Selecting your venue is debatably the most complicated piece of the wedding planning puzzle.
There are SO many options out there and what can feel like an endless number of factors to sort through. If you dive right in without creating a game plan or knowing what to look for, you can easily find yourself metaphorically drowning in a sea of possibilities. While many couples find venue selection to be overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be.
The more focused your search the easier it will be in the long run. When you narrow down aspects of the venue hunt into manageable bites, you can minimize the stress all while finding the venue of your dreams.
LET YOUR VENUE BE YOUR GUIDE
I’m not going to downplay it, there’s a lot riding on your venue choice. It’s one of the essential decisions you make in wedding planning.
Think of the venue as the backbone of your big day. It sets the style and tone, defines geographic location, may dictate guest count, and can ultimately determine the official date.
In many ways, the venue will be your foundation for the rest of the planning process. After all, once you lock in a venue the other elements in wedding planning (i.e. décor, catering, etc.) will fall into place more seamlessly.
Narrowing your focus and having at least a basic idea of what you want from the get go, will make your venue search so much easier and more efficient.
NARROW IT DOWN
Ok, at this point you hopefully understand the importance of narrowing your focus… So how do you do that exactly?
Well there are two main areas two examine; what you need and what you can afford.
Your needs and your finances are a reflection of the following:
1) THE GUEST LIST
If you’ve recently begun the planning process, chances are you don’t have an exact headcount. Before you start the venue search, however, you should have a ballpark figure for attendees. Then you can be on the lookout for venues that match your size needs and rule out those that do not.
This doesn’t solely apply to capacity limits, but also helps determine if a venue feels overly spacious. If you’re anticipating 50 guests, a banquet hall that can fit upwards of 300 people may be overkill. Unless you plan on a sizable addition (such as inviting the entire Los Angeles Philharmonic for a surprise musical appearance), the space may feel uncomfortably large or excessive and could leave you struggling with ways to fill the emptiness.
Also, it’s highly possible you have an ideal venue in mind but there are potential capacity issues. That’s of course fine if it fulfills the dream, just be mindful of the compromise and honest about your preferences. Maybe you are willing to forego that intimate wedding feel for a luxurious sprawling estate or maybe you are comfortable with cutting your guest list in half to accommodate the venue’s limitations.
The decision is yours, just be certain that these are sacrifices you are willing to make and won’t regret later.
2) THE BUDGET
First and foremost, be realistic and do the math.
Please, please, pleeaaase don’t fool yourself into thinking a budget isn’t necessary or that winging it is the way to go!
Before you even step foot in a venue – know what you can spend! The last thing you want to do (especially when you just start planning) is to fall in love with something you can’t afford. Weddings are costly and so many couples are shocked with how quickly expenses add up. Don’t put yourself in a position to get discouraged and frustrated when it can easily be avoided. Know your budget!
Even if you think you’ll have enough, if you move forward without actually crunching numbers and creating accurate estimates, you could be in for a rude awakening. It’s possible you’ll end up needing to sacrifice something important further down the road. Or worse yet, you could set yourself up to go into major debt over your wedding day. (Yikes! Please don’t do this!)
Tough love: If a venue is outside of your price range, don’t even bother. Even if you’re obsessed with it and convince yourself that there couldn’t possibly be another venue out there like it. Push your emotional self aside for a moment and have a very serious conversation with your practical and logical side.
Keep looking for a venue you feel financially comfortable with booking.
3) THE LOCATION
Do you want a beach setting? A vineyard? The mountains? Do you want a destination wedding? Same state? Same city? Which neighborhoods do you like best?
When searching for locations that both you and your fiance love, keep distance in mind. Will you both be required to travel? And if so, does this mean you will need to do the majority of your planning remotely?
If it’s local to you, it still may be a destination to other important people on your guest list. Could this pose a problem?
Also reflect on what’s important in terms of your ceremony and reception space. Can you find what you need and want in one location? Or do you plan to book multiple venues?
4) THE AESTHETIC
Does it fit your vibe? What kind of celebration do you want? Formal? Intimate? Casual? Extravagant?
Traditional Venues versus Non-Traditional Venues
Stick with Tradition
Traditional venues typically have the following pros and cons: more experience with weddings, more included with their packages, harder to personalize and with fewer options than some of their non-traditional counterparts.
Traditional venues may also be easier to find – at least in terms of common wedding planning groups, sites or conversation threads (The Knot, WeddingWire, Here Comes the Guide, etc.).
Think Outside the Box
Don’t be afraid to explore options and venture down the road less traveled. You don’t have to stick to traditional wedding venues if that’s not your thing. If you’re not feeling the traditional vibe or style, search locations that look or feel special to you. Make a list. Places that are visually appealing or hold meaning for you are a great place to start.
Mount Everest (No seriously. If you don’t believe me Google Mount Everest wedding photos for some breathtaking pictures).
A few non-traditional pros and cons include: more original and unique, offers greater creative possibilities, potential to build the event from scratch, may require more planning, fewer elements typically included with packages meaning additional are rentals needed.
Generally speaking non-traditional venues are typically much easier to customize. Yet with this added freedom usually brings more logistics to manage.
5) THE LOGISTICS
We’ll go into depth on a lot of these bullets in Part 2, where I’ll attempt to shed some light on your venue visit(s) and provide you with a list of questions to ask. However, here’s a quick reference list on some of the logistics to keep in mind when you start looking around.
Space can sometimes be deceiving. Even though a room may look massive while empty, add the wedding essentials and that could drastically change. Think about the tables, chairs, dance floor, DJ set up, bar, etc.
Does the layout complement your wedding vision? Does the space flow nicely or will it be a logistical nightmare? Where will your ceremony and reception areas be? Is there a spatial overlap? Are you OK if there is?
Do you have a set season in mind? A specific day? Is this make or break for a venue you’re interested in or are you flexible and completely open to options? If you are trying to keep costs down, consider booking during the off-season and aiming for a daytime or weeknight wedding.
Are you exploring public options such as a beach or garden? Is it possible you will have onlookers and do you mind if there are? Do you prefer full on seclusion? Something in between?
Do they have a preferred vendor list? Are there vendors they require you to use (such as an in-house catering company, etc.)? Are you OK with limited control over your vendor team or do you maybe welcome having everyone pre-selected?
Here are just a few to keep in mind:
Bride/Groom Dressing Area(s)
Sound, Lighting, Power Supply
What is included and what isn’t? Also where are these elements all located in the venue? This could impact set up and layout.
Where will your guests park? Does the venue own a private lot? Will you be required to rent out spaces in a nearby garage or hire a valet service? Do guests need to be shuttled in from off-site?
What’s included? Consider all inclusions even down to the small details such as trash removal. What rentals do they supply – Tables? Chairs? Linens?
Hopefully you’re not hating me right now or heading down an information overload spiral! Yes, that was a lot coming at you, some details which you may have thought about already and some that you may not have considered. Just remember, you don’t need to have all of the answers right now. This is simply meant to provide an outline and help shape your venue search.
Heading into the search armed with the knowledge of what you need, what you can afford, and what you want, will combat a lot of the negative emotions that may arise with your planning! When in pursuit of your ideal wedding spot it can be overwhelming, frustrating and stressful. But knowing what to look for and applying a strategy to the process will do wonders!
Be on the lookout for Part 2 where we can take a look at the steps you should take in finding your ideal venue.
In the meantime, how is the venue search going? Comment below!