How do I pick a Venue?
Updated: May 4
You have a ring.
You have a bridal party.
You have a theme.
The next question is...WHERE will you tie the knot?!
I have a really beautiful canvas in my living room of a special 1926 mansion in the mountains of Georgia. It’s a place that I look at daily as I lounge around, and it’s a place I look back on with fondness. It’s where me and my husband said, “I do.” It’s where our story began.
The perfect venue. Those words are perhaps the most integral part in wedding planning, because your venue will house all the other small details that you’ve planned. Your amazing bridal party, your family and friends, your cute decor, your style and vision...So what is there to consider when selecting a place to say “I Do”?
Style. Your theme is what is going to help you choose a venue. You know yourself and your Finacé and what feels right for you two. If your man can’t stand wearing a three-piece suit or a bowtie, maybe steer clear of fancier venues. Or better yet, find a compromise. For example, during my own venue-hunting process, I wanted a timeless venue, but my husband loves the mountains and the outdoors. The venue we settled on was that beautiful mansion nestled in the North Georgia Mountains. A perfect combination of our styles.
Number of guests. Know your number! If you are a couple who has an extensive guest list, (especially beyond the 200 mark), there’s a chance you might become bound to that number. Once finding an aesthetically appropriate venue, check out their capacity to see if your event is able to be accommodated there.
Date. Some couples want a certain date, and there is no negotiation. Others are looking for flowers to bloom or leaves to change. Depending on when you get engaged and how popular the venue is, you might have to look into a Friday or a Sunday to get your perfect season. Rest assured, settling on less-popular Friday or Sunday weddings are typically less expensive, and truly are not as big of deal to guests as you might think. Those out-of-town guests will make it work, even if it requires taking a day off.
Sentiment. Maybe you have in mind that you want to get married where your parents or grandparents got married. Maybe you and your Finacé have a special spot or part of town that had defining moments in your relationship. When thinking of your venue you might want to consider sentimental elements because personalized details like getting married near the park where proposal happened can really transform a venue space. The sentimental elements might not be something that your guests will ever know, but they are something you all will hold near and dear to your heart. You know that mansion in the mountains? Not only was it a combination of my husband and my style, but it also happened to be where my parents got married. This allowed for some “remade photos” which added special memories for my big day.
Photographer on the left: Catherine Cansler Photography
R*** Plan. “The R word”. It’s that big, thundering and soggy “what if” warning sign in the back of every bride’s mind. We know it, because it’s on our minds too! Not having a Plan B (or Plan R) if a storm comes can make or break choosing a venue. Chances are, if the venue you selected has a back-up plan, it’s not your absolute dream vision. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called Plan B, but Plan A! Bottom line, if you can potentially see yourself being married in the Plan B, do not let the r-word hinder you from choosing the venue. It probably will not come. But if it does, I am confident you will find ways to not only make it work, but make it beautifully special for your wedding.
Getting Ready. To some brides, the anticipation is the biggest part of the day. Several venues will have a special cottage, suite, or room for the bridesmaids to get ready. The groomsmen might have a unique space as well (although many times the groomsmen get shoved into a small room if they don’t have the space for it!). This is something to inquire about before picking the venue, especially if you wanted to get ready at the venue.
Destination. A destination wedding can be getting married in the mountains, two hours away from your house. It can also be on a beach in a Caribbean Island. Most brides use destination weddings as a way to escape the routine and make their wedding its own special space. Whether your destination wedding is a 20 miles away or 20 hours away, make sure you understand that some will not be able to attend if the travel is extensive. If having every person in attendance is extremely important to you, you need to consider your guests’ budgets, families, and work time off. In my opinion, the safest mentality to have when planning a destination wedding is “if you can come, we’d love to have you, and if you can’t, celebrate with us from afar.” Enjoy your escape with your Finacé and those who are able to attend your spectacular and unique event.
Room Flip. Ah. The flip. Something that seems so daunting but a lot of venues only have one large space for both your ceremony and reception and a smaller space for your cocktail hour. This is very popular for winter months because ain’t nobody got time to be outside in the dead of winter - even here in Georgia. So you have your ceremony with your tables either off on the side or in a storage area, all your guests go outside for cocktail hour while your coordinator (hello, that’s us) and maybe some venue people transform the room into something totally different from the ceremony space! However, something to think about for the cocktail space is weather (not just rain but cold or heat), or is there a place for the older folk to sit if they can’t stand for 45 minutes to an hour.
Inclusive. Mostly inclusive places are a godsend if you don’t have time or the confidence to plan a wedding on your own. They come with a caterer, coordinators, and even a florist! It’s easy to pick a photographer, DJ, and minister, and let the rest be taken care of by someone who knows the venue like the back of their hand. There is such a relief in these types of places, and I have both attended and coordinated many stunning weddings this way. However, if you are someone who detests “cookie cutter” and thrives on individuality, these venues might not be your ideal choice. Oftentimes, these weddings can look almost identical because of their all-inclusive nature.
So how do you find these places accommodate everything you need?! The Knot or WeddingWire is a great place to start narrowing down your search as you enter your range of budget, your guest count, and to start looking at photos. However, this is not the ‘end all be all,’ because many venues do not pay for a membership, which means their ad might be 30 pages in and easy to miss. My personal favorite go to search is Google Maps. Find a town or a section of the state and just type in wedding venues. Begin scanning the places that pop up on the map and explore from there.
NOTE - this can be super time-consuming, but if you want the venue that fits your style, it’s going to take some time. Next, Visit 5-6 venues - but no more than that. Don’t get overwhelmed and the different places twisted in your mind. Visit the ones that make your “short list” that are a super contenders.
I know - there are tons to consider. But remember, the most important thing is that this place fits you as a couple. Chances are, once you find something that you love, all the tiny things you were so concerned about before will fall to the wayside. And many years later, you’ll be lounging around in your living room, gazing at that canvas with a smile. Because it’s your special place. It’s where your story began.
Photographer: Catherine Cansler Photography