Perhaps the most important part of any wedding is the venue — the spot where you’ll say “I do” and celebrate eternal love with a host of family and friends. Whether it’s an intimate location in a big city or a lavish estate in the countryside, finding the perfect spot can be both exciting and overwhelming. Thankfully, there are simple ways to pick a venue that’ll save you time, prevent decision fatigue, and ensure you’re not getting scammed.
Below, a professional wedding planner and newlywed break down their hacks to narrow down venues quickly, questions you have to ask wedding venues before and during a visit, and exactly how to pick the perfect venue for your big day.
When Should You Actually Start Planning Your Venue?
Amanda DiNardi, founder and lead planner at copper + chloe, a wedding and event planning business, says typically, venue booking should happen about 12 to 15 months ahead of a desired wedding date. But because of the times, many are planning even further in advance with a nearly two-year lead time.
“Brides are booking into 2023, potentially 2024,” DiNardi says. “If you are having your ceremony on site at a reception venue, then it’s all the same timeline. If you are having a traditional religious ceremony in a church or something, some require 18 months in advance for premarital counseling.”
For anyone planning a wedding who wants to do the bare minimum, DiNardi recommends hiring a wedding planner to help ease the stress of planning and to prevent being overloaded by the amount of work involved. It’s also important to focus on staying within your budget.
“Establishing your budget from the moment you get engaged is crucial for every component of your wedding,” DiNardi says. “You would be surprised how quickly things add up. You never want to overextend yourself if you really can’t afford a wedding venue that’s out of your comfort zone.”
In addition to reading contracts with vendors thoroughly, DiNardi recommends checking with the venue that your deposit is refundable in the event that you have to cancel your wedding for any reason. Since 2020, many have started including cancellation or rescheduling policies.
How It Worked IRL
Recent bride Olivia, 28, held her 2021 wedding at The Farm At Eagles Ridge in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A Philadelphia local, she and her husband chose their venue after seeing it in a wedding video — an unorthodox decision, but one she doesn’t regret.
“It was the first and only location we toured,” she says. “We booked it the same day. The only time I was stressed out was when people seemed shocked that we hadn’t looked at more venues.”
By choosing a venue first, and quickly, the couple was able to focus on other minute details. They chose a wedding date based on the venue’s availability and were able to get the venue’s recommendations for local vendors, another simple way to ease unwanted stress when planning the big day. It also helped prevent Olivia from comparing her venue to other options and she was able to envision her wedding day from the very start.
For those who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for in a venue, Olivia suggests watching videos online to see different types of weddings within the space itself, a tactic she says makes the event feel more “real” versus using static photos that might misrepresent the true space and function of the venue. Plus, reviews from past couples are also helpful to gauge whether or not a venue is as professional and reliable as they appear to be on their website.
When touring a potential venue, Olivia says one thing that made her feel less stressed was knowing her venue had multiple indoor-outdoor options for the ceremony and reception and that they were willing to reconfigure things at the last minute, if needed.
The Best Hacks To Cut The Hassle
It’s important to have an idea of the type of venue you want before touring or booking anything, DiNardi says. For example, tented weddings are the most labor-intensive wedding style when it comes to building the tents, coordinating everything for the ceremony, and renting furniture, catering equipment, and bathrooms.
“I highly recommend a bride who is having a tented wedding to have a wedding planner,” DiNardi says. “However, when you are looking for a venue, I suggest having a place that is full service. A hotel that has a pretty ballroom is always a plus especially for those who have a lot of out-of-town guests.”
Other venue-booking hacks include reading reviews on sites like Google and The Knot to read real reviews from previous clients. She also recommends scouring Instagram. “Looking at the locations or tags of other vendors is a great way to really look at spaces to see if you can visualize having your wedding there.”
And, if you need to narrow down your venue choices, look at your budget, aesthetic, and guest count and eliminate venues from there. “Aesthetics is everything when it comes to picking a venue. It’s all about your taste, style, and what you really want to showcase for your big day.”
Amanda DiNardi, founder and lead planner at copper + chloe