I always tell couples that (in my personal opinion), picking a venue and a date is the single hardest part of wedding planning. Once you get through this part, it gets a lot easier and lot more fun. I’ve shot at a LOT of venues and I know how many factors there are that go into a decision. Here’s a list with seven pieces of advice that I would consider the basics of picking a venue.
#1. Have a vision.
Have a rough idea of your overall vision, your guest list, and your ideal season/year. These three things will largely dictate your options at the initial stage of your search. Are you imagining an al fresco dinner under market lights and photos in a field of wildflowers? Or maybe the modern industrial vibe of Park 31 is more your speed. Intimate wedding, or do you want 100+ guests? It’s good to be flexible, but also have some ideas of what your preferences are when going into your search.
#2. Hire a planner. No, really.
Consider hiring a planner. Seriously. They most likely have worked at a large number of venues in the area and have insider info to help narrow down your options right away. Or if they haven’t worked there, they’re connected to a network who has and can still do a lot of the initial legwork for you. They’ll be able to offer expert advice about how many people can fit in a space, logistical challenges posed by certain venues, warn you about hidden costs you may run into, and offer guidance related to what the overall experience there will be like. The value of their knowledge really can’t be understated! I can only scratch the surface of the venue selection process in one article.
#3. Decide how much control you want.
Decide if you want some all inclusive or if you want to choose your own vendors. Now, I’m all about planning a wedding that’s an authentic representation of who you are as a couple. It’s up to you to decide what that looks like. For some couples, that means that every aspect of the design – from the tables and linens to the florals and extra decor, should be unique to them. For others, that means choosing a slightly more convenient route of going with the standard white linens and included flatware, with personal touches elsewhere. Some couples are planning their wedding from afar, and a venue with an in-house caterer means one less appointment they need to fly out for. For other couples, the food is a big way they plan to showcase their unique personality and the basic BBQ package isn’t going to do. Whatever that looks like for you, just know that some venues require you to use certain vendors, or you might be stuck paying an extra fee to bring in your own people.
#4. Stay organized.
Get organized from the start. Start a spreadsheet so you can keep track of details like availability, capacity, layout, price and what’s included, restrictions, parking, security, etc.
#5. Keep your feet on the ground.
Be realistic about your budget. And realize that you run the risk of falling in love with any venue that you tour. So be cautious when scheduling a tour for that venue that’s twice your budget, because you might be setting yourself up to get heartbroken later on. Consider your venue cost in the context of the rest of your wedding budget. What does the cost of the venue leave you for other important things like photography, dress, florals, etc.
#6. Think about the flow.
Consider the flow of events. Think about what it’ll be like to have 150 people move from place to place. Does the flow from ceremony to cocktail hour to reception make sense? Consider what your overall guest experience will be like at the places you’re considering.
#7. Visualize your wedding photos.
Consider the photo options. Now, obviously, I’m a little biased! But this is important. Are the grounds of your venue beautiful? Is there good lighting? Is there a good number of options? The more spots there are to shoot, the more photos you’ll get, and the ones you do get will have more variety.
Want to know what my favorite venues in Austin? Check them out here!