June 2, 2018
Wedding planning is a hectic and stressful time for most couples, even if they have the help of a planner. Some couples choose venues based on price. Some choose venues based on emotion. Some choose venues based on what their families or bridal parties think. Here is my list of things you MUST consider when you’re choosing your dream wedding venue.
If the only thing that comes to mind when you read that question is price, then you might want to reconsider. If you find a dream venue that’s out of your budget, think about the things that drew you into that venue. Is it the vintage feel? A wrap-around front porch with rocking chairs? Is it super modern and sleek? Identify what it is you love so much and look for those elements in a venue that is a better fit for your budget.
Is it convenient? This doesn’t really apply to destination weddings but if you’re getting married remotely close to home, the address can play a big role in your guest count. If the drive is too far (which is totally subjective so I can’t give you hard numbers here) then older guests, guests with children, or guests that have other commitments the next day are more likely to stay home and send a gift instead.
So again, I can’t give you hard numbers, but I can tell you as a mom of a four-year-old, anything beyond a 2-hour drive (assuming we won’t be staying overnight) is automatically a no unless we have a sitter. Ceremonies starting at 6 pm or later with that long of a drive means we would need an overnight sitter, which means we’re more likely to send a gift and stay home unless you’re a SUPER close friend or you’re family.
This is something that typically only applies to outdoor ceremonies but I want you to take it a step further and look at the backup options for portraits. Even with indoor ceremonies, couples often decide on outdoor portraits. The ideal space for indoor photos would have light colored bare walls, windows that let in natural light (sometimes we get sunshine and rainstorms) and no distracting elements.
If I had it my way, all wedding venues would have a large white or light grey empty room just for this reason and there would be no electrical outlets, light switches, thermostats, or anything else that would be a distraction in a photo. A backup plan for portraits shouldn’t be a dealbreaker because your wedding photographer should have rain solutions as well but if your only option is an outdoor ceremony and it’s storming at ceremony time, your entire timeline may suffer.
These are the rules that your city/state/venue have in place and can range from no flash photography to no sparkler exits. These rules are usually non-negotiable and can drastically impact your photos. For example — I had a couple in 2016 that had their hearts set on a sparkler exit, only to find out the city ordinances didn’t allow sparklers at all. Not all house rules affect your photos but they all affect your wedding so they’re important to know before you book.
Most venues will have a ceremony site and a reception hall but some, especially in downtown areas or in cities where real estate is at a premium, that’s not always the case. This means your reception will be in the same place as the ceremony. So either your guests will view the ceremony from their reception seating (I’ve been a guest at a handful of weddings that were set up this way and I personally love it!) or your venue’s staff will “flip” the room after the ceremony, replacing the ceremony set up with the reception set up. This means your guests will have to mingle somewhere else for about 40 minutes – an hour while this takes place and there’s a fee for flipping the space.
These can be SO different! There is no standard for alcohol rules so make sure if you’re planning on having alcohol at your wedding, you know the rules of your city and the venue. I could go into detail here but all of the venues have their own way of doing things. Just make sure you aren’t doing anything you’re not supposed to and make sure your guests are informed ahead of time.
This is something most couples don’t think about because, let’s be honest, no one gets engaged thinking it won’t work out but sometimes life gets in the way of our plans. I’ve seen date changes for a ton of reasons like military deployments and sick relatives but I’ve also seen couples not quite make it to their wedding day.
It’s a standard in the industry for venues and all other vendors to require a nonrefundable retainer to secure your date but the policies vary beyond that. If you cancel things within a certain time frame, you may be required to pay your balance in full. If you’re just moving the date, you may be able to transfer your retainer if the venue is available. Just knowing it ahead of time will save you from additional stress and frustration down the road if you need to make any adjustments.
I hope you found all of these tips to be helpful — now get out there and choose a venue!