The wedding venue sets the stage for the entire event. The location, and the vibe it gives off will dictate everything else! Decor, your wedding gown, even the food, can change in order to match the venue. The venue is also one of the most expensive pieces of your big day. Because of this, it’s one of the first things a couple needs to settle on, to start their wedding planning.
First things first, confirm that the space is even available on your date and preferred time. If the venue is available for more than one event on the big day, you want to include setup and tear down times in the final number of hours needed. Some couples would prefer more privacy, so if this is you, it’s worth asking if any other weddings will be taking place at the same time.
Whether your wedding is in your hometown or a destination wedding, there are always location specifics to check off of your list upfront. Do you want the same location for the ceremony and reception, or will there be travel between both locations? Think about your timeline for the big day as well. The venues will start off with asking your wedding date, and then usually go right into the times for both the ceremony and reception. The plan is to make the transition from ceremony to reception as smooth as possible, so if you’re at two different locations in town, this is a big one. Consider how guests will get to and from each location. Are you willing to set up shuttles? Is there enough time for guests to travel (and potentially get lost) and make it in time for dinner and dancing?
For those of you setting up destination weddings (or anywhere guests will be traveling to) you may also want to consider the venue’s proximity to nearby lodging. Is there an option for a hotel nearby? Do you have family that can provide some space for close family and friends to stay?
When calling or emailing potential venues you want to already know the top three basics: wedding colors, wedding date, and number of guests. Be sure to check on pricing along with any special rates (if you can) before you get to the venue. Often, venues will not want to discuss budgets until they have given you the complete tour. Some locations will at least give you a ballpark figure or ask you what you are shooting for so that neither of you waste your time meeting, in the event that the venue is out of your price range.
Size and Space
For larger wedding venues, there are often different rooms or halls depending upon the number of guests you are expecting. It’s in the venue’s best interest to find out if you want a lot of natural light, a place for a stage, or plenty of room for a dance floor. They will start off with lots of questions (desired budget, number of people, wedding style, colors, etc.) so that the representative can show you the best they have to offer for your particular wedding needs.
Smaller weddings require smaller spaces, but make sure there will still be room to breathe. There are lots of small components in a wedding, and part of the day is mingling. Ensure that the space still will feel free-flowing once it’s filled with all of your family and friends.
Do you even need a dance floor, or are you nixing that part of the tradition? What about a DJ or a band? They will need space to set up. Do you have a place to put a bar (if it’s not already set up)? How about space for smaller “stations” like: photo booth, guest book, or a gifts table? Does your outdoor corn hole toss have enough space? Some venues have printed floor plans for you to map out the day, if you ask for a copy. This might help you when planning the times for each activity, too.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor
Indoor venues like churches and halls offer many perks. An indoor venue means that you are protected from the elements outside, and there’s no risk of high heels sinking into any mud. On the other side, though, indoor spaces often need all decor to be brought in. White walls might “bore” compared to everything else you have planned. You will likely need floral arrangements, balloons, draping, and lighting to really get the ambiance right.
Outdoor venue spaces often come with built in decor. Locations like gardens, beaches, and backyards are already full of greenery or flowers. This leaves you at the mercy of Mother Nature, though, so confirm that the venue has a backup space if the weather decides not to cooperate. Barns and privately owned estates will have specific stipulations that only apply to that particular venue. Beaches will sometimes require permits if you are planning on setting any sort of structure (arches, chairs, or tents) up for the event.
Both indoor and outdoor venues can end of requiring extra things like microphones and speakers dependent upon the space and wedding size. Some couples know that they only want to look at indoor or outdoor, but others might want a mix of the two. If you’re open to it, check out one of each. As the venue representative walks you around they can help you envision the space to help you decide.
Your wedding venue dictates so much of your big day. If all food and drinks must be through the venue this can ultimately change the entire wedding. There are very large companies (especially in destination areas) that try to create a one-stop-shop. These will include the officiant, hair & makeup, day-of-coordination, floral arranging, catering, music and emcee, photography, and even your getaway vehicle. If these are the types of venues you prefer, or if you want to be able to bring in everything, this will help narrow down your search fairly easily.
Many venues allow you to bring in all or some of your own wedding vendors, you two just need to find what works best for you. Keep in mind that when the venue takes care of everything, they usually have multiple packages for you to choose from. This is less customizable but also less stress.
Top Considerations for Your Wedding Venue
Location in town
Access to major streets or highways
Indoor or Outdoor Areas
Getting ready areas for bride and groom
Bringing in other wedding vendors
Visiting the venue again before the event
Time limits on each space
Before and after cleanup times
Setup and tear down services
Quiet hours (residential zones)
Forms of payment
Charges for using outside vendors
Additional charges (cake cutting, drink service, etc.)
Parking and shuttles
Point of contact through the planning
Insurance and weather contingencies
Tents and/or string lighting
Deposit due date
Balance due date
What happens if we cancel?
Our wedding coordinator actually suggested several wedding vendors for us to check out. She had already done multiple weddings with them, and the first suggestion we took from her was our wedding venue. Ours is a destination wedding, and this will be the first time both of our families will be in the same place for an extended period of time. Because of this, we wanted to find a beautiful location that we could hold the ceremony, but also house a large number of guests.
We shopped around for a couple of months but in the end, we both loved her suggestion the best. We spoke to the owners, who have always been very accommodating, and they were able to meet and show the space a second time. It sleeps over thirty people, is nearby the beach (an obvious requirement for a Hawaii wedding), and has ample amounts of room for all of our wedding-y needs.
Considerations for guests are important but you also want to do what is best for yourselves as a couple. There are multiple factors involved so take your time to weigh it all out before committing to anything. The venue is a major part of the day, so go through each item above and clear them to get you started off on the right foot.
Read More: How to Get Started When Shopping for Your Wedding Gown
Read More: Do I Even Need a Wedding Coordinator?