Traditional churches, rustic barns, urban warehouses, scenic gardens or ornate ballrooms – just about anywhere can be your perfect wedding venue. But with so many choices available to the modern bride, how do you choose?
Have A Vision
Before you begin visiting venues, you should have a clear idea of the theme or overall style of your wedding. Ask yourself: “When I imagine my wedding and reception, what do I see?”
“If they’re visualizing candlelight and twinkly lights and champagne flutes, then I know it’s going to be a more laid back, romantic, nighttime wedding,” says Carolyn O’Brien, owner of Creative Celebrations in Portland, Oregon. “On the other hand, if they’re seeing bright colors and outdoors and all kinds of activity, then that’s a whole different vision for the day.”
You don’t have to have every detail set in stone before venue hunting, but having a broad idea of the style will be help you and your planner to narrow down the candidates to find the perfect match.
When to Start
It’s not unusual for popular locations to book up a year (or more) in advance, so the sooner you start the better your chances of finding and securing your perfect place. The venue selection truly sets the foundation for your wedding and can determine everything from the date to vendor selection to guest count. O’Brien recommends being as flexible as possible when it comes to dates, letting the venue dictate the day rather than the other way around.
Know the Costs
As expected, the venue takes up a major part of the budget.
A multitude of factors can contribute to the price tag, including any required in-house vendors. Some venues require the use of a particular caterer or wedding planner, while others come with hidden costs like extra cake cutting fees or have a required food/drink minimum (if catering is included). Just make sure to go over your venue contract carefully and ask plenty of questions to know what is and isn’t included.
“Some couples have a misconception that every venue that they look at is going to provide everything they need,” says Brandon Rich, a wedding planner and venue coordinator in Nashville. “Some venues are an empty box where you’ve basically rented a floor, walls and a ceiling, and that’s it.”
Consider any extra rentals (tables, chairs, etc.) a site will require and plug it into the budget. Also take note of logistical concerns like parking and restrooms – are there enough for the number of attending guests?
The simpler the space, the more customizable it is to fit your personality and vision. However, this can also add to décor costs and may make the logistics challenging.
Wedding locations in picturesque fields or on the beach are beautiful but also come with a unique set of difficulties. Outdoor settings aren’t traditional facilities, so every part of the wedding has to be manually brought in.
“Every glass, every table, every piece of ice, all the food, all the beverages, everything – it’s like camping for 250 people,” says O’Brien of outdoor weddings.
You also should note the added expense of people to help with set up and tear down.
Another factor to consider with open-air locales is the surrounding atmosphere. Is it noisy? Does it smell? What is the contingency plan for inclement weather?
“When you look at a picture, you don’t feel heat, you don’t feel cold, you don’t smell smells, you don’t hear noise, all you see is the pretty picture,” Rich says.
All of these factors can affect your wedding and turn a perfect location into a nightmare, so make sure to visit the venue and have back up plans in place.