Picking out where you are going to have your wedding and reception is a big item at the top of any wedding planning to-do list.
There three main things you need to know BEFORE you even start looking online at venue options are:
- When are you planning to get married?
- How many guests (approx) are you planning on having?
- What is your budget?
Knowing your space and financial boundaries will help narrow down venues right at the start. Don’t keep venues on your list that are out of your budget, in the long run you will create more stress for yourself by doing that. There are pros and cons to having a set date prior to booking your reception venue. If you are set on one date you may limit your options for spaces. If you have a general time or year or a few dates in mind you will have a little more flexibility in your venue options.
The next important questions to ask BEFORE you start venue shopping are:
- Do you want an indoor venue? Outdoor venue? Or a mix of indoor/outdoor spaces?
- What style of reception are you envisioning?
- A plated sit-down dinner? A buffet? Cocktail style? Food trucks?
- Dancing? A live band or a dj?
- Where is your ceremony taking place?
These questions are important to answer because they will again help you to focus your search a little. If you are planning on the ceremony & reception being at the same venue that will shift the kind of venues you are looking for since you will need space to accommodate both events.
If your ceremony and reception venues are separate, you will then want to keep in mind what is reasonable travel time between the two sites, how will your guests & bridal party travel? How does travel time affect the hours you need to rent your reception venue for?
Once you and your fiance have these basic desires and needs identified it’s time to start looking! Pick out venues that meet as many of your needs as possible. Keep in mind that often times you will need to call or email to get any pricing details and to set-up site visits. Try to narrow down your list to your top 3 venues and plan to visit. You probably will overwhelm yourself if you set-up visits with more than 3 at a time…remember to keep things simple and it will help to keep stress low.
Try and visit venue options close to the time of day you would be looking to have your own event there to get the best idea of what everything would look like for your big day. Take along trusted voices to visit the site(s) with you. Try and ask people to come who know your style and tastes well, but don’t go overboard. You probably do not need your whole bridal party along for these. Venue site visits are definitely something you want your fiances perspective on though!
When my husband and I met with vendors we usually discussed our checklist of questions to ask ahead of time to make sure we were on the same page. Then we would each pick a section of the questions to be responsible for asking during the meeting. This ensured that we didn’t forget to ask something and was an easy way to include both of us in the discussion overall.
After your visit(s), don’t be afraid to arrange a second visit before signing any contracts if you need another look. Be patient with your hunting…some couples may be able to pick out a great venue on the first try, for others it may take a lot of visits before you settle on the one.
Once upon a time as I was planning my own wedding, our venue hunting did not go at all as planned and it was the best thing ever! We actually cancelled two appointments at different venues that we were unable to make last minute. The follow week we actually did make it to an appointment at a third venue we had scheduled, fell in love with the place, they had a date that worked for us, and the rest was history.
The most important piece to venue visits is deciding to enjoy the process and have fun with it! For example, you could make a mini-tradition of getting a drink after each visit to unwind and discuss what you and your fiance did or didn’t like. Remember you’re picking a spot to throw a party and celebrate the start of your marriage, it don’t need to get more complicated than that!
I have put together a comprehensive checklist of the key questions you should ask during a venue site visit. I am a big details kind of girl so while 4 pages may seem like overkill, I promise you won’t regret knowing the answers to these questions before you sign a contract. Happy hunting!