Tips for a Successful Wedding Venue Search

Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle Photography at Zingerman's Cornman Farms
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle Photography at Zingerman's Cornman Farms

Searching for your perfect wedding venue can be a long laborious process. How many of you recently engaged couples out there have gotten lost in the Google vortex and ended up totally overwhelmed? There is SO much information out there and a ton of beautiful venue options, so this part of wedding planning can get overwhelming fast. Here at TAS, we are hoping to provide you with some pro-tips on searching for a wedding venue and what things to look for/questions to ask when you are on a tour.

First things first, if you haven’t read it yet, make sure to read our “Top Ten Priorities for the Recently Engaged” post that will get you in the right frame of mind for making more detailed decisions. If you’ve gone through that list, you should already have a budget, general location in the world and a wedding style.

Pro-tip: Flip through the blogs of wedding vendors that you love in the area you are hoping to get married. Photographers, planners, florists, etc. often post photos of their clients wedding days, and it’s a great way to scope out what is possible at different wedding venues!

Within your budget you should allocate between 5-8% towards your wedding venue. Make sure you know this number, and what you hope to spend on rentals and catering before scheduling any venue visits. Many venues will have certain in house rentals or an exclusive caterer that has a food and beverage minimum, so it is best to go in knowing what you can pay for each of these things.

Here are the top 5 items to know in advance of a venue visit:

  1. Budget!
  2. How many guests do you expect?
  3. Do you want your ceremony and reception in the same or separate locations?
  4. What dates are you looking at?
  5. What is your wedding style? (Outdoorsy, minimal, high-end, etc.)
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle Photography at Sunset Cove Bed & Breakfast
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle Photography at Sunset Cove Bed & Breakfast

Once you have these things nailed down, you can set up site visits at venues you love! There are a TON of things to look out for, which is where wedding planners come in handy, but if you are flying solo there are some things you’ll want to make sure to look out for. These questions will vary greatly based on whether you are hoping to get married in your parent’s backyard or a full-service hotel, but they will give you a general framework of all the little details that make a big difference to your guests and wedding vendors.

Top Questions to Ask Your Venue Coordinator:

  1. What is included in the venue rental fee? Does the venue have tables & chairs? A bar? Do they have in an house audio visual team? If so, what do those look like and which items are a part of your fee?
  2. What time can setup begin? What time does tear down have to be complete? Your vendors will need a certain amount of time to lay linens, place floral arrangements, place menu cards and place cards. All of these things add up, so it’s best to know before you start talking with other vendors how much time they actually have to complete your vision!
  3. What is the capacity?
  4. Is there a noise ordinance? Many venues have a cut off time of when amplified sound is allowed. Make sure you know when this is, you don’t want to be disappointed later if you planned on dancing all night long!
  5. Does the venue have an exclusive vendor list? The venue may have a preferred vendor list of caterers/DJs/florists that they prefer you use as they are familiar with the space. Sometimes they have an exclusive vendor list and you must use those vendors. This is good to know in case you have any deal breakers or makers on the list!
  6. Is there an on site kitchen? What space can the caterer use? This will be good information to have when you start working with a caterer. The more robust the kitchen, the easier it is on the caterer and the fresher your food will be!
  7. Can you light candles in the space? A lot of venues do not allow live flame, so it’s good to ask up front if you are set on a candlelit event!
  8. Is the venue ADA compliant? Are there elevators and ramps for your guests who need assistance? Is there a handicapped restroom available? These are good things to know in advance for your guests who have mobility concerns.
  9. If your ceremony or reception are outdoors, is there a back up rain space? I know no one who dreams of an outdoor wedding wants to have this conversation, but you have to have a backup plan that you are happy with in the case of severe weather! If you absolutely won’t be satisfied with the rain back up plan, it may be best to search for another venue. Personally, my outdoor wedding was a total monsoon, but still turned out to be gorgeous and one of the most fun days of my life!
  10. Where can guests park? Is there a nearby lot, or will you have to shuttle in your guests? Shuttles will cost you at least an extra $1000 depending on your guest count, so make sure you know if you need to allocate for this early on in the planning process!
  11. Is there a coat check? If not, what is a good space for it? Does the venue provide the service, or will you have your caterer provide extra staff for a coat check? It is very nice for your guests to have a spot to leave their coat or shawl for the duration of your wedding so that you don’t have coats hanging over all of those chairs you rented!
  12. Where are the electrical outlets? Many of your vendors may need electricity, so it’s great to know where you can plug in!

You don’t have to make a decision on site. Make sure to visit several venues and compare notes on the pros and cons of each. Try to get ahold of the contract on your visit so you can review it before deciding to move forward so there are no surprises once you start the planning process!

Not seeing anything out there that you love? Think outside the box! It can often be more expensive, but some of our favorite spaces to plan weddings are on a large open property or in an empty warehouse. The possibilities are endless! Here are some amazing real wedding venues for some inspiration:

Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle at Lovett Hall
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle at Lovett Hall
Photo by Julie Pepin Photography at the Country Club of Detroit
Photo by Julie Pepin Photography at the Country Club of Detroit
Photo by ESchmidt Photography at The Whitney
Photo by ESchmidt Photography at The Whitney
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle at Zingerman's Corman Farms
Photo by Amanda Dumouchelle at Zingerman's Corman Farms

Have any questions about wedding venues? Leave a comment! We would love to help!

xo Meg

Our TeamMeg Bosse9 Comments