Your wedding venue has the ability to set your wedding’s tone, which is why choosing your venue wisely is absolutely imperative. No pressure, right? Finding the right wedding venue takes a lot of time and research and can often be one of the hardest parts of planning a wedding. You need to make sure that your venue checks all the right boxes before you make a final decision.
To help you navigate this integral wedding planning decision, we are providing a list of the essential factors to consider when selecting a wedding venue. From starting early (aim to begin your search at least a year out!) to selecting a location that suits your wedding style (are you planning a classic, bohemian, or rustic event?), these criteria will ultimately make or break any prospective venues. Not to mention, help you formulate questions ahead of any tours—and should also serve as a final checklist before you sign any contracts. In the end, it’s all about making sure that the venue you choose checks all of the boxes.
Important! Your venue should fit into your budget! Don’t have a budget figured out yet? Then, hold off until you have your budget firmed up. Often we come across couples that book their venue before creating a budget or hiring a planner. Then, have to compromise on other important details since they went over budget on their venue.
While not all of these elements revolve around money management, you’ll notice that many are to help you get the most bang for your buck. That means paying attention to venue package types (will this vendor provide space, food, and drink?) and its overall capacity (are you wasting money on space you don’t need?). Here are the answers to your wedding venue questions:
- Hire a Planner. Yes, before you start looking at venues, HIRE A PLANNER! We are much more familiar with the capabilities of a space, the layout, and the time and items you’ll need to really transform it. If there’s a creative way to make it unique or a quirk about the space that could make your vision hard to accomplish, we will know!
- Venue size. Look at how many people you’re planning to invite to your wedding versus the number of people the venue can comfortably cater for. A crowded reception can be quite uncomfortable and if a venue is too large, it can affect the atmosphere and the overall look and feel. Put an initial guest list together before you start venue shopping so that you can make a better decision.
- Choosing a date or venue first? If it is more important to choose a specific date or if you have your heart set on a specific venue then it is important to book your venue as soon as possible. Often venues book 12- 16 months in advance. So, if you plan to get married on a specific date since it was your parents anniversary or the anniversary of the day you met, be prepared that the date could possibly be booked (especially if it’s an in season date). If your heart is not set on a specific date, then you may have more flexibility to find more venue options since it will be based on their availability. However, don’t procrastinate when booking.
- Ceremony and Reception at the Same Location? Some couples scout two different types of venues: one for their ceremony and one for their reception. While the majority of couples stick to just one location (it’s easier on both your budget and your guests!) But if you choose to marry in the church, then you will need two locations. If you choose the latter of the two, then keep in mind the distance from one venue to the next. This will be important if you don’t have a planner to manage vendors. Also, think about where you will be taking photos too.
- Aesthetics. Ultimately, your venue’s style comes down to personal preference—and who you are as a couple. Do you gravitate towards an indoor venue like a hotel, country club, or ballroom? Or are you a more rustic and outdoor couple? Or do you like the idea of a more creative approach with a minimalistic and sustainable venue? Don’t worry there is a venue for every aesthetic.
- What about the drinks? Alcohol and drinks are a big part of your wedding so it’s important to find out whether you can bring your own alcohol and what the costs are or if the venue will supply the drinks. Since you will also need a licensed bartender to serve alcohol, find out whether the venue can assist with this so that you can factor those costs into your final budget.
- Capacity. You obviously can’t cram 300 people into a space that’s designed to accommodate 150. The reverse is just as problematic. Capacity can make or break a venue. Be sure to put together a preliminary list of guests together before touring a venue.
- Is it within your budget? Can’t stress it enough…make sure you set your budget first! You will be designating a specific portion of your budget to your venue. We have seen venue fees range from $2,500 to $30,000, depending on location, the average couple allocates around 10-15% on average. Realistically it could be up to 20% or more if the venue includes anything. Wedding planners can assist with finding the best venue for your budget since they often have experience with many venues.
- Preferred vendors. You’re going to be working with several different vendors in the time leading up to and on your wedding day. Many venues require you to use their vendors so find out about this before you make a booking. If they do work with specific vendors, make sure that you’re happy with their experience, style, personality, and pricing. When a venue works with preferred vendors, it does mean they’re confident in their experience and ability to delivery but it’s more important for you to choose vendors that fit in with your budget and overall preferences.
- Venue Packages. Not all venues offer full service — think catering, bar, staffing —which typically results in a lower-cost package (this is best for couples on a budget), since couples can search for lower-cost outside vendors that are not provided in the package. If your venue package includes the works, expect to about 40-50% of your budget to cover all costs. To make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, be sure to inquire about food and beverage minimums, site fees, and other billable components which could play a pertinent role in your venue selection process.
- Curfew. Do you want to dance the night away? Do you have a ton of family and friends coming into town and want the party to last all night? Well, its important to find out if your venue has any noise ordinance restrictions prior to signing on the dotted line. Each venue will have different restrictions based on different elements. Be sure to ask!
- Backup Plan. If you don’t have a planner handling this for you, you will definitely need to confirm the cancellation policy in case something happens to the venue the day of your special day. Many venues do not provide a backup plan in the event of a natural disaster. So, find out if your venue provides a backup plan? If not, then we highly recommend getting wedding insurance.