CONFESSION: even as a seasoned wedding planner, I *still* find it hard to rank the importance of wedding vendors, because you need ALL of them in order to make your wedding day as perfect as possible.
If I had to choose, let’s just say that your wedding venue is the decision that will impact your day the MOST.
And by “most” I mean it’ll literally impact ev-er-y-thing that goes into your wedding day, from which other vendors you have to hire, to the type of design you want and need, to the overall tone and aesthetic of your wedding.
Choosing the right wedding venue is such an essential decision in the planning process, so you really have to be thoughtful, strategic, and smart about where you choose to host your day.
Now, I don’t want you to read all that and freak out. I know it’s a big choice, but that’s why I’m here; so we can make it TOGETHER.
& after working with tons of couples to plan the weddings of their dreams, I know one thing all too well: every couple is different, and what’s right for you may not be right for someone else.
So, in this post, I’m sharing with you SIX different things to base your wedding venue choice off of, as well as my best tips for making the decision easier.
You ready to find out how to choose the right wedding venue for YOU?! Let’s get into it. 👇
Option #1: Based on BUDGET
If I haven’t already nailed it into your brain with my blog posts about how to create your wedding budget and what to spend vs. save on for your wedding, figuring out your budget FIRST THING is vital to the success of your wedding planning experience.
This will create an instant filter to sift through venues. Even though it may sting a little, there will be some venues that are just immediately out of your price range based on your budget, so you can cross those off the list right off the bat, saving you the emotional turmoil of getting invested in a wedding venue that isn’t in your realm of reality.
Option #2: Based on GUEST COUNT
Guest count impacts your choice of wedding venue a TON. One thing that can’t be changed is the square footage of a venue, so ya get what ya get – and if it doesn’t fit everyone you want to invite, well… it’s off the table.
Some wedding venues can comfortably hold 200+ people, while others are built to serve a more intimate crowd, which is why it’s important to check the venue’s capacity.
*Pause for a planner tip!* Make sure to plan for your MAX amount. You may hope that only 120 out of your 145 guests come, but… bottom line: you are choosing to invite 145 people so plan for 145 people.
Don’t book a venue that can’t fit the invited guest list, because then you’re just asking for trouble!
[Budget and guest count are non-negotiables when it comes to choosing the right wedding venue for you. Once you’ve determined your numbers for both of those elements, you can move on to the slightly more wiggle-room-worthy elements.]
Option #3: Based on LOCATION
You know what they say: location, location, location.
And you know what they mean by that: location has the luxury of making or breaking the aesthetic of your event.
If you are one of my readers in the NY/New England area, you’re in luck. You can literally drive 0-3 hours away and be transported to a completely different state, which leaves you with way more choices in regards to what type of venues are available.
You’ll want to find a location that works for everyone, taking guests from different areas into account, so talking to your families and VIPs to see how far they are willing to travel should probably be a consideration of yours.
This will help you determine if you can swing a destination wedding, or if keeping things more local is the way to go. Of course YOU are the priority at your wedding, so take their comments with a grain of salt, but think about who you want to be with you on your day, and what it would take for them to get there.
By figuring out which locations you are comfortable hosting a wedding in, you can then refine your search to those places rather than just looking in general.
You may find an incredible venue in Newport, but it’s 2 hours away, which doesn’t work for you, so you know not to look there. Ya feel me?
You’ll also definitely want to consider the guest experience.
Like I said: yes, your wedding is about you, but… it’s also an event you’re hosting, for your guests to attend and enjoy.
Will transportation be easy? Or will it take planes, trains, and automobiles?
Will guests need accommodations? How far is that to the venue from where they live? Will they have to stay overnight?
There are lots of logistics to consider when selecting your wedding venue’s location, so you want to be thoughtful and have a plan in place.
[Now that you know how much money you are working with, how many guests you are inviting and what state/region you are looking in, you need to figure out the season and style of your wedding venue.]
Option #4: Based on SEASON
Much to my dismay, we are nawt in California, and we can’t bank on sunny days 95% of the time. So, living in the northeast, we have to be thoughtful and prepared with the weather and plan accordingly.
BUT! The good news is: you have the gift of having 4 different season options in these parts, so think about which season you thrive in, and which colors you want in the backdrop of your photos.
Maybe you looove the fall, so getting married as the leaves are turning colors is one of your dreams. Or maybe spring flowers make your heart sing, so it makes more sense for you to get married in June.
It’s important to think about what season you want to get married in so when you are looking at venues, if it’s a primarily outdoor venue, you know certain dates are off limits or you chance certain types of weather during certain months, whether its high temps, rain, however I hate to break it to you – living here with climate change!! even more unpredictable (which is why !I always say have a back up plan)!
Also, lifestyles and jobs do tend to dictate when you can get married (or when your guests can attend a wedding).
Getting married in the months between November and April is a far less expensive experience than between May and October, but maybe you are a teacher and want to get married when you aren’t working the school year, or maybe you’re a wedding vendor and want to get married when you’re in your off season!
Think about: what the weather will be, what the capabilities of the venue are, and when you & your guests can take time off to have a kickass wedding.
Option #5 Based on STYLE
What’s so cool about this lil northeast corner of the U.S. is that there are so many unique venues available to us in the area.
Once you’ve figured out the season you want to be married in, and what your weather comfort level is (hi, talking to a July bride so clearly warm weather does not scare me – but, yikes, it’s not for everyone), it’s time to think about STYLE.
If you love modern, chic design, don’t book a farm.
If you love a minimal, vintage vibe, don’t book a luxury hotel.
There are so many different options – from ballrooms, to old estates, to farms, to industrial spaces, to gardens, to tented weddings, to …. you know the list goes on and on and on.
It can be easy to get swept up in the beauty of a venue, but don’t forget to think about what you *actually* want your event to look and feel like on your wedding day.
Figuring out your wedding aesthetic is such an important step in selecting the right venue for you, because it’ll eliminate the need to see a venue that definitely doesn’t fit with the vibe of your day.
Option #6: Based on AMENITIES
Each venue comes in different shapes and sizes, and that includes what a venue offers with the price you’re paying to rent it.
Some literally come as a blank slate and you need to provide EVERYTHING, down to the freaking toilet and power.
But, on the other hand, you’ll also encounter venues that are full service, including food, rentals – the whole shebang.
If you are not hiring a planner, I strongly advise against choosing a blank canvas for a wedding venue. It’s a LOT to manage on your own, and booking can become overwhelming fast.
Not that a venue manager does the same as a planner—we’re doing the most, lol—but some wedding venues definitely come with more supportive staff than others do, so make sure to find out how much involvement and help the venue provides.
Food/Beverage: some venues provide in house food and/or catering, while others allow you to choose from either a preselected list of caterers or hire whomever you like.
Amenities: some venues provide tables, chairs, linens, flatware, even votive candles, so getting a comprehensive list of what you get with the venue fee is good to know because it can save you money in other areas, or inform you that you will need to source and provide those pieces outside the venue. Something you’ll need to decide if you want to take on.
For example, The Wadsworth provides the space, two sets of chairs and table rentals, but you need to hire your own caterer from a pre approved list.
Other venues, like The Owenego, provide the space, tables, chairs and the bar service, but you hire your own caterer.
If you work at a Longwood venue like Belle Mer, they are all inclusive and provide everything in house unless you want to upgrade from basic white linens/plates, but food and drink is from them.
And, obviously, if you are having a tented wedding on a private property or at a venue site (not all the time but most of the time) – you can choose whomever you like to cater the event. You can even do a separate bar/alcohol vendor. Maybe you want to do a champagne cart instead of a traditional bar! Options are endless!
Now, what comes next in your journey to choosing the right wedding venue?
Phew! We’ve officially exhausted all of the factors that go into choosing the right wedding venue for you and your partner—now it’s time to talk about the logistics of it all.
SCHEDULE A VISIT
You NEED to see this space in person. Period.
This isn’t a decision to be made lightly—and it’s definitely not a decision to be made from behind a screen or over the phone.
Get your booty to the venue, so you can see the venue in real life AND meet the people that will be involved in your wedding. I’m not being dramatic when I say that a bad venue manager can completely change your opinion about a venue.
See the space, make sure it feels good, see if you get the gut “yes, this is it, I can see myself getting married here & looking at photos from this day for the rest of forever” feeling.
You’ll know when you get there and see everything whether or not the space is The One to choose as the right wedding venue for you.
BRING A LIST OF QUESTIONS TO ASK AT THE VENUE
And before you ask “ugh, but Lindsey, what do I even freaking ASK?!” – I got you. Look out for next weeks blog 😉
READ THE REVIEWS
You wouldn’t book an AirBnb without reading what past guests have said about their stay, would you? That’s what I thought. Trust me when I tell you: you’ll want to treat your wedding venue the same way.
Reviews don’t lie, baby.
(Pro tip: if you’re not shy, and you see an Instagram post tagged at the venue, just freaking DM the couple and ask about their experience. People love to talk about themselves—ESPECIALLY when it comes to their wedding day, they probably spent bank on that sh!t—and more often than not, they’re so happy to share their thoughts with you!)
FIND A POINT OF COMPARISON
Even if you’re dead-set on a venue that you think you love, OR if you fall head over heels for the first venue you see, I still recommend touring at least 3 wedding venues total, just so you have a frame of reference.
You might be obsessed with that one venue you’ve been dreaming about since childhood, but what if you find out a little too late that it wasn’t as great as you thought?
You might think the first venue you tour is AMAZING, but you find that venue #2 is even better, and venue #3 blows it out of the water.
The bar’s gotta be set somewhere, ya know? Having something to compare the venues to will help make your choice a lot easier.
Plus, by having something to compare it to, you can rest assured knowing you did your due diligence, feel confident in moving forward with your decision, and not have to wonder about the “what if”s of it all.
My best tip about choosing the right wedding venue is…
DON’T BE RASH ABOUT IT
Your venue is usually your biggest expense, especially if it includes catering and bar, which means it’ll take up a LOT of your budget. Don’t jump into anything you don’t feel 100% confident in.
Oh, and always read the contract.
And, of course, it’s so freaking helpful to have a wedding planner by your side to accompany you on your tours, assist you in spotting potential red flags, helping you see the vision of what you could turn the venue into, and sharing the responsibility of making such a big choice….
I happen to know juuuust the one. 😏 Click here to view Wildflower’s wedding planning services!
Hi! I’m Lindsey, Founder, Executive Planner, and Creative Director here at Wildflower Events and Design. Nice to meet you! To learn a little bit more about me and what I do, here are a few ways you can connect with me:
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