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Step 1: Choosing a Venue

1. Size

Size encompasses a lot of things, but it’s one of the most important factors when selecting a wedding venue is the size of your guest list. The number of people a space can hold for your ideal ceremony, reception, or both will affect how many people you are going to invite to share your special day with you and your future spouse.

Before you start touring or selecting your wedding venue, have a number in mind, and stick to that number. If you fall in love with a space but realize the maximum number they can accommodate is under that number, you will have to make some difficult decisions: choosing a different venue, or making cuts on that list, both of which can bring a lot of unnecessary stress. You don’t have to have your guest list written out to select a venue but have a realistic idea of who will be getting an invite. 

Along with selecting who to invite, keep in mind it’s your big day. Don’t feel obligated to invite your college roommate you lived with for one semester or that second cousin who never shows up to family events. Ultimately, the venue you select is going to be one that will be able to house those who love you both dearly and are excited to watch you take the next step in your relationship.

1A. Service Style

Service style at your reception is also something to keep in mind when it comes to size. A lot of venues have different levels of capacity based on service style. If you’re planning a cocktail-style reception with hors d’oeuvres and drinks, the capacity is often higher than if you’re planning a fully seated dinner-style reception. When touring a venue, ask for both numbers, along with what’s popular for the space and examples of configurations for both service styles.

2. Location and Accommodations

Another factor to keep in mind when selecting a venue is the venue's location and accommodations. You will likely have family and friends traveling in from out of town and needing a place to stay before your wedding. Ease and accessibility are important to both you and your guests and should be considered when making your decision.

If the venue you’ve chosen happens to be located in a city, there will likely be plenty of hotel options for your guests to choose from. More options are a great thing because your guests can not only stay at the hotel(s) you’ve suggested or reserved a block of rooms at, but they also have the option to stay at another hotel they may have a previous relationship with, bonus points from a loyalty program with or something that fits their budget. 

If you’re selecting a wedding venue that is located off the beaten path, accommodations and transportation are going to play a much larger role in the planning process for you and your guests. There will be fewer hotel options and the transportation options you have when you’re in a more populated area may not be available, your guests will either have to drive to your venue, or you might want to provide a shuttle service to and from hotel to venue.

Make sure to ask for recommendations on accommodations while touring. The venue manager or staff member will be able to make suggestions based on past events or provide a list of options or contacts for you to use during the planning process.

3. Staff and Amenities

Behind every good venue is a great venue manager and venue staff. There are so many little details that go into planning your wedding, and the venue staff knows this from experience. Your venue contact is going to be your go-to for questions, timelines, and preferred vendors when it comes to hammering out the details of your big day.

When you’re touring the space for the first time, you should feel like you have all of the information regarding the sizing of the space, prices, and possibilities and should be able to answer almost any question you can come up with.

They will also be the best resource when it comes to setting up some of the other details of your big day. Ask them about their preferred vendor's list. They might work exclusively with certain caterers, DJs, photographers, or wedding planning services or have a list of trusted partners that they have existing relationships with that can suggest to you. Having a photographer who is familiar with the space or having a caterer who works exclusively with the venue can ensure you won’t incur outside fees or may even get a preferred vendor discount. Weddings can be expensive, but getting those details from the venue manager can be very beneficial when finalizing those parts of your wedding experience.

4. Décor and Details

When it comes to the details and décor, you’ve likely got a vision in mind for your big day before you even really start the planning process, and you want your venue to be able to fit, accommodate, and accent that vision effortlessly. Whether you plan to dress up the venue with decorations galore, or you just want to add a few accents that tie in with your color pallet, having a versatile venue is important.

If you plan to transform a space to fit your vision with flowers, greenery, and decorations, selecting a wedding venue that can be a blank canvas for all of those items is important. Look for venues that have neutral coloring, natural brick and stone, and open spaces or tall ceilings. This will ensure whatever your vibe, theme, or color pallet is will work perfectly with the space you’ve selected. If you want to bring in your lighting, hanging greenery a floral piece from a ceiling, or another type of large installment to meet your vision, make sure you are discussing this on your original tour of a space.

Many times, couples will elect to leave the space as is and only add subtle decorations, like centerpieces and accent tables, without having to dress it up completely. In this case, the way a venue looks when you tour it is a good indication of how it will look on your big day (minus tables, linens, and other setup items). Pay attention to the little existing details of the space. These will be the standout features of the venue on your big day.

5. Photo Opportunities

Photos from your wedding are going to be with you forever, so your photographer being ability to capture everything perfectly should be important. Before you tour your possible venue, take a look at their website and social media pages. They will often post photos from past weddings which can be very helpful to imagine yourself having your first look in a certain spot or other ideas you want to make sure your photographer captures.

5A. Interior

Pay attention to the interior details when you’re touring a space. Exposed brick, natural lighting, a jaw-dropping staircase, or a light display are going to be details you will want to capture on your big day. 

Depending upon what season you’re going to get married in, having indoor and outdoor locations for your photos is possibly going to impact your decision. If you’re getting married in a season where the weather will likely be cooperative, being within walking distance or a short drive from outdoor locations is a big bonus. Parks and open spaces provide a vibrant and neutral backdrop for portraits and wedding party photos. 

5B. Exterior

Other great backdrops for your photos can lie within the city you’re getting married in! Buildings with murals and interesting outdoor décor can make for some jaw-dropping photos and will feel authentic to your wedding day and the city you’re getting married in. There is beauty in streets, alleys, and pathways, and a good photographer will know how to make sure everything is showcased perfectly and pops on your big day. Don’t be afraid of a little weather, sometimes a little flurry of snow or a few raindrops while you’re under an umbrella can take a picture to the next level.

Being open and upfront with your photographer about your timeline, expectations, and feel you want them to capture is key to receiving back a fantastic wedding album once editing is complete. Don’t forget to smile! Your wedding day is bound to be one of the most memorable of your life. That look of love and happiness will be all over your face the whole day, the right photographer will capture it.

Selecting your wedding venue is one of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding. Once you’ve selected a venue and a date, a lot of the other details of planning will follow. Going into touring with a clear mind, a list of questions, and budget, and important numbers in mind will help ease any stress. The perfect venue will tick all of the boxes it needs to and should make your heart soar just like it does when you see your future spouse.

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