Okay, so you’ve finally got a ring on it – but NOW WHAT?! You’re staring at a very large and very empty wedding planning notebook, with a million things to do and no idea where to start. I get it. Planning your perfect day comes with a lot of pressure, but it doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming, I promise.
One of the first things you’ll do is picking wedding venues. Our shorter spring and fall weather patterns means that there aren’t a huge variety of wedding dates available where you’ll be able to hit that magic combination of max-number-of-guests-able-to-attend, not-insanely-hot, and does-not-interfere-with-sports. (Because we all know that Louisianians take their sports super seriously, am I right?)
So, since those perfect combo dates are going to go fast. Your venue needs to be one of the first things that you lock down. Many venues book out 18 months to 2 years in advance. So if you’re dreaming of one of the big ones, you need to move fast!
BUT, how do you pick which one you want? Our fair state has no shortage of great places to get hitched, so which one is right for you – and how do you know what you really need?
Well, funny you should ask – I have some tips for you, friend. I also have a handy spreadsheet for all of you detail-oriented people out there – click here to download, and read on for details on what you need to be plugging into it as you do those wedding venues tours!
This is probably your biggest practical consideration. How much can you actually afford to spend on your venue? And what percentage of your total budget should your venue account for? The last thing you want to do is blow your entire budget on your space. And not have money left over for anything else.
Most couples spend anywhere between 30%-50% of their total wedding budget on wedding venues. Assuming the venue provides some amenities (ie, what you’re paying for is not just the rental price alone). That said, for some people the venue isn’t as big of a consideration to their budget as other things that may be more significant to them. And they’d rather go with a less expensive venue option (like a beach or a park). So that they can reserve some cash for other things.
Featured venue: 30A! Beach weddings are amazing.
Tying in with the above, what your paying is all pretty relative to what’s included for that price tag. Are you paying $5,000 to simply reserve your space for a set number of hours? Or does that price include table and chair rentals, linen, catering, booze and maybe even the cake? You’ll find wedding venues with options all over the board, so utilize your spreadsheet, take copious notes, and catalog everything for easy comparison later when you’ve had a chance to gather some info.
Featured venue: NOMA Museum of Art
Church, or venue?
If you’ve always dreamed of getting married in your family church. Or you just want to be married in a house of your or your partner’s faith. You’ll likely need to choose two venues, here – your house of worship, and your reception venue. For a church ceremony, you’ll need to factor in the officiant cost. As well as church decorations such as florals on the end of pews, printed programs, etc. And you’ll need to arrange for the reception site separately. You’ll also need to consider transportation options for the wedding party post-ceremony. As well as making sure guests have clear directions to their next stop on the celebration train. On the other hand, having both ceremony and reception occur at the same location can save transportation time, as well as (probably) a little bit of dough on decor, since you won’t be decorating two wedding venues. There are no right or wrong answers, here – it just comes down to what’s important to you!
Featured venue: St. Louis Cathedral
Indoor, or outdoor?
Some couples want to get married in a sea of greenery, with flowers blooming all around them. Some in a field at sunset, and some want their day to be all indoors in a nice, predictable and climate-controlled environment. Again, no right or wrong answers, here. An all-indoors setting will give you a wider number of available dates at your disposal (see: climate controlled). And an outdoor setting can be absolutely stunning – provided you plan appropriately for weather conditions. And have a backup plan in the event of a Mother Nature snafu (more on that in a bit).
Whatever the venue of your dreams looks like, the laws of physics still apply. You can’t squeeze a large crowd into a small space. So if you’ve got a huge group of friends and family, a smaller-although-adorable all-inclusive venue may be out. On the OTHER hand, you also don’t want to book a venue much larger than your expected guest size. It’ll just cost you more to decorate and to make it look full. Most venues will let you know their typical crowd size that they accommodate. So you’ll get a feel for what’s right for your crew as you start touring places.
Oh, boy, is this a big one. Be sure to ask about any restrictions your wedding venues may impose on you and/or your vendors for your wedding day, so that you can evaluate whether or not you’re cool with them before you put down that deposit. Your ceremony site may impose certain restrictions on your photographer which may prevent you from getting that one shot from that one angle that you just know you want – or your venue may exclude outside food vendors, which means you can’t get that taco truck you were realllllly looking forward to (I know, I get it – tacos are life). It’s completely understandable that venues and houses of worship need to institute rules to keep things running smoothly and to provide the best experience for their couples as possible – but you need to be aware of how these rules may affect your day, in order to be sure that you’re okay with them.
Location and transportation
How easy is it going to be for your guests to get to and from your venue? The quaint locale of your dreams in the middle of nowhere certainly sounds fantastic – and all is going to be smooth sailing if your guests are mostly locals who will have no trouble finding it. But if you have a lot of out-of-town guests, a remote location may prove difficult to find and navigate to, and a big distance from the accommodation arrangements may make it difficult for guests to drive home safely (and soberly) late at night after the party has wrapped up.
Does your venue include a coordinator? A coordinator is a point of contact employed by the church or venue who is often a big help in helping things to run smoothly. They’re familiar with the rules and flow of events performed at their site, and often work with couples throughout the planning process to have all the details that pertain to their role in the day worked out beforehand, and help with little things like cutting the cake! (No one really naturally knows how to do that, I promise). If you have a wedding planner, great! They’re rock stars in planning your whole day and making sure it’s gonna rock. But if you’re not using a planner, a coordinator can come in clutch for you.
As much as you’ll do your best to plan out every facet of your day, there are some things out of your control. The surest way to make sure something will go wrong is to be utterly unprepared for something to go wrong (trust me on this). This is one reason that you want to make sure your venue is prepared for sharp left turns in your wedding day plans. If you’re planing an outdoor wedding, does your venue have a rain backup plan? Sudden storms can complicate even indoor wedding days – making the dash from the limo to the church entryway without so much as an umbrella is not ideal, after spending hours in hair and makeup. What happens in the event of an unforeseeable complication, like a hurricane – can you get a partial refund to put towards a rescheduled date? Don’t drive yourself too crazy with the what-ifs, but knowing that your venue has navigated a crazy situation or two in their day can go a long way in making you confident that you’re making a good investment with them.
What does your gut say?
Only you know what your ideal day looks like. And sometimes you don’t know what’s a good fit for you until you’re touring that one spot that just makes your heart sing. Don’t underestimate a good gut feeling. As long as you have the practicalities all considered. If your heart is telling you to go with it – listen up! Having one more thing checked off of your Wedding To Do List means you’re one step closer to making it down that aisle with your sanity firmly intact.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post! If you haven’t already, you can grab your handy-dandy venue spreadsheet tracker here: Spreadsheet Tracker