Organizing an entire wedding is no easy task and top of most lists is choosing the perfect wedding venue. Many weddings take months or even years to plan, depending on their size and scope. While hiring a wedding planner alleviates some of the stress, choosing a wedding venue is one aspect you may want to have full control over. After all, the space you and your significant other tie the knot in will reflect both your personalities and define your guests’ memories of the wedding.
From destination weddings to home ceremonies, every couple needs a space to call their own for the day. Getting married in a space you both feel comfortable and excited in takes the edge off of a life-changing moment, making it the celebration it deserves to be. Whether you’re on your own or working with a planner, choosing the right venue is the first step towards making your wedding exactly what you’ve always imagined.
When looking for the perfect venue, start with a set list of criteria you can follow as you narrow your choices down.
Venues, especially ones located in urban hubs, need to be booked at least six months in advance; wait any longer and you’ll likely find that your space is booked through the end of the year. Make sure you’ve settled on a concrete date that you can communicate to the venue; set up and breakdown often add a day or two to the booking.
Next, consider the size of your wedding. You’ll need to account for the amount of guests you’ll be inviting, as well as their plus one’s to make sure the space won’t feel constricted or cramped. If you’ll be serving food and drinks, you’ll have to make sure the room can seat all of your potential guests. When contacting venues, get a maximum capacity count to make sure you’re clear on how many people the space can fit. You may also want to consider pet policies, in case you or your friends and family are bringing furry friends.
Be aware of your budget throughout your search. It helps to create a written budget breakdown before starting to look for venues to make sure you know what’s possible and what is slightly out of reach. Find out what services the space includes in your price quote; the venue may provide discounts on catering, furniture rentals and other perks that could save you money in the long run. This may also be true if you choose to hold both your reception and the actual ceremony in the same building or event space. Some venues advertise as all-inclusive, meaning you may have catering services, a coordinator, floral arrangements, musicians, and furniture available to you under a single price tag.
Average venue prices can exceed $10,000 (8,000), meaning there’s a lot at stake when choosing a space. Renting a venue specifically designed to host weddings and other special events is the most straightforward way to find a location you know will be both spacious, accommodating and well-versed in the intricacies of planning such an important event. Many halls, estates, and ballrooms double as wedding venues, and a quick internet search will point you to available spaces in your area.
If your wedding will be taking place in the city or town you live in and most guests will be coming from within the area, make sure your venue offers an abundance of parking. If you’re expecting a high volume of invitees, don’t rely on street parking or paid garages; you don’t want your guests circling around looking for a spot as you say your vows. At the same time, if some of your guests will be coming from out of town, make sure there are affordable accommodations within reasonable distance from the venue. If most of your guests are not local, consider hosting your wedding at a hotel and asking them to book their rooms in advance.
While hotel ballrooms, terrace rooftops and ornate halls are some of the most popular wedding-specific venues couples opt for, a local wedding might pair well with a less traditional space that caters to you and your partners’ passions. Many breweries, wineries, restaurants and even coffeehouses are willing to host events, usually for a much smaller fee than an established venue. Botanical gardens, rooftops, business patios and even boat decks can be rented for outdoor ceremonies; if you have an offbeat spot in mind, don’t hesitate to contact the business to see if organizing a wedding is a possibility. Museums, libraries and other cultural institutions also often have availability; imagine taking your partner out to the dance floor at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art or sharing a slice of cake at London’s Museum of Natural History.
If getting married in your home city is a little costlier than you’d like, consider broadening your options to the suburbs and beyond, especially if you’d prefer an outdoor wedding Depending on your region, farms, vineyards, orchards and even ski resorts often host events throughout the year, providing a perfect backdrop for your ceremony.
Look out for golf and country clubs, which often have acres of green space, plenty of history and an air of elegance that you won’t find in the heart of the city. Historic mansions, quaint inns, restored farmhouses and mountain lodges are perfect for weddings taking place in the summer or even the coldest months; there’s nothing like toasting your love fireside while snow falls outside the window. If the location is easily reachable by car and doesn’t require staying overnight, make sure your guests have a way to get there and back home in the same day. If you live in a city like New York, where many residents rely on public transportation instead of driving, plan ahead and organize a shuttle that can ferry guests to your venue and back.
If you just can’t wait for your honeymoon to get away, going all out and planning a destination wedding is a great way to start making memories as a married couple. No matter whether you choose to travel overseas or just across state lines, getting the word out early is crucial to deciding on a final guest count you can work with. Sending out invitations up to a year in advance gives guests enough time to decide if they can fit an entire trip into their schedule. Make sure you specify a deadline to respond by; once you’ve collected all your RSVP’s, you can start organizing the venue.
The logistics of traveling for a destination wedding might seem overwhelming to some of your guests, so make things easier for them by attaching a sample itinerary to the invitation you send out. Include details about the location, dates, things to do, transportation and places to stay, along with estimated costs. If you’re having your wedding at a hotel or resort, point out package deals and room discounts if there are any to take advantage of. Make sure to book your own room early; don’t miss out on the honeymoon suite!
In the case, of a destination wedding, working with a planner who has experience with the destination of your choice can save you plenty of logistical challenges. Resorts and wedding planning services often offer wedding packages to make the booking process easier, and a professional can point you towards the most rewarding options.
Once you’ve figured out exactly who will be attending, booking a venue is the next step. If you and your guests will all be staying at the same resort or hotel, having your wedding there would be not only convenient, but may come at a discounted rate as well. If you have a different venue in mind than the one you’ll be staying at, be sure to arrange transportation, especially if people will be flying in. Encourage guests to purchase flights early and do the same yourself. This is especially important if your wedding will be held during peak tourist season when prices skyrocket.
If you’re planning to hire vendors local to the destination, be sure to communicate with them regularly over the months leading up to your wedding. This includes photographers, caterers, florists and others; have a planner or trusted local recommend reliable vendors and make your choices based on customer reviews and past work portfolios. If it’s at all possible, taking a short trip to your wedding destination is the best way to make sure you and your vendors have the same vision for the big day. A short trip is also a chance to scope out the perfect location and communicate with business owners, staff members and vendors directly.
If the options above seem too overwhelming, too grand or just too much, an intimate at-home ceremony might be how your dream wedding takes shape. If you want a small wedding but don’t have the space, a friend or family member’s backyard can be easily transformed into a venue of its own. Renting a tent and matching furniture is a quick and easy way to enhance the space without breaking the bank. Photo booths, ornaments, lighting and even portable toilet facilities can all be rented by the day, and you’ll want to make your guests’ comfort and convenience a top priority.
When it comes to evaluating size and scope, consider food storage and preparation areas, a bar, a place to store your guests’ personal belongings, photo backdrops and space to mingle. Keep your guest list intimate, check the weather, and consider planning an afterparty elsewhere to keep celebrating with a larger crowd.