You’ve probably heard us say this before, and we’ll repeat it till the cows come home, because gracious, it can save you so much stress: don’t book any of your vendors till you’ve signed on the dotted line for a venue!
I will be the first to raise my hand when I say this may be easier said than done, though. When I was wedding planning, my now-husband and I knew exactly who we wanted as our photographer and videographer, for example, but when it came to where we were actually going to get married? Noooo clue. Deciding on a city and a venue was one of our hardest wedding planning decisions (you can read about it here), and we ended up choosing a totally different state than we were originally leaning toward! I can’t imagine the headache it could’ve caused if we had put down deposits on other vendors before securing the place where our “I dos” (and the party!) would occur.
Along with setting your date in stone, your venue will likely have more of an influence on your wedding than any other decision–it will determine the style and aesthetic, your guest count, and even the timeline of the day. Below are a few tips for making this important decision!
Start with Google. While venues that market themselves to weddings generally have a lot of information online, unusual or “off the beaten path” options may be harder to find through a simple search. Try searching for phrases like “North Carolina barn wedding” or “Atlanta ballroom wedding”–those terms are likely to bring up posts on wedding blogs (oh hi! :)) and photographers’ blogs, which can be a great way to both find new venues and see how others have used the spaces.
Compare apples to apples. When you’re booking a venue, you’re often booking more than just the space–you may also be booking their in-house staffing, rentals, catering etc. All venues calculate their prices differently, so as you research, try to organize the information in a way that’s easy for you to understand and compare. For example, one venue may seem exorbitantly more expensive than another at first, but when you learn that the first price includes a month-of coordinator, valet parking, and use of their extensive rental inventory, while the second is just use of the space, the first may actually be the more affordable option.
Visit your venue one year in advance. If you can, try to visit venues as close to a year in advance of your wedding date as possible–it will give you the best insight as to what you can expect in terms of landscaping and scenery.
Get it in writing. Especially if you are asking for particular allowances, such as hanging a certain type of decor or arranging the space in a unique way, be sure to get the venue’s agreement in writing. That way, even if there’s staff turnover during your engagement, your provisions should be safe.
Here are a few important questions to ask venues you’re interested in–pin the graphic below so you don’t forget! (P.S. If you have our Joyful Wedding Planner, you’ll also find this list in there to bring to your appointments.)
I’d love to know–what made you say “yes” to your wedding venue? For me, it was the aesthetic and the fact that there was an indoor space for the reception surrounded by beautiful outdoor space for portraits!