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Venue Shopping 101

venues wedding planning

By Maddie Haynes

You’re engaged and embarking on the first step in your wedding planning process: Choosing your Venue!  This step is so very important, as it sets the stage for the rest of your wedding plans.  If you are from a large city, you likely have 20+ venue options that come to mind right away.  This can be wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.  If you are from a small town you may only have a couple of options to choose from.  Use this as a guide to help you navigate through the crucial task of selecting a venue for your perfect wedding day!



You must start by determining your style.  For some this will be simple while for others, you may have such an eclectic sense of style that you have trouble narrowing down your preferences (I fall into this category).  No worries if you find yourself falling in line with the latter, you can utilize other details to help narrow your search.  As you begin to determine your venue style, I recommend that you start researching your options through Google and Instagram searches by using tags such as “country chic venue [your city]”, “farmhouse venue [your city]”, “indoor weddings [your city]” – you see where this is going.  Instagram has been my preferred “search engine”, if you will, for my own wedding planning.  I will reference Instagram for several other planning details but if you only take this advice for one step, I highly recommend utilizing Instagram for the venue research.


Why is the Venue Important?

You might be wondering, how come venues are booked out 1-2 years in advance?  Who on earth could plan that far ahead?!  It was always common but now, since covid-19 struck and delayed thousands of weddings, the advance bookings have sky-rocketed.  Several brides whose 2020 weddings had to be postponed have secured their dream venues, even if it means the wedding is delayed for another year.  For some couples, the right venue is worth the wait.  I’ve heard of brides who don’t even have a date in mind when they call their dream venue.  They take whichever date is available for their desired marriage year and that becomes their wedding date.  Everyone is going to be different on this subject and that is okay.  I gave the prior examples because it’s helpful to understand what you are working with when you are venue shopping.  From my experience of attending weddings and planning mine, keep these in mind when selecting a venue: 

  • The venue fits who you and your fiancé  are as a couple.
  • You are only spending what you are comfortable with and still getting what will work for your guest count.


The Venue Should Reflect The Couple

I say “the couple” because the day is for and about you both, but if your fiancé  is like my husband, the venue will probably be a little more about you (the bride/main planner) and they will be happy with whatever makes you happy.  A big decision for many couples is whether to get married in a church or a different venue. This usually depends on your background, but nonetheless these are important details to figure out before searching and shopping options so that both parties are on the same page.



Don’t Break the Bank!

I am all too familiar with how trends and social media influence our decisions when it comes to wedding planning.  I am here to say PLEASE do not go broke for your wedding day.  So often people will book venues based only on the language used when others talk about it, such as being known as one of the most luxurious, expensive or high-end.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted into booking a venue for this very reason (and it would have been like getting married in the clouds overlooking the mountains, can you blame me? See for yourself!) It turns out my date was already booked by the time I reached out, but it all worked out.  And who knows, maybe I’ll get to host our 10th anniversary there some day!  When I received the information on pricing however, I still wouldn’t have been able to comfortably move forward with securing this venue even if my date had been available.  If you hear a number that makes your stomach sink a little because you already know it’s out of your budget, don’t feel sad or mad toward yourself.  The beauty of shopping venues is that everyone is on different budgets and there will always be a perfect venue fit for every price range.  By planning ahead and determining your overall budget prior to visiting venues, you are doing yourself a favor.




Do Your Research

It is advisable to research pricing packages of your top 3-5 venue spots before even scheduling the tour.  This way, you are not allowing yourself to get attached to a venue that is out of your comfort zone price range.  In my case, reviewing the packages and finding out what was or was not included ended up being my initial deciding factor on whether a venue was right for me or not.  Of course, I loved the photos and aesthetics of the venue before researching the pricing and packages, so do check photos and amenities first to ensure the venue itself fits your style.  Do they offer rooms to the bride and groom to get ready in ahead of time?  Are they built for indoor and outdoor accommodations in case of bad weather?  These questions can and should be asked at the in-person viewing but it never hurts to find the answers ahead of time.  You can always call the venue in advance and go over your list of questions.



Have Fun at the Viewings

The most important part to keep in mind during this step is to enjoy it!  This part is a lot of fun for the couple and the mothers, sisters, or whoever you are entrusting to bring along and help you weigh out your options.  I have spoken with several brides who booked 6+ showings in one day and felt completely overwhelmed to the point where they could not remember many of the details from each.  Make sure that you are spreading out your viewings (this is for your own sanity, trust me!) and narrow down only the ones you believe are true contenders.  I told myself I needed to see at least three but likely didn’t need to exceed five.  I fell in love with the third one and it checked all of the boxes for me, so thankfully I got to stop my search at Venue #3.

No matter where you select for your special day, the couple is the main event of the wedding.  Your guests will be thrilled to be there for you and they will enjoy any location where YOU are happy!

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