5 Things to Look for in Your Wedding Venue

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Every decision you make plays a part in designing the wedding day of your dreams. One of the biggest and most important decisions you’ll make is selecting a wedding venue. Your venue sets the tone of your big day, influences the decor, affects your budget, and even determines who’s on your guest list. Knowing that your venue makes a bug impact on your wedding day can make choosing one a pressure filled situation. But it doesn’t have to be!

Choose a Wedding Venue

Style is an essential thing to keep in mind when looking at venues. It provides the backdrop that things like your florals and decor rentals enhance to further develop your wedding day atmosphere. A European style chateau is the perfect location for a classic fairy tale wedding. An outdoor venue is perfect for the couple that wants to highlight one of their favorite views. Once you’ve settled on the style of venue you’re looking for, there are a few other things to keep in mind.

Whatever venue you choose, it should fit into your budget. By taking time to understand what’s include (and what’s not!), you can be sure you’re getting exactly what you need from your venue. Today, I’m sharing my list of the top 5 essential things to look for in a wedding venue. From the location to the packages they offer, these criteria will help ensure the venue you select checks off all the boxes.

bride and groom holding hands leaving wedding ceremony with guests waving streamers

1. The Date

Selecting a date for your wedding can be a challenge. I always recommend discussing with your soon-to-be-groom about whether it’s more important to get married on a certain date or at a particular venue. Oftentimes, venues book between 12 and 18 months in advance, so your venue should be one of the first vendors you book.

If you decide you have some flexibility in your date, select a season or month you want to have your wedding. When you reach out to venues, ask them what dates they have available in that time frame.

Having a date in mind before you select your wedding venue can sometimes limit your options, especially during the fall and summer because these are popular wedding times. If you choose one of these seasons and don’t have a flexible date, you may not be able to book your first choice venue. But don’t worry! There are plenty of beautiful options out there. It may just take a little more time to find the venue that’s right for you.

Brides Tip: Whether it’s your photographer or calligrapher, if your heart is set on a certain vendor book them as soon as possible.

white table set with black plates, copper accents, candles and tall floral arrangement at Vaux Studio

2. The Amount of Space in the Venue

Be aware of your guest list. You don’t need to have the guest list set in stone before you choose a wedding venue. But you do want to have an idea of how many people you plan on inviting. This number will help you determine what kind of venue you need. Here are a few tips to help you estimate your guest count:

  • Will you be inviting just your immediate family or all of your extended family?

  • Are you allowing all guests to bring a “plus one”?

  • Will you be inviting children?

  • How many invites are your parents going to want to send out?

After answering these questions, you may find your guest list is larger than you anticipated. If it is, decide whether you want to find a larger venue or pair down your guest list. You don’t want to fall in love with a venue and then find out it won’t be able to accommodate your guest list. Once you settle on the maximum number of guests you want to invite, be sure to stick to that number!

Brides Tip: Maxing out a venue can make the space feel cramped and interrupt the flow of service. It’s better to have more space to make it more comfortable for guests.

selecting your wedding venue: 5 important things to look for

3. The Venue Packages

When it comes to selecting a wedding venue, it’s more than just renting a space. Some venues include services like in-house catering, rentals, and bar service, while other venues will only rent you a space. Before you choose a wedding venue, be clear about what you can spend. When you’re talking to venue, make sure you understand what kind of venue it is and what’s included.

Full Service Venues

A full service venue is a great option because it prevents you from having to research and vet all your vendors. These types of venues typically have a preferred vendor list for you to use. This list helps narrows down the vendor options which makes the vendor selection process shorter and easier. Plus, you can be confident the vendors on the list understand the ins and outs of the venue. They know what works and what doesn’t.

On the flip side, it doesn’t always give you the flexibility to work with the vendors you want to work with. If they partner with an exclusive caterer, that means you wouldn’t be able to bring in food from your favorite restaurant.

What’s Included in Full Service Packages

These venues usually provide tables, chairs, flatware, glassware, linens, and catering services. Most included rentals are basic pieces like banquet chairs, regular flatware, and white or black linens. When you select a full service wedding venue, expect the cost to be about 50% of your budget. If you want gold flatware, velvet linens or chiavari chairs, those will be additional rental costs.

Space Only Venues

Venues that just give you access to a space but require that you provide everything is another common type of venue. This type of venue is perfect if you’re looking for a blank canvas. It gives you complete creative control over the design of your wedding.

What’s Included in Their Packages

Access to the space and electricity is basically what you get. You’ll be responsible for renting tables, chairs, linens, finding all your own vendors, and supplying your own bar items. These rentals can add up quickly though. If this is the type of venue you’re looking for, make sure you include a larger line item for rentals in your wedding budget.

The Minimums

When a venue is providing in-house catering, always inquire about any food and beverage minimums. Based on the minimum, think about whether or not you would be able to realistically meet those minimums with your guest count. When it comes to making sure a venue fits into your budget, don’t forget you’ll need to include tax and gratuity to the minimum.

The Perks

Holding your ceremony and reception at two different venues means you’ll be paying a fee for both locations. Many venues offer their clients perks for holding a ceremony and reception at the same location. If you decide to have your ceremony at your reception venue, make sure you ask about space to get ready on site. This isn’t something every venue has and you also want to be sure it will accommodate your wedding party. Having everyone in the same location on your wedding day can be beneficial and cuts down on transportation costs.

The Restrictions

All venues have restrictions. Make sure you understand what those are before you choose a wedding venue. If you want a candlelight reception and a confetti exit, but the venue doesn’t allow them, that might not be the venue for you. Or if the venue is in a residential area, there may be noise restrictions that could affect the kind of music you have. You want to make sure you’re staying true to what you want. You don’t want to look back on your wedding and regret not doing something because of the venue.

The Down Town Club wedding venue overlooking the Philly skyline

4. The Venue Location

The proximity of your venue to your guests is important. If most of your guests are coming in from out of town, choose a wedding venue that’s close to a hotel. Or if you’re doing a destination wedding, select a venue that has on-site accommodations. This makes transportation easier on you and the guests. With everyone in the same place, you have the opportunity to spend more time with your guests. Plus, it prevents guests’ from having to worry about transportation or being late because they get lost.

Think about how accessible the wedding venue is. Is it easy to find with directions or is it out of the way? You want to make it as easy as possible for guests to get to, especially if your ceremony and reception are at different places. If you pick a remote location, consider providing transportation for your guests.

Another thing to consider when selecting your wedding venue is the time of your wedding. If your wedding venue requires local guests to travel, don’t be surprised if guests leave early. Or if the venue is father away and starts later, it may be difficult for guests with children to enjoy the whole reception. The later start time and distance from home may interfere with bedtime and require them to leave your wedding early.

Pomme wedding venue with large windows, stone fireplace, and globe lights

5. The Venue Layout

When you walk into the space, think about how the room flows well. Are there separate spaces that make it easy to transition from the ceremony to cocktail hour and then to the reception? If there aren’t separate spaces, is there a way to create different spaces with draping or furniture? If the venue has a unique configuration, you want to be sure it won’t compromise the flow or make guests feel cramped.

Make sure you can see where the different parts of your wedding will take place in the space. If you need to flip your ceremony space for your reception that will influence what kind of decor you use. Depending on how extensive the decor is, it effects how quickly the staff can have your reception space ready. Or if you want guests to play outdoor outdoor games during cocktail hour, look for venues with a space to accommodate that.

One thing couples often forget to think about when they’re choosing a wedding venue is parking. It’s frustrating for guests to arrive and not be able to find parking. If there isn’t self-parking available at the venue or close to it, consider providing valet service or transportation for your guests. If you’re providing transportation, not having a clear, designated space for drop offs and pick ups can be challenging. You’ll want to make sure you have signs or someone telling guests to where go.

Brides Tip: No one likes to talk about rain on your wedding day, but it’s a must have conversation. If you’re looking at venues for an outdoor wedding, it’s crucial that you consider what your Plan B would be at that venue. Check to see if there’s an indoor space that would be acceptable or if there’s an option to set up a tent.

white, black and copper wedding reception table at Vaux Studio

Selecting a Wedding Venue

Determining which venue is right for your wedding day is a big decision. Before you begin searching, have the basics in mind. Settle on a style, estimate your guest count, and determine what type of venue works best with your budget. This process helps narrow down the list of prospective venue options and helps you formulate a list of questions to ask the venue. These five factors help serve as a checklist for making sure the venue’s right for you.

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5 things to look for when selecting your wedding venue

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Hello, I’m Jenna!

A PHILADELPHIA-BASED WEDDING COORDINATOR

Welcome to the JTE blog, where I share my favorite weddings and insider tips to make your wedding day simply swoon-worthy. Grab a cup of coffee (cream and sugar for me, please) and enjoy a virtual peek into my color-coded planning binder.

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