How To Choose Your Wedding Venue

How To Choose Your Wedding Venue #wedding #bride #weddingplanning

With our recent engagement and my complete inability to just be chill, we’ve already booked our wedding venue. It was a fun process and today I’d like to share how we found the space that was so very us.

Location

The first thing to consider is where you want to get married. As in, what city. For some people, this might be obvious. For us, we had to decide between Philadelphia and Long Island (in N’s hometown). After much debate, we decided on Philadelphia. It will be less stressful to plan a wedding where we live. Also, we love Philly!

When choosing a location, it’s also important to consider how that will play in to the overall cost. Long Island is the second most expensive place to get married in the United States (after Manhattan), with an average wedding cost at $57,000! Each piece of the wedding (rentals, catering, flowers, photography) was a little more expensive there.

Ceremony Location

Are you looking to have your ceremony and your reception in the same location? This definitely changes your options.

Some things to consider: Will that require the use of a separate space within the venue? Is there an additional cost? Is there enough room for both to take place? Can you visualize where the aisle would be and where you’d actually be married in the space?

We wanted our ceremony and reception in the same location and this limited the spaces that would work for us, to some extent.

Size

How many people are on your guest list? Can the space hold that many people? Or, conversely, is the space too large for your guest list? Our venue maxes out at 120 guests. With our guest list of 74, it’s the perfect size for our ceremony, reception, and dance floor.

Parking

Oh how city living has changed my perspective on parking! We looked at several center city venue options and found that some only had on-street parking. Yikes! That could be a mess for guests and they could theoretically have to park and walk more than a couple of blocks. The alternative to a lack of parking is to have shuttles run from the hotel to the venue, but that is an added expense.

We opted to go with a slightly pricier venue that has valet parking in the garage right across the street. Problem solved. Still, make sure you are aware of where your guests can park on your big day and how much it will cost you.

Price and Payments

Cost is obviously a very relevant piece of the puzzle when planning a wedding. How much is the venue charging? Our venue was a bit more than we wanted to spend BUT (and this is a big but), we can choose any vendors we want and can buy our own alcohol.

Additionally, our venue was willing to work with us on the deposit cost and payments. Instead of paying half up front, our venue allowed us to pay a smaller amount, with additional payments in March, June, and a final payment in December. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and be up front about what you are able to do!

Catering/Vendor Restrictions

Vendor restrictions can completely change the cost of a venue space. For instance, your venue could be reasonably priced, but if they only allow you to work with one caterer who charges $100/plate? Well now it isn’t so reasonable.

As I said above, the venue we chose allows us to choose our own caterer and bring our own alcohol. Buying and bringing in your own alcohol is such a huge money saver vs. a per person cost of say $35/hour for the first hour and $6/hour for each additional hour for an open bar (an actual quote that I got, bringing the alcohol total to about $4,300). With a little Googling I found that for 74 people, we’ll need around $1,000 worth of alcohol, purchased in bulk from BJ’s (similar to Costco).

Availability

Is it available on the date you want? Or, like us, maybe you kind of don’t care about the date and they’ve got one that sounds good.

Management

The responsiveness and flexibility of the management of the venue will certainly change the planning experience. One of the first things that stood out to me about our venue management is that they were quick to respond to emails and have been nothing but friendly and flexible. Trust your gut. If you feel like you trust the management and you’d enjoy working with them, that’s a good sign.

Atmosphere

And finally, atmosphere. How does it look? What is the vibe you want for your wedding? Take a look through your Pinterest wedding page (come on, you know you have one – here’s mine), and see what types of spaces you’ve pinned. When you look at a venue, you’ll probably be able to visualize what you can do with the space. If those images come to you quickly and make you smile, you’re probably headed in the right direction.

We wanted something different. We wanted non-traditional. So instead of looking just for wedding venue, we looked for alternative spaces. We wound up booking a photography studio. Sure, they have weddings there. But that is not the primary purpose of the space. Don’t be afraid to ask about having a wedding in a space that has nothing about weddings on their website.

Finding It

The Knot and Weddingwire are great places to start to get an idea of what types of wedding venues are available in your area. There are probably a ton!

If you are looking for a less traditional wedding location, I’d suggest an alternative method. Using your old friend Google, check out wedding photographers in your area. More than likely those photographers have a blog where they show photos and details of recent weddings. This is a goldmine of fabulous vendor and wedding venue ideas.

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If this seems like a lot to think about, it is! Don’t be intimidated. Here’s a quick step by step.

1. Make a list of all the places you would consider, based on your online research, and make some calls / send some emails.

2. Ask about pricing, what is included (tables & chairs, for instance), and catering restrictions. Most venues know what questions you are going to ask and provide you that information without you even asking (all of the venues I emailed and called did).

3. Once you’ve narrowed it down by price, schedule some site visits.

4. When you’re in the place, you’ll probably know.

 xo, Nadine

Linking up with Nicole

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  • I love that your venue is a photography studio! I used to have rehearsals in a photography studio and it was the coolest space ever and it did make me wonder if they used it for anything else.

    • I never really knew that photography studios like the one we chose existed. It’s a pretty large space and I wish I could see it being used as a photography studio. It must be awesome to shoot there.

  • Katie

    I am also planning my upcoming wedding in Philly, and it has definitely been an interesting experience. Is your location in Center City? We looked in Center City and Northern Liberties, and were either very unimpressed or very overwhelmed. We wound up choosing a place in New Jersey, across the bridge from Bucks County. Congratulations again on your engagement!!

    • It’s actually toward Old City. We looked at a couple others in Northern Liberties and were also unimpressed. Plus, parking seemed to be a bigger issue there.

  • Kaitlin

    I’m sorry-is this going to be all about wedding stuff now? If so, you’ve lost a reader. I’m excited for you, don’t get me wrong! But for someone who’s always seemed to have a well balanced self about her, the influx of wedding posts is a snore. We get it, you’re engaged…stop cramming it down our throats. Interesting now that you have the ring, you have lots more to post about again.

    • Woof. Well Kaitlin, you certainly got to the point. And to be fair, you probably said what at least a couple other people are thinking, so thank you for that. I don’t intend for this to become a wedding blog but I will be posting about wedding stuff as we make decisions and learn more about the planning process. It was never my intention to “cram it down your throats”. I’m sorry that my enthusiasm has turned you off so if that’s the case, I wish you well and urge you to enjoy the many other bloggers in the blogosphere. My best wishes to you in the New Year!

  • Yes to this! Love the location you choose! We looked a ton of places that weren’t the normal banquet hall and found a couple cute places but I just wasn’t happy so we are opting for a wedding shower/celebration at my mom’s this September and then a 30th birthday for my fiancé/wedding in Mexico March 2016:) Best of both worlds really and we are staying 2 weeks in Mexico with our kids and a bunch of family.

  • Location is a HUGE part of any wedding! Good for you! We chose to have our reception at a hotel close to I-95 and only a short drive from BWI for convenience. We also asked the hotel to give us special rates for our guests (duh, sorority experience). Sounds like you’ve gotten a lot planned already!

  • I would assume in Philly it’s going to be way more than $100 per plate haha! I’m in NJ and we were astounded at the average price per place cost (hint: its $250). Crazyyyy! And I totally agree about choosing a location that’s close to where YOU live. You’re the ones who will be meeting lots of different vendors and that’s way easier when it’s 10 minutes away instead of 3 hours.

    • Really?! Holy cow $250 is a lot! Our venue gave us a list of 12 caterers they’ve worked with before and loved and I’ve gotten quotes from 4 of them. None are even close to $100. Most are around $45-$75, with varying things included (i.e. the $45/per plate was just for food and did not include staff or rentals). I got one quote for $95 and was told that was on the high side.

  • Claire

    Congratulations!!!! I have been reading your blog for a long time and I always thought you and N seem to have such a wonderful relationship and partnership. Plus your pet parenting is SO CUTE. I love hearing about your planning process and I am so happy for you. Also you rock that ring and your nails are perfect. Love, Claire (a blog-less reader, sorry!)

  • These are great tips. We chose a venue in a destination (the mountains) and we were pretty adament that we wanted the ceremony and reception there, but we also wanted people to stay on site. We found a small hotel that just happened to have mountain views on a lake and I was sold. The cost was $110/pp but that included food, alcohol, tables, chairs (we upgraded), linens, plates, silverware, servers, a few decor elements, cake cutting, champagne toasts. Hmm…I feel like there was other stuff included as well. But either way, it seemed like a lot, but we got so much out of it.

    I also agree with management. The management at our venue still remember our wedding. They remember details that they wouldn’t know about without actually remembering. It’s so sweet! I loved that we got married there.

  • This is amazing and while I do not even have a boyfriend I am bookmarking this for when they day comes, thanks Nadine!

  • Lexie

    Another great site/app is WedHappy! If you’re like me and live by planners, it’s a great way to make sure you stay on top of things. It’s got due dates and such, and gives you a percentage for how much you’ve done planning-wise. 🙂 Best wishes to you and N!

  • I love picking a venue that isn’t as conventional! We venue is actually a guest ranch that accommodates about 8 people. We ended up renting the place for the weekend so that we have some place to stay / some people in our wedding party don’t have to pay for a place to stay 🙂

  • First off, I’m so excited for you! I’m not married nor plan on being so anytime soon but I love weddings haha. Seeing all these weddings posts in addition to your other posts has made me love your blog even more than before. I look forward to more!

  • lex

    When you know, you know! I knew the second we stepped foot on site at our venue and booked it on the spot 🙂 And don’t worry, I wasn’t able to chill either 😉 We had a date/place within two weeks!

  • I don’t know which is the most important – the venue or the dress! And both you tend to set a budget on, then tend to go well over the budget 🙂

  • Pingback: What to Say to Her in Your Wedding Venues in Milwaukee, WI()

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