Next to finding the perfect partner, choosing the perfect venue may be your most important wedding planning decision. After all, your venue ultimately dictates the type of wedding experience you can create for your big day. Devoting sufficient attention to finding and securing an ideal venue will help simplify other wedding decisions down the road.
Whether you want an outdoor wedding on the beach or to take over the ballroom at a fancy hotel, the venue is the foundation of your wedding. Most cities have hundreds of wedding venue options, which can seem daunting to busy couples who don’t know where to start. The purpose of this guide is to present to you a framework for selecting your wedding venue to take on the formidable task of finding the perfect place to hold your wedding.
OUR VENUE SELECTION FRAMEWORK
Think about the process of finding your perfect venue the same way you would think about finding the perfect home to buy or apartment to rent. The process is nearly identical, from searching within a specific area, to working within a certain budget, to understanding your priorities. Heck, you might even want to just ditch town and live somewhere else, which is the equivalent of a destination wedding.
So we’re going to approach wedding venue hunting with the same logic as home and apartment hunting, by focusing on the following things:
Step 1 – Choose a General Location and Timeframe
Step 2 – Determine Your Guest Capacity
Step 3 – Work within Your Budget
Step 4 – Nail Down Your Vision and Style
Step 5 – Revisit Your Priorities and Make a Decision
Let’s dive into each of these.
1. Choose a General Location and Timeframe
The first filter you’ll see on any house hunting app is location. Similarly, we recommend that you start with location and general timeframe (or season) to start narrowing down your search. If you want to get married in your hometown, limit the search to venues within that area. If your guests have to travel to attend your wedding, make sure they will have access to accommodations.
If you’ve set your heart on a fall wedding, or you already have a date in mind, keep that information handy. Booking 12-18 months or more in advance of your preferred wedding date increases your chances of availability. If you’re flexible, you’ll have more options. If you want a fall wedding, for example, check open dates with the venue. Keep a list of dates that won’t work and go from there.
Logistics may not be fun, but tacking them down early in the process will save you lots of frustration down the line. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Where are most of my family located?
- Where are most of my friends located?
- Do my most important guests have the budget to travel, or do they need to stay local?
- What is the weather like in my ideal locations during my ideal dates?
2. Determine Your guest capacity Requirements
The next filter most people use when house hunting is If you expect 300 of your friends and family members to show up, you’ll have different wedding venue options to choose from than a person who wants a small intimate gathering of 50 people. Having a good idea of how many people you expect to attend will help you choose a space that works for that number of people.
If you need to refine your guest list further in the future, simply determine what the capacity of the venue is. It often makes a difference whether you want a dance floor, prefer a DJ over a band, or have square or round tables to work with. After all, you want to be comfortable and ensure that your guests have plenty of room to dance and party.
3. Work within Your Budget
If you’re on a budget, spare yourself the pain of falling in love with a venue only to find out that it’s way out of your price range. Determine how much you can pay for a wedding venue and skip tempting yourself with any sites that you can’t afford. Once you start busting your budget, it’s usually more difficult to reign in costs. Couples will frequently allocate a percentage of the total wedding budget—often about 15%–to the venue.
Even if stretching your budget for an amazing venue won’t hurt too much initially, take a look at what’s included in the venue price. Can you afford the deposit? Is there a list of approved vendors or in-house catering companies? (This isn’t necessarily bad; this will help simplify your planning process if you don’t really want to worry about food and drink.) Are there food and beverage minimums that you’ll need to meet? If you’ll be providing alcohol for your guests, do you source it from the venue, or will they charge a corkage fee if you bring your own? If you have to cancel the wedding, what’s the penalty?
The fine print can make or break your budget as you consider how to book a wedding venue. Ultimately sticking to your budget can help you quickly narrow down your list of potential choices.
4.drill Down Your Vision and Style
Take a moment to think about the type of wedding that you want. Planning a destination wedding, for example, is entirely different than coordinating a country chic or country club wedding. Get on the same page with your fiancé about this, too. While he may have no opinion about what dress you say yes to, he might feel strongly about having an outdoor wedding, for example.
You can rule out contacting or visiting any wedding venues that don’t align with who you and your fiancé are or what you envision your wedding will look like. If you’re not sure about what’s out there, start viewing a couple venues online. Alternatively, visit a few potential sites to get an idea of what’s available in the area where you will hold your wedding.
5. Revisit Your Priorities and Make a Decision
Make a list of the most important things.
To shorten that list, prioritize what you want and need from a venue. Having clear ideas about what each of the following components will look like for you will help you target your search to venues that will work for you. Considering these factors will save you time and frustration as you plan.
Picking a venue for a wedding is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make as you plan your wedding. The venue is the foundation of your wedding, and most other decisions you make will be affected by where you choose to hold your ceremony and reception. By prioritizing what’s most important to you and defining your expectations for your wedding, you’ll be able to choose the right venue for the perfect wedding.