10 tips for finding your wedding venue

Since engagement season is upon us, I thought revisiting some of my planning tips posts would be helpful to you knewly engaged out there.  Recently I talked about the five things you should do first when you get engaged.  I also told you that finding your venue can be one of the most important, and hardest, parts of planning.  So today I’m going to revisit some tips to finding your wedding venue.  My first two quick pieces of advice:  there is no perfect venue and being open to any date will give you have more options.

Some questions you need to ask yourself when looking for a venue:

1.  Do you want to get married in a church or religious location? (because this automatically means to need two locations)

2.  Do you want your ceremony and reception to be in one location? (this is often more affordable and convenient)

3.  How many guests will you be having?

4.  What time of year or season will you be getting married?

5.  What geographical location will you be getting married in?

Once you have decided as a couple that you want a summer wedding, or an outdoor wedding, or a church wedding, or a destination wedding, you have a better idea of how to narrow down your venue search!

Once you know what you’re looking for, you need to find some locations to visit.  Some great resources for finding venues:

1. Ask married friends who have gotten married in the same geographical area or part of the country.  They may have done a venue search and can recommend some places or tell you places to avoid.

2.  Look online.  You can go a google search for your area, look on sites like The Knot or Wedding Wire, and check out vendor guides on wedding blogs for ideas.

3.  If you’re in a larger area buy a wedding magazine specific to that area, like The Knot Southern California, which has ads and listings for local venues.

4.  Search the wedding blogs for weddings in your area and check out the venues featured in the real weddings.  I’ve had lots of brides email asking me about the venues featured on Oh Lovely Day, and I’m always happy to help them find what they’re looking for.

Once you find a few venues you want to visit, here are some questions that you might not think of that are VERY important to ask:

1.  Do you have a cut off time or a time limit?  Lots of places make you cut off the music by 10 pm or give you 4 hours for your reeption, and if you want to party to the wee hours this is important to you.

2.  Do you cater on site, have rentals, etc. or do we have to bring everything on site ourselves?

3.  What is the parking like for your guests?

4.  What are the bathrooms like for your guests?  (this is important! you don’t want porto-potties for your guests right?)

5.  Can I bring my own alcohol on site?  (this is a gem and can save you a lot of money)

6.  Where will the guests eat, dance, have cocktail hour, sit for the reception (if applicable)?  You want to be sure there is room for the number of guests you have in mind at each location.

7.  Can we use any vendors we want?  Do you have any vendor requirements or restrictions?

8.  What are the extra fees or hidden costs?  Sometimes ceremonies cost extra.  There is a fee if you go over a certain number of people.

9.  Do you have a minimum cost that we must meet?  Many venues do, and while they are usually easy to meet, if the minimum is $20,000 and that is more than your budget, that is not the venue for you.

10.  What other restrictions do you have, if any?  Some of these could be a noise restriction (could prevent you from having the band or DJ you want), decoration restrictions, etc.

These ten questions will help you narrow down your venue choices to find the right one for you.  When I was venue hunting, I found one I loved, but they made you shut the music off by 10 pm, and for the kind of party we wanted to throw that just wasn’t going to work.

And now, a quick cautionary tale:  When my husband and I were looking for our Southern California wedding venue we visited a place in Malibu that we had heard great things about and where a friend had actually held their wedding.  We visited the property, loved the reception area, and thought it might be perfect.  Then we asked to see the possible ceremony sites, the most popular taking place under a big tree.  But when we walked over ourselves in person, we quickly realized there was a sewer or water drain off to the ocean nearby, and the whole area smelled horribly!  Like, bog of eternal stench smelly!  The thought of saying my vows under the stench of poo turned me off immediately, and we crossed that venue off our list.  Can you imagine?  So the lesson here is walk around the whole property where you or your guests will be.  And if possible, do it at the time of year (if you are marrying a year later) because somethings aren’t a problem in the fall but are a major problem in the summer (like the smell of poo!).

I hope these tips will help you to find your wedding venue.  And remember, no venue is perfect!  But there is one out there that will feel right for you.  You’ll find it, I promise!

Have other tips for finding your wedding venue?  Leave them in the comments!

photo credits:  photo 1 | photo 2 | photo 3 | photo 4