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How To Choose Your Wedding Venue

After chatting with a newly engaged friend the other day, it occurred to me how important it is to choose the right wedding venue. This is typically your very first step toward wedding planning so you can nail down a date and have a region to locate other vendors. But what makes a wedding venue the right fit for you and your soon-to-be spouse? There are a few things I would encourage you to think about, beyond budget and season.

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1) What's Your Vibe?

Rustic, elegant, classic, waterfront? This is a huge factor when determining where you should host your wedding, but go in with an open mind. Lighting and decor can totally transform a space, so make sure you browse through pictures of your venue in all seasons. Also keep light in mind. Is there a lot of natural light, or will your photo/video crew need flashes and external lighting to make sure you look great?

2) Guest Count

All venues should have a number of how many guests they are able to host. If they don't tell you, be sure to ask. You don't want to book a venue for your 400 guests when they can only hold 150.

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3) Transportation

Think about how much of the day you'd like to spend here. Will it just be the reception, or will it include getting ready all the way up to the last song? There are definitely pros and cons to being in the same place all day long, but if the space allows for it it's a great way to cut stress about getting from place to place with your bridal party. Also keep in mind whether or not all your guests will be able to park on site, or if you'll need to hire shuttles to get everyone to the venue.

4) Outdoor Backup Plan

If you plan on having an outdoor ceremony, cocktail hour, and/or reception, make sure you ask about a backup plan in the case of inclement weather. Whether that means a tent or a ballroom inside, you should always have your bases covered!

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5) What's Included?

When you're touring venues, ask if they have different packages. Some venues are just the bare bones and you are responsible for bringing in tables, chairs, linens, etc. Others offer all the furniture and decor, and some include full-service catering. Some venues also have strict alcohol policies. You should also be sure to ask if you're able to hire outside vendors, or if they have an exclusive list to choose from. If you are able to hire outside vendors, ask whether or not they will need a Certificate of Insurance (or COI) to work at the venue. Some venues also include a day-of coordinator to help things run smoothly on your wedding day.

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When touring a venue keep your vibe, guest count, transportation, and backup plan in mind, in addition to what you're getting for your money.

Ask these questions when touring a venue:

  • What will the lighting look like at the time of our ceremony/reception?

  • How many people are you able to accommodate?

  • When am I able to arrive at the venue?

  • Do you have a getting ready suite?

  • What's the plan for our outdoor ceremony if it rains?

  • What is included in the price?

  • Do you have a list of vendors I must choose from, or am I able to hire my own?

  • Will my vendors need a COI to work here?

  • Do you provide a coordinator on my wedding day?

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