The Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Venue
Choosing the perfect wedding venue is an essential and exciting part
of wedding planning. It sets the tone for the entire day and creates
the backdrop for your cherished memories.
But with the many available options and the numerous factors to
consider, it can also be challenging. How will you find a venue that
will meet your needs and exceed your expectations?
In this post, I’ll provide step-by-step guidance to help you navigate
the process and ensure you find an ideal space for your dream wedding.
Step 1: Create the Guest List
Before you search for your wedding venue, you MUST create your
guest list. A solid number will rule out venues that are too small or
too large. If you don’t have a guest list or are only working off an
ambiguous number in your head, you’re setting yourself up for
This happens quite a bit when couples forget to consider everyone
else involved on the wedding day. For example, they envision their
guests moving around the space but forget about the DJ and caterer.
Or they ensure the tables and chairs fit but forget to account for the
Having a guest count helps you find a space that is a perfect fit. One
where you won’t have to create a dance floor by pushing tables
against the wall and taking chairs away from guests. Yikes!
Step 2: Consider Which Restrictions are Deal Breakers
Some venues have restrictions. It helps to know what these are
ahead of time and which are deal breakers.
For example, can you only use vendors from their preferred list?
Will they charge you a fee for using outside vendors? Are there
required times you must stick to? If a vendor is only allowed to
come in three hours before to set up, how is the design you envision
impacted by that time? The same applies to the backend. Will your
band have enough time to tear down their equipment, or will you be
charged for an extra hour?
Step 3: Do Your Research
Now that you have your guest list and know your deal
breakers, it’s time to do some research. Whether you’re
starting from scratch or have a few venues in mind, you’ll
want to do a little extra digging and figure out which
places deserve a spot on your “potentials” list.
Visit their social media pages, look at comments, and
read reviews. What have other couples said about working
with their staff? Did they deliver what they promised?
Once you have a good idea of the venues you’d like to
do business with, head to step four.
Step 4: Make a List of Your Top 3-5 Venues
Having 3-5 venues to choose from might seem like a lot,
especially if you’re are set on one or two. But remember,
a few of those choices may be booked on the day you want.
If you’re dead set on a specific date, it’s better to have a
handful of venues to choose from. But it’s even better to
remain flexible on dates and venues because you’re often
gifted with an even more ideal option. For example, if you
shift your date to the following weekend, you may get a
lower rate due to the time of year. If you go into the process
with an open mind and take your time, you never know
what can happen!
Step 5: Schedule a Tour
You can find plenty of beautiful photos of a potential venue,
but will the images match the real thing? Are the chairs dinged
up and the walls chipped? Are the windows cleaned so that
those light, bright, airy pictures that you fell in love with become
true for you too? You’ll only know by seeing it for yourself.
I recommend touring at least three venues on your list and
attending an open house. Open houses are excellent for decor
ideas, seeing a venue at night, and meeting potential vendors.
Now, I know you’ll be excited, and everything will look and
sound amazing when you walk through those doors. But take
off the rose-colored glasses for the remainder of the tour.
Because while, yes, there are a lot of pretty things to look at,
there are a lot of practical things you need to think about
before you book a location.
What to Look for in an Ideal Wedding Venue
As you take the tour, ask yourself and the staff these questions:
Event Flow: Can a guest navigate the space easily? If a guest
stands in one place, can they see your ceremony, cocktail, and
reception site? Or is it compartmentalized in a way that they’ll
need additional direction with signs or a planner’s assistant
showing the way?
Getting Ready: Is there a dedicated space for getting ready?
How important is that to you? What happens if you have hair
and makeup done at the hotel and need a bigger space than
Guest Considerations: Is it handicap accessible? Will
your guests pay extra for parking?
Weather Plan: Do you like plan B as much as plan A?
Amenities: What amenities are included in the booking
price? This does not include add-ons. On tours, you’ll often
hear, “We can provide…you’ll have access to…of course we
have…” When you hear statements like these, it does not
mean rental items are included in the booking price. You
have access to them, but you’ll have to pay a separate fee.
So make sure you know ahead of time what amenities the
venue includes in their booking fee.
Kitchen: What kind of kitchen do they have? Is it a full catering
kitchen? Do you need to bring in hot boxes? Does it need
to be built from scratch? Are there ice machines?
Lighting: What’s the daytime lighting like versus the
nighttime lighting? How much additional lighting will
you need to provide?
Power: Where is power located, and how much do they
have? Can it accommodate your needs (i.e., a band)? You
may hear, “Of course we have power.” But is it enough?
Fine Print: What are the restrictions or hidden fees? Look
for restricted flexibility. This means they might limit you
to a certain group of caterers, but you can choose which
caterer you want to work with from their list. Clarify the
Noise Restrictions: What are the noise restrictions? These
might limit your outside activities. Can you even have amplified
music outside? If you can’t, how does that change your dancing
situation? How does that change your speeches? And how
does that change your end time? Are you in a neighborhood
where the neighbors are going to complain?
Red Flags: If the venue provides tables/chairs/linens, can
you see them beforehand? If they constantly tell you, “You
don’t have to worry about that right now. We’ll take care of
that later.”, this is a red flag. And you may end up paying for
something you don’t want.
Staff: How does the staff make you feel? Do you feel like another
number on their monthly sales chart or someone they care
about? And don’t assume that the venue coordinator will be
your wedding planner. The venue coordinator works for the
venue, not you. Although they’ll do some things to make your
day a success, they mainly involve keeping the venue in working
order for your event.
Step 6: Read the Contract Thoroughly Before Signing
You’ve made it to the last step! You’ve found “the one!”
And you’re excited about checking this to-do off your list.
Before you sign on the dotted line, do you know what
you’re agreeing to? I know there’s nothing glamourous
about reading a contract. Still, you are at fault if something
happens and you haven’t considered the fine print. You’ll
either pay financially or emotionally because you didn’t take
a few minutes to know what you were signing.
Please don’t skip this essential step. It will be worth your time.
Overall, take your time with the process. Soak it all in.
This is the only time you’ll get to do this, so enjoy each
step as it comes.
And if you wonder how you’ll make time for all of this
(and everything else that comes with wedding planning),
I’m happy to help. I know there is a lot of information to
digest and even more to think about as the process unfolds.
So, if you prefer to have someone else handle the details
while you enjoy your engagement, contact me.