How To Choose The Perfect Wedding Venue
Updated: May 14
11 Steps To Finding The Perfect Venue For Your Special Day!
Selecting a wedding venue is likely one of the first steps on your planning journey. Choosing the perfect venue can be a stressful and intimidating task, as there are lots of questions involved in choosing the perfect style and package choice. Here are 11 steps to help you navigate the course to finding the perfect venue.
1. Consult With a Planner
If you haven’t already talked with a planner, this is the perfect time to do so. Since choosing a venue sets the tone and style of your entire event, this is the
best time to consult someone who’s in the know. Planners have seen hundreds of venues and know the ins and outs of each space. Even if they haven’t worked in a specific venue, they have the logistical sense to know what’s needed to help bring your vision into focus. Most planners will have a preferred venue list, and a compilation of notes they’ve taken on each space. They can help answer the big questions on whether or not a particular venue will fit your vision.
2. Choose a Location
Deciding on where you would like the ceremony to take place will help narrow the list down a bit. Will you have it in your hometown? Will it take place in a particular destination that is meaningful to you as a couple? Deciding first on the location will help you to hone in on what types of venues are available in that area. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of a destination wedding to a place you’ve never been? This is the first big decision in selecting where your big day will commence, so making sure the locale fits your vision is imperative. Planning a beach wedding in Nebraska just won’t work! ;)
3. Create a Budget
Having a set budget this early in the game will put you on a road to success. According to a recent study, 46% of weddings do go over budget. Be realistic about your budget, and try and get as close to hard numbers as you can now, so you will have a little wiggle room later in your planning process. Your venue and catering choices will often make up about half of your entire budget. Most venues here in California average anywhere from $5,000-$7,000 on upwards to $11,000-$15,000. Once your budget is set, then you can make an educated choice based on facts (what you can really afford) instead of getting caught in the moment with delusions of grandeur!
4. What Is Your Vision For Your Special Day?
Now that your budget is set, you can begin the fun part. Where do you envision your dream day happening? Sit down with your partner and discuss some of the features that your ideal venue should have. Is there something specific each of you have always wanted? Even if your tastes are very different, choosing a venue can easily be agreed upon with a little compromise. Do you dream of a small bohemian soiree, a rustic barn party, or a weekend with family in the mountains? Choosing the right venue to match your style is definitely the next step in selecting the right space. If you love the outdoors, try finding a venue in a beautiful park, at the beach or even a space with a lot of natural beauty. If you prefer a modern feel, try a chic restaurant, a hip winery tasting room, or possibly a converted warehouse.
There are many different types of venues, everything from ballrooms to campgrounds and everything in between. It’s ok to think outside the box, this is where your uniqueness as a couple can begin to shine through. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and it really doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable. Oftentimes the more unique the venue, the more memorable it will be!
5. Estimate your Guest Count
Having a good idea of how many people will be attending your wedding will help you decide on the size venue you need. If you are having an intimate wedding with 50 guests, a large ballroom may be overkill. You don’t have to have your numbers set in stone at this point, but having a good idea of your guest count will be helpful. You don’t want to fall in love with a venue that seats only 100 people when your guest list is 250! It’s best to error on the side of too many people than too few. You can always subtract guests as the RSVP’s roll in, but a venue with a specific capacity will not be able to add any guests at the last minute.
6. Narrow Down Some Dates
If you haven’t already “set a date”, then you may want to sit down and look at some dates that work with both of you, and your families’ schedules. Most wedding venues book at least a year out, so if you have a specific date in mind, this may be the deciding factor on whether or not a venue is available on your selected date. If you are flexible on your dates, you may have an easier time booking your dream venue.
7. Begin Your Search
Now that you’ve got some of the logistical information out of the way you can begin your search! There are several wedding websites like The Knot, Wedding Wire and Wedding Spot that have multiple venues listed with pictures and reviews. These websites help to take the guesswork out of it as each venue has filled out a profile, added pictures, and pricing information all in one location. This makes it easy to search a specific geographical area, and you can also check for venue capacity, availability and more. You can usually contact each venue directly from each of those pages if you want to reach out with questions or set up a venue visit.
Google also offers a map of venues if you do a search within a specific area by typing in, “wedding venues in _______”. You can hover over each venue and their general information will pop up to direct you to their individual website. This is a bit more time consuming since you have to search a bit more for the information, but you will likely find several venues that were not listed on the paid advertising sites. Once you have a few leads, you can compile a list of venues you’d like more information about.
8. Reach Out With Questions
Once you’ve narrowed it down to 5-7 venues, you can begin reaching out. Send an email or call the venue with questions about capacity, availability and any other top priorities you and your partner have deemed necessary. Do they offer catering services, or allow outside catering? Do they have a selected vendor list? Are you able to bring in your own vendors that aren’t on their vendor list? What do they offer in their package pricing (are tables, chairs or linens included)? These top venue questions will again help you narrow down your list based upon your needs and budget. Once you’ve asked about some of the basics and feel good about some of your venue choices, you can take the next step and make an appointment for a tour.
9. Set Up a Tour
Touring a venue can be an exciting next step in your wedding journey! Try and enter this step objectively and gain as much information as possible. There are many wedding venues, and the more information you acquire about each venue, the easier it will be to make an educated decision. Many brides fall in love with their first venue, potentially missing out on the “perfect” venue that they never even toured! Pictures can make a space appear larger or smaller depending on the angle, so seeing it in person will help you get an idea the overall space and feel of the venue. While on the tour, ask lots of questions, and ask for a copy of their contract so you can peruse it at home when you have ample time to review it. Don’t feel pressured to sign a contract that day. Once you’ve gained some perspective by touring several potential venues, you can narrow it down to just a few of your favorites.
10. Weigh the Pros & Cons
Once you’ve narrowed it down to your favorites, you can look at each contract and decide what venue will offer the best value for your money, and the best overall fit for your vision. Maybe one of you loves one particular venue but the other has some particular concerns? Make sure to find a venue you both feel comfortable with. After all, this is the beginning of a lifetime of compromise, so let this be your first act of love toward one another. Honor each other’s choice and try and find a middle ground of what venue will fit both of your desires. Weigh the pros and cons of each venue, and if you need to, tour more venues to achieve both of your ideals. Finding the “perfect” venue may take some time, but in the long run, you both will want to reflect on your big day with fondness and happy memories!
11. Sign the Contract
Once you have both agreed on the perfect venue, perused the contract and asked all the questions you can think of, then you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. Make sure to review the contract closely and look for the fine print items. Be sure to ask the venue coordinator to clarify sections of the contract you or your partner may be confused about. Taking a closer look at the contract could save you thousands of dollars later if you happened to miss a key element. Once you feel comfortable that you understand all aspects of your contract, then you’re ready to sign. Congratulations!! You can now check off one of the biggest items on your wedding planning checklist!