18 Tips for How to Pick the Perfect Wedding Venue

Expert ways to choose your dream wedding location.

Used with permission | The Westin Copley Place

Used with permission | The Westin Copley Place

When selecting your wedding venue, it’s important to have a complete understanding of what each location has to offer. From aesthetics to amenities, it’s important that you visit the space, and are prepared to ask the right questions. Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into booking a space you’re not comfortable with, or rush you into making a decision. To help make the process a bit easier, we’ve created a simple guide to venue hunting:

1. Make friends
The team you surround yourself with is a really important part of the planning process. You may absolutely adore your initial contact at the venue, but they may not be the one who will be helping you once you’ve booked. Ask to meet the team you’ll be working with prior to making any decisions so you’re comfortable and confident during this special time.

2. Examine photos
It’s always helpful to see photos and videos of other weddings at the venue you’re considering. Videos are even more helpful, because you’re able to see the space, sans any photo retouching. You’ll also have a better feel for the way the space looks with people in it. Some venues will even allow you to take a peek at a wedding in person.

3. Consider timing
If you’ve always dreamed of a wedding at sunset, you’ll want to be certain of any time restrictions the venue may have. Ask what hours weddings can take place, and if you’d like additional time, inquire about fees. It’s also important to ask how much time you’ll be given for setup and cleanup, and if that time is included in the pricing. It’s always best if they have a team on-site that will tidy up the place, rather than you and your party.

4. Know the back-up plan
If you’re from New England, you know just how unpredictable the weather can be. If you’re planning on an outdoor wedding, ask if there’s an indoor option. You’ll want to make sure that it’s available as a back-up plan and that you are happy with the space. Speak with your event planner or designer to talk through the strategy if the party has to be moved indoors.

5. Inquire about prep space
Getting ready on your wedding day should be a relaxing process. Ask if there’s a place for you and your party to get ready, and be sure to check it out. If there isn’t a space available, and your venue is far from home, see if you can get ready at a nearby hotel. And, don’t forget about your groom and his guys. They’ll need somewhere to slip into their suits as well.

6. Look for photo opps
You’ll want a space away from the main room to take pictures with your party. Ask to see where people typically have photographs taken and if there are both outdoor and indoor options. You can even take practice photos on a tour to see what the location(s) look like.

7. Understand noise restrictions
Believe it or not, music and noise level can be an issue for certain venues, especially if it’s in a private neighborhood, a historical building, or outdoors. Find out exactly what the rules are ahead of time. After all, the last thing anyone wants is a hushed soiree.

8. Let the light in
Certain venues come equipped with beautiful lighting, whereas others may need extra help. You’ll want to make sure guests can see where they’re stepping, while maintaining the mood. If you’d like additional lighting, you can often find a DJ or photographer to supply the equipment. Remember to ask about pricing so you can choose the best option for your special day.

9. Deck the halls
Venues may have policies when it comes to decoration. For instance, you could come across a venue that doesn’t allow couples to hang things from the walls, install lighting, or have certain materials on property, such as flower petals or candles. It’s important to know what the restrictions are before you decide on the space.

10. Talk temperature
You and your guests will want to be comfortable while celebrating. Inquire about heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Although you have your heart set on a rustic barn for a July wedding, you might reconsider if there’s no AC.

11. Think about travel
The last thing you want to do is burden your guests with parking. Ask where parking is located and if there are any fees associated with it. If there is a fee, see if it can be built into your package, or if a discount can be applied for you and your guests. Make sure you share parking information on your wedding website, or your invitations. If the parking area is far from your venue, consider a shuttle for your guests.

12. Keep capacity in mind
If you’re looking at a venue that seats up to 200, but you’re planning on having a small wedding of 75 guests, see if it’s possible to fill the space with a bar, furniture, or décor to make the space feel a little less overwhelming. The same goes for a smaller area; you’ll want to check with your venue when it comes to how many people can fit comfortably in the space. You also want to make sure that if there is a minimum to be met, you have enough guests to meet the requirement.

13. Assess what’s included
It’s always a plus when a venue provides tables, chairs, linens, and flatware. However, you’ll want to see these items to ensure you’re happy with what they have on-site. If you’re not, or if those items are not available, ask what caterers and rental companies the venue can suggest. If they require you to work with certain vendors, you’ll want to meet with them before you select your venue.

14. Learn to share
For many New England venues, spring, summer, and even fall can be very busy months. If there is the possibility for another event to be taking place at the same time as yours, ask to see where it would be held, which entrances and facilities you may need to share, and how the two events will be managed and executed. You want to ensure that your event will be private and that you’ll receive the necessary amount of personal attention.

15. Realize any limitations
Although you can dress up just about any space, you have to have an admiration for the bare bones of the location. For example, if you’ve always dreamed of a soft, romantic, shabby-chic wedding, then a super-modern space with vibrant rugs and bold furniture may not be the place for you. Imagination and creativity go a long way, but don’t settle for something that is too far off-base.

16. Inspect the powder rooms
You may find the most beautiful venue… only to discover that their facilities resemble middle school restrooms. Ask to see both the men’s and women’s facilities, as well as any additional areas your guests may be walking through to ensure that those spaces is in tip-top shape.

17. Get a warm, fuzzy feeling
Whether it’s a complementary suite for your wedding night, an anniversary dinner, or even a bottle of champagne as you leave the tour, it’s important that your venue makes you feel special. The people you surround yourself with, including your vendors, should have your best interest at heart and should make an effort to make this the most magical time of your life.

18. Review fees
It can be difficult to figure out exactly what fees are associated with your venue up front. You’ll want to ask if there’s a minimum spend, if you’re required to work with certain vendors, what the payment schedule is like, and what additional fees are applied. Inquire about vendor meals, taxes, ceremony fees, and request a complete contract to review before you make a deposit. Know what the bottom line is before you sign on the dotted one.

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