You’re engaged! Now what? I recommend starting with what’s most important to you but your venue plays a big roll on your wedding day, and here’s why! In some cities, venues start to fill their books up to a year or more in advance. Many couples even have to re-think their desired wedding date to get the venue they’re wanting. So, in order to help make your venue search process as easy as possible, I’ve put together an ultimate guide with answers from how to find venues in your desired area, what questions to ask, and even what to wear to the tour!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where do I even begin? Start with the vision for your day. Do you want an industrial feel? Lots of greenery? Outdoors or indoors? How many guests are you inviting? By mapping out the overall venue of your day, you will have a better idea for where to start with your venue planning.
How do I find venues in my area or destination? A Google search never hurt! I also encourage you to think outside the box. Having an intimate wedding? Maybe an Airbnb or rental warehouse will suffice? Instagram can also be a powerful search tool — simply type in the hashtags box (example: #NCWeddingVenue). Pro tip: Once you’ve narrowed down your venue search, type it into our search bar to see if you can find some inspiration from other weddings we’ve featured at your venue!
How many venues should I tour before selecting THE ONE? I’m a firm believer in trusting your gut — just like you did when you found your person! If a venue checks all the important boxes and gives you those warm, fuzzy feels, it’s probably the one for you. I would check out the ones that seem to check all of the boxes (including budget)!
CREATIVE VENUE IDEAS
Don’t want ordinary or don’t have the budget for a venue of your dreams? Think outside the box. Some examples:
Airbnb — If you’re having an intimate wedding, an Airbnb can be a unique, fun venue idea that also allows some guests to stay on property with you! Do make sure that the host is aware of your intentions for their property — some home owners would prefer their space not be used for events, and I get that. I also recommend considering an Airbnb for your “getting ready space” even if you do choose a more traditional venue.
State Park — For the adventurous! Want that outdoorsy vibe but not sure how to get it? Consider a State Park. There’s quite a few who have affordable rental policies for weddings and events. Reminder: Please respect your local state parks and wildlife.
Backyard — Sometimes the most underestimated of all the venue ideas. We love a good backyard wedding! Know someone who has the space and wouldn’t mind letting you use it? No harm in asking! The pro here is that there are likely no venue fees to using a friend or family member’s backyard, so you have more funds to go big on rentals and decor.
Restaurant — Another idea for those of you planning a more intimate affair: Your favorite restaurant. If the most important thing to you is gathering with your loved ones for a meal and good conversation, a restaurant may be the venue for you! Check with your favorite spots around town to see if they have a back room you can rent out — bonus if there’s pretty a patio for the reception!
WEDDING VENUE CHECKLIST
The Basics Pro tip: You can ask these over the phone to rule out venues before making the trek to visit.
• Is the date we’re considering available? If not, what are other dates available in that month?
• How far in advance can I reserve my date? Do you have wait lists?
• Do you have seasonal or off-day discounted rates?
• Is the venue large enough for our guest count?
• How much is the deposit to reserve our date? Is it refundable?
• What is the payment schedule? Are there any late fees? Can we pay it all up-front?
• Does the total payment include sales tax, service charges, gratuity, and cleaning fees? If not, what are the extra costs we should plan for?
• What is the cancellation policy?
• Are there “getting ready” rooms onsite or will you have to reserve another location for that?
• Does any additional use come with reserving the venue? For example, hosting the rehearsal dinner at the venue or a bridal photoshoot.
• Is there any on-site lodging for us or our guests?
• Are there any shuttle services available to transport guests from their hotels to our venue? If so, what are the preferred hotels?
• Is there a strong cell signal at the venue? If not, are there ways for guests to call Uber, Lyft, or other ride sharing services?
• Where will gifts be stored during the event? Is there anyone to help load gifts into vehicles post-event?
• Who will be our point of contact on the day of the wedding and planning beforehand? Are they available to meet with us in person?
• Are there any in-house vendors available to us? Are they included in the venue pricing? If not, what are the additional fees?
• Can I hire my own vendors? If so, are there any fees involved to use outside vendors?
• Are outside vendors required to have separate insurance policies to work at the venue? Does the venue have liability insurance?
• Does the venue come with any rentals (i.e. tables, linens, chairs, glassware, etc.)?
• What time can vendors or family members start to arrive for set-up on wedding day?
• Will our vendors be responsible for breaking down the decor post-event or do you have staff available for that? If our vendors are responsible for break down, what time do they have to be out by?
Food & Beverage
• Do you have in-house catering? If so, is it included in the rental fee?
• Can we do a tasting before the event?
• Is there a food and beverage minimum?
• What is the alcohol policy? Is liquor allowed to be served?
• Can we bring our own alcohol? If so, are there corkage or service fees?
• If the ceremony site is outdoors, is there a back-up plan in case of rain? Does the venues have photos of this that you could view?
• Does the ceremony allow for multiple ceremony configurations in the event of harsh light shining directly on you during the ceremony?
• Is there AC equipment on-site for a DJ or live band to plug into?
• What are the lighting options for the reception?
• Are open-flame candles / sparklers / confetti, etc. allowed?
Policies & Logistics
• What security services are required by the venue? If we have to provide our own security, how many peace officers will we need per guest?
• We want our baby (read: dog) to attend our wedding, are pets allowed?
• Do you have a recycling policy?
• Are children allowed at the venue? If so, are their baby changing areas or space for nursing mothers?
• Is your venue handicap accessible?
• What are the parking options available?
• How many bathrooms do you have?
Whew! You made it. We know this list can seem daunting, but remember this: take your time. A venue tour should never be rushed! Enjoy the process and have fun!