So you’re starting to plan out your wedding day and it’s time to make one of the first, and largest, decisions you’ll have to make in the planning process. I’m of course talking about choosing a wedding venue that’s right for you! Finding the right venue for you can be difficult as no two wedding days are the same. Each couple has their own priorities, their own styles, and their own vision for their wedding. It’s important then to know what to look for in a wedding venue in order for it to live up to your expectations and be the perfect space for you to celebrate your wedding day in. That’s what this blog aims to do, so let’s get right into it so you can know how to find the wedding venue that best fits you and your day!
Just like every couple and love story is unique, so too are the wedding venues that you’ll come across as you search for yours. Every venue has a different style, different amenities, and so much more. Here are some key areas you’ll want to consider when choosing your wedding venue. Keep in mind though that you may prioritize things differently for your wedding day.
First and foremost, and this almost goes without saying, when choosing a wedding venue you’ll want to choose one where you actually enjoy the space itself! This may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s some things that couples will often overlook. The first thing I like to suggest for my couples is that they choose a venue that can host a majority of your wedding festivities on site. This means having getting ready spaces, a ceremony space, space for cocktail hour, and a reception space. This is a lifesaver for a wedding day as you can spend more time actually enjoying your wedding day rather than traveling from location to location all day long.
The other thing worth mentioning is to make sure you love the area around your wedding venue almost as much as the venue itself. Especially if you’re having your full wedding day at your venue, having some outdoor spaces within walking distance can make a huge difference for your wedding portraits. You’ll likely head out for some sunset portraits, and having a space nearby for wedding party, family, and couples portraits can give your wedding album some added variety as well!
One aspect of wedding venues that I always recommend couples prioritize is finding one that has a getting ready space on site. If it has multiple getting ready spaces that’s even better, but even with just one it will be a life saver for the bride! It makes your wedding morning SO much simpler if you’re able to do everything on site without the need to travel once your hair and makeup are done. I actually wrote an entire article covering this topic which you can check out here if you’d like to go more in depth on what exactly you should be looking for in a getting ready space. The main takeaways though when choosing a wedding venue with a getting ready space is that it first of all HAS a getting ready space, and two has a good source of natural lighting. Speaking of which…
Next up on my list is something that I’m a little biased towards as a wedding photographer, and that’s choosing a venue with good sources of natural lighting. This may seem selfish of me, but trust me you’ll be SO happy when looking through your wedding album to see yourself and your day lit up with natural light sources. In terms of what you should be looking for, make sure that your getting ready space has a healthy source of natural light. If the ceremony space and/or reception space also have natural lighting that’s even better! The sun will go down eventually during your reception, but the more you can get out of natural lighting the better.
As you get into the thick of choosing your wedding venue, your other vendors for your wedding will also likely be at the forefront of your planning process. This is especially true if you have a vendor that is a MUST have for your wedding day, like a photographer you’ve been following for years now that you’ve always dreamt would capture your wedding! If that’s the case one thing you’ll need to keep an eye out for with your venue is whether or not they have a required vendors list for their weddings. Some venues have a strict list of vendors you must work with, some are mixed and have recommendations for certain vendors and requirements for others, and then some venues give you total control.
There’s no right answer here on which is better, it more so depends on the experience you’re looking to craft. If you have a dream team of vendors in mind that you need to have in order to create the wedding you envision you’re likely not going to be able to choose a venue with a required vendor list. For more help on choosing your vendors check out this blog covering how and when to book each type of wedding vendor for your day!
Going off the topic of vendors is one that is heavily dependent on your venue, the catering for your day! There are three possibilities for a wedding venue’s policy when it comes to catering. They either have in house catering, have a strict list of caterers that they work with, or are completely open in terms of catering. How important this is to you and your choice of venue depends entirely on you. If you have a certain restaurant in mind that you want to cater your wedding then you won’t be able to choose a space that only allows their in house catering for your wedding day.
Next on our list of factors to consider when choosing a wedding venue is the space they have available for you to dance the night away at! One of the highlights for many wedding days is the dancing during the reception, so choosing a venue that has a space suitable for your wedding day is key. You’ll want to take into account the rough size of your wedding, and also how many people you think will be on the dance floor. If your families are more laid back and reserved, or if you’re going for a more lowkey/shorter wedding day then a big dance floor isn’t really necessary. If you’re trying to get everyone out and dancing at the same time though you’ll need the space to do so!
Logistics are a huge part of planning out a wedding day. They’re one of the reasons I recommend having your day all at one location so that you can make things as simple as possible for yourself. Even with just one location for your wedding day though you’ll still have to take a few things into account regarding your wedding venue. First up is the location of the venue. Are there hotels and places nearby to stay at? Is there a shuttle service available? If it’s a destination wedding how close is the venue to an airport? Parking is another thing to take into consideration, especially for those larger wedding days. Make sure your venue has enough parking spaces for the guests that you plan to attend. If there isn’t enough space on site be sure to ask the venue if there’s parking available nearby.
Each wedding venue has different amenities that they prioritize for their couples in order to elevate their experience. Some offer set-up and tear down service, some have furniture and décor available on site, some have a day of coordinator as a member of their staff that will work for you on your wedding day. It’s important when choosing your wedding venue that you pay attention to the different amenities the venue provides and choose a venue who’s amenities will enhance your experience rather than being needless add-ons.
The last factor you’ll want to consider when choosing your wedding venue is a crucially important one, and that is your budget for your wedding. It can’t be overstated just how important your venue is, but if that’s all you can afford then your wedding day is going to be severely lacking. There are a lot of different costs that go into a wedding like your vendors, food and alcohol costs, travel costs, etc. When choosing your venue, find one that fits within your budget that also allows you to be picky with your vendors and other aspects of your wedding.
So how exactly do you know if a wedding venue is right for you, and how do you make your decision? As you can see from the points above there is a LOT to consider in making this decision. Keeping the above points in mind, start your wedding venue search in and around the area you plan on celebrating your day. I recommend you visit your potential venues in person if possible to really get a feel for what it’s like there. Start the booking process early, especially if you plan on having your wedding on a popular summer date. Once you find a venue that has your date and fits in with the above criteria that matters to you, put your deposit down so your date is reserved and booked!
If you need a little inspiration in terms of wedding venues I have a few more resources you can check out! Here’s a list of my 10 favorite venues in the Chicagoland area, and here are 6 of my favorites in Central Illinois. For a look at more of my work, check out my Instagram. Finally if you’re ready to book me as your photographer for your wedding day send me an inquiry through my contact page!