In real estate it’s all about “location, location, location.” It’s not far from the truth when you’re choosing a place to hold your wedding reception either (aka as a venue). Use these five easy steps to help you narrow down your choices + make a final decision.
1. Create a Guest List
Your first stop is your guest list. The number of guests you’re expecting + the venue you choose go hand in hand. You have to start by looking at venues that can hold the number of guests you think are going to show up for your big day.
If you’re expecting 200 people for a sit-down dinner, then you don’t want to cram them into a venue that can only seat 150. On the flip side, you don’t want to sit 30 guests in a gargantuan room that is meant for 200 people. It’s going to look + feel funny.
2. Consider Your Budget
Choosing a venue is about more than renting a space. It’s also about serving food + beverages to your wedding guests. Your budget plays just as big of a role in the decision as your guest list does.
Some venues offer food + beverage service. Other venues require you to bring in an outside caterer to handle the food + the drinks. Either way, there is a cost associated with it.
From the list of possible venues that fit the number of wedding guests you’re expecting, narrow it down further with the venues that fall in your price range–both the cost of renting the space + serving food + beverages.
3. Tour it in Context
When you are touring a venue, try to arrange a tour for the same time you’re planning on hosting your wedding. A venue might look stunning at 5 p.m. but completely different at 11 a.m. when your ceremony is going to be taking place.
If possible, visit the venue at the same time of the year or at least the same season as your wedding, too.
In addition to the venue having the look + feel you want, it also has to fit your wedding or personal style. All of this has to jive or you’re probably not going to be happy with it, no matter how many guests it holds or the fact that it fits into your budget.
4. Think Logistically
Logistics also play a big role in your decision. Is the venue out in the middle of nowhere or far from your ceremony location?
(If so, probably not a great idea.)
Guests aren’t likely to be happy about a trip they have to pack a lunch for + your vendors might charge extra for travel costs.
5. Amenities + Specialties
Generally, venues come in two varieties — a blank slate or full service. A blank slate venue is usually just the space itself without all the bells + whistles. This means if you want bells + whistles, you’re going to have to hire third party vendors to make it happen.
On the other hand, a full-service venue generally offers all of the things you need to plan your wedding there. You simply have to make choices, like the color of the linen tablecloths + napkins + the style of chairs.
The point here is that you need to find out exactly what the cost of renting the venue includes + get it all in writing.
If it’s a full-service venue that fits all of your needs, then it might be the right choice for you. If something that you want or need is not included in the package pricing for the venue, ask if it is an a la carte option or if it’s something you can hire an outside vendor to handle for you.
Once you find a venue that meets all (or at least the majority) of your needs and wants, book it. This is, of course, assuming it is available for your wedding date.
I’m Kristie McCauley, a former certified wedding planner + lover of wedding planning. I share tips, advice + how-tos with brides + grooms that are planning their own weddings. Check out The Wedding Workshop, a self-paced course that walks couples step-by-step through the process of planning their own wedding.