A Quick Guide to Choosing your Dream Wedding Venue
We understand choosing a venue for your wedding is a huge decision. We also know that couples can get frustrated and overwhelmed at the process. This guide is here to simplify and de-stress the process. We truly believe wedding planning should be fun every step of the way!
First and foremost, sit down with your partner and discuss budget. Factor in any money your friends and family members are providing with any dollars you are putting towards your wedding. Write this down somewhere, whether it be a spreadsheet, in your wedding binder, or elsewhere, it’s important to have this number. Then, write down all the categories of items you want for your wedding (i.e. venue, food, alcohol, takeaway gifts, flowers, dress, suit, etc.). Try and be as detailed as possible. This will give you a good idea of how many directions your budget is being pulled. Then, doing some basic research, try and put a general number next to each category. This is important. Sometimes a quote from a vendor can look very appealing, especially next to another vendor’s quote for a similar thing BUT if it doesn’t align with your budget and you go for it, you might run out of money down the line when you are trying book that photo booth you wanted. While you may not follow the budget numbers exactly, it forces you to think about where you’ll have to make cuts if you spend more in certain areas.
(Need help getting started? Try using this wedding cost estimator or this handy budgeting Google Sheet from A Practical Wedding. It includes helpful industry averages, so you can get a feel for how much of your total budget each line item should take.)
Now that you’ve got that budget all squared away, make a list of any must-have items (things that your venue must have or must allow) that you can’t live without (i.e. dog friendly because your pooch is going to be the ring bearer)
Think about the location and setting you both want.
a. First, consider location: Is there a particular country, town, city, state you want it to be in?
b. Second, consider setting: have you always dreamed of getting married in a barn, a fancy ballroom, anywhere – as long as it’s outside?
Think about your guest count. Start by writing down the BIG list (everyone you could ever want to invite). Then write down the MEDIUM list (a good mix of the folks that absolutely need to come and then some others you would be sad to not see in attendance. Then write down the SMALL list (everyone that has to be there no matter what). Try to decide if you could ever go with the small list (i.e. you found your dream venue, but they have a low capacity or your budget only covers the small list). If not, try and land on an appropriate estimate of your guest count (as this will help you tremendously when picking your venue). I would even argue you shouldn’t start to peek at venues until you have a solid idea of what your ideal guest count is. Having trouble, check out these 5 quick tips on cutting your guest list from our friends at The Knot.
Awesome! Now that you’ve hammered out a few key details, you can get to researching. Try using sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, Here Comes the Guide, MyWedding.com, and good ol’ Google. Many of these sites will help you narrow down the list by using those items we discussed above (must-haves, location, and setting). Make sure to use those! There are so many venues out there. Don’t get overwhelmed by looking at venues that don’t even have room for all your guests!
Make a list of three venues want to tour. While seeing different venues and considering your choices is fun, it can easily get overwhelming. Also, the more you look, the more likely it is you’ll fall in love with more than one venue and then have to choose! If you’ve used the information you’ve discussed earlier (budget, setting, must-haves) the three venues on your list are most likely close to your dream venue. If you really hate all three, you can always go back and make a list of your next three favorite based on your research.
Once you’ve toured each venue and gotten all information in hand (quote, package options, availability, etc.) Start to compare the different venues against all the items on your list. (Note: you’re often not comparing apples to apples when venue shopping, so make sure to look at what each venue package offers and what budget items it covers as well. (for example, one venue may be all inclusive and have food and flowers built into their quote while others may just provide the venue, tables, chairs, staffing, etc.)
Once you’ve decided on a venue, double check to make sure your date is still available and BOOK IT! With a venue in hand, you’ll have a location and date locked. This will make all of your other planning so much easier as there won’t be any guess work on the space and timing.