Are you wondering how to choose a wedding venue? You’re in good company because everyone asks this question when they’re newly engaged. Wedding venues are undoubtedly the largest search you’ll make while planning your wedding. Where you get married is very important; it sets the tone, theme, and feel of your wedding as a whole, dictates whether you’ll tie the knot indoors or outdoors, and decides the formality of your ceremony and reception.
If you’re looking for wedding venues and you need help, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to choose a wedding venue, find out the proper etiquette for searching for a venue, see when to start looking at wedding venues, and know exactly which questions you need to ask your wedding venue BEFORE you book. It’s really easy once you figure out where to begin.
Let’s get started!
How to Choose Wedding Venues
We begin with a few important wedding venue etiquette questions: what is a wedding venue, when to start looking for a venue, how early to book it, whether you’ll have one or two venues, and more.
What is a wedding venue?
That’s an easy one, but if you’re totally new to this wedding planning thing (all of us are at one point!) then you’re wondering, what does a wedding venue entail? Is it where the ceremony is held? The reception? Both?
Your wedding venue — or venues — are the locations where you’ll have your ceremony and/or reception.
You may get married and have one venue: your ceremony might take place and then chairs are moved and tables rearranged to create a reception space in the very same area.
Or you may get married outdoors in the garden and then move to the ballroom for a reception.
Furthermore, you may get married at a church, synagogue or another place of worship and then travel to a separate wedding reception venue.
There is no “best” or proper way to do it: the venues you choose are completely up to your own personal preference, what works for your wedding style, and budget.
Types of Wedding Venues to Choose From
When you’re figuring out how to choose your wedding venues, first ask yourself: do I want the services to be taken care of for me, or do I want to do everything myself?
A club, restaurant, ballroom, estate, etc. — a formal or traditional wedding venue, we’ll call it — handles all the services for you. This includes set up, take down, catering, bartending, dance floor, tables, chairs… you name it, they handle it.
On the other hand, a backyard wedding at your home or a garden wedding off-site or even a rental space with just a room for rent will require you to provide everything else. While the cost may seem like a huge savings up-front, as you add up the “extras” that are readily available to a traditional venue (linens, tables, chairs, servers, bartenders, glassware, dinnerware, the list goes on!) you’ll quickly see the costs adding up.
It’s not necessarily that you have to pick one over the other; we’ve seen wedding venues done both ways beautifully. The real question to ask yourself is, do you want to be responsible for ALL the services and accouterments or would you rather choose a venue that already has everything you need?
Now that you decide that, let’s talk about what kinds of wedding venues are available.
-churches/synagogues/places of worship
-farm / barn
-in the woods*
-trail with a scenic view of the mountains*
… and more
*For outdoor receptions, we recommend always including a tent as a back-up plan for weather.
As you can see, feel free to get creative with your wedding venue selection. Times have changed and venues aren’t only limited to traditional locales; consider things outside the traditional realm if that’s more your style!
For the best results, make sure the locations you consider have planned weddings in the past, so they (and you!) know what to expect as you plan your wedding day at the venue.
Distance of your wedding venues
Since you may have two wedding venues — one for the ceremony, one for the reception — you may need to consider the distance between the two and how easy it will be for guests to travel.
If guests are typically traveling in their own transportation, this one is fairly easy to do; ample parking at your venues makes it simple for guests to go from the ceremony to the reception easily. It is best to keep the distance no greater than approximately one half-hour drive time from the ceremony to the reception.
Any less is even better; more just cuts into your reception timeline too much and makes dinner (and everything else) start later.
If your ceremony and reception are in a busy downtown area, a bustling city, or where most guests are traveling via public transportation with very limited parking, this is where your wedding venue selection will get a little tricky.
Keep in mind the distance to and from public transportation and whether there are any parking spaces available. How easy is it for guests to go from the ceremony to the reception via public transportation or a car service, such as Lyft or Uber? How far away will these locations be from guest accommodations at hotels?
Arrange FREE Transportation for Guests
We attended a wedding in downtown Chicago a few years ago and the bride and groom suggested one hotel for guests; at that hotel, we were given a free shuttle bus transportation from the hotel to the reception and then from the reception to the hotel at the end of the night. IT WAS AMAZING!
To the ceremony, we took public transportation and some guests opted for a Lyft or Uber. It was nice not having to drive back to the hotel after the reception and also gave us guests a lot to talk about. It must have been a huge expense for the couple but it was a very unexpected bonus, much like the wedding welcome bags waiting for us at the hotel.
When to start looking at wedding venues
This is an important one: start researching wedding venues as soon as possible once you’re decided upon the size of your guest list, your budget, and when you’d like to get married.
If you have these things in mind when you start looking at sites, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the timeline already.
Since wedding venues have a tendency to book quickly especially if they are very popular in your location, you will want to start visiting sites to book your venue as soon as possible.
As crazy as it sounds, some venues book a year to THREE years in advance.
P.S. Did you know you can get can coolers with your ACTUAL venue printed on them? So cool! By SipHipHooray.
Where to Find Wedding Venues
To start looking at wedding venues, begin online! Here are some resources where you can get inspired by wedding venues near you.
–Weddingwire: WeddingWire has a great collection of wedding venues near you, complete with photos and reviews. I really like the reviews from real couples; in today’s day and age, reviews are very important.
You can search by the size of the wedding, location, indoor/outdoor, etc. It is a very helpful resource for wedding venues.
–The Knot: The Knot also offers a comprehensive list of wedding venues with locations, photos, and more.
–Emmaline Bride: We are now adding venues to our list of wedding vendors, so we, of course, wanted to share the link with you. We’ll be adding more venues in the coming weeks and we have some very cool spotlight posts on the blog coming soon. Bookmark this page and come back for some exciting venues being added soon! Right now, you can browse wedding photographers, videographers, and find handmade artists (as well as The Marketplace).
Once you find a few wedding venues in your area, it’s time to set up a visit.
So, by now you have the following:
1- approximate size of your guest list
2- the idea of when you’d like to get married
3- estimated wedding budget
4- a handful of a few wedding venues to visit
Here are things to consider BEFORE you visit your wedding venues.
The size of your venue should comfortably fit the size of your guest list.
Guests shouldn’t feel crammed, nor should the place feel too big for a small guest list.
Make sure the venue has what YOU are looking for, whether that is a large coat check room, ample bathroom space, patio for guests to go outside, large dance floor, room for a live band, big enough area for buffet, etc.
Pick and choose the things that are meaningful for you, and then select the venue that has those amenities.
Is there going to be a large gap between the ceremony and reception times? Can guests gather immediately at the reception site for cocktail hour, or will there need to be a few hours in between the time guests can actually arrive? This is important to ask your venue before you book, so you know ahead of time.
3. Theme / formality
How formal will your wedding be? If you’re dreaming of an elegant ballroom wedding, no level of decorating can turn a more casual space into a black-tie event; it’s better to find the venue that has the same aesthetic you’re searching for in your wedding day rather than the other way around.
The same goes for casual weddings: if you’re looking for guests to relax, unwind, and enjoy a less-casual event, don’t choose an over-the-top ballroom when it’s more of a beachside soiree.
In addition, do you like the layout? Does the venue have an open layout or more of a boxed-in feel? Does the venue have examples of weddings held in the space, and if so, does it match the aesthetic you’re going for? Consider these things before you book.
Now that you know what to look for in your wedding venues, make a list of your top picks and set up a visit.
Simply contact the wedding venues you like from the resources guide above to check out the site.
Check out the wedding venues
Don’t book a wedding venue based on its internet photos alone; you must visit the site in person to get a full, comprehensive look at the exact location space.
Note: If this is a destination wedding, obviously that makes it a bit more difficult; however, most destination venues have plenty of videos, photos, and a dedicated wedding planner working with the venue to make the walkthrough more of a “virtual” possibility.
Checking out the wedding site is actually pretty fun; it’s free, and it’s sort of like an open house. The coordinator will meet with you to go over your vision for your wedding day. He or she will take you on a tour, show you where the ceremony/reception will be held, give you pricing options, go over some catering menus, and more. They may even give you dates that are available to book if you’re interested.
– DON’T book the first site you see right away
– DO make notes and plan out how you’ll decorate the space
– DON’T feel pressure to put down a deposit or book a site if they’re pressuring you to book quickly
– DO write down notes and ask questions to know as much as possible
– DO ask about their cancellation policy in case you change your mind on the venue
– DO visit at least three wedding venues before you book
– DO book a venue that makes you 100% happy :)
If you can envision your wedding at the venue and you can afford it, you’ve found the right one!
Cute signage by OAKY Designs
Questions to Ask Your Wedding Venues
These are very important questions to ask your wedding venues before you book. It is helpful to jot these down in a notebook and ask any that pertain to you while you visit the site.
-Restrictions: Does the site have restrictions on food, beverages, music, flowers, or decorations? Can you use real candles or must they be LED powered? Can you book an outside caterer? Do they have on-site catering and bartending?
– Deliveries: When can flowers, cake, and other wedding vendors have access to deliver items to the venue?
– Getting Ready: Is there a bridal suite or groomsmen lounge for getting ready the morning of the wedding? How early can the wedding party arrive to do so? Is there enough space for hair and makeup artists to work?
– Kids lounge: Is there an area where children can play games or hang-out? This is helpful if you plan to hire a nanny to watch kids at some point in the evening.
-Final headcount: When is the final headcount given to the caterer?
Once you do narrow it down and you’ve found the perfect place, here’s what happens next.
Book Your Wedding Venues
You’ve found your wedding venues: ahhhh! So exciting! Here’s what do to next.
– Sign a contract
Make sure you read all the fine print!
– Put down a deposit
Deposit amounts vary, so ask what your venue will charge ahead of time.
That’s it! You’re booked! And now you have your WEDDING VENUE which also means… you finally SET A DATE!
How exciting is that?
Now you’ve figured out how to choose wedding venues and crossed it off your list. What’s next? Share the happy news with family and friends! Send save the dates to let everyone know the good news: you set a date!
What are your wedding venue questions? Are you having trouble finding wedding venues near you? Ask us anything here or leave a comment below + we’ll swoop in to help.
Your wedding venue is an important decision, so don’t feel overwhelmed. We’re here to help!