If you are reading this, chances are you are recently engaged—congratulations! However, if you are like most women, you may suddenly find that this post-engagement stage isn’t necessarily the dreamy timeframe you always imagined it would be. Planning a wedding can cause a lot of stress, especially when it comes to major financial decisions such as how much to budget for a wedding location or how to choose a wedding venue.
Your wedding venue is one of the first things that should be booked—it will both determine the date and set the tone of your ceremony. To help take your stress down a notch (and put a bit more sparkle in your engagement season), here are 15 of the best tips out there about how to choose a wedding venue.
- Consider your timeline. Believe it or not, experts recommend you book your wedding venue about 9 to 12 months before your wedding date. That means you’ll want to start the search for your wedding venue about 2-3 months before that—if you don’t feel like doing the math, that means on average you will need to book your wedding venue right around a year in advance, give or take a few months. Of course, this timeline can be expanded or shortened based on any special circumstances. Some venues are even booked 2 – 3 years in advance!
- Start searching by geographical location. Have you always wanted a tropical destination wedding? Or do you want to plan and host your wedding in the area you reside in so you can see it all come together? Maybe you fall somewhere in between, or maybe you have no idea. If you can narrow down the city (or at least the state or country), that’s an excellent place to start your venue search.
- Consider a dream venue (if you have one!). Since you were a young girl, have you dreamed of getting married in your grandparent’s farmland? Or is there a downtown hotel you’ve planned of saying “I do” in for decades? If you have a dream location in mind and want to book it, regardless of date or time of year, go for it!
- Think about dates and seasons. For some brides, the venue trumps dates. For other brides, however, a particular date or time of year is the most important deciding factor. If you are determined to get married on a particular meaningful date, start your search by calling area venues to see which has that date available, then narrow from there. For those who dream of a seasonal white winter wedding or a boho summer festival, you can decide how to choose a wedding venue based on which locations have those months free.
- Work with a wedding planner. Not only are wedding planners like your BFF throughout the entire wedding planning process, but a good wedding planner will also be able to discern exactly what you are looking for and help you find it. Somehow, even if you can’t put your finger on what the vibe you are going for is called, your wedding planner will not only articulate it but suggest locations you haven’t even heard of that fit perfectly.
- The number of venues you need to book. While many weddings host both their ceremony and reception in one space, some brides prefer to book a separate space for each. If you hold religion close to your heart and want to get married in a place of worship, chances are you will need to book your ceremony elsewhere, although there are always exceptions. This means that you will likely need to find and coordinate two time slots, perfectly spaced apart on your big day.
- Consider your financial limitations. Listen, no one wants to spend the first five years of their marriage still paying for their venue location, no matter how great it is. Research shows that the average bride spends 20% of her entire wedding budget on the venue alone. Work with your partner to come up with a budget for your entire wedding, then allocate a chunk to your venue and stick with it!
- Think about the number of guests attending. As counterintuitive as it sounds, you should create a rough guest list before booking a venue. Sit down with your partner and make sure you are both on the same page about who you want to be at your wedding. Once you know you’ll have about 100 guests at your wedding, for instance, you can quickly eliminate the places that hold a great deal more or fewer people.
- Read all the reviews you can find. One vital thing to do as you are debating how to choose a wedding venue is to read reviews. In fact, try to read all the reviews that you can find! Make sure you are looking at the glowing reviews and the mediocre as well as the not-so-good ones to get a full picture of what to expect. In all fairness, there are always outliers, so if a venue has 99 positive reviews and 1 negative one, don’t give it too much weight.
- Ask as many questions as you can think of. You are about to drop a serious wad of cash on the space you are going to say your vows in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Whoever is giving the tour should naturally answer a lot of your questions as you go through the venue. At the end, pull out your list and ask any questions that will help you make your decision easier. Not only will this help narrow down your list of places, but it has the added bonus of helping you discern the character and patience levels of a potential coordinator.
- If packages are available. Some couples want to pick out every single element of their wedding themselves. If this sounds like an exhausting nightmare to you, then you should strongly consider choosing a venue that has packages available. Not only will this generally save money, but most packages strike the perfect balance of limited choices and a custom feel.
- Create a vision board. Before you book a venue, make sure it works with the vision you have for your big day. Create a digital mood board on Pinterest, save Instagram images into a folder or rip photos you love out of magazines and stick them on the wall. Chances are, you will start seeing commonalities and patterns you are drawn to. If you love the look of cityscapes in the background, it’s fair to say you can cross rustic barns of your venue list and vice versa.
- Consider the backup plan. No one wants to think of the unthinkable, but it’s important to discuss plan B with any potential wedding venues. Ask about alternate locations, cancelations policies, and rescheduling procedures. This is especially important for those who want an outdoor wedding since sadly, the weather does not always cooperate.
- Think through accessibility for all. Most weddings will have elder guests in attendance. This means you need to plan how you will keep them comfortable and ensure your location can accommodate them. If your venue is a field in the country, for example, you will need to consider how an elderly person will get to the location then how they will get from the car to the field. Additionally, many times children are in attendance who will also need special accommodations. While you do not need to plan your entire wedding around special age groups, it’s courteous to at least talk through options before signing on the dotted line.
- Does it feel like you? At the end of the day, most guests do not care where you get married, they just want to celebrate with you. Pick the place that calls to your heart the most, despite what anyone else says. After all, it’s YOUR big day!
I hope these tips and ideas about how to choose a wedding venue prove helpful to you as you plan your special day!
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