Picking the ideal venue takes time since it’s one of the most important parts of your wedding. You need to consider your guest list, aesthetics, and the price, to name a few things. Thinking about all this and the other aspects of planning a wedding is understandably overwhelming.
Most couples look for and pick a venue as soon as possible since planning a wedding can take a year or more. Likewise, if you plan to get married during the height of wedding season, usually summer through early fall, you’ll need to book a date early. Check out this complete guide to wedding venues and how to choose so you can enjoy the prenuptial experience!
Decide on a Budget
The first thing you need to decide is how much money you want to spend on your venue. This may mean weighing out what areas of your budget are most important. For example, does the dream dress trump the venue? The first step to creating a wedding budget is to talk to your partner. Create a list of all the purchases you’ll need to make, then agree on which ones are most important.
You can properly allocate costs by knowing how much money you can afford to spend on your venue. This will also help you narrow your scope so you’re not doing general searches for “wedding venues.” Instead, search for indoor or outdoor locations based on your established budget.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Weddings
Every couple defines a beautiful wedding differently. At certain times of year, like late spring through early fall, outdoor weddings are more popular. Both indoor and outdoor weddings are beautiful, and deciding on which you like best will help you pick out the right venue. However, this means weighing the pros and cons of both so you make the best decision for your preferences.
An indoor wedding gives you more control over various elements, especially the weather. You can get married in your dream venue, whether it’s rainy and cold or hot and sunny outside. Guests will also be closer to the nearest bathroom and will have an easier time navigating the area, which is more convenient.
One major disadvantage to indoor weddings is that there are more limits on space, which may mean cutting the guest list. If removing guests is out of the question and you have a long list, you’ll need to take extra time to find a larger venue to get married at.
For many, getting married outside is the definition of perfection. You get the perfect backdrop and wonderful photos of your ceremony—nothing beats natural lighting! In addition, when you get married outside, you usually have more room to accommodate a longer guest list.
Outdoor weddings look beautiful, but they don’t come without a few cons. For starters, you won’t know the weather until the big day, which can be stressful. You may also have to obtain permits and follow tighter restrictions, including the noise ordinance.
Bridal Tip: Have a Backup Plan
If you decide on an outdoor wedding, you’ll need to make a backup plan in case the weather goes awry. Talk to your wedding planner or person of contact at the venue you decide on about where you’ll hold the ceremony and reception if things don’t go according to plan.
The Middle Ground
Deciding between an indoor and outdoor wedding isn’t the easiest task, even after weighing the pros and cons. If you run into this, the solution is to seek a venue that allows you to do both. You could hold your ceremony outside, then celebrate and enjoy your cake at an indoor reception.
Bonus Option: Destination Weddings
Over the last few years, destination weddings have grown in popularity. To some couples, a destination wedding means saying their “I dos” in a dream location. This makes for a memorable ceremony and can feel like a vacation before the honeymoon. Before deciding that this is the perfect option, there are a few things to know about destination weddings; ensure you weigh the pros and cons.
Keep in mind that destination weddings tend to cost more for you and your guests. Depending on the location, some people may not make it, especially if they have to fly across the country. Planning a destination wedding can also add stress to you if it’s out of state since this requires additional travel to visit the venue.
Know Your Venue Options
Now that you’ve decided whether an indoor or outdoor wedding would be best, it’s time to decide on a venue type. While some prefer to get married in a place of worship, others choose beautiful banquet halls or outdoor venues. To spark some inspiration, here are a few other popular sites to get married at:
- Country clubs
- Botanical gardens
With so many great options, it can be hard to decide what you like most. Begin by determining whether you’d prefer to get married inside or outside and narrow your venue from there. For example, if you and your partner decide on an outdoor wedding and love fine wine, you could choose a winery.
Have a Guest Count
One of the first things you need to decide is how many guests you’ll invite. While you won’t have a head count yet, you should look for a space with room for your maximum number of guests. The last thing you want is to pick a small venue assuming few people will come, only for almost everyone to show up. Some locations have a hard stop for guest capacity; they may even do head counts for safety protocol.
Before you begin looking at venues, sit down with your partner and make a list of everyone you’ll invite. This gives you a maximum number of guests, making it easier to find the right venue. Some venues have a set number of maximum guests they’ll allow, so knowing who you’ll invite also helps you narrow down your options.
Bridal Tip: Consider Guest Experience
As you look at venues online and in person, think about how guests will feel in the space. How easy is it to get to the ceremony space? Will you need to provide walking assistance for specific guests? Consider these details as you scope out venues so you know what to look for.
Note Aesthetic and Style
You have a different wedding style than your friends, which is why we say every couple defines the perfect venue differently. Understanding how to choose a wedding style helps you narrow down venue options and decide how you decorate it. Think about your sense of style and which venue option best aligns with it. If you love the outdoors and lounging by the water, a beach wedding may be the best fit for your style.
Find Out What’s in the Wedding Package
Talk to your planner and the venue manager about what the package includes. While some locations include vendors, in-house cooking, and décor, others don’t. You’ll also want to know whether it costs extra to get tables, chairs, and linens. While venues that include this may have a higher cost up front, paying for a venue, vendors, decorations, etc. separately could cost more overall.
Bridal Tip: Evaluate Drink Packages
You should also find out whether the wedding includes a bar or if you have to pay extra for it. You’ll also need to decide on your drink package; some couples do cash bars while others prefer open bars. Keep in mind that both come at different prices, as cash bars are cheaper for you but can be unappealing to guests.
Visit All Your Options in Person
It’s always best to visit the venue before deciding it’s the one. Things may look different in person than they did online. Likewise, you should see various locations to get a better idea of all your options. It’s easy to get caught up in the magical wedding bliss and think your first option is perfect.
Before touring your selected venues, scope out the online reviews to see what past brides say about their experiences there. Did everything run smoothly? Are the venue workers professional? As you visit venues, you should also ask about the required curfew, verify your guest count, and discuss what’s in the wedding package.
Bridal Tip: Talk to Your Wedding Team
If you’ve already picked out a photographer, you may want to allow them to scout out the venue before you sign any rental contracts. They’ll have a chance to scout out the area and determine whether they can get great shots. Similarly, your florist and other wedding workers may request to visit the site before you book it.
Bridal Tip: Evaluate the Entire Site
When you visit venues, you should look at the ceremony space, plus where you’ll hold the cocktail hour and the reception. Evaluate the size of each area. From here, determine whether there’s room for a DJ while guests dance at the reception.
You Define the Perfect Wedding
When it comes to the complete guide to wedding venues and how to choose, the most important thing is that you stay true to yourself. If your dream venue is outside at a barn venue with twinkling lights at night, then that’s the right option. You know what you like most, and your wedding is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Decide on the venue that speaks to you and best showcases the love shared between you and your partner.