Your partner has popped the question, you’ve said yes, and you’re engaged! The best day of your life is coming, and now it’s time to start planning the big days. One of the most important things you’ll need to know is how to find a wedding venue.
Trying to find the best venue for your wedding can be a big job. Read on to learn more about how to navigate this process and find the perfect venue for your perfect day.
Set Your Budget
The first step (and one of the most important) in wedding planning is setting a budget. From your dress to your venue, your budget will determine what your wedding looks like. It will also help you decide where to splurge and where it’s worth saving a little more.
The first thing to do in setting your wedding budget is to figure out where the money to pay for this wedding is coming from. Will you be using savings, paying some out of pocket, using credit cards, or using financial contributions from your family or friends? Once you decide on your budget, determine how much of that amount you want to dedicate to your venue.
Make a Guest List
After you have a budget, you’ll need to start putting together a rough guest list. This list doesn’t need to be iron-clad; things will change when you send out the invitations, which you can’t do until you have a date and a venue. But you need to get a rough idea of how many people you’ll have at the wedding.
Venues have size limitations, and you need to know that before you start shopping. There may be a gorgeous little chapel you love, but if you’re planning a wedding with 300 guests, that won’t work. Likewise, a cathedral is lovely, but your wedding is going to feel very spare if you only have the first two rows filled.
Decide on the Location
At this point, you’ll also need to decide where you want to hold your wedding. If you and your fiancé live in the same place or are from the same town, it may be a no-brainer as to where you want to get married. But if you are from two different places or your family is spread out, a destination wedding may be a good way to get married on neutral ground.
If you’re planning on a destination wedding, be sure to factor that into your budget. You’ll need to pay for your travel expenses, and you may want to pay for the expenses of the wedding party, too. If you’re getting married in Hawaii at the height of the tourist season, this can start getting expensive in a hurry.
Think About Your Layout
Another factor you need to consider is what sort of wedding do you want to have. Do you plan to have your ceremony and reception in the same room? At your reception, do you want a buffet line, a catered buffet, or a full-service dinner?
What sort of wedding you want to have will have a big impact on which venue you choose. If you want a more unusual wedding layout, you should look for a more flexible venue. If you want a traditional layout, you should look for a place that has the stereotypical aisle and altar at the front.
Narrow Down Some Dates
At this point in the process, you need to think about what time of year you want to get married. You don’t need to pin down a specific date at this point since it will depend largely on which dates are available for your venue. But you should start getting a ballpark range of dates.
When you’re deciding on dates, there are a few factors you’ll need to take into consideration, starting with the weather in the location you’re getting married in. If you’re planning on a destination wedding in Colorado, you may not want to go for a winter wedding. You should also think about the price differences between the wedding season and the off-season.
Make a Spreadsheet
The last step you need to take before you start looking at venues (we’re getting there, we promise) is to make a spreadsheet. There are going to be a lot of details you’re going to need to keep up with when you’re shopping venues. A spreadsheet can help you keep everything straight and make sure you make the best choice for your wedding.
Your spreadsheet should include twelve primary fields: the venue name, the location, the capacity, their availability, the type of venue, the layout, the rates, their website URL, any restrictions they have, the parking and transportation situation, any facility extras, and any caterers they work with.
Make notes of each of these factors as you start your research on wedding venues.
Do Your Research
Now it’s finally time to start looking at wedding venues! Do some research into churches, mansions, farms, museums, galleries, hotels, bed and breakfasts, event venues, and other likely wedding venues in the area. Start narrowing them down using the criteria you’ve been deciding on leading up to this point.
If a venue doesn’t fit your wedding style or layout, cut it off the list. If it isn’t the right size or is obviously out of your budget, drop it. Take the venues that seem to be good fits and fill in as much information about them on your spreadsheet as you can.
Make the First Contact
Once you have your list of viable venues, make a list of your top three favorite venues in order. It’s a good idea to have a few backups in case things don’t work out with your first one or two venues. With your shortlist in place, start making contact with those venues.
Call all the venues on your list and ask them to confirm the information you already have and fill in any gaps on your spreadsheet. It’s a good idea to write down a list of questions to ask so you make sure you don’t overlook anything. Take detailed notes during these calls, and use these to further narrow down your shortlist of venue options.
Visit the Top Options
Once you’ve gathered as much information on your potential venues as you can, it’s time to start visiting options. It’s a good idea to visit your top five or six options, even if you think you’re certain about which one you want to use. You might be surprised (both for the good and for the bad) at what you find when you visit the venues.
When you visit, be sure to take tons of notes and pictures. When you’re visiting half a dozen venues, things will start to blur together, and you want to be sure you have everything organized for when you make your decision. Also, take a list of questions to ask when you visit the venue – it may be a good idea to bring a folder or professional portfolio to help you keep everything organized.
Discuss the Pros and Cons
Once you’ve done all your research, asked all the questions, visited all the venues, and taken all the pictures, sit down with your fiancé and go over the pros and cons of each location. We recommend writing down a literal pros and cons list. It will help you keep everything straight for each venue and narrow things down.
Weigh the atmosphere of the venue, the layout options they offer, any extras they provide, and the cost of renting it. Look back at your pictures, and don’t be afraid to call and ask any follow-up questions as they come up. And at the end of the day, go with the venue that makes you excited to get married there.
Sign a Contract
Once you’ve settled on a venue, reach back out to them and ask for a contract you can sign. Do be sure to carefully review the terms of the contract before you sign, making a note of any deposit fee you have to pay, if and how you can get it back, and the date by which you must notify them if anything changes with your wedding.
Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you have when you’re reviewing the contract. Once you’re clear on everything and have resolved any concerns you have, sign the contract. Make sure you get a copy of it to put in your wedding folder in case any questions or problems arise later.
Learn How to Find a Wedding Venue
Finding a wedding venue is a long process, but it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the course of planning your wedding. Do all your research, stay organized, and ask plenty of questions. Knowing how to find a wedding venue will make your wedding day as perfect as you always dreamed.
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