10 Overlooked Factors to Consider in a Wedding Venue
After the initial shock and joy of our November engagement finally settled in (sometime in January), my fiancé and I started to get serious about planning our nuptials. I was thrilled at the thought of planning a ceremony that would be meaningful to us and to our families, along with a party that our guests would never forget. But so many thoughts and ideas were running through my head and I found myself totally overwhelmed and intimidated by the idea of planning such a big event. Simultaneously, I was falling deeper and deeper into the wedding-inspiration Pinterest hole.
The first thing every planner, book, and bride will tell you is that selecting a location and venue for your big day is the hardest and biggest decision—and one you should make first. There’s no use falling in love with a floral arrangement or china pattern for your reception tables until you know where your reception will actually be. Once you’ve locked down your city and state, there’s still a lot to figure out before selecting the exact location for your big event! From cut-off times to your guest count, below are 10 important factors you don’t want to overlook.
I had dreams of a romantic vineyard wedding in California wine country until I learned of a state ordinance that prohibits amplified music after 10p.m. Knowing the kind of reception we wanted to have and how important a band was in our plans, this wasn’t going to work. See ya vineyard, it would have been nice. In the same vein, if you’re hoping for a more low-key, intimate event, but the restaurant where you’d love to host your reception is next door to an all-hours karaoke bar, that may not work either.
One of the locations we looked at had a gorgeous flowering arch, which would have made the perfect backdrop for exchanging vows—that is, until I learned that this particular vine was only in bloom for a few short weeks, none of which corresponded to when we wanted to have our event. To find that out later after having a cemented vision in my head would have been a major bummer.
We looked at an absolutely adorable boutique hotel as a potential venue for our wedding, but even pushing their capacity to the max would have meant drastically slashing our guest list. To us, it wasn’t worth having the wedding in this really great space if it meant that our friends couldn’t be there to celebrate with us. On the flip side, if you’ve always dreamed of having a reception in the grand hall of your local museum, but you only plan on inviting 50 guests, your party could end up looking a little empty and sparse.
If you are imaging an intimate dinner with yards of silk draping and glistening chandeliers, but the room you are looking at has soaring ceilings, it could be extra-costly for your vision to become a reality. If you have a certain mood or style you want your event to evoke, make sure you’re looking at venues that already have some of those characteristics. Otherwise, transforming your space to suit your vision could end up blowing your budget.
If your aunt has bad knees or you know your grandmother isn’t walking like she used to, make sure the sites of your ceremony and reception can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and double-check that there is an elevator, so guests aren’t forced to take the stairs. I confirmed with our venue that there will be golf carts available to shuttle guests between the garden ceremony and ballroom reception, because I knew some of our family members wouldn’t be able to do the walk.
I once went to a wedding where the bar and cocktail hour were in a living-room-type space and the reception in a large ballroom that was only accessible from the living room through a regular three-foot-wide doorway. The location was charming—don’t get me wrong—but that doorway was a disaster. It created a terrible bottleneck between the rooms and it was always crowded by wait staff and guests shuffling to get through. It ended up being a distraction that took away from the beautiful event.
A dinner under the stars in an orchard is certainly a romantic way to celebrate your new marriage, but if the closest restrooms are a ten-minute walk, your guests may feel otherwise.
Since so many of our guests will be coming in from out of town, it was very important for us to choose a location for our ceremony and reception that was in close proximity to a variety of affordable hotels and bed and breakfasts. This was another issue with my winery dream—the ones we were looking at were up to 40 minutes away from the nearest city or town and the hotel options that were close by were either out of budget for our guests, or a little too seedy for my liking.
When we selected the location for our wedding, I was thrilled to hold our ceremony in a garden setting. After our contract was signed we were locked in, I panicked. Wait, when was the sun going to set on the date of our event? Would there be weird shadows cast across the lawn that would make it difficult for our guests to see us up there, and give our photographer a major problem? The garden was gorgeous at noon on a Tuesday in January, but how would it look at five in the evening on a Saturday in October? By checking these factors with our venue’s contact and looking at real weddings held in the same place at the same time of year, I breathed a sigh of relief.
We opted for a patio setting for our wedding’s cocktail hour, which we purposely scheduled to take place during sunset. Luckily there are floodlights on the building to help illuminate the space once the sun goes down, otherwise we would be looking at bringing in additional lighting—another potentially unexpected budget breaker.
Did you learn any lessons when it came to selecting a venue for your wedding? Share your stories below—I’d love to hear!