First things first. Before beginning to gather wedding decor inspiration or reaching out to your future wedding vendors, book your wedding venue.
By officially securing a venue, you will not only lock down your wedding date (most wedding vendors will not allow you to book until you have an official date), but you will have a better sense of the space you will be working with, and what exactly you need.
So, what are you looking for in a wedding venue? Yes, you may be mostly focused on the “look” of different venues, but there are also a lot of other factors to consider. After narrowing down potential venues and scheduling tours, go through the following list of things to look for when touring wedding venues:
What to look for: Size capacity
Why: The size of a venue is a huge factor when considering which venue is best for your wedding.
If you want a smaller wedding, yet go with a huge venue, it can be tricky to make a large space feel intimate. On the other hand, you also don’t want to get too small of a venue if you are thinking you’ll have a larger guest count of a few hundred people.
Make sure the venue is large enough for guests to have their own space, but small enough where mingling can organically occur.
What to look for: Catering policies
Why: All venues operate differently when it comes to catering. Some allow outside catering companies, while others ask that you select from a preferred list of caterers. Be sure to ask, especially if you had your heart set on a certain company/type of cuisine/style of dinner service.
If the venue does require in-house catering, also ask about if that includes bar service, or if you need to be in search of bartenders for your wedding.
What to look for: Permitted use of candles
Why: If your wedding design ideas include dining by candlelight, check to see if the venue allows candles, let alone open-flame. Some do not permit the use of candles at all, others allow them as long as they are in a votive, and some venues do not let you have candles whatsoever.
What to look for: Flow
Why: Wedding “flow” refers to the transitioning of events throughout your wedding day (i.e. guest arrival >> wedding ceremony >> cocktail hour >> dinner reception >> dancing >> guest departure).
When visiting the venue(s) in person, take the time to envision where each of these events will occur, and walk through the space with the “flow” of your wedding day in mind.
What to look for: Getting ready area
Why: Having separate getting ready areas for you and your fiance in the venue can make your day much easier on both you and your wedding party.
Not only does it give you more time to get ready beforehand and not have to worry about organizing transportation to get to the venue, but it also provides a private area to resort to if you just need a few minutes to yourself during your wedding day.
What to look for: Contingency plan
Why: If you are looking into venues where you plan to have an outdoor ceremony and/or reception, try to think of how the venue space can be utilized in case of poor weather conditions.
Remember the “flow” you considered earlier? Think of how that can be adjusted JUST in case the weather is not ideal on your wedding day. Think tents, space heaters, alternate photo op locations...
What to look for: Parking
Why: Look around to see if there is parking available on-site at the venue, or at least nearby. If not, think of how your guests will be arriving to the venue, whether that be via valet service, shuttles, by ferry…
What to look for: In-house rentals
Why: Venues that already have tables, chairs, linens, and dinnerware can be great because that means one less vendor for you too look into and hire. Ask if those rental items are included in the rental fee, and if not, how much is the cost? Less things to rent from a third party means less work for you.
If, however, you want a specific style of chair or linen that the venue does not have, ask if you can bring in outside rentals to create your desired wedding look.