Updated: Dec 28, 2022
Nearly every aspect of a wedding is optional, from wearing a flower crown to wearing a veil to ditching the flowers to foregoing the wedding cake, there is one thing that cannot be skipped out on: a venue. After all, there has be somewhere for your friends and family to gather and celebrate.
But finding the perfect venue can be quite challenging. There are so many options to choose from, whether you're looking for a stunning barn, an elegant ballroom, a cozy restaurant, or a quiet stretch of beach. So I have compiled a list of my top tips for finding your dream venue.
Talk to a planner first
Yes, even before you start searching reach out to your planner. Planners are much more familiar with the capabilities of a space, the layout, and the time and items you will need to really transform it. If there is a creative way to make the space more unique or a quirk about the space that could make your vision hard to accomplish your planner will know. Also, your planner should have a plethora of experience and first hand knowledge of venues to choose from (and those to make a hard pass at).
Choose a venue that aligns with your vision
Seek out venues that have the aesthetic that you have in mind. If you are planning a modern wedding, look at art galleries, well-designed restaurant spaces or warehouses. On the other hand, a wedding incorporating more natural elements works well with outdoor venues such as parks, backyards and ranches. Choosing a venue that fits well with your theme will enable your wedding to feel more connected to the space.
Know Your Guest List
Prior to looking at venues you should compile at a least a rough draft of your guest list. Knowing how many guests you're expecting to invite before you go looking at venues will help save you from headaches and heartaches down the road. Couples often underestimate how many people they will invite (or how many their parents will want to add), so have that conversation early to know what you're working with.
Remember Your Budget
Break down your overall budget by category, prioritizing more funds for vendors that are a higher priority. If you select your venue first, and then realize its more than you should have allocated, it's an uphill battle to stay within your budget when you still have a dozen other people to hire. Know how much your total budget is, as well as approximately what your design will cost to execute. If adding that on top of the cost of using the space blows your budget out of the water, you'll either need to scale back your design or look at more affordable spaces.
Wedding Tip: Not sure how prices break down in your region? Consult with a local planner to get information that's more specific than the national averages often found online.
Consider Your Guests' Experience
If you find yourself inviting a lot of out-of-town guests or having a destination wedding, look for a venue that is near (or connected to) a hotel. Keep your guests comfort in mind as well. The maximum capacity of a room isn't often a comfortable amount of space, so ask the venue how many people will fit comfortably, as well as what is allowed to the fire code.
Think About What Is Included
A venue with table, chairs and linens included might cost more upfront than a venue where you need to rent you own, but you should get an estimate from a rental company to see how they compare when you've added on the price of renting things yourself. If you are looking as all inclusive, semi-inclusive or al' a carte wedding venues be sure to price out everything. That all-inclusive wedding venue may appear to be more expensive at first but could be equal to or (better yet) less expensive than a venue where you need to bring in everything yourself. On the other hand remember that the included rental items are often more basic (white linens, standard flatware, banquet chairs, etc,) so you may end up paying more to rent items that fit your vision better. If you are working with a venue that has in-house catering with a food and beverage minimum, be sure to include the tax and gratuity in your calculations. For example, Gulf Shore, Alabama has a sales tax of 3 percent, so I recommend that my clients add at least 23 percent onto the food and beverage minimum to account for tax and 20 percent gratuity. That takes a $10,000 minimum up to $12,300.
Stay True to Yourselves
The idea of the perfect "Pinterest" wedding has caused a lot of couples to choose venues based off of the style of a wedding they fell in love with online. But it's important to ask yourselves what feels authentic to you two as a couple, and to choose a space and design that reflect who you truly are. Remember that, while a venue might have looked gorgeous with a different theme or design scheme, it may not be the perfect canvas for yours.