Choosing your wedding venue is a big deal. It’s the backdrop for one of the most special days in your life, and there’s so much more to it than just how it looks.

Ashley Louise Photography | Hart & Co. Events Wedding Planning
Vesuvius Vineyards | North Carolina

Whether you’ve had yours picked out since you were little, or have no idea where to start, I wanted to share some questions and notes to think about as you consider your options…

Availability: This is an easy – and maybe obvious – starting point, especially if you have a date already in mind when you start the venue search. If you’re flexible on the date, then it may not impact you as much. I’d also throw in when asking about availability, inquire if the venue books Friday and Sunday weddings/events as well, or if yours would be the only wedding taking place on the property that weekend. If you’re getting married on Saturday, and they book a Friday wedding, that will more than likely impact your rehearsal plans – IF you’re planning on having the ceremony at the same place as the reception. It might even impact any installations, like say a tent. I’ve certainly had to juggle this very thing for clients, so it happens. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go into the process knowing everything that might be taking place at the same time as my wedding and be able to plan accordingly from the get go.

What’s Included? I’ve definitely had clients over the years who book the venue before they book with me and come to find out, they didn’t realize they would have to rent tables, chairs, other items in order to carry out their wedding plans. It’s never fun to tell them there’s going to be additional expenses. So, I highly recommend asking and getting clarity as to what all comes with the rental of the venue. If they offer tables and chairs, be sure to ask what type of tables they have (are they 8 ‘ recs, 60” rounds), and how many they have on hand. And for the chairs, same thing. Ask how many they have and don’t hesitate to ask to see what the chairs look like. Not everyone knows what a chivari is!

Ashley Louise Photography | Hart & Co. Events Wedding Planning
Vesuvius Vineyards

Rain Plan: The “R” word isn’t anyone’s favorite when it comes to making outdoor wedding plans. Coming up with Rain Plans – and Plans C, D, E, you get it – is something I do at the beginning of every wedding, event, or project, even if it seems like weather won’t be a factor. (True Story: One time I did an event in Phoenix that involved a TV crew. On one of our planning calls, I brought up a rain plan and everyone kinda laughed at me. They said it never rains in the desert. Guess what happened the weekend of our event? Yep. Rained…cats. and. dogs.) If you have your heart set on having any portion of your wedding day outside, factor in alternate locations for those portions from the beginning. Ask if the venue has backup locations and be sure to look at them right then and there. And don’t forget to double check that your proposed guest count will fit in the backup location.

Another thing to consider, the Rain Plan might require tenting. Some venues include this automatically in the rental of the venue, which I think is kind of great because that cost is already factored in. But if it’s not, that’s an expense you need to be prepared for.

Vendors: I’d encourage you to inquire if outside vendors are allowed, or if you have to work exclusively with any preferred partners. I ran into this when my husband and I were planning our own wedding. We were considering a venue but they were really restrictive on which vendors you could use and that just felt limiting to us. We wanted to build our own team and have a little more say in the matter, so we ended up booking somewhere else. I do understand that perspective though, a venue wanting to use certain professional, trusted partners who know and are familiar with the venue. I’ve been in situations where maybe it’s only one or two vendor categories that you have to use the venue’s partner, and that’s totally fine and easy to work with. Something like this may not be any sort of deal breaker for you, but I just throw it in there as something to ask about when considering your choices.

Event Staff: Every venue has a different staffing structure and way they coordinate weddings. Be sure to ask who your main point of contact will be throughout the planning process, and who will be there on the day of your wedding. And go ahead and ask what that person will do/is responsible for on the wedding day. For example, you might be meeting with a sales team member for the site visit and work with them during the booking process. But once you book, they may hand you over to someone else. And then there could even be a third person you’ll work with on the day of. And that person may not do all the things you think they will. Because the venue is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle, be sure you have a clear picture how your relationship will work.

Logistics: This may fall toward the bottom of some people’s list, but I absolutely believe it’s something worth considering before signing any contract. Think through what the logistics are. Is there a place for everyone to get dressed and ready at the venue? Where do guests park? (Is there enough parking? Will people have to be bused in? Do I have to pay for valet service or can guest self-park?) Where do they enter? Do they have to walk far? (If so, are there golf carts included or will you have to rent them?) What’s the flow from ceremony to cocktail hour to the reception space? How will people move from point A to point B? (I promise you, worth thinking through!) And what about bathrooms? Are there enough or will you have to bring in bathroom trailers? (I’ve definitely had to do that!) And do you have anyone that needs wheelchair access? I know logistics is a loaded item, but don’t wait until the month before your wedding to find out there’s not enough parking for all your guests!

Pricing: And now the biggest question of all, what does everything cost? After you see what all is included, know the venue’s availability, and everything else that will come with it, you can gauge whether this fits in your overall budget. There are a lot of fun and pretty things associated with weddings, but it all comes with a price. There’s nothing more tough than a potential client realizing they busted their budget on the venue and have a very limited budget remaining for other items. I don’t want to scare anyone, but I’d rather be upfront than not…right? And one last note on this item, after you have an idea of the cost, be sure to ask how payments work. If there’s a deposit, go ahead and ask if it’s refundable. (Most are not, but worth asking in case something happens and you realize you need to book elsewhere.) And totally ok to inquire about making payments along the way and about payment methods (check, credit card). Minor details maybe, but it all adds up!

There are so, so many things that go into planning a wedding and the venue is just one of them. I absolutely love working with any client at any point in the planning process, but I think you can see the magic of working together from the get go! I can help you find the right venue for you, and help you maximize your budget (and even help you come up with a budget!). If you’re just starting the process and searching for the perfect-for-you venue, give me a shout! I’d love to help you!