How to Choose Your Perfect Wedding Venue

Are You Ready to Choose a Wedding Venue?  We’ve got some tips!

When you’re ready to choose a wedding venue it may seem like a monumental task.  You can choose to skip out on flowers or a fancy dress, but you’re going to need a place for all your guests to gather and celebrate with you.

Your venue sets the tone for your celebration and it’s on of the largest expenses in your wedding budget.  The venue and food will account for around 50% of your total budget.

That’s a heck of a party you’re throwing and we know you want it to be a memorable celebration.

You may be wondering if you can find a wedding venue that you like, that you can afford, and isn’t already booked?  The answer is yes.  Yes, you totally can.

Before you make a decision about a venue, you need to be sure that you have the budget for it.  You don’t want to pic your perfect venue and then later find out you don’t have any money left in your budget for drinks!

Ask for a Recommendation

If you’re going to use a wedding planner, now’s the time to get them onboard.  A planner can save you lots of time in comparing venues since they are familiar with the amenities and pricing.  They can also steer you toward places that will work for your vision and your budget.

If you’ve already got your heart set on your photographer or a caterer ask their opinion.  They can be an invaluable resource.  Any vendor that you’ve fallen in love with will have an opinion on venues and what they like and dislike about them.  Let them help you.  If you trust them to take your photos or feed your guests, trust their opinions on the venue.

Our photographer steered us to a couple of venues that we’d never even heard of.  And while we didn’t wind up at one of those, they were invaluable recommendations and gave us some great decorating ideas that carried over into the wedding planning.

Use a Spreadsheet

Comparing venues is about the same as comparing apples to oranges.  It can be a very confusing process and it helps to put your options onto a spreadsheet to keep track of them.

Each venue will have it’s own menu of options and expenses.  Most venues don’t have their information readily posted online so you will need to contact them to get a packet of information.  That packet should include lot’s of information that you can transfer to a spreadsheet.  Believe us when we say a spreadsheet will be much easier to use as a reference.

Here’s What to include in your Spreadsheet:

  • Name of the venue
  • Capacity
  • Location
  • Availability (if you’ve narrowed down a season or dates yet)
  • Type of Venue – Stand Alone, Hotel, Outdoor
  • Layout – are there spaces for all aspects of your wedding – ceremony, cake cutting, dance floor, etc.
  • Website – for quick reference later
  • Parking or Transportation
  • Vendors – do they have required of preferred vendors you must use?
  • Restrictions – A certain amount of hours or a definite end time
  • Rates – and what that rate includes
  • Extras – Any additional items that the rate includes – dance floor, tables, chairs, etc.

How to Compare Your Spreadsheet

Once you’ve plugged all the information into your spreadsheet, then you have to determine how it all fits together.  This is the time to figure out a rough estimate of expenses so you have an idea of what a venue is going to cost.

Some venues may charge a flat fee for the space and everything else is an up charge.  Some venues will include tables and chairs but not linens.  Other venues may be a turnkey operation, you just tell them  your colors and they take care of the rest.

This isn’t comparing apples to apples and that’s why you need a spreadsheet.  Each venue will have different boxes that it will check off that will contribute to your total expense.  But getting each venue down onto a spreadsheet will help you compare them and then you’ll know what questions you need to ask when you visit.

The Questions You Need to Answer

Can I afford this venue?

If the cost is out of reach then go ahead and take it off your list.  There’s no reason to keep studying a spot when you can’t afford it.  Remove the info and move on.  Don’t lose any sleep over it, the perfect venue is out there!

Can this venue hold all my guests?

There’s a difference between how many people a space can hold and how many people a space can comfortably hold.  The information you have should give you an idea of guest count but it may be a decision you can’t make until you see the space in person.

We found a beautiful hall that had the ‘capacity’ to hold all of our guests, but the layout of the room meant that many people would have their site blocked by columns.  We couldn’t picture  that until we actually visited the venue to look at it.

On the flipside, a space that is too large for your crowd can feel uncomfortable for everyone.  You don’t want a giant hall that looks like a lot of people didn’t show up for the party.

Does the Layout Work?

Are there separate spaces for the different aspects of your wedding or is the ceremony room also the reception room?  If you are planning an outdoor wedding is there a rain contingency or will it require renting tents?  Do they have areas for the bride and groom before the ceremony?

You’ll be able to find some of this information online, but it may also be a decision that has to wait until you actually visit the venue so that you can see it and get a feel for it.

Is this venue available?

If you’ve picked a season, a month or a date can you book this venue?

Is the location convenient?

If all of your guests are staying in hotels can they easily find them nearby?

Will you need to provide transportation?  Getting people back and forth can become quite an expense.  Even if this just means that the wedding party needs transportation you’ll need to account for that in your budget.

If you’re planning to have your ceremony and reception at different places are they located within an easy drive?

Your guests will go where you ask them to but you also don’t want to be stuck in rush hour traffic on the way to your reception when you could already be at your party.

Does it fit your vision?

If you’re planning a black tie affair you may not want to have it in a garden.  If you’re planning a small and private affair you may not want it at a hotel where anyone can look over their balcony and see your celebration.

What does the rate Include?

You may just be renting a venue.  We have a friend that rents out her barn and field for weddings.  When you rent it, you get only that.  She shows up to unlock the gate for you and you’re on your own.  This means that you need to have everything down to extension cords and mirrors.

Some venues may include tables and chairs, or a certain amount of decor or linens.  These are items to keep track of so that when you compare costs you can see where one venue may seem less expensive but will require more outside expenses.  Another venue may seem more expensive but actually covers some expenses.

Remember how we said apples to oranges?  This is that column on your spreadsheet.

Does this venue have vendor restrictions?

If you are required to use their in-house caterer or to only choose from a list of preferred vendors it can change your budget drastically.

We looked at one venue that was completely affordable until we got to the line about catering and alcohol.  They held a liquor license and catering contract and required use of their alcohol, bartenders and servers.  It was a several thousand dollar difference, yes thousands, in what it would have cost to use outside vendors.  We used a different venue.

How much decor will you need?

If you are having your wedding in a garden will it be blooming or will you need to bring in more plants?  If you’re having it in a hall is it already a beautiful structure and won’t take much extra decor to make it fit your vision?  These can be areas that you may need to move money into or out of your budget from other categories.

What’s Next?  Time to go visiting.

Now that you’ve done your research you’re ready to go see the actual sites!  This is where the decision really becomes real.  You’ll be able to compare venues like a pro and have a list of questions ready for your visit.  And you’ll be able to choose the perfect wedding venue for you!

But first can we do some cake tasting?

Leave a Comment