Choosing your wedding venue is one of the first major decisions you’ll make in the wedding planning process. Nothing sets the tone or affects more aspects of your celebration—from the decor to the attire—than finding the right venue. That’s why it’s important to be prepared, do your research, and ask all the right questions.
But finding the perfect venue isn’t easy, and there are many options to choose from. Where do you even begin, and how do you decide which one is right for you? To help make your search process as easy as possible, we’ve put together this wedding venue guide and a checklist you can bring to every site visit.
Tips And Ideas For Finding Your Dream Wedding Venue
Start With A Vision For Your Day
Do you want a modern, industrial feel or a rustic, laid-back vibe? Lots of greenery? Outdoors or indoors? Creating a mood board helps you visualize what your wedding would look like. Once created, seek out venues that complement the aesthetic and feel you have in mind. Choosing a space that’s cohesive with your theme will make your celebration feel more connected to the space.
Think About A Date
The sooner you start, the more likely you’ll get your first-choice venue and vendors. So you’ll want to kick off your search as early as possible. You can pick a date first and find an available venue, or find your dream venue and choose a wedding date based on availability. Either way works, but being flexible gives you more options.
Create Your Guestlist
Before looking at venues, you should know a rough estimate of the number of guests you fully intend to invite. So have that discussion early on with your partner to see what you’re working with. This helps you avoid possible issues down the road, like falling in love with a location that’s too small for your guest list.
Set A Realistic Budget And Stick To It
Knowing your total budget can help you determine the maximum you can spend on a venue. If the venue is at the top of your budget, you’ll need to be prepared to scale back in other areas–such as rentals and florals–or look at potentially hosting your big day at a lower-priced venue. If you choose your venue first and realize it’s too expensive, it’ll be hard to stay within budget when you still need to hire the rest of your vendor team.
Consider The Guest Experience
What will the guests’ experience be like from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave at the end of the night? Consider every aspect that will make attending your wedding as a guest enjoyable and seamless. You should also consider how accessible your venue is. Is it nearby, or does it require some traveling? Will out-of-town guests be able to follow the directions with ease? It’s important to ensure your guests can get to and from the venue without a hitch–even if that means potentially hiring transportation to a nearby hotel where you’ve set up a room block.
Narrow Down The Search Through Google And Social Media
Luckily, we live in a digital age where finding venues online is as simple as a click of a button. Use Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook for real wedding coverage and inspiration. Are your potential venues on YouTube? Wedding and special event videos are better than stills when you can’t tour the venue. And lastly, read reviews from couples to give you deeper insight into the level of service provided by each venue and give you extra confidence as you narrow down your decision.
Consult With Your Wedding Planner
Talk to your wedding planner before you start booking site tours. Local planners typically know the venues’ capacity, features, and rules. And if there’s a quirk that could make your vision difficult to achieve, your planner will know beforehand, so you’re not wasting any time.
Stay True To Your Vision
Many couples choose venues based on a wedding style they like online, but it’s important to ask yourselves what feels authentic to you two as a couple and pick a space and design that represents who you are. Remember that a venue that looks great with a different theme or design scheme may not be the perfect canvas for yours.
Go With Your Gut
We’re firm believers in trusting your intuition, just like you did when you found your person. If a venue checks all the important boxes and gives you those warm fuzzy feels, it’s the one for you.
Unconventional Wedding Venue Ideas
Searching for a traditional wedding venue just doesn’t work for some couples–and that’s okay. If you’re searching for venues with an epic backdrop or you’re interested in making your guests hike with you before exchanging vows, a national park is an ideal destination.
If your childhood home or a friend’s property has manicured gardens and lush landscaping, you don’t have to look very far for the perfect wedding venue. A backyard wedding is ideal for couples who want a uniquely sentimental feel, love to be outdoors, or want their dream wedding on a budget. You’ll have fewer venue fees, which means more funds to go big on rentals and decor.
Restaurant Or Bar
Another more intimate venue is your favorite restaurant or bar. If the most important thing to you is gathering with your loved ones for a meal and good conversation, a restaurant wedding may be for you. Check with your favorite spots around town to see if they have a backroom you can rent out. Bonus if there’s a pretty patio for the reception.
If you’re having a micro wedding or small elopement, an Airbnb wedding can be a unique and fun idea that also allows some guests to stay on the property with you. Airbnb does have strict rules on events, so it’s important to vocalize your vision with the host ahead of time to ensure that they’re comfortable with it and you’re not breaking any rules. Airbnb’s also make for great “getting ready spaces,” even if you choose a more traditional venue.
The Ultimate Wedding Venue Checklist
The perfect wedding venue is more than just the aesthetics. There are all sorts of important details you’ll need to take care of before signing on the dotted line. We’ve got all the questions you should ask below, but if you prefer to bring it with you, download or pin this checklist for easy access.
You can ask these over the phone to rule out venues before making the trek to visit.
- Is the date we’re considering available? If not, what are other dates available in that month?
- How far in advance can I reserve my date? Do you have wait lists?
- Do you have seasonal or off-day discounted rates?
- Is the venue large enough for our guest count?
- What is the venue pricing?
- How much is the deposit to reserve our date? Is it refundable?
- What is the payment schedule? Are there any late fees? Can we pay it all up-front?
- Does the total payment include sales tax, service charges, gratuity, and cleaning fees? If not, what are the extra costs we should plan for?
- What is the cancellation policy?
Wedding Venue Amenities
- Are there “getting ready” rooms onsite, or will you have to reserve another location for that?
- Does any additional use come with reserving the venue? For example, hosting the rehearsal dinner at the venue or a bridal photoshoot
- Is there any onsite lodging for us or our guests?
- Are any shuttle services available to transport guests from their hotels to our venue? If so, what are the preferred hotels?
- Is there a strong cell signal at the venue? If not, are there ways for guests to call Uber, Lyft, or other ride-sharing services?
- Where will gifts be stored during the event? Is there anyone to help load gifts into vehicles post-event?
- Who will be our point of contact on the day of the wedding and planning beforehand? Would they be available to meet us in person?
- Are there any in-house vendors available to us? Are they included in the venue pricing? If not, what are the additional fees?
- Can I hire my own vendors? If so, are there any fees involved in using outside vendors?
- Are outside vendors required to have separate insurance policies to work at the venue? Does the venue have liability insurance?
- Does the venue come with any rentals (i.e., tables, linens, chairs, glassware, etc.)?
- When can vendors or family members start to arrive for set-up on the wedding day?
- Will our vendors be responsible for breaking down the decor post-event, or do you have staff available for that? If our vendors are responsible for break down, what time do they have to be out by?
Food And Beverage
- Do you have in-house catering? If so, is it included in the rental fee?
- Can we do a tasting before the event?
- Is there a food and beverage minimum?
- What is the alcohol policy? Is liquor allowed to be served?
- Can we bring our own alcohol? If so, are there corkage or service fees?
- If the ceremony site is outdoors, is there a backup plan in case of rain? Does the venue have photos of this that you could view?
- Does the ceremony allow for multiple ceremony configurations in the event of harsh light shining directly on you during the ceremony?
- Is there AC equipment onsite for a DJ or live band to plug into?
- What are the lighting options for the reception?
- Are open-flame candles/sparklers / confetti, etc., allowed?
Policies And Logistics
- What security services are required by the venue? If we have to provide our own security, how many peace officers will we need per guest?
- We want our baby (read: dog) to attend our wedding, are pets allowed?
- Do you have a recycling policy?
- Are children allowed at the venue? If so, are their baby-changing areas or spaces for nursing mothers?
- Is your venue handicap accessible?
- What are the parking options available?
- How many bathrooms do you have?
Whether you and your partner dream of a sunrise cliffside ceremony or a beach reception underneath the stars, picking the perfect venue that aligns with your vision should never be rushed. We know this list can seem daunting, but remember this: take your time. Trust the process, have fun, and the rest will fall into place.