Alright, the excitement of your ring has settled and just as fast as you took a breath to say “YESSSSS!” you’re quickly realizing it’s time to start locking down some details for your wedding. Before you can even pick your date, it’s time to start searching for your dream venue! While you are google searching local venues and getting caught in the instagram black hole searching for your friend’s sister’s wedding from 3 years ago wondering where THAT barn was… It can all be SO overwhelming! Trust me. It’s scary enough suffering from the sticker shock of all these venues, wineries and dream wedding destinations. I got you, boo.
To help you get a kick start to your wedding planning I created a check list of items to consider while you begin your venue hunt. Somethings are super no-brainers, more like gentle reminders and others are unspoken venue secrets that I’ve learned from years of experience. Some locations either have them or they don’t so I’ll leave it up to you decide if they’re deal breakers. Ready… Let’s Go!
BEFORE THE HUNT
Before you even begin your walk throughs make sure you have had “the talk” with your fiance, parents, grandparents and any other possible wedding donors to determine your budget. There’s no need to spend your time touring out of reach venues, to just cry in the car on the way home. Just don’t do it to yourself, love! Stick with venues within your budget.
This may actually be even more important than your budget… you can work overtime before and after your wedding! Determining a rough guest list will help determine venue accommodations. Some venues may only be able to handle a reception count of 100 indoors and up to 500 outdoors. That all sounds fine and dandy until you have a weather scare. Knowing your numbers will help weed out options before you even begin!
If you’re a numbers person like me, this will be a tough one! I suggest walking into venues with an open mind a preferred month or even season. I swear, these days the wedding venue picks your date! So keep an open mind. The sooner you get your butt in gear to pick a location the better odds of getting a date you love!
If your venue is local for most of your family and friends that amazing! If it’s considered a mini destination… which would best for family and your wedding party to stay at least one night, take some time researching the local hotels + possible AirBNB’s! You’ll want a Target, hotels and restaurants within a 15-20 minute drive of your venue. Also, consider the nearest airport + driving distance as well. Does Uber even work out there?
Book An Appointment
I get it. You, your fiance + your Mama’s may just be so excited to jam out to these venues for a drive by or to plan a wine tasting. That sounds like an amazing way to spend your weekend… but I promise life will be so much easier if you can book a walk through with the coordinator/owner. Let them know in advance that you would like to visit their venue and set up a time. Usually, walk-ins are welcome, but I wouldn’t risk the chance of missing them on their day off or not getting the whole behind the scenes tour while you’re there! You’ll want to see EVERYTHING!
Alright, the day has come for you and your fiance to visit venues! Dress up a bit and soak in these moments. It should be fun and exciting, plus you’re gunna want to take pictures during this adventure! While you’re looking cute and instagraming possible options I have a looonnggg list of things to be on the look out for while you’re touring! Also, don’t forge to pack snacks. Your Mama and fiance will fade fast without treats on these long tours and tasting crackers just don’t cut it. Pack a lunch!
What Do You Hear?
Check out the curb appeal, I mean that’s what brought you guys there, right? Well when you get out of the car and you’re scoping out everything take a moment to listen. Do you hear cars jamming down a freeway? Are you lulled by the sound of birds chirping or do you hear pings from golfers? Pictures on websites can be deceiving, not only with proximity, but with what’s next door as well.
How’s The Vibe?
I’m a huge vibe person and I can guarantee that if you’re reading this, you are too! Do you feel relaxed and at peace at this location? Are the staff/coordinators friendly and attentive? Did the guy on the lawn mower wave to you as you passed by with a smile? These sound silly, but they matter! You want your venue to feel like an extension of your home and represent your family.
Will You Get Ready At The Venue or Hotel?
Take some time to really pay attention to the getting ready locations for BOTH parties. Here’s what you’re going to want to look for:
- Natural Light – The more windows the better!
- Space – You’ll want staging space to throw all the luggage + bags with enough room for the getting ready photos.
- Restrooms – Will the wedding guests/public have access to your getting ready room?
- Location to Hang Your Dress – Is there an iconic location to hang your gown?
- Outlets – Do you see at least two for hair stations?
- Kitchenette – Will there be a small prep/kitchen area to prepare brunch/lunch?
- How will you enter the ceremony from the getting ready room?
Like I mentioned before, I’m just sharing thought bubbles! Some things won’t even matter to you and others will be something you never even thought of! Just throwing it out there to ensure you are well prepared! If the venue offers a small, cramped getting ready area I would encourage you and your wedding party to get ready in a hotel room with the brightest natural light as possible.
What does it look like for your guests from the time they step out of their car to the time they are stumbling off the dance floor? Consider the parking location and distances from everything throughout the day. Does this venue showcase wobbly cobblestone pavers? Fake grass? Gravel? Would you have access to a golf cart if granny has a hard time walking the distance from the ceremony space to the reception? It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of every venue, but don’t forget to think about the logistics. Should your guests be warned to NOT wear heals and stick with wedges? Help a sister out!
This is a piggy back the the flow of your wedding! Will your guests experience a big reveal to the reception after cocktail hour? Meaning will the reception be closed off either indoors or out of view from your ceremony space? It’s so fun to have little surprises for your guests. Also, not gunna lie… your photographer will LOVE you for the opportunity to capture an EMPTY, but completely styled reception space before your guests start placing purses + beers on their tables. You worked so hard to design the reception of your dreams, you’re going to want that photographed!
Granted, I bet a million bucks you will be touring these venues while day drinking. Don’t forget to ask the coordinator about lighting options. Do they have the string lights as part of the package deal or would you have to rent them? What will the parking lot look like after dark? Solar light pathways, glow lights… pay attention to those. Do they have back up options if the power goes out?
What does that venue offer for rentals? Are tables + chairs included? Will the same chairs for the ceremony be moved to the reception space? Will there be venue coordinators to do that or will you have to hire (ask your cousins not in the wedding party) to move them? Linens? Arbors? Yes, sometimes venues up charge for gazebos and wedding alters. Just like you’re going to buy a car… ask about everything that’s included and about all the upgrades!
How long will you have access to your venue? Some venues can be really strict with an 8-10 hour day and others are way less rigid with their closing times. Consider the set up and if you are welcome to come the night before to get a head start. Also, with many wineries and almost all golf courses they don’t offer complete privacy for your weddings as they are still open to the public until a certain time. Will there be any noise curfews? You may need to consider an after party location if the venue kicks you out by 10pm.
Sounds silly I know, but some up and coming venues may not even have full functioning restrooms for your guests. Would you need to rent pretty potties or does the facility have enough to not even worry about? It’s always best to have at least two-three stalls per restroom for large weddings.
Does this venue offer full catering? Or an industrial size kitchen for you to bring in your own caterers? Maybe they only have preferred catering vendors? Is there a location for the BBQ guy to pull up and set up camp? (okayyyy I know you may not want BBQ for your wedding, but not gunna lie, I may one day!) Sometimes venues can be sneaky and charge cake cutting fee, ask about that too!
Don’t forget to ask about alcohol and if you’re required to only pour their wine or if you can bring in your own alcohol. Often times venues require extra insurance policies for the day or rent a cops if you’re serving alcohol.
What does that venue offer for weather scares? Tents? Ability to host EVERYTHING indoors? Some venues just pray and hope for the best, which may leave you scrambling to rent a tent or find other solutions the week of your wedding just in case. Will the ceremony space be soggy/muddy if it’s a clear day, but rained all that week? Also, this kind of melts into the rental category… but would you need to rent heaters or does the venue offer legit AC/fans on hot summer nights? Ask, just in case!
Okayyyy, this is getting really nit picky… but consider some first look location options. Will you be able to find a quiet, well lit location with some privacy? Maybe in a garden or near your ceremony space before your guests arrive. I’m not holding anything back in this post! I want to make sure all of your bases are covered!
Well that pretty much sums up a successful venue hunt! If there is anything I missed or anything you would like more fun facts about, please just leave a comment below and let me know! I would love to keep adding to this list to ensure my couples are well prepared for their hunt!
Cheers to finding the PERFECT backdrop for the beginning of your happily ever after!
With Love, Quianna Marie
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