Choosing a wedding venue is going to be a surprising part of the wedding planning journey and one of the first things you’re going to want to jump on. I put together these tips and tricks of what to consider when picking a wedding venue after interviewing some of the couples that I worked with closely during the venue shopping process.
Ambiance and location: Start to think of the feel of your wedding and reception. Is it outdoors? Is it a magical venue on the side of a mountain as you dance the night away under the stars? Is it a big church wedding and a grand ballroom reception? Do you want it super local, a destination location, or something within driving distance? This is mostly going to be determined by who you are as a person and as a couple. Start to get an idea of where you’d like to get married and the feel of the venue that is true to who you are.
Budget: We can dance around this all day long but you know you’re thinking about it. Venues are the biggest chunk of your budget for sure. Once you get an idea for locations and ambiances you’d prefer, start to do some market research. The Knot and Wedding Wire and any other wedding planning apps, websites, and even planners are going to be excellent resources for this. Come up with a budget range. An extra tip for budget…don’t be afraid to be honest about your budget if you find a dream venue. Some venues will work with a budget or offer discounts for days other than Saturday or off peak months or a bunch option. Even things down to linen options, chair options, and meal options might be tweaked to fit within a budget. It doesn’t always work of course but there could be possible options available. In the words of one of my couples “So, ask and be honest about your budget and they might create a cost estimate for you and this way maybe you will find that your dream venue may be affordable after all! Also, you’ll save time spent looking at venues you don’t even want to book!”
Non-negotiables: Figure out the things that are most important to you for your wedding and reception before you even go venue shopping. Allocate more wiggle room in your budget to those things. That will be key moving forward. Is the photography important? I support you there. Do you want an epic DJ? Do you want a taco cart instead of a traditional dinner? Do you hate cake? Start listing these things in order of importance to you and pick one or two that are non-negotiable. As one of my brides put it, “What are the things that you envision for your wedding day to make it special and memorable to you? Like if it did not happen or was taken out of that vision would you still be okay?”
All -inclusive or DIY: Believe it or not a lot of this can be determined by your venue. You can DIY this thing down to the very last detail or you can find a venue that does it all for you and everything in between. One couple that chose an all-inclusive venue had a two hour meeting where they picked the colors, signature drinks, you name it. Almost everything was taken care of by the venue except for providing the alcohol and the gourmet donuts for the donut wall. Another couple chose a venue specifically for the flexibility to DIY to their heart’s content. This will be determined by how busy, crafty, and OCD you want to be. An added tip for those DIY couples…find yourself a team to make your vision happen. Setting up and tearing down on your wedding day could detract from you enjoying your wedding day. Some venues or collections will include a wedding planner or day of coordinator so that can be super helpful as well in what to consider when picking your wedding venue.
Outside vendors or a preferred vendor list: This is tricky. Many venues will have a preferred vendor list and this can be amazing or frustrating. Some all inclusive ones will include photographer, caterer, and DJ in their packages. Some will just have a list of the ones they like to work with. Some venues don’t let you choose your own vendors or add an additional charge to bring in an outside vendor. If you those things aren’t one your non-negotiable list then it’s perfect. You just go down a list and pick a name. But if you’re someone who wants a certain style of photography or a certain photographer/DJ/videographer/taco truck etc. you vibe with then you’re going to have to keep that in mind when you’re choosing a venue. An added tip or thing to consider here, most preferred vendor lists will be vendors the venue has already worked with and loved…but there are some out there that require vendors to pay to be on their list. Some lists are gold and some are sketchy. Stick to your non-negotiables for the things that mean the most to you. I won’t peer pressure you into saying photography. I’ll just hint at it a little bit but I will say that if you have an In-N-Out truck please invite me to your wedding.
Extra things to consider when picking a wedding venue: Is your date important or flexible? Popular dates go FAST in the wedding industry. Does the venue book multiple weddings or events on the same day? Some venues do have several weddings going at once in different areas. Are there enough locations to take photos? Some venues have strict limitations on where you can take photos. Are they going to allow you enough time to take photos? Much of your timeline can actually be determined by your venue so take this into consideration. Does the venue have a guest limit size? This will apply to large guest lists and those super intimate weddings. What time of day will they have the ceremony? Sunset times vary by time of year and that might limit your time for photos. On the other hand, the ceremony could be at a time of day when the harsh, midday sun will be beating down on you.
With all of these ideas of what to consider when picking a wedding venue, I’ll leave you with final thoughts from another one of my couples, “When you know you know. It’s weird and you have no doubts! It’s what you both want and kind of goes along with your relationship!”
Some of the venues in this post are Sacred Mountain Julian, San Moritz Lodge, Lake Oak Meadows, and The Homestead at Wilshire Ranch, Skypark at Santa’s Village, Pine Rose Cabins, Milagro Farms Winery, and Hidden Acres.