Finding your venue is one of the first things you’ll do in your wedding planning process. It should be as it affects every aspect of your wedding, including your guest list, budget and overall design ideas. It also affects how many other vendors you need to find simply based on how many services and products they offer you. It’s a big decision, and approached in the wrong way, can quickly become the most overwhelming and tedious task. Many times we’ve seen couples come to our doorstep exhausted by the number of tours they’ve taken and hours they’ve sunk into this search and they still don’t have a decision made. So, let us give you some tips to hopefully help you avoid the tedium and actually enjoy your venue hunt!
#1 – Before you even get started, know how many guests you want to attend and how much you want to spend. (Go here and here to see our blogs on starting your guest list.) For setting how much to spend, here’s an easy rule of thumb. Your venue, basic rentals (like tables and chairs), catering and alcohol costs should be 50% of your budget. So, if you have a budget of $28,000 (reported average budget for our area), these costs should total NO MORE than $14,000.
#2 – Start googling and using websites like theknot.com and weddingwire.com to start compiling a list of venues that are in your area. Be sure to check the websites of the venues to verify their location as sometimes these websites are misleading by showing you an ad for a venue that can be an hour or more away. Put any venue on the list that at first glance appeals to you. If you find one on these websites that has poor reviews, don’t add them. You don’t want to get started on the wrong path with those who have a proven bad track record.
Notice we didn’t say choose the ones that match your design ideas or theme? That’s because you might change your mind once you start looking at venues. Don’t limit yourself yet. This is just a first glance list and we don’t expect or want you to fall in love yet. This is just to give you an idea on what’s out there.
#3 – Now that you have your list, go to the venue websites and see if you can get an idea of how many guests can fit in the venue and cost. If it’s not on the website, DON’T contact them yet. Remember, we don’t want to make this overwhelming. We just want to start crossing off venues that are obviously not going to work. Any that you find that do not hold as many guests as you need or the pricing doesn’t work for your established budget, cross them off, immediately! We say this so you won’t fall in love with it and end up going over budget or inviting more guests that can fit.
#4 – Now that you’ve eliminated some of them, start looking at the venue websites, Facebook pages, Instagram and Pinterest sources. These will all give you more photos to look at. You can also do a google search with the venue name and you’ll probably find photographer blogs that will have photos of weddings at those venues. Check them all out and see what you really like and the ones you don’t. This will also help you start defining your design aesthetic because you’ll see pretty quickly what you’re attracted to. At this point, start narrowing them down to 10-15 venues. Keep going until you get it trimmed down to that many.
There’s still more to do, so check back with us and we’ll finish this list in just a couple of days!
Room on Main Ballroom captured by Shelley Foster Photography