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How to Choose a Wedding Venue

by Jesse Long
how to choose a wedding venue

 

When you first start looking for a wedding venue, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Of course, practical concerns like budget, number of guests, and wedding day logistics can quickly narrow down the list of venues to choose from. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, narrowing down your possibilities can actually be a relief. Whether you know exactly what you want or are still exploring the many possibilities that exist, there are some important things you should keep in mind when selecting a venue for your wedding.

Define your needs

When starting your search for a wedding venue, perhaps the most important thing is having a clear idea of what your needs are. Having definite answers to the following questions will help you evaluate any type venue:

  • How many guests will you be inviting? Of those, about how many do you expect to attend?
  • What are the important events at your wedding? Aside from the ceremony will you be having a large reception, a cocktail hour, or any other associated events that you’ll need space for?
  • Do you want the ceremony and reception to be celebrated at the same location?
  • Do you want your wedding to take place mainly outdoors, indoors, or a mixture of the two for different events?

Decide the location—local, hometown, or destination?

Once you know what your wedding venue needs are, the first step to narrowing down the seemingly infinite array of wedding venue possibilities is to decide on the area in which you want to get married. When choosing the location of your wedding, be sure to consider your budget, your guests and the logistics.

 

Will you be getting married locally?

  • If your wedding is local, you’ll be all set to start visiting venues for walkthroughs once you’ve done your initial research.
  • If most of your guests are local, they are more likely to RSVP “yes.”

Will the ceremony be in either or your hometowns?

  • For a hometown wedding you can enlist the help of family members, so long as they know exactly what you’re looking for.
  • If both of you are from the same or nearby hometowns, this can make it easier for relatives to attend.

Will it be a destination wedding that will require you and your guests to do some traveling?

  • Destination weddings can require additional planning ahead of time. They can also require a good deal of traveling between home and the wedding location during the planning or getting things done by phone or email.
  • It can be a good idea to choose a venue in or near a hotel, or even consider an all-inclusive venue to reduce the difficulty of figuring out the logistics.

What type of venue do you want?

No matter the city, state or country of your wedding, the amount and kind of planning involved will depend greatly on what type of venue you choose.

It’s important to take into account the different costs and amounts of planning involved for different types of weddings. There are advantages and drawbacks to both traditional wedding venues and non-traditional options. Though they allow for less customization, all-inclusive venues, such as banquet halls or resorts, are also worth considering for the time and money they can save you. They often get special deals from vendors and can offer you package deals with all of the important wedding features included.

Traditional venues

  • May include more amenities–such as a dance floor, a bar, or a dedicated kitchen.
  • Can allow for personalization without adding as many logistical considerations as non-traditional venues.
  • Might require you to use preferred vendors.
  • May have other rules such as strict end time, requiring you to hire security for larger weddings, or even rules about the color of flowers allowed!
  • Can cost significantly more up front than other options.

All-inclusive venues

  • Planning is easier – vendors are preselected and the venue works out most of the logistics.
  • All-inclusive venues often get better deals from vendors, reducing the overall cost.
  • An all-inclusive resort or banquet hall can be an especially good option for a destination wedding.

Non-Traditional venues

  • Can provide limitless possibilities for a unique wedding experience.
  • Usually require much more planning on your part.
  • The cost of rentals may add up.
  • Logistics can be trickier. Getting everything to and from the location, cleaning up, hooking up generators for electricity, etc. may require more work.

Your Wedding Venue Options – Finding Them and Vetting Them

Traditional

  • Traditional venues are usually the easiest to find. A quick web search can likely provide information about several in your area. As you go through the options, check out online reviews of each venue.
  • Check that each venue meets your needs (it’s within your budget, it can host the number of guests you expect to have, and it can provide space for all of your wedding’s events).
  • Traditional venues are more likely to have limited availability during the most popular times for weddings, so be sure to check that the venue has some availability during the timeframe you want to have your wedding.
  • If you’re getting married locally, it is a good idea to schedule some walkthroughs once you’ve found a few venues that appeal to you.
  • During the walkthrough ask specific questions about the venue to be sure it meets your needs. Describe what your needs for your wedding and have staff explain to you how it would work logistically at the venue.

All-Inclusive

  • All-inclusive venues handle much of the details for you, but be sure to ask plenty of questions up front.
  • Ask which features are included and which require extra fees.
  • What elements of a package can you change or personalize.
  • Are outside vendors allowed?
  • Do they allow children?
  • How much privacy will you have?

Non-traditional

  • To discover non-traditional venues, look for information about weddings that have taken place in the area. You may want to check local magazines and newspapers. You can also search review sites like Yelp.
  • There are a wide variety of options. You might think of having your wedding at your alma mater (universities often have great venues), a private home, or even a summer camp!
  • Take the full cost of vendors and rentals into account.
  • You may need to research local regulations and find out if you need to get any special permits.
  • Make sure there is parking available if your guests will be needing it.
  • Check in with neighbors and make sure they know what to expect.
  • You may need to get event insurance to cover any liabilities involved.

Signing the Contract

Before you sign a contract for any venue, you’ll want to look over it closely to make sure it contains the correct information about number of guests, rooms used, setup and cleanup information, the balance due, and other important details. Be especially sure to check the venue’s cancellation and refund policy. Also make sure and that there aren’t any problematic clauses that venue staff failed to mention during the walkthrough.

With proper vetting and planning, you can find a great venue and make it work for you!

Get Started – Wedding Venue Shortlist

  • Start researching wedding venues
    • You can get started searching for venues with a simple web search. Searching for “wedding venue” will likely bring up some options for traditional venues. See what’s out there and try to get an idea of the cost.
    • You’ve probably seen more than a few beautiful wedding photos on social media. These photos can give you some initial ideas of the different options out there for traditional and non-traditional venues.
    • Remember, however, that at the end of the day, taking beautiful photos isn’t the main reason for the event. And the beautiful photos you find probably tell you very little about the logistics or expense involved in the wedding!
    • You should also ask friends and family if they know of any non-traditional wedding venues in your area. Searches of review sites like Yelp can also reveal interesting options.
    • The moments that make the day special can be had in any type of venue. The most important thing is having the space you need to host your loved ones and make awesome memories! Keep this in mind as you conduct your search
  • Once you’ve done some research, write down a short list of potential venues.
    • If possible, choose venues at different price ranges for flexibility.
    • Even if you don’t make a final wedding venue decision right away, having this list can help you with other decisions in the early stages of planning.

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