5 Tips for Choosing Your Wedding Venue
We’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt – and the gray hairs too. I’m talking about choosing your wedding venue. It can be fun. It can be a headache, and honestly, it can be both! Here are a five tips for finding your perfect wedding venue.
1.) Shop Early
Pick your venue before you pick anything else, including the white dress. Why? Because likely there is at least one other bride looking at the same venue for the same day. Preference usually goes to whoever pays first. Many brides book one year in advance or more. The most popular wedding months are April and May, and September and October. If you are planning a wedding during those months, you especially need to book your venue before anything else.
2.) Comfortable Fit
Make sure the venue you choose is a comfortable fit for everyone.
Leave a little wiggle room for the guests. No one likes to be cramped, particularly during a ceremony in which everyone must be still and quiet. And if the ceremony is outside in the summer or in a small indoor space, seating arrangements can make your guests feel uncomfortable very quickly. Remember, more people equals more body heat.
One question to consider is this: will you have to walk across wet grass or dirt if it rains? It rained on my wedding day and I was tiptoeing across a field to get to the ceremony from the bridal house. I didn’t mind, but that’s something you’ll want to evaluate for yourself before choosing your venue.
Let’s face it, the ceremony and reception area are great! But what about the Bridal Suite – if you’re lucky enough to have a suite?
In the bridal prep room you will have yourself, a mom figure, and all your girls in that room. Is it big enough? Probably. But there are other people that will be in that room with you, and they will ALL have to move around A LOT. Let’s list them off:
- one to two photographers will set up shop in the bridal room (that includes all their equipment),
- one or two videographers (and all their equipment),
- the hairdresser (and her equipment),
- the makeup artist (and her equipment),
- grandparents, dads, and brothers who want a first look of their own,
- and any guests who wander into the room (either invited or uninvited) – and that is JUST the people.
- the flowers bouquets will sit in the bridal room,
- the snacks and drinks will sit in the bridal room,
- your massive dress which fills the room way more than you think it will, especially once you are wearing it. Think of all the people and the potential to step on the train.
There will be a lot of people coming and going, so make sure you have plenty of room to get ready in.
Is there enough space for a dance area, cake tables, and food lines? Oftentimes brides don’t think about the location of the cake or food tables until much later in the planning phase, but you want to make sure there is enough space for all of it before you book, especially if you have a large number of guests.
There are three major points of contention for some venues. When choosing your wedding venue, make sure you read the full contract before signing it. Scan for clauses concerning alcohol, fire, and dancing. If none are included, ask the vendor before signing the contract. Nothing is worse than planning on having something for your dream day and then being told “no, didn’t you read the contract?” on your wedding day!
Some venues don’t allow alcohol on the premises – namely churches. If you want alcohol present, this needs to be one of the first questions asked.
I have come across a few brides who were not planning on having alcohol at their wedding, then when the in-laws found out, the in-laws booked and paid for an alcohol vendor. If you suspect your in-laws may do this, keep this concept in mind (either for preventing or allowing alcohol via venue rules).
Fire (Candles, Sparklers) Allowed
This is a biggie for barn venues. Are you planning on candles for the tables or sparklers for your exit? Some venues say “no” completely to these hazards, while others stipulate rules like “candles must be in an enclosed vase,” or “no exposed flames.”
Is dancing allowed? Most venues allow dancing, but in some churches dancing (even two-steps) are not permitted. Check before booking. There should be a clause in the contract.
4.) Plugged In
For those of you having musicians and DJs, consider where you want them to be located. Will there be enough space for all of the musicians and their instruments and cases?
Is there a place for the musicians to hide their cases? (See Comfortable Fit above)
Most importantly, are there appropriate outlets in the appropriate number for the equipment that both musicians and DJs will need in your preferred location for them?
An important question to ask the venue is “Does the place have a kitchen?” Depending on how you cater your reception, the caterer may want to cook on site, or they may just deliver the food. More than likely there will be at least some prep on site.
Another question to ask is “Can I use my own caterer?” Some venues require that you use the venue’s caterer. This can be a blessing or a curse. It makes it easy to book (fewer decisions, fewer (but larger) payments), but they may not prepare what you want or you may not like the taste. If a venue requires that you use their catering services, have a taste-testing before you book that venue.
What other tips do you recommend when choosing your wedding venue?