The ceremony and reception venues are the first items you’ll book. But checking this off the list can take what seems like endless amounts of research, site visits, and comparisons. Its often the biggest ticket item as well, so making this decision is a hard one to make first.
So how do you choose your wedding venue without losing your mind?!
Here are 8 steps to choosing a venue that fits your vibe, your guest count, and of course your budget.
Think first about how you want your wedding to look and feel. Consider the places you love to visit, the dates you enjoy, which restaurants are your favorites. Also, look around your home and consider your general decorating style. Is your vibe breezy and laid back, timeless, more off-beat, or eclectic? Do you prefer a clean crisp look or more of an antique or rustic look? Your wedding doesn’t need a theme but instead style and vibe that you love and enjoy.
This next step is very important because it will help you narrow down your venue choices. I searched theknot.com for reception venues in New Orleans, it gave me 491 choices. You don’t need to look at 491 venues, only the ones that match your style. This step is to decide which of these categories best describes where you imagine getting married. Choose a category below or come up with a different way to describe your venue.
elegant hotel ballroom
vineyard in the country
open air pavilion surrounded by nature
Try to pick one and no more than 2.
Your next step is the most time-consuming. Filter your theknot.com results by distance. Don’t bother with the other filters right now. If you know you want to stay within the city, limit results to a 25-mile radius. That brought me to 263 venues in my New Orleans search. Next, scroll through the thumbnail pictures of all 263 venues. Choose any venues that even remotely look like they might work. You can create a theknot.com account and save your favorites there. You are narrowing down the venues that you want to research further. My favorite way to track these decisions is with an excel spreadsheet.
Remember you are looking for a venue that matches that keyword description you came up with in Step 2. If you decided that the European courtyard was your vibe, don’t spend your time browsing industrial-chic warehouses. You may love the look of many different venues, but just because you like how it looks doesn’t mean it matches YOUR vision. Narrow your list to about 20 venues before doing any in-depth research.
Dig into those 20 online. Visit their websites and see if the pictures seem consistent with your aesthetic. When you decide something is not a good fit, mark no on your list and jot down a note about why it’s a no. Too dark inside, ceilings seemed low, my cousin got married there last year, etc. Find your top 10 within that 20.
From your top 10, get a more realistic idea of whether these venues will actually work. Send an email to the venue asking for package pricing, availability, guest capacity, and how much time comes with the venue booking. Put all that information on your list. This is very easy to compare when you use an excel spreadsheet or something similar.
Take a look at your top 10 and book tours of 3-4 of those venues that match your needs best. This will require some time to hear back from venues and find a time that works. Expecting to get a tour the following day is unrealistic. Keep in mind that venues have events on weekends and often staff are out of the office on Mondays. They’ll likely prefer to do venue tours Tuesday – Friday during their business hours. Your best bet is to find a weekday where you can take off work and visit all your favorite places. You’ll need between 1-2 hours for each tour. Getting 5 tours done in one day is too ambitious. 3 is the magic number, 4 is possible but more rushed.
Enjoy a day of touring. Bring along your mom, your fiance, or whoever would enjoy doing this with you. Plan to have brunch or lunch. This is a super fun part of the wedding planning experience, live it up!
Sleep on it, discuss it, and make a decision within 1 week. Don’t let this drag on. You’ve done your research and you won’t find more places. But it is possible that your favorite places could become booked. You likely won’t need to return to book the venue, most can send you the contract electronically.
8 steps to your perfect venue without losing it in the process. This is the biggest and often the hardest wedding decision you’ll have to make, so know that it gets easier from here. You’ve got this! Thank you for watching and Happy Wedding Planning.