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5 Tips For Choosing A Wedding Venue

Tips For Choosing A Wedding Venue

By Jeffrey House Photography



Congratulations, you're engaged!!  

As you slowly come down from the high of getting engaged, your thoughts will no doubt turn to when and where you're going to have your wedding!  In this article we are going to provide you with 5 tips for choosing a wedding venue!

The thought of planning your wedding, while exciting, can easily and quickly feel very overwhelming.  But that's why you are reading this or why you should be reading this.  We are going to help you along the way so it doesn't feel so stressful.  

I can tell you that one of the most important steps, if not the most important, is choosing your wedding venue.  I personally believe it's a critical step for two reasons:

  1. It's the most expensive
  2. It has the most options to consider

The average wedding venue will run couples $100 -$120 per guest.  According to The Knot's 2014 Wedding Statistics report the average wedding will have 136 guests in attendance.  That means couples can expect to pay around $13,600 on their wedding receptions.   If you plan on hosting your ceremony at the reception site you can probably figure on adding an additional $250-$500 to the bill.  

When you consider the average wedding in 2014 cost $31,213, that means your wedding venue will account for approximately 45-50% of your wedding budget.  That also means you need to be as prepared as possible when choosing your wedding venue and we are going to arm you with some great tips to help you in making an informed decision!

5 Tips For Choosing A Wedding Venue

You will hear us repeating the same message over and over again when it comes to your wedding planning - "organization is key!"

Without organization it's very difficult to be effective or successful with your wedding planning.  

Let's now take a look at the steps to take when choosing your wedding venue!  The first two steps are preparatory, but they have significant relevance to the process.

1.  Wedding Date

Your wedding date will be an essential piece of information when selecting a wedding venue.  It will determine whether your wedding is considered "off-season" or "in-season."  If your wedding is "off-season" you will notice pretty much every detail of your wedding planning will be discounted.  Obviously off-season weddings come with a couple sacrifices - the trees have lost their leaves and the flowers are no longer blooming, so unfortunately you lose the aesthetic value.  The second issue with off-season weddings is you may have to deal with weather related issues and as a wedding photographer in Albany NY we have certainly had to deal with lovely Mother Nature at times.  But again, the discounts that come with off-season weddings can also save you a bundle of money!

I think it behooves couples to select two wedding dates - a primary and a back-up.  If you find your having difficulty with specific planning details, switching your date could very possibly resolve a lot of these issues.  The more flexible and open minded you can be when it comes to planning your wedding, the better.  

2.  Guest List

Creating a guest list before you interview potential wedding venues is really going to be valuable, as we can see from the numbers we took a look at in the beginning of this blog.  A great way to approach making your guest list is by separating it into "must invite" and "possible invite."  Once you further research wedding venues you will have a better idea just how flexible you can or need to be with your guest list.  Remember, even if you can "cut" 10 people from your guest list, it's going to save you at least a $1,000!

3.  Location, Location, Location

This is an easy detail to overlook, but the location of your potential venue is very relevant.  You certainly want a venue that is fairly easy for the majority of your guests to get to.  You don't want them to feel like their on an exploration.    And keep in mind the distance your wedding venue will be in relation to the majority of your guests.  It may not be far enough for them to consider a hotel room, but it may be just far enough to cause them to leave the reception earlier than expected.  Depending on how many guests share this thought, it may ultimately result in a boring reception.

Also consider how many routes there are to access the location.  Driving and traffic conditions could be a negative for certain venues.  You certainly don't want your guests stuck in traffic due to highly traveled roads.  This may be especially true for weddings taking place on a Friday and guests having to deal with commuters.  

When you make your final decision on the venue check with them to see if they have any agreements with local hotels so you can reserve a block of rooms for any out-of-town guests.  If they do not have any agreements, check a few different hotels in the area to see who will offer the best deal.  Don't hesitate to let them know the rooms are part of a wedding as they have special pricing for such situations.  

4.  Location Style

You probably have a vision in mind of what your wedding will look and feel like.  When visiting venues make sure you scout the entire location - reception room(s), outside grounds, etc.  Does the "style" of the location fit your wants?  Does the location look like it will work well for your wedding photography (aesthetically pleasing backgrounds, flowers, trees, etc.)?  If you plan on bringing your own unique decorations will they work well with the existing decor or will they "clash?"  

If at all possible try to visit your wedding venue during the same time of year and around the same time of day you want to get married.  This will allow you to get a sense for how it will  look and feel on your wedding day.  

5.  Venue Benefits

Now we're really getting into all the details you need to consider when choosing your wedding venue.  You will want to make sure you keep accurate records of what each venue offers so you can make a decision that best fits your wants and needs.  If you Google "questions to ask a wedding venue" you will find lists that probably have at least 50 questions to ask.  I would recommend reviewing a couple of lists to determine the questions that are most important and relevant to your wedding.  However, let's address some very important questions you should ask every potential venue.

  • Can the venue accommodate hosting your wedding ceremony?
  • What does the venue charge to host the wedding ceremony?
  • Do they have a dedicated area for hosting ceremonies or are there multiple options?
  • Does the venue price include linens, chair covers, plates, glasses, and silverware?
  • Does the venue price include a wedding cake?
  • Does the venue price include table centerpieces and what do they look like?
  • Does the venue offer both buffet and full service dinner options, what's the difference in cost?
  • If having an outdoor ceremony and/or reception does the venue have weather contingency plans?
  • Does the venue have on-site catering or do you have to hire a caterer?  (request a list of caterers if you need to hire)
  • Does the venue offer a food tasting?
  • Does the venue require a guaranteed minimum number of guests or do they have a minimum financial commitment?
  • How many total guests can the venue accommodate?
  • Is the site handicap accessible? (if applicable)
  • Are there any restrictions on how late music can be played?
  • What is the food and beverage cost on a per person basis?  What is the charge for taxes and service?
  • Can I use my own decorations and move things around to suit my purposes or do we have to leave everything as is?
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Compare Locations

I would highly recommend researching 3 or 4 venues before making a final decision, and keep detailed records so you can compare them later on.  You will then be able to determine what venue best meets your specific needs.  Even if the total time to plan your wedding is less than 12 months, be sure to take the approach as we outlined above.  It will help you keep focus and attack it with logic.  Since you have less overall planning time you will have to be a little more aggressive in order to visit multiple sites, but because the wedding venue is the most expensive we want you to avoid making a hurried decision.


To help get you started with some locations we have provides some great links to view some beautiful wedding venues!