When you imagine your wedding ceremony, what do you see? When you close your eyes do you see a minimal, graphic altar or one decorated with draping greenery? Are there elegant chairs finished with flowers or old wooden pews? Soaring ceilings or a cozy den?
After choosing your wedding dress (and your spouse, obviously), your venue is the most important decision you’ll make. The space you choose will not only give shape to everything from the ceremony to the send off, but will be immortalized in the photographs and memories captured that day.
It’s easy to see why so many couples get nervous about making the wrong choice.
Don’t worry. There are a few rules of thumb that can streamline your decision making process and give you the wedding day set up you’ve always wanted.
What to Look For in a Venue
The simplest way to know you’ve found the perfect venue is when you get that feeling. You know, That Feeling. Where your heart speeds up just a bit and you can’t help but picture the day’s events playing out through the space. That’s the first and most important sign that you’ve found the right place.
While you need to follow your heart and trust your instincts, there are other great signs that a wedding venue will deliver all you hope for.
First, ask your planner if they’ve ever worked with this venue before or if they know someone who has. Getting that first hand feedback is invaluable when choosing a venue; knowing your planner has prior experience on location is a huge vote of confidence.
Next, consider the venue staff. Are they eager, interested, and collaborative? The best venues are managed by people that are genuinely invested in the success of your event. If something goes wrong, they’ll be there to help you or your planner right the ship. When you ask questions or bounce ideas around for huge draped swaths of fabric or unique hideaways at the reception, they make suggestions to help realize that dream. A great, collaborative staff is irreplaceable.
Lastly, a great venue is flexible and understanding. Are they willing to do things differently? Are they interested in the nuance of your wishes? Flexibility indicates a willingness to go “off book” in the interest of your perfect day. Even if you don’t need flexibility from your venue, it’s nice to know you’ve got a team you can count on.
Other Things to Consider While Choosing a Wedding Venue
Beyond the standard issue considerations like price and capacity, there are a handful of important things to consider when selecting your wedding venue.
First, the location. Is your venue located downtown near ample parking or public transportation? Or is it a hundred kilometres out in the sticks and only accessible by car? Both of these options are suitable, but they’ll have implications for how your guests are able to attend your wedding. For folks without cars, it can be challenging to arrange transportation.
Further, is your venue accessible for people that may have mobility issues? People using wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, or canes may struggle to walk across a flowery meadow to your altar. Similarly, parents with young children (or even folks carrying heavy things, like caterers) may really benefit from the presence of an elevator rather than stairs. Considering both the geographic location and accessibility of your venue is critical.
Next, think about lighting. If you visit your venue in the daytime and it’s awash with gorgeous natural light, ask about the lighting available after sunset. Are there mood-setting sconces that cast an intimate glow or overhead fluorescents that just remind you of high school? Are you able to bring your own lighting elements to fit with your decor? Ask about the degree of flexibility you have in designing the space’s lighting and, if available, ask to see photos of different arrangements in action.
You should also ask about contingency plans. What if the power goes out? What if the venue-provided equipment, like a podium and microphone, breaks? What if the venue manager falls ill? Your venue should have good answers for every question that pops into your head. On your wedding day, lots can go wrong—it’s important to be thorough in planning for contingencies.
Lastly, ask about any vendor limitations. Some venues may not allow live music, for example. Some venues may have contractual agreements which grant exclusivity rights to specific caterers. Some venue managers may simply refuse to work with certain vendors, having had a bad experience in the past. Ask if you are free to hire any vendor that you want; if there are any limitations, what are they? If you sense your venue contact is dancing around an issue, ask your planner to get to the bottom of it—they’ll know exactly which questions to ask.
Choosing the perfect venue can be challenging for even the most focused couples. It’s meant to be the site of the best day of your life, after all! If you approach the process with an open mind and a willingness to be surprised while staying true to yourself (and your budget!), then rest assured—you will certainly find your perfect venue.