The wedding venue is a big part of what makes a wedding, a wedding. It literally sets the scene for your wedding. 

So, you’ve got to love your wedding venue. You also want to be able to afford it, ensure it’s convenient for your guests, and most importantly, find one that’s available on your preferred dates. 

Choosing a wedding venue can feel overwhelming. Here’s the good news: it’s much easier when you go after it with a plan.

1. Sketch out your budget

Step one is making a wedding budget. Have a rough idea of how many guests you want to invite, and the types of activities and vendors you’d like to have. Knowing how much you can spend total can save you a lot of time and heartache. 

You don’t want to get your heart set on a venue you can’t afford. When you have a budget in mind, you can use it to prevent yourself from even looking at a venue that’s out of your price range.

2. Determine your deal breakers

When creating your budget, it can be helpful to list your top priorities. Is a premium venue the most important thing to you, or would you rather be able to invite as many people as possible? Are you set on having a live band, or would you be okay with a DJ? Does the venue have to be pet-friendly? 

Think about the things that are most likely to drive up the price, and make some de fcisions about your deal breakers.

3. Choose a location

Even if you’re not planning a destination wedding, it’s worth giving your location some thought. In what part of town will you host your wedding? If you’re inviting a lot of out-of-town guests, are there hotels or accommodations nearby? What’s the parking situation like? 

Ideally, you don’t want your guests hiking up a hill after parking a mile away. You also don’t want guests walking in late to the ceremony because their Uber driver got stuck in traffic.

4. Visualize your event

What’s the theme of your wedding? Modern or traditional? Formal or informal? Bohemian and romantic, or glamorous and upscale? Indoor or outdoor? 

Know your vision, whether you want an intimate garden ceremony or a spectacular ballroom affair. You’ll instantly be able to narrow down your search for potential venues based on which ones fit the bill. 

5. Guesstimate your guest list

You don’t have to nail down your guest list right now, but you’ll definitely want to have an estimate before you choose your wedding venue. Knowing how many people you expect to attend will determine the size of the space you require.

Plus, having a rough estimate will come in handy when you’re calculating the potential costs of a venue (see tip #8).

6. Make a date

Do you have a specific date, month, or season you’re hoping to get married? Depending on how committed you are to your date, that can limit your choice of wedding venue. 

Popular venues can get booked nine to eighteen months in advance. If your venue is more important to you, start your search early. If a specific date is more important, then be prepared to be more flexible with your venue options. 

7. Create a spreadsheet

You’ll be looking at a lot of wedding venues. Save yourself some steps by starting your search online. Jot down all the important details in a handy spreadsheet, and you’ll have no problem keeping things straight (and objective). 

List each venue on a new row, and dedicate columns to the following:

  • Capacity
  • Availability
  • Type of venue
  • Venue layout
  • Pricing information
  • Parking details
  • Catering options and pricing
  • Decoration options and pricing
  • Restrictions and cancellation policies
  • Any questions you have

8. Calculate the cost

Now that you’ve researched venues, it’s time to bust out your calculator. In the previous step, you may have ruled out some venues out due to their availability, capacity, or other restrictions. 

For any that you’re still considering, get a rough estimate of how much it might cost to host your wedding there. For all-inclusive venues, this will give you an idea of the total cost. For others, it will give you an idea of how much budget you’ll have left to hire additional vendors.

9. Visit in person

By now, you’ve probably narrowed your list down to a handful of favorites. It’s time for the fun part: visiting potential wedding venues in person. 

Bring along a list of any questions you wrote down in your spreadsheet. Then, make sure you cover your bases with our comprehensive list of questions to ask a wedding venue.

Tap into your gut during your visit. How do you feel at the wedding venue? Does the space feel right? Can you visualize your big day? If the vibe feels off, this may not be the venue for you.

Pro Tip: If there are any venues that take your breath away, you can always ask if there’s a way to secure your spot early. Some venues allow you to pay a refundable deposit to hold the date for a limited time.

10. Make a backup plan

If any part of your wedding will be outside, inquire about weather contingency plans. Does the venue have canopies, tents, or indoor spaces, you can use if it starts to rain or snow? Are those guaranteed to be available during your wedding?

11. Consider your guests

You want your wedding to be memorable. Make it a happy memory by ensuring the comfort of your guests. 

Inquire about bathrooms. Do you need to rent portable bathrooms, or are there enough on-site to support your guest list? 

For venues without accommodations, ask if there are hotels nearby with easy transportation to the venue. Also look into parking options, and consider if you have budget to cover your guests’ parking fees.

12. Review the pros and cons

Still stuck choosing between wedding venues? Reevaluate your deal breakers and must-haves, review your budget, and talk it over with your partner. Go back and revisit a venue if you need to. Then, make a list of pros and cons. 

Once you’ve chosen your wedding venue, double-check that it meets everything on your wishlist:

  • It’s available for your preferred date and location
  • It’s on budget
  • It matches your vision
  • It has capacity for your guest list
  • You can work with your preferred vendors
  • It has contingency plans for bad weather
  • It offers parking, transportation, lodging, and bathrooms for your guests
  • It meets all your must-haves, with no deal-breakers
  • Whatever restrictions it has, you can deal with them
  • It feels like “the one”

13. Book it!

Feeling good about your venue? Book it! Congratulations on choosing your wedding venue. 

Now, you can really get started on planning your wedding. That means booking your vendors, finalizing your guest lists, and purchasing event insurance. Many venues require you to carry event insurance to protect them from liability in case something goes wrong. 

Don’t let anything ruin your big day. Protect your wedding with Thimble’s Event Insurance. Tell us a few details about your wedding, and you can get a quote in under 60 seconds.