Wedding Planning Tips: Choosing a Venue
Have you heard the saying, “Location, location, location?”
Well, I’m not sure who the first person to say it was, but when it comes to wedding planning this saying could not be more true. Your venue will be the place that some of your best, and most long-lasting memories will be made. That makes choosing a venue one of the hardest decisions a couple can make when planning their wedding. But, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. We have some tips that can help.
1. Does it fit your vision?
In an earlier post, we discussed focusing on the big picture of your wedding day and having a vision. What do you want your wedding to look like? smell like? sound like? taste like? feel like? Having a vision for your wedding day plays a huge part in deciding where your wedding and reception will take place. In fact, if you don’t have a vision for your wedding yet, this is not the time to decide on your venue. You will just become frustrated and overwhelmed. Having a clear vision will help guide your decision making process. For example, if you know you want a rural wedding in a barn surrounded by wild flowers and hay fields, you don’t want to be looking at venues downtown. If you want an upscale, chic industrial feel with exposed brick and iron pipes, a back yard wedding probably won’t make you happy. Know how you want your wedding to look and feel and any options that come your way that do not fit can be easily removed from your list.
While Jesse and Rebecca chose Blacksburg Baptist Church for their traditional wedding, their reception was hosted at Beliveau Estate: Winery and B&B. This is a stunning venue with a beautiful field of lavender. It was the perfect backdrop for their timeless portraits.
When talking about your vision matching your venue, I can’t leave out destination weddings. If you are planning a destination wedding, your venue is going to be one of, if not THE most important part of your wedding planning process. For something like this, I highly recommend hiring a wedding planner who is local or very familiar with your chosen destination. Many venues specialize in destination weddings and will offer “all-in-one” packages for the bride. These are a great option for a destination wedding, but remember that you do have options.
2. What does your venue offer?
This beautiful venue in Lebanon, Va offers stunning views, but it also served some of the best barbecue we have ever eaten!
Venues come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their services. With some venues, you will simply be renting space. These venue spaces usually require the least investment in money, but the largest investment in time. These venues are the “bare bones” of your location. We have shot at many of these venues and we are always amazed at the creativity of our brides and their ability to bring their vision to life. When you rent a “bare bones” venue, you will need to make sure that you have selected a great team of professionals and loved ones to pitch in and make things happen. (We will get into choosing your #TeamBride on an upcoming post!) Most of these venues do provide your basics like tables and chairs, but sometimes you will need to find a vendor for this as well. We have had many brides who wanted a more meaningful and sentimental venue and so hosted their weddings on family property and even in back yards! These weddings are usually very personal and intimate ceremonies, but had amazing afterparties! Being at home makes everyone relaxed and comfortable and these receptions tend to creep way into the night. A benefit of having a “backyard wedding” is obviously the rental cost – its free! But, there will be other costs. To host a large event with lots of guests at home, a rental company will be your best friend! Tables and chairs will be a must, but there may also be a need for a tent or dance floor rental.
Recently, we were so blessed to photograph Josh’s little sister’s wedding in New Orleans. They chose a very short engagement and did not feel they had a lot of time to plan. Instead of bringing many wedding professionals together, they chose a venue that could create a wedding experience all under one roof. They were able to choose a wedding package at their venue that included a reception and ceremony space, rentals of tables and linens, chairs, catering, entertainment, and a staff to care for the bride and groom and all of their guests. They even took care of all of the decorating. For my mother and father-in-law, this was a dream come true! So much of the stress of wedding planning was handled by this vendor and they could really enjoy their daughter’s wedding day. There are many similar venues that are truly a “one-stop-shop,” and offer different packages for the bride and groom. Even if your budget is small, don’t count these venues out just yet. When you compare the cost of these itemized packages with quotes from multiple vendors, you may find that you can actually save money by going with an all-in-one venue!
Meghan and Jonathan’s wedding at Cedar Grove Tchoupitoulas Plantation was carefully executed by their amazing staff. They offer wedding packages that include not only their gorgeous ceremony and reception spaces, but also delicious catering and many other options!
Many of our brides have chosen to hold their weddings at a place of worship. This is a very beautiful and symbolic option for couples that want to keep a special emphasis on their spiritual beliefs and remain traditional. Many places of worship offer their space to members of their organization for no charge, or simply ask for a donation. Very often couples will choose to hold their ceremony there and select a second venue for their reception. Many larger places of worship do offer spaces for receptions, but keep in mind that certain activities like dancing or consuming alcohol may not be permitted on their grounds.
3. Does the venue fit your guest list and your budget?
In a previous post, we talked about how important setting your budget is. Knowing what your limitations are will give you solid boundaries in your planning so you don’t overextend yourself and help you prioritize where your money will go. Your venue can be one of the biggest investments you make toward assuring your wedding dreams come true, especially if your venue is providing you more than just space. Its okay to think outside the box when it comes to choosing your venue. National and State parks, as well as community centers can provide absolutely beautiful and affordable spaces for your wedding day.
Another major consideration when choosing your wedding is your guest list. If your vision for your wedding includes 500 of your closest friends and family members, there are many venues that will automatically be removed from your list of options. The same applies if you want a very small, intimate wedding. If a venue “comfortably” holds 150 guests, but there are only 50 people on your guest list, your wedding is going to feel very empty. You want your space to feel full, but not bursting at the seams. Really take time to go through your guest list and decide who you want to share this day with. Don’t feel as though you have to invite everyone you have ever met (and every cousin you haven’t!), but do be realistic with your budget. What do you want most out of this day? If you are struggling with your guest list, go back to your vision. This ceremony on the water at the Meadows at Walnut Cove is a fantastic example of matching your guest list to your venue. Notice there are very few empty chairs, and all of the guests are arranged comfortably.
4. How do you feel when you step onto the property?
Dallas and Sarah chose the beautiful, but laid back barn venue at Whispering Oaks in Julian, NC. The owners made them feel very comfortable and went above and beyond to make sure their wedding day was picture perfect.
I know you could debate that this tip goes with number 1, but I felt like it really should be in a category all its own. A venue can fit your vision, your budget, and your guest list, but if it doesn’t feel right when you are there visiting, keep looking.