The proposal happened, family and friends are alerted, and you have a rough idea of when you want to get married. Do you know where you want to get married? Time to start searching. Wait! Before you run out blindly into the big wild world of wedding venues consider these tips and big picture factors.
Up front quick tips!
Venue vs. Date: If you have a concrete date in mind, you will have to choose a venue with availability that day. If you have a concrete venue in mind, you will have to be flexible with their available dates.
Ceremony, Reception, or Both? Know what you plan to use the venue for, it will make finding one easier upfront.
Total Cost: Getting a price quote may not be the entire picture. Ask if the venue requires you to use a specific caterer or to buy alcohol from them directly. If they require either of those things it may add to the total cost.
Now that those things are out of the way, here are a few big picture factors to start thinking about:
How do you see yourself at the ceremony and reception? Who is officiating your ceremony? A religious figure, your best friend who became certified over the Internet, or a judge?
For the reception: imagine what your ideal first dance would look like; are you dancing under delightful DIY handmade lanterns, barefoot on the beach, waltzing in a ballroom, or square dancing in the backyard?
Now imagine who will be watching your first dance. Are you being watched by close friends and family only, a huge crowd, or an average amount of people? Venues are typically strict about by the number of occupants they allow.
Ease of Movement
Visualize the movement/transportation experience of your guests. Is wheel chair accessibility an issue? Can guests (especially out-of-towners) easily find and move between your venues? Do you need close lodging options for guests that will be drinking?
After thinking a little bit about the big picture you can dive into details. Options for ceremonies and receptions are truly endless and picking the right place can be completely overwhelming. To help narrow your focus we created a list of the most popular locations.
A place of worship
For many couples getting married in a synagogue, mosque, or church is an absolute requirement. If you choose a place of worship, keep in mind you will almost always need another location booked for the reception.
Ideal for couples closely involved in a faith community that want to incorporate their place of worship into their ceremony.
Hotels are the favorites of brides and grooms for many reasons. More often than not a hotel will have everything you need on site: experienced caterers, bar staff, tables and chairs, multiple rooms for your reception and ceremony, and a coordinator to help with it all. On the downside, the larger the hotel, the less personal the day can feel; with multiple ballrooms and spaces brides may run the risk of passing other brides in the hallways and guests may wander into the wrong reception! Expect to have to use (and pay a premium) for all or many of the hotel’s services, especially food and beverage. Perhaps the greatest advantage of a hotel is all or most of your guests can stay right there! This makes gathering your bridal party together for preparation beyond easy and avoids the risk of guests drinking and driving after the ceremony.
Ideal for the couple willing to trade more money for reduced hassle with coordinating all these things individually themselves.
Uncommon but potentially brilliant location especially for the foodie couple with a smaller wedding (under 125). Restaurants typically bring with them a distinct ambiance, careful decoration, trained staff, and delicious menus. Plus they can be very sentimental; maybe it is where you had your first date or where the proposal happened! Space is the primary issue at hand; where will the dance floor be and is there a patio or outside area for the ceremony? While the chef can likely work with your menu choices, you may need to rent extra tables settings, chairs, and cutlery.
Ideal for foodies, smaller weddings, and restaurants with awesome spaces.
Home Sweet Home
Sentimental, intimate, familiar, and free are the greatest advantages to an at home wedding. You also have the freedom to hire whomever you want and buy things (like alcohol) yourself without mark-up. The savings extend beyond not having a venue fee. Before you start, make sure you bring the experts into your home for consultations. For example, your mother may have recently remodeled the kitchen, but it might not be enough for the caterer. The disadvantages of at-home weddings are potentially higher rental costs for things typically provided by venues (like tables, tent, a dance floor, lighting, PA system, Port-o-Potty, etc.), feeling like you have to fix up or remodel a bunch of things before the wedding, hiring a clean up crew (or having to ask friends to help). If you are using a wedding planner, they can be tremendously helpful in planning the spaces and logistics of a home wedding.
Ideal for couples who value the sentimental and intimate, families with large homes, or those on really tight budgets.
Some couples have the itch to travel to a tropical island, mountain resort, or foreign land to tie the knot. Recent data shows as many as 1 in 5 brides are now planning destination weddings (which we define as a “wedding hosted at a location to which most of the invited guests must travel to and often stay for several days”). Destination weddings can be a great excuse for guests to visit a beautiful place and spend a few days relaxing with friends and family. They also tend to be smaller affairs with the closest of family and friends and are very memorable. Depending on what you plan to pay for, they can also be much cheaper than a big local affair with 5x the number of guests.
Destination weddings come with their own set of concerns. These events typically last 2-3 days and couples will need to plan activities for their guests to participate in; activates might include a welcome lunch, good bye brunch after ceremony, and site seeing trips. The largest factor to consider: can your guests afford the trip, or can you afford to pay for their trips? Will you be excluding some really important people because of the cost? Can you pay for some of the guests? For more hints on destination weddings read our article, “Destination Weddings-The Basics”.
Ideal for those wanting their wedding to be an experience.
Off-site wedding is the industry term for events held away from a commercial kitchen, or easy access to stock items like tables, linens, flatware, and seating. The term encompasses almost all outdoor weddings; but popular examples include parks, beaches, cultural centers, or countryside location. Off-site weddings are immediately personal because you have to create the look of the entire space! Natural elements allow for instant creativity and unmatched beauty. Photographers absolutely love venues like this. Off site weddings have their unique challenges though. Costs can rise quickly with the need to bring everything to the site, special permits may need to be purchased, spaces like museums or parks have strict hours of operation, and items like portable toilets might be required. Couples using outdoor locations will have to be flexible with mother natures’ whims and wants; a back up plan in case of bad weather is required, consider the insect factor, and start getting used to the idea of a little mud on your dress!
Ideal for couples wanting the beauty or meaning of a certain location, and willing to do the extra work, spend the extra money to pull it off.