10 Tips for Picking The Perfect Wedding Venue
We're so passionate about helping you find your perfect venue, we built a whole website around it.
Serendipity • Oak Glen, CA
Here Comes The Guide lists thousands of wedding venues across the U.S., so we get how overwhelming finding "the one" can be! And while we believe almost everything is optional when it comes to a wedding, the one thing you can't forgo is a great location. You want an event space that not only fits your budget and guest count, but also your style! Check out our Top 10 Tips for picking the right wedding venue to make this major wedding decision a bit less daunting. #yougotthis
The Hutton House • Medicine Lake, MN
1. Start Your Venue Search Early
You don't want to fall in love with your dream venue only to find out they're fully booked for the next 12 months, right? Wedding venues (and vendors, for that matter) tend to get booked up to a year in advance or more. So if you truly want your first pick of venue or have a non-negotiable wedding date already set, start your venue search and schedule those site visits as soon as you can.
If you're planning in a pinch or have a more flexible date range, your venue's availability will be the deciding factor in setting your wedding date.
Just keep in mind that whether your wedding is in winter, spring, summer, or fall, you can work around the weather! If you're arranging an outdoor party, always prepare a contingency plan: it's a good idea to have access to an inside space or a tent just in case.
Camp Pinewood • Twin Lake, MI
2. Location, Location, Location!
There's a lot to consider when choosing where you'd like to tie the knot. Even though this is your big day, you don't want to make your guests jump through hoops to get there! Think about things like:
- How close is the venue to the nearest airports?
- Are there hotels or other overnight accommodations close by?
- Is the venue relatively easy to navigate to, or is it totally off the beaten path?
- Is the site accessible for people with disabilities?
- What's the parking situation?
If you're having a weekday wedding, you'll also want to take commute hours into account—especially if you're getting married in an area that gets bumper-to-bumper traffic!
Although keeping things easy on your guests is ideal, there's no reason you can't have an out-of-the-way destination wedding or adventure venue! Just go the extra mile (no pun intended) in providing super-detailed travel information on your wedding website and invitation inserts.
Sodo Park by Herban Feast • Seattle, WA
3. Enlist The Help of a Wedding Planner
Wedding planners are like venue visionaries. If you pick one who's worked in the area where you want to get married, chances are they can recommend event spaces based on your style, budget, guest count, and more. (They're basically a walking, talking Here Comes The Guide!) They can also picture the possibilities of a blank space and give you an idea of how your wedding design and layout could look.
Pro Tip: If you're planning your wedding on your own, it's a huge bonus to book a venue with an on-site coordinator. They know their venue intimately and will expertly guide you through the logistics. Just make sure that you know exactly what the on-site coordinator's responsibilities are, as they may be limited to the venue-only or venue + Food & Beverage. Don't get stuck in a bind wishing you had full-service coordination!
The Oaks at Boerne • Boerne, TX
4. Consider The Guest Count
By the time you begin your venue search, you should have a rough idea of how many people will be attending. If not, you'll need to zero in on that number—especially since many venues require a deposit based on an estimated guest count! Need help figuring it out? See our tips for tackling your wedding guest list.
Size definitely matters when it comes to your venue. After all, you don't want to squeeze 200 guests into a space meant for 20! There should be ample room for the table layout, seating arrangements, and a dance floor, but also for guests to move comfortably about. On the flip side, you don't want there to be too much extra space. If 20 guests are in a room meant for 200, it may feel empty and lack that cozy, intimate vibe.
Of course, if you're planning well in advance and don't have your guest list whittled down yet, then you'll just have to estimate and refine the count as the date draws near. There's a world of difference in cost and planning effort between a tiny party and a great big bash, so pin down your numbers as soon as you can!
Park Winters • Winters, CA
5. Understand The "Big Picture" Budget
Ahhhh, the wedding budget. Most couples end up spending the largest chunk of it on their venue!
The tricky thing is, venue pricing isn't exactly clear and simple. Sure, there's the room rental fee, but facilities may also hit you up for tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, drinkware, parking, insurance, catering, corkage, cake cutting, additional hours, oh my! And don't be surprised to see taxes, gratuities, and service charges applied to the total bill.
Our best advice is to confirm the big-picture pricing before you book a venue. Bring our questions to ask your wedding venue along with you on your site visits to find out exactly what is—and isn't—included. And don't forget, we list affordable and all-inclusive wedding venues all across the U.S. that will give you some serious bang for your buck.
Race + Religious • New Orleans, LA
6. Determine Your Wedding Style
Do you know what kind of wedding you want? Will it be formal or casual? Indoors or outdoors? Ultra modern or free-spirited boho? Will it be held at night or during the day? Kids welcome or adults-only?
By identifying your wedding style before you start looking for a venue, you can really narrow down your search. And finding a venue that perfectly sets the stage for your wedding style helps all the other details naturally fit into place.
Want to figure out your wedding venue style? Check out our Wedding Venues By Style section to see what speaks to you!
SmogShoppe • Los Angeles, CA
7. Prioritize Your Must-Haves
Before you commit to a venue, think about the items that are highest on your wedding priority list. Here are some examples of things you might include:
- A rooftop ceremony space with a killer view
- In-house catering that you can customize to your heart's content
- The ability to bring-your-own alcohol (BYO)
- A late curfew so you can party into the wee hours of the morning
- Bringing in all your own vendors instead of being limited by a venue's "preferred list"
- Having exclusive use of the venue so your event is totally private
- An on-site getting-ready suite for the wedding party
Having a shortlist of things you truly want will naturally narrow down your venue options. Communicate your must-haves to the venues you're considering right off the bat to see if they're able to accommodate them. Doing this early helps avoid disappointment later!
The William Vale • Brooklyn, NY
8. Mind The Restrictions
Although venues typically bend over backwards to help couples achieve their wedding vision, sometimes there are restrictions and limitations in place. #everypartyneedsapooper. Know what these are before you sign on the dotted line!
For example, you wouldn't want to book a venue with a strict no-live-music policy if you have your heart set on a band! And if having your dog as the ring bearer is a non-negotiable, you'll need to find a venue that's pet friendly. As for that amazing signature cocktail you're dreaming up…it won't be possible if the venue is limited to WCB (wine, champagne, and beer only).
Venues set rules for a reason, and they don't often make exceptions just because you really, really want something. #hardtruth. From using candles and sparklers to hanging décor from the rafters, every venue has their own unique policies that could affect your (fun)ction.
Pelican Pub & Brewery • Pacific City, OR
9. Weigh The Work Involved
On either end of the wedding venue spectrum are these two extremes: Blank Slate vs All-Inclusive.
A blank-slate wedding venue is basically an empty room or outdoor space where you need to build your wedding "from scratch" by bringing everything in yourself. Depending on the venue, this can include the whole shebang: from the tables, chairs, linens, and flatware to the sound system and dance floor—even portable restrooms and generators!
All-inclusive venues cover multiple services and/or rentals in one package price—perfect for couples who want to hit the "easy button" and save on time and money. All-inclusive venues may provide catering, bar service, upgraded rentals, cake, and extra perks like a champagne toast or complimentary honeymoon suite.
Deciding where you fall on the wedding venue spectrum comes down to your vision and budget, as well as how much time and energy you're willing to spend on your wedding. Each venue is different, so get a clear picture of exactly what's included with each location, and what extras you'll have to supply to achieve your desired result.
Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa • Tabernash, CO
10. Trust Your Gut
After you've conducted several site visits, you may end up with a list of venues that tick all the boxes. At this point, it's going to come down to a good-old-fashioned gut check.
Ask yourself which venue also gives you those warm fuzzies? Does its staff seem super seasoned and professional, as well as genuinely excited about your big day? If you're lucky enough to have multiple places that fit your overall criteria and budget, pick the one that makes you feel the best!
Pro Tip: Make sure that everything you've been promised is included in the contract. There's a lot of turnover in the hospitality industry, and your main contact Rebecca may—surprise!—suddenly turn into Ryan a month later. You want Ryan to honor the things Rebecca agreed to, right? No matter what someone told you about the current package price, the availability of a dance floor, the cost of textured linens, or the circular ceremony arch, you can't hold the venue to it until the contract is signed.
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Filed under Expert Advice, Wedding Venues / Locations
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Some clients may have paid to be placed in our editorial and some of these links may be affiliate; however, we never include a venue, vendor, or product unless they have a proper place here. This is part of our Core Values. We create our website first and foremost to be good for the couples using it to plan their Big Day. We won't stray from that for a few advertising dollars. #scoutshonor