One of the first steps in your planning process should be booking a venue. Booking your venue will allow you to finalize your date, which allows you to start booking other vendors for your wedding day. Your venue can also have a pretty big impact on the overall style and vibe for your wedding and may impact which vendors you select.
Decide on your budget & guest count- These 2 numbers will have a substantial impact on which venues will be right for you. You should have a budget already decided before you get too deep into the planning process and should expect to keep venue costs between 20-40% of your total budget depending on what is included in that price.
While you don’t have to have a completely finalized guest list, you should one started and have a pretty clear idea of what your total guest count will look like. You obviously don't want to look at venues that are too small for your guest count, but you also don’t want to have a venue that is far too big for how many people you're planning to invite.
Determine your must-have list & general vision- Now that you’ve gotten the numbers taken care of, time to think about what you want your venue to look like. While you probably don’t have a theme completely nailed down, you’ll want to have a general vision that you are looking for. Do you want something more rustic like a barn wedding or something more formal like a hotel ballroom?
You should also consider things that you ideally want in your venue. You may not be able to get all of them, but you should know what your top priorities are. These can be aesthetic things like we want white table cloths or city views to more logistic things like we want to have a separate ceremony and reception space or we want to make sure we can use candles.
Research your area- Most areas have a ton of options for wedding venues. The knot or other websites are a good starting point, but shouldn’t be the only place you look. Check out local wedding photographer’s blogs, they will have shot weddings in a variety of location and can give you a good idea of the options in your area. Your wedding planner (if you have one) will also be happy to give you some suggestions. Once you have a list of a few of your favorites its time to start reaching out to the venues.
What to ask during your initial email? The biggest thing you’ll probably want to know is the cost. Some venues will just have a standard cost for an event and others will have lots of options depending on what you will be using. If the venue is out of your budget, let the people you emailed know and move on! There is no use getting stuck on a venue if you know you can’t make it work. However, if you are willing to be flexible on date or time ask if they have discounts for morning or weekday weddings.
The next big thing you’ll want to ask is what vendors can you use? Some venues have a list of vendors you must use, some have a list of suggested vendors, and some don’t care at all! This might not matter to you, but if you already have some vendors selected you’ll want to make sure that you can still use them.
What is included in the cost? This is a huge thing that you need to check before deciding whether something is in or out of your budget. If a venue is truly all-inclusive where you aren’t going to need to rent anything then you can afford to spend a bit more, but if you are going to have to bring in everything from the tables to the trashcans you’ll need to save a bit more of your budget.
If they have any limitation on décor? Some venues are really stringent on what you have in the spaces. Check to see if you can have candles, or if you can hang things on the walls or off the ceiling etc.
You’ll also want to check to see what their schedule looks like when you book the venue. What time will you be allowed in to start set-up? What time do you need to start clean-up? What would be the fee if you wanted to stay later or come in earlier? Are there any noise regulations about what time music needs to be off by?
Ask about any of your top priorities! If you know you really want an on-site bridal suite then make sure you ask about that in the initial contact. If you want to have your dog at the ceremony ask about that too! If you have your heart set on a specific date, check to make sure it is available. The last thing you want is to invest a lot of time into visiting and researching this place to find out that it isn’t going to allow you to do what you want
Finally, make sure to schedule a visit! Just because something looks perfect online doesn’t mean that it is going to look great in person.
Next week we’ll talk about what to ask during your initial site visit!
XOXO Happy Planning!