In this post, we guide you step-by-step in the process to find your perfect wedding venue.
You’re newly engaged and ready to plan your wedding, so what is the first thing on the to-do list…book your wedding venue.
Booking Your Wedding Venue!
I know, I know, it seems a little soon to dive right in. But I’ll tell you a secret that most people don’t know… most wedding venues are booked at least one to two years in advance.
Yep, you heard that right. One to two years. If you want to find your perfect venue, and not have to cut your guest list or change your date, getting started earlier than later is your best bet.
Now, you have heard me say in the past to really enjoy the engagement period by taking at least two weeks to just soak in being engaged. But if you are ready to get started, finding your venue is the first step in your wedding planning, and this step is one of the biggest decisions you will make.
It’s definitely not as easy as it sounds, and most brides find themselves completely overwhelmed with how to get to the final decision of choosing a venue.
We have broken down all the steps you need in our VENUE TOUR GUIDE. There are four total steps, and we break everything down for you from the date (how you come up with a date) to flowers (yes, we are talking about flowers when it comes to choosing your venue). You can download the guide below.
But first things first, you must have a vision for your big day, no pun intended. If your groom is on board and wants to help plan the entire wedding, awesome; I love working side by side with couples. If your groom is looking to simply be kept in the loop, perfect. Every couple is different, but the one thing that you need to have is one total vision for the big day. Typically, the groom will literally let the bride have anything she can dream of. While that is wonderful, we still want the wedding to be reflective of the two of you.
The best way to get on the same page about your wedding is to go over the top categories that will help you find your venue.
- Venue Type
These are all things to go through thoroughly together. It is not beneficial as a bride to go through these important categories solo and then run it past your soon to be husband later. This is the one part that he really needs to be involved with.
So, we suggest having a sit-down.
Let’s start with the basics. This should be a scheduled appointment on your calendar. I know, it may sound silly to pencil in a sit down to go over the VENUE TOUR GUIDE, but it is essential to get through all of the information in one day.
If you do this, it is guaranteed that you will have less stress, find your venue faster, and secure your perfect venue.
If you drag this sit down over the course of weeks, it will minimize the importance of every aspect of these decisions that have to be made.
And every decision is vital in choosing your wedding venue. We have curated the guide to actually set you up to find your venue and enjoy the process.
Yes, it should be enjoyable and fun!
I know that wedding planning can get touchy on certain subjects but my advice is to attack it head-on and move forward with executing decisions.
This applies to having not one, but two sit-downs.
The second sit down is with the parents, and yes, that includes the future in-laws. I know that it’s not fun, and it can be a bit awkward, but it’s needed. You never want to assume anything when it comes to your budget. Knowing if (and what) they will help with is essential when planning.
Establishing a workable budget is the most important step you will take in your wedding planning. It will have to be “workable” and by workable, I mean it works.
You have to have a budget that reflects your vision, and if it doesn’t, then you need to adjust and pivot to where your vision and your budget work together; hence, a workable budget.
You can’t have champagne taste on a beer budget. Everyone knows that it will only lead to stress, heartache, and feeling as though your wedding is in fact not your dream wedding. But you can have your dream wedding if you are practical from the beginning and have appropriate expectations with how far your budget can go.
Pinterest is notorious for inspiring brides to have weddings that are not even close to reality. As a wedding planner, I know this and educate my brides so they have appropriate expectations from the beginning.
At the same time, we love Pinterest because it also gives wonderful examples of how to make your dream a reality with innovative ideas for your design concepts.
When you are having your sit down, you can find a wonderful, helpful post on how to create your wedding budget. The post goes into each category of your budget and breaks down the steps of how to create a workable one. I highly recommend that you watch that before you dive into the guide.
In the guide, we go in-depth into the things you don’t want to forget when planning for your venue costs. So don’t forget to grab your copy above.
Your guest count determines your budget, and there is no way around it. While looking at venues it can get a little confusing. Some charge per plate while other venues charge room rentals, and you have to hire a caterer separate from the venue. Things can get really confusing fast when comparing one venue to another.
But one number that will set the stage is your guest count.
This is typically a rough estimate, a number that you anticipate would be the max amount but not anticipating that everyone on the guest list will attend.
I tell my couples that, generally, you can count on between 75-85 percent of wedding guests actually attending. The breakdown: 85 percent of local guests, 55 percent of out-of-town guests, and 35 percent of destination wedding guests will show up.
While creating a guest list, emotions can get high as you try to slim and cut. We’ve got you covered because we wrote a post on that as well. Yes, we love to walk you through every step of the wedding planning process.
It’s a great post with a graphic that highlights how to make those hard cuts.
When it comes to the style of your event the first thing you want to think of is the formality of the event. This is going to start with the venue but continue all the way to the stationery.
The different levels of formal style as follows:
- Cocktail Attire, Semi-Formal or Dressy Casual
- Beach Formal
- Formal Attire or Black Tie Optional
- Black Tie
- White Tie
You can find a more detailed list in the VENUE TOUR GUIDE that really breaks down each style and matches it to the venue type.
You don’t want to have beach attire at a historic venue (that is just silly), so to help you navigate through what each style encompasses and what works well, we have done all the work for you.
That leads us to the location or type of venue. There are endless possibilities when choosing the venue. But remember, it should be within your budget, be able to hold your max guest list and match your style.
If you are struggling to find what your style is, head over to our BRIDAL STYLE QUIZ where a consultant will send over a personalized inspiration board of what your primary and complementary styles are.
Sometimes an outside perspective really helps you narrow things down.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
We have finally arrived at the venue location, and there is so much to go over when it comes to the location.
City or the Burbs
First, you have to reflect back to your guest list to think of how many outside guests you have. If more than 40% of the guest list comes from out of town, you will absolutely want to think about having the wedding in a downtown area that is easily accessible through public transit.
With Uber and all other options for travel, you can hold your wedding in the burbs. You want to ensure you are thinking about the guests and their perspectives from the time they arrive to the time they get home.
Everyone knows your budget will go further in the burbs. The city is just more expensive, period. So, reflect back to your workable budget to see if you want to look exclusively in the burbs or the city.
Narrow it Down
I would not suggest making a list of Burbs and City venues; I would stick to one and move forward. There are so many things to consider for just this decision, so narrowing down your search will help you find your venue that much sooner.
Work smarter, not harder, by limiting your search. I know that doesn’t come naturally. We feel like we want to see every venue under the sun. But, at the end of the day, you will be left feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and we want this to be an enjoyable process.
So, the rule of thumb is to narrow your scope as much as you can in each area.
Now we move onto a very simple question but, again, can be unpacked in so many different ways. Do you want your wedding to be outside or inside? This will also be determined based on the date and season you choose, which is something we go into in the VENUE TOUR GUIDE.
This helps to narrow down your search, as well as deciding if you want your ceremony and reception to be at the same venue. Again, you can unpack this so much with a list of pros and cons but just know that this simple answer will also help narrow your search.
The last thing to narrow down your venue is the type of venue, which should be fairly simple after going through the budget, guest list, style and location questions.
Rate Your Options
I suggest going through and eliminating the No’s right away. With the rest, I would then rate each type of venue on a scale of 1-5. Everything can’t get a 4, so you really need to try and think about the style and how each venue would set the stage for everything.
Your perfect venue should be in line with your style and, as an added bonus, should be perfect all on its own. You should have to do minimal work and let the venue’s beauty really shine. Or, if you are on the creative side and looking for a venue that is a blank canvas, I suggest looking at some other factors that you may not think about, such as preferred vendors that are pretty typical in these types of venues. Parking is also always a huge thing to think about when you are “creating” your vision of a venue. Whether it’s a backyard tent wedding or a venue, think about the parking situation especially if you are downtown with in-town guests.
Onto the categories!
- Museums, Theaters, Libraries
- Gardens, Parks, Mansions
- Urban Warehouse, Loft
- Scenic View
- Golf & Country Clubs
- Club Organizations
- Specialty Restaurants
- Modern & Unique Venues
- Banquet Halls
This should set you on a great path to finding your top five venues to search. Yes, I said five. I would do all the research ahead of time and only set up five venue tours. This is what I do with my clients, and we are able to sign a contract the day of our tour. There is no thinking about it; you have done all the work ahead of time to narrow the selections. You may need to rework your top five a few times when you reach out to the venue for questions but remember, no more than five.
The first question you should ask a venue is if your date is available.
You don’t want to make an appointment, fall in love with the venue and then find out your date is not available. If you’re flexible on your date, ask for their available Fridays and Saturdays (or whichever day of the week you want) within the month you are looking for.
key things to remember:
The busiest day will always be Saturday no matter what season you choose. And they book out a year to a year and a half in advance.
September and October are the busiest wedding months in Chicago. Make sure you are planning way in advance if you want to have a fall wedding.
Let’s talk about something you may not even think about: exclusivity.
You will find that certain styles of venue will host more than one wedding a day.
If that’s what you want, then go for it. If you prefer individualized attention, find a venue that only allows for one wedding per day.
It’s not selfish to want a venue all to yourself. In fact, it can be exciting and fun to share your venue. But most brides don’t want to continually cross paths with another bride and her guests. It can become chaotic towards the end of the night for sure.
Making a Pros and Cons list is always a good way to sort out details of each venue and make your decision a little bit easier—especially if you are stuck between two venues and cannot decide.
If you’re struggling to find a venue, Visions offers a Venue Tour Session where we walk you through each of these decisions.