There are so many things that could be said about venues. How to select them, outdoor vs indoor, what to look for, why your venue is crucial to your wedding, venue do's and don'ts, and the list goes on and on...The bottom line is that there's simply not enough space here to tell you EVERYTHING that you need to know about selecting a venue for your wedding or event, but this post will be a great introduction for anyone currently looking to lock in their dream venue and know what to look for and where to begin the venue search. There will be a lot of information, and I will do my best to succinctly cover it all without losing your attention. This is all important stuff, so be sure and save this post and reference often throughout your venue search! In the first few sections of this post I'll be discussing some important considerations for your venue overall, and as you continue to read you'll learn about picking a venue that's right for you and some tangible things that you should look for in a venue. By the time you're done with this crash course on venues, you will have a pretty wholesome picture of why venue selection is important and how to find your 5-star wedding venue.
The importance of your venue selection~ why it matters...
Most couples start out without knowing what their wedding venue will be, and that's totally normal. Each couple has different approaches to finding a venue, and unique criteria for the venue that they believe will steal their hearts. Picking out the location for your special day is not an easy task- you have to think about budget, look, capacity, and so many other factors. For some couples, they've dreamt of the place they want to get married since they were little, and every time they pass it they envision their future wedding taking place. For others, location has not been their main wedding concern, or they just haven't found that oh so perfect spot. Some couples are looking for a "wow" factor, while others are simply looking for a place to hold their wedding, or a blank canvas that they can make their own. No matter which of these categories you fall into, there are some insightful things that you'll be able to take away from this blog post. My job here is to try and convince you that your venue is much more important than just the location that your wedding is held. As a professional wedding planner, I cannot stress enough the importance of selecting the RIGHT venue for your big day. Not only does the venue set the tone for the entire event, but it also serves as your canvas, your photo backdrop, and your design guide. So it is essential to choose a location that reflects your vision, style, and personality.
When looking for a wedding venue, the first thing to consider is the capacity. You'll want to ensure that the venue can accommodate all of your guests comfortably and that they will have enough room to move around freely and mingle, dance, take photos, etc. Be mindful of your guest list and ensure that there is enough space for everyone, including any vendors you may have, plus all of the setup that your wedding will require. If the venue only fits your guest count with guests really crammed around tables, then maybe it isn't the best venue for you. You don't want your guests to feel cramped or uncomfortable during the reception. And you certainly do not want to feel claustrophobic when walking around.
The next thing to consider is the location. If you're having a destination wedding, you'll want to choose a venue that's easily accessible for your guests (think transportation, nearby hotel options, parking, geographical location, terrain, etc.). If you're having a local wedding, consider a venue that's centrally located, close to hotels, and easy to get to. Is your venue scenic? Does it provide good photo locations? Keep in mind that the location will also impact the cost of the venue, the number of guests that will be able to make it, and also the vendors you'll need to hire. Once you decide what time of year you'd like to get married, that might also eliminate certain venues or destinations. You may not want to get married up in the mountains if you're looking at a winter wedding unless you're prepared for tumultuous weather and potential cancellation/postponement. Also, once you determine what time of day (morning/afternoon/evening) you want to get married, you'll want to make sure you take the amount of sunlight around that time/time of year into consideration. Will it get darker earlier or be more shadowy at the venue due to mountains/trees around it? Along with the location, another huge factor to consider is the restroom situation. Are there restrooms at the venue or nearby, or is the venue super remote? Will you need to consider portable restrooms into your budget? And is the venue accessible to a restroom trailer?
Another important factor when selecting a wedding venue is the ambiance. The venue should reflect your style and personality, and it should create the atmosphere you want for your special day. Consider the décor, lighting, and overall vibe of the venue when making your decision. It should flow with the décor that you want to bring in
Lastly, it's essential to consider the amenities and services that the venue provides. Some venues offer in-house catering and bar service, while others require you to bring in outside vendors. Some venues charge a corkage fee or cake cutting fee*, while others do not. Make sure you understand what's included in the rental fee and what additional services you may need to hire or outsource. Trash is always something you should ask your venue about. Some venues will take the trash out while other venues require you and your vendors to do it (and charge you if not). Make sure you ask about this, and also have an idea of amenities and services offered ahead of time.
Your Photographer Will Thank You For Reading This!
Remember how, in the beginning of this post, you read about how your venue is your photo backdrop and sets the tone/ambiance for the entire wedding? And do you remember how a little further down the page you read that the location of your venue matters for many reasons, including lighting and overall scenery? Let's revisit both of those points.
Your venue becomes the blueprint for your entire wedding. It affects every other aspect of your planning. And it especially affects your photography. Professional photographers are amazing at what they do, but they aren't miracle workers. There's only so much they can do to add natural lighting and diminish shadows for photos. There is an Instagram post by a photographer that I follow, Rachel Artime, that illustrates it beautifully: "Venue and photos are so closely related, The venue colors become your photo colors. The venue textures become your photo textures. The venue lighting becomes the lighting in your photos. Your venue is the backdrop for everything else. We can make "magic" anywhere but your venue will greatly impact the aesthetic of the gallery, so make sure it matches with what you have envisioned." Not only are the colors, textures, scenery, and lighting of the venue important, but atmosphere and character also matter. Are you looking for a place that sets a more serious, structured and upscale tone, or something that has a lot of quirky or fun character, or maybe even a place that makes you feel comfortable and right at home? Pay attention to the feeling and mood that your venue gives off and ask yourself if it fits in with your overall décor/theme/colors.**
Researching and Touring Venues
Finding Out What Venue is Right For You...
So now that you know what you should consider overall in a venue, what steps do you take to find the venue that's just right for you? First, you'll want to think of your wedding theme/overall feel that you're going for and research venues that fit that aesthetic. Are you going for rustic? Industrial? Elegant? Traditional? Modern? Beachy? The venue you pick should help convey the right feel to your guests. Not sure what you want the feel to be, or what style venue fits what you're going for? Check out the graphic for some ideas.
Once you figure out your theme and start researching venues in that category you're already halfway there! All you have left to do is whittle your list down to your top few venues, and that comes down to personal preference (which I cannot help you with) and what features the venue has (which I will help you with in just a minute!)
Once You Schedule Some Tours At Your Top Venues, Ask About the Following:
How many electric outlets does the venue have? Are they properly spaced throughout the venue? If not, can your vendors provide their own power? Will it be an additional cost? Think power/placement for DJ (ceremony and reception setup), photobooth, lighting, etc.
If you're having a summer wedding: Is there air conditioning? Is it central or local? Does it work well enough to keep your guests cool? How much power can it handle on hot days? Will older guests be comfortable?
If you're having a winter wedding: Is there heating? Is it central or local? Does it work well enough in winter months to keep your guests warm? Is there a back-up plan in case it goes out?
Is there storage space? Your vendors might need this to store boxes of equipment or décor. And will you be able to store things the night before/the night of your wedding?
Is there house sound? And do you have access to it with the room rental?
Do you get setup and tear down hours included with your rental?
Are there any restrictions on decorations?
Is there any signage which overtly displays the venue logo or sponsors? Are you able to cover it up if needed?
Are there any spots that you might need to rent draping to cover?
If the venue is all (or mostly) outdoors, what is the contingency plan for if it rains?
Does the venue have tables and chairs, or will you need to rent them? Does the venue offer glassware, flatware, china, linens, etc, or will you need to rent them?
What is the alcohol policy? Are there any licenses you might need to obtain? Does the venue place limitations on the type of alcohol (ex: no red wine to prevent stained carpeting)? Are you able to provide your own liquor? Do you need a licensed bartender?
Does the venue require a licensed caterer, or can you provide your own food?
Is there a kitchen that you will have access to? Is there refrigeration and a place to store ice? Is there a place to reheat or cook food?
Are the restrooms at the venue or will you have to provide them? Is the venue ADA compliant?
Is this venue decorated enough on its own or will you have to spend more on decorations?
A Note on Venue Tours...
The average couple tours 3 or less wedding venues when researching for their wedding, and it is not uncommon for couples to only tour 1 venue. For as much extra work as it is, I urge you to visit all of your top venues to really get a feel for it. Choosing a venue is a big decision and is not something that you should take lightly. The more work you put into it in the beginning will surely pay off in the end. Site tours are also a great way to visualize what decorations you may need and what you want to place where.
I HIGHLY recommend you also schedule a time to do a walkthrough of your venue with your vendors also! Each one of your vendors will have individual needs for things like power, parking, setup and storage, etc, and it is imperative that all of these elements of your venue come together to give your vendors the best conditions that they can have.
In Conclusion... selecting the right wedding venue is crucial to the success of your special day. Take the time to research and visit multiple venues, consider the capacity, location, ambiance, and amenities, and choose a location that reflects your vision and personality. With the right venue, your wedding day will be unforgettable. And hopefully by reading this, you are setting yourself up to find a venue that is ideal for you. Happy venue hunting!
*Corkage Fee: The fee that a venue charges for an outside bottle of wine being consumed or opened at their venue. The corkage fee is charged per bottle opened. This could even apply to champagne that your bring for getting ready (if not getting ready at a hotel or residence) so make sure you check with your venue on this beforehand.
Cake Cutting Fee: This is the fee that a venue or caterer charges to either cut the cake not provided by them or allow a cake not provided by them to be cut by someone else. This fee is charged per person.
** When I plan a photoshoot, I regard the venue as the most important aspect. The design, vendors I bring in, everything revolves around the venue. When I work on a color palette I ALWAYS think about what colors complement the venue, draw attention to its scenery and best features, and and won't wash it out. If you have a beautiful venue, the goal should be to find ways to enhance it through décor. You spend a good amount of money on the venue, so it should absolutely be something that you want to show off.