Five Factors to Consider When Trying to Determine If a Specific Wedding Venue Right for You

From the location to the services and amenities, take these points into consideration before you sign on the dotted line.

evelyn sam wedding reception exterior during sunset
Photo: Kerry Jeanne Photography

As you start touring potential wedding venues, you'll realize there are so many different decisions that need to be made: Will you celebrate inside or out? Do you want one venue for the entire celebration, or will you change locations between the ceremony and reception? Are you looking for an elegant, formal space, or do you prefer something more understated and casual? Once you have a general idea of how you'd like your wedding day to look and flow, you'll be better able to start assessing the many different venues available to you; still, the process doesn't end just there: here, we've outlined five factors to think about in regards to any venues you're seriously considering, as they'll help you determine if you've found "the one" or need to keep looking.

Location, Location, Location

Whether your dream wedding venue has a backdrop of mountains or skyscrapers, it's all about the location. But it's not just about what you want: You'll need to reconcile your locale wishlist with what will work best for your guests. "Is the location central to guests flying or driving from other cities?" asks Linda Wright, owner of Cedarwood Weddings. "Choosing a venue 'in the middle' will be more convenient and cost effective for guests."

Additionally, consider the parking for your guests. If you're getting hitched at a high-rise in Chicago, make sure there's nearby parking options for family and friends. Likewise, if you're holding your ceremony and reception in your parents' backyard, consider providing parking attendants to assist with the cars.

Amenities and Services

Are you looking for a full-service venue, or are you open to handling many of the details around the ceremony and reception? Every venue offers something different, so it's important to go into the search with an idea already in mind. "Venues who have furniture, décor, and props in house, and who do the heavy lifting of set up and tear down is a tremendous advantage both in cost and convenience," Wright advises.

Tasia Fisher, director of events at Lake Union Café, agrees. "There are many spaces that will rent the venue for a minimal fee and you'll get it all day, but this usually means you will also need to hire a caterer, bartending services, coordinate and set up rentals, load in and out as well as clean the venue at the end of the evening."

The Final Cost

It seems obvious, but it's easy to lose sight of the cost of a venue, especially when factoring in packages and what's included and what you'll have to do yourself. And since every venue is different, it can be overwhelming to figure out an exact cost. "Venue pricing is not apples to apples," says Wright. "Find out what taxes, add-ons, and service charges will be added for a more complete comparison."

Lauren Schaefer, founder of Get Together Events Co., agrees. "A lower cost venue is always super appealing, but I always remind my clients to value the cost of their time and mental energy as well." Sure, it could be fun to create your dream wedding venue from scratch, but remember the cost of all the vendors, who potentially all need a deposit at different times. An all-inclusive venue might end up being the more affordable choice!

How Well It Complements Your Vision

Even the most undecided couple has some idea of how they want their wedding day to look. And it's important to keep that in mind when touring wedding venues so you don't stray too far from that vision. If you two have always imagined walking down a softly lit aisle with the sounds of nature in the background, a traditional church probably isn't the venue for you. Likewise, if you've dreamed of walking down the center aisle in your childhood church, you might want to stay away from hotel ballrooms.

Take the décor into consideration, as well. Your vision, for both the ceremony and reception, needs to be easily achieved in whatever venue you choose. If you want lots of hanging florals, chandeliers, and twinkle lights, make sure you venue allows for maximum customization.

Is It You?

A wedding should be a reflection of a bride and groom as well as the life they share together. If it's not right, guests and participants alike will feel it. "For a couple who loves to hike with their dogs and go to outdoor events, that should set the tone for selecting a wedding venue," Wright says. "Venue environments should become extensions of a couple's personality and make the day more personal, and guests will feel the fit."

Shaefer urges each of her clients to remain true to themselves no matter what. "I encourage all of my clients to sit down with each other in a quiet moment and determine three adjectives they want to describe their day," she says. "If a choice doesn't fit with those three adjectives, it's not a fit for your wedding!"

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