How to Pick A Wedding Venue

One of the first challenges to face when beginning wedding planning is finding the perfect wedding venue. When it comes to your big day, you want to feel immersed in the magic of a beautiful venue, surrounded by friends and family. Many brides have an ideal setting in their heads, but how can you bring that vision to life?

Jump to:

  1. What is a Wedding Venue?
  2. The Basics of How to Find a Wedding Venue
  3. Wedding Planning Tips for Wedding Locations
  4. Things to Consider When Picking a Wedding Venue

What is a Wedding Venue?

A wedding venue is the location where you will host your wedding nuptials, reception, or both. It’s common for a wedding ceremony to be located in a church, outdoor setting, or place of special meaning for the couple. After couples exchange vows, the reception venue can be located in the same place or somewhere else. Having a separate reception venue is most common when the ceremony is hosted at a church or if more space is needed for guests at the reception.

outdoor wedding venue with guests and an altar

The Basics of How to Find a Wedding Venue

Deciding between dozens, if not hundreds of wedding locations can be intimidating. Luckily, you can narrow down your choices to the best of the best by determining whether each venue meets the criteria below.

Determine your Wedding Budget for the Venue

Start off on the right foot by sitting down with your fiancé and figuring out your budget. Whether you say “I Do” in an elegant barn or on a white, sandy beach, you don’t want it to break the bank. The average wedding venue cost is reported at $5,400, but most venues cost anywhere between $3,000 and $15,000. Decide how much you are comfortable spending on your venue, and try not to budge on that number. Make sure that your budget also has some wiggle room for unexpected costs that come up. Once you have a set budget, you’ll know what you can spend on the perfect venue. This will help you quickly eliminate expensive venues so you can avoid heartbreak later on.

Here are additional resources to help you determine your budget:

Make a List of Possible Wedding Dates

Deciding on a list of potential wedding dates is essential to figuring out which wedding venues are available. Factors that can contribute to wedding date choices include:

  • Seasons and Weather
  • Holidays
  • Life Events
  • Symbolism
  • Guest Availability

Visit our resource on how to pick a wedding date for more help on deciding on available dates. Once you have an idea of your chosen wedding date, you can determine which venues are open and you can narrow down your list. Plus you’ll have a day in mind for your save-the-dates.

Decide on a General Theme for Your Wedding Venue

Picking out a theme for your wedding is a fun and creative way for you to start your wedding planning. Make a wedding planner or mood board with inspirational colors or decor. What stands out? Is it a luxury-filled, bohemian style that you love? Or maybe it’s a venue full of greenery and copper accents. What kind of style do you picture your wedding invitations? All of these questions should be taken into consideration when planning your theme. Once you have a general idea of what you want your theme to be, start comparing it to the venues. There might be venues that seem to fit the theme perfectly. There might be even more that don’t suit it at all. Take the latter off your list and continue with what’s left.

a newly married couple dancing at their reception

Plan Your Guest List

Every couple wants all their friends and family at their wedding when they exchange vows, but sometimes creating that first guest list can be a little tricky. Many people struggle with feelings of needing to please everyone while also struggling to stay within the limits of their budget. And while difficult, planning your guest list is essential. It’s important to check how many people each wedding venue allows for. If you’re planning a larger wedding, make sure your favorite venues aren’t capped off at 50 people. Also, double check with venue liaisons what the “optimal occupancy” for the venue is. The maximum number listed may be accurate, but at that number it could feel crowded.

Consult an Expert on Wedding Locations

When it comes down to the details of wedding venues, nothing beats a professional opinion. If you plan on hiring a wedding planner, this is a key step to discuss with them. Wedding planners will tell you exactly what wedding venues will match your theme wishlist, budget, and guest list. Even if you don’t hire a full time wedding planner, consulting one for even just the wedding venue planning can be extremely helpful. Bear in mind that on average, every hour of assistance from a wedding planner will cost you around $75. Full packages for wedding planners often run between $5,000 and $10,000. Having said that, wedding planners are great at finding ways to cut down on unnecessary costs. Talk to your partner to decide if this is something you want to take advantage of.

Wedding Planning Tips for Wedding Venues

One of the best ways to stay on track with your wedding venue search is to track all of your research. Consider using a digital planning tool, Excel spreadsheet, or traditional wedding planning binder. Create comparison columns or checklists for all of your venues. Some possible categories include:

  • Venue Base Cost
  • Guest Maximum
  • Guest Minimum
  • Provided Extras (tables, chairs, etc.)
  • Date Available
  • Type of Venue
  • Location
  • Caterer Options
  • Proximity to Ceremony location
  • Website
  • Parking
  • Unique/Favorite Qualities
  • Dislikes

Planners like this can also help you incorporate details of favorite decor themes. That way when you’re ready to start finding a florist, you can refer to the spring-themed flowers you found earlier in your search.

a veil and flower bouquet for a wedding

Things to Consider When Picking a Wedding Venue

After you’ve considering the main details that factor into your wedding venue choice, dig deeper. Make sure that you’re not surprised by any part of the venue contract. Here’s a few key things to ask about:

Transportation Options to the Wedding Venue

Does the venue have a close-by parking lot, and if so, is it free? If they don’t have a parking lot, ask where guests are expected to park, and if there will be provided transportation to the venue. You don’t want to get to your big day and realize that half your guests have nowhere to park their cars.

Venue Restrictions on Catering or Decorations

Some venues have existing contracts with specific caterers or a fixed theme. Check with that venue that your wedding can be as customized as you want it. If the venue only has food from a vendor whose menu you dislike or only decorates with a color palette that clashes with your plans, it might be time to ditch it.

Included Decor and Supplies by the Wedding Venue

If your favorite venue has a set theme, go through all the decorations to make sure you love it all. If you have creative freedom, confirm that your plans are within budget and possible to have at the venue. Beyond decorations, ask your venue if supplies like tables, chairs, and other reception and ceremony essentials will be provided.

Preparing for a Site Visit at the Chosen Venue

After narrowing down all the wedding venue options, you’ve come up with a short list. The final test is to visit the venue in person and decide if it feels as magical as it did on paper. This is a good way to find out if the venue is hard to get to, or on the other hand, right next to a busy highway.

Don’t Let Wedding Locations Scouting Scare You

At the end of the day, don’t get discouraged: there’s a perfect wedding venue for everyone. And once you see your chosen venue in person, all the work you put in will be worth it.