, you might need to rent portable restrooms. If you don’t see any restrooms on-site, be sure to ask what the accepted options are.
- 12. What Are The Vendor Options?: Some venues allow you to use your own vendors while others want you to use their floral company, catering, alcohol, wedding planner, band, etc. If you prefer to choose your own vendors, be sure to pick a venue that accommodates for that.
- 13. Are There Curfew Or Noise Restraints?: Some venues have strict rules about when you will need to be quiet or just how noisy you can be. Make sure to ask if there are any noise restrictions. Outdoor venues, in particular, might enforce quiet hours after a certain time out of respect for neighbors.
- 14. Is There a Dance Floor?: After dinner is completed and toasts have been made, it’s time for the real fun to begin on the dance floor! Check if there is a dance floor already or if one will need to be built or created, which again can add up on your list of expenses.
- 15. How Easy Is Set Up And Breakdown?: Another detail to consider is how the setup and breakdown process works and how much time you’re allowed. If there’s an event happening before or after at your wedding, this might add some unwanted stress to your planning. Are you only allotted an afternoon to arrange tables, put up decor, and set the stage? Does everything need to be removed by 10 am the day after your event? It’s a good idea to have an idea of your wedding timeline so you can make sure the venue can accommodate your timing needs.
- 16. Read Multiple Reviews: For a more unbiased look, make sure to do your research on what people are saying about your venue. You might find information about aspects of the venue you hadn’t even thought to consider and other helpful tidbits. Take note of both the positive and negative comments on third party sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google reviews. You could also check reviews on the venue’s Facebook page. Pay special attention to any public replies the venue may have left to guest reviews. This will give you insight into how they may deal with an issue that could potentially arise at your wedding. If you still have some unanswered questions, you can ask the venue for contact information of past couples or wedding planners that hosted weddings at the venue. You can then ask very specific questions to these people and find answers to the questions that may be keeping you up at night.
- 17. Other Taylored Requests: Before looking at venues, think if there are any other things that are important or deal-breakers for you. Maybe you want bagpipers to play or talking parrots to be on display. Who knows?! Remember, it’s your day and you want to make sure all your needs are met!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO PICKING A WEDDING VENUE:
When should you book your wedding venue? A general rule is to try and book your venue a year to nine months before your wedding. If your dates aren’t very flexible, you may want to start looking a little over a year in advance. It can take a couple of months to find the right wedding venue, so make sure to leave enough time for this process.
How long does a wedding venue viewing last? Wedding venue viewings vary in length but typically last somewhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour. How long a viewing will last can depend on the size of the venue, how much detail the venue coordinator goes into, and how many questions you ask.
Who should attend a wedding venue viewing? Aside from the obvious (the engaged couple), it’s best to keep the wedding venue viewing to as small of a group as possible. This will help the couple to focus on what they want, rather than having to weigh too many different opinions. One exception might be if someone is helping foot the bill for the venue, in which case it might be nice to include them and give them a say.