The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Wedding Venue 

You’re engaged!  Yay, the planning process officially begins. And now you have to choose a wedding venue. You want a beautiful place that will be perfect for your wedding, but it’s tough to decide which one is best for you. And with so many choices out there, you might feel a little overwhelmed.

There’s no denying that choosing a wedding venue can be a stressful process. If you’re like me, you want to make sure that you get everything right. 100% follow your gut instincts when planning, but know there’s a lot of info out there to help you make sure it’s an informed decision.

I’ll give you a step by step guide to help you choose a wedding venue for your big day. From where to start, what questions to ask, how to narrow your search, and what to look out for.

So let’s get started in helping you find the perfect place to host your dream wedding.

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Outline:

  • When to look 
  • Priorities 
  • Your ideal style or theme 
  • Comfortability and convenience 
  • Photo Ops
  • Budget
  • Where to look when choosing your venue 
  • What to look for in a venue 
  • Fine print and details to be mindful of

When to begin looking for your wedding venue

Realistically, you should begin your wedding planning as soon as possible. With that being said, the average couple books their wedding venue about twelve to eighteen months in advance. Of course you can book the venue more quickly! However, keep in mind that there are only so many weekend dates within a year, and the early bride gets the date! *pun intended. Nonetheless, the size of your wedding or venue, along with its popularity, will determine the best time to book your venue.

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It starts with priorities 

First let’s start with the type of wedding you’d like to have.  How do you plan to celebrate? For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use size to describe types of wedding. For instance, would you like to elope? Do you want an intimate ceremony with fifteen (15) or less guests? Is a micro-wedding of 50 or less guests better for you two?

The space you’ll need

The size of the venue you’ll need should be at the top of your list and priorities. After you’ve determined the type of wedding you’d like, you can now move on to the space you’ll need. The larger the anticipated guest count, the greater your venue size will need to be. Find a venue with space to comfortably fit your guests.

For example, if you’re expecting 100 guests, a larger venue may swallow you and your guests. On the other hand, 300 guests in a venue with limited space  may make you and your guests uncomfortable. What happens if your dream wedding venue doesn’t hold the capacity you need?

Architecture and aesthetic

What wedding style are you more drawn to?

Your look and feel don’t have to be set in stone, but it gives you a great head start! If you’re indecisive like me, pick two and go from there. Although I can tell you that narrowing down the style is one of the easiest ways for you to choose a wedding venue.

  • What’s your wedding theme?
  • What season are you considering?
  • Do you know what kind of vibe you want?
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Here’s a list of style ideas in no particular order :

  • rustic
  • farmhouse
  • classic (or simple)
  • coastal
  • European
  • edgy
  • bold
  • modern
  • unique (firehouse)
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Your meeting space(s): indoors, outdoors, or both

  • Do you want your ceremony and reception to be at the same venue, or are you willing to travel? Do you want to have the ceremony outdoors or inside? Would you like a chapel to be wed at? And if so, indoors or outdoors? Do you want your reception in the same space, or will you need a variety of meeting spaces? Would you like a dedicated cocktail hour space option? How much time do you want to spend in the wedding venue?
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Comfortability and convenience 

  • What location or setting would you like your venue to be at? Do you want a venue closer to the city or secluded in the country?
  • How lavish would you like your wedding day to be? It can be as simple as a local community center or park, or as lush as The Olana Mansion in Dallas. 
  • Where will you two be getting ready? Do you want to lessen the stress and time by getting ready in a bridal or groom suite?
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Photo opportunities 

  • Would you like to have photo opportunities on the venue’s premises or will you need to travel? Is there a setting inside the venue that can work for formal portraits? Are you okay with pine paneling on the walls or would you like a cleaner look? What about a grand staircase, pergola, water fountains, or gazebo?

Budget

Total wedding budget and the amount you’re willing to spend on the venue itself. A lot of couples forget to include decor into the budget, even with already gorgeous venues. This could mean nixing guests, or trimming in other areas. 

After you’ve written down your must-have checklist, let the search begin!

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Where to look when choosing the perfect wedding venue 

I think Zola is a great place to start when trying to find a venue. Unlike The Knot or Wedding Wire, vendors aren’t displayed based on the highest bidder. Which means you’re getting a more unbiased opinion on the best wedding venues in your city.

After you’ve written down five to ten of your options, you can move forward. 

Here are a few ideas on places to narrow your search: 

  • Search engines like Google and Bing (just type “wedding venues + city/state”)
  • Your wedding planner
  • Online wedding directories like Wedding Chicks
  • Social media (Instagram and Facebook Groups) 
  • Other recently married couples  
  • Ask your friends and family
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What to look for in a wedding venue 

Is in-house catering required? Are there any other mandatory vendors you must use (e. g. : bartending, security, etc.)?

Be weary when it comes to all-inclusive venues and promotions. Some wedding venues charge penalties to book vendors that aren’t on their preferred vendors list.

 

What’s included in your venue rental?

Some venues, like The Hundred Oaks, provide only the meeting space for your event. In contrast, other wedding venues, like the Atrium Center, provide tables and chairs.

Hint: Get the details on the style of the tables and chair options (e. g.: garden, Versailles, Chiavari, folding, etc.).

Wedding Venue Fine Print and Considerations 

Read your contract with a fine-tooth comb.

Things to look for in your contract are: 

  • What will happen if your venue shuts down?
  • What happens if you change your mind and decide to elope?
  • Will your venue allow you to postpone your wedding date? If not, what do they have in place in case of emergencies? Will they force you to keep your current or original date?
  • Will your venue force your vendors to sign a vendor-venue agreement with them as well? If so, what does it entail?
  • Other policies related to cancellations, changes, or “selling” your date?
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Recap on how to choose a wedding venue 

In conclusion, your venue choice will have a big impact on how you and your guests feel during your wedding. You want to make sure that you choose the perfect venue for you, your family, and your guests.

Begin with a list of your wants and needs. Then narrow your search based on those factors. Everything from the aesthetic and convenience, all the way to your budget matters when it comes to choosing your wedding venue.

Finally, it’s important to remember there’s no right or wrong way. The decision to choose a wedding venue should be one that’s up to you and your partner.

Finally, to answer your question of “How many photos to expect?”, you can expect between 25 to 100 images per hour (with 100 really pushing it) delivered in your final gallery. Again, the total number varies widely based on the following factors: wedding size, activities, number of photographers, and products.

As one of Houston’s wedding photographers, my studio provides photography services to engaged couples. I also serve San Antonio, Austin, and destination weddings. If you’re looking for a wedding photographer, feel free to inquire with me about reserving your date.

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