He popped the question and you said “HECK YES!” Now, you’re being bombarded with so, so many questions. When is the wedding? Have you picked a wedding venue? Do you have a dress yet? Who is going to be your florist? All the questions y’all! When this happens take a deep breath and with confidence say, “I don’t know.” Because it is totally okay for you to not know the answers immediately. Weddings are a big deal and there is no need to rush decisions. Take planning one step at a time and it will all come together in the end.
Your first task is to decide where you want to get married. Selecting your wedding venue is the most influential decision you’ll make for your wedding. Your wedding venue determines so much about your event. Many couples rush to book a venue, but before you go down the venue search rabbit hole it is important that you have an idea of several big picture items before starting your search. S0, take a break to define what you’re looking for in a wedding venue. Ask yourself these questions to narrow your search.
#1 – Who is paying for what?
There are plenty of traditions about who pays for what at a wedding, but rarely do I see the expenses divided based merely on these traditions. Start with an honest and open conversation with all the parties involved. A wedding is a very important day, but the expenses should not cause lasting financial hardship. You should not expect or feel entitled to a certain amount of money from anyone. Many couples pay for 100% of their wedding while some pay for 0%. Ideally, all contributions should be given willingly and without strings attached.
The realization that you may not be able to afford a 9-tier cake, 5-course meal, live band, and towering centerpieces may be difficult to accept. The sooner you embrace your reality, the sooner you can start making the most of the budget you do have. No matter what your budget is, know that your wedding day will be special.
#2 – What’s our wedding venue budget?
Determining your venue budget will require you to set your total wedding budget first. In a previous post I shared some Tips for Your Wedding Budget that will help with this question. Typically, your venue should cost no more than 15-20% of your total wedding budget. The number you decide on should not be a steadfast limit because all venues include different things. For example, some venues include all your tables and chairs therefore you probably won’t be spending the budgeted amount for rental items. Thus you can spend a little more on your venue. Along those same lines, some venues need more decorating to than others. So a venue that requires minimal decor should allow you to spend more on the venue itself.
If you’re shocked by the cost of wedding venues, the post, Why are Wedding Venues so Expensive? will explain how venues earn their price tag. Keep in mind that deposits will be due upfront to secure your wedding venue and vendors. Then, additional payments will be due throughout the planning process. A personal savings system can help make sure you have the funds for these future payments.
#3 – How many people are we inviting?
Start a spreadsheet of who you’d like to invite to your wedding. I recommend using a Google Sheet, The Knot, or my personal favorite, Aisle Planner. Think about who are the most important people in your life and add them to the list. Each guest will cost a substantial amount to host so be intentional about your guest list. Bigger is not better. And a wedding with 300+ guests is not a badge of honor. One of my all-time, favorite weddings at Warrenwood was 30 guests. You will feel pressure, for example, from your grandmother to invite your second cousin that you met once when you were in kindergarten, but just say NO.
#4 – Where do we want to get married?
Aim to host your wedding in a convenient location. For you, that may mean a central location for your guests or in your hometown. It’s a balance between families, priorities and budget. Stay close to home if your families live nearby, you plan to do a lot of things yourself or you want to decorate with a lot of stuff. Venture further from home if professionals are handling most of the details, your families are spread out and everyone can afford to travel.
#5 – What are 3 potential wedding dates?
Wedding venues book events months and sometimes even years in advance. Be flexible on your wedding date to give yourself more venue options. I recommend having three dates in mind that work for you and your family. If you decide far enough in advance people can plan around your event.
#6 – What’s our ideal event vibe & style?
Think about formal versus casual, traditional versus modern and elaborate versus simple. Make decisions based on your style and your budget, but recognize that all your decisions need to come together to create a cohesive look and feel.
Every wedding venue has characteristics that lend themselves best to a certain range of styles. For example, Warrenwood Manor is best suited for events styled with rustic, southern, vintage, and/or traditional elements as opposed to modern, industrial or coastal styling. The further a venue is from your desired style, the more money and time you will have to spend to make it something that it isn’t.
Venue amenities contribute to the feel of a wedding day as much if not more than the venue style. The following questions can determine the logistics and stress level of a wedding day. Do you want to host your ceremony & reception in one place? Where do you want to get ready before the wedding? Do you want time to have your rehearsal the day before the wedding?
#7 – How much professional help do we want with your wedding?
Wedding vendors are professionals. If they aren’t good at what they do, they don’t last in this industry. So, before you decide to DIY your entire wedding I encourage you to read our DIY Dilemma post. You may be a DIY queen with a team of dedicated friends and family to help, but there are certain things you will want a professional to handle. These individual decisions play into your budget and your venue selection.
Before you start venue shopping, you need to have a basic idea of how hands-on you will be the day of your event. If you are willing the step up all the chairs and take out the trash at the end of the night, a venue that offers fewer services may be a good fit for you. But, if you want to spend the day celebrating with family & friends, you may want to consider a venue that is fully staffed and includes additional services. It is also important to mention, that some venues have restrictions on what wedding vendors you can use at their facility.
#8 – What are our top 3 wedding priorities?
What do you care about? Sit down and decide what your top three priorities are and then budget accordingly. For example, if you are really into music it may be a priority for you to budget for a live band while for someone else they may be perfectly happy with Pandora playing in the background. Consider where you stand on the importance of food, alcohol, photography, videography, venue, transportation, cake, bridal hair & makeup, floral design, rentals, and staffing. Everyone wants a nice wedding, but everyone has a different definition of what that looks like. Prioritizing these factors will guide not only your wedding venue search, but all the other elements of your wedding.
Selecting the perfect wedding venue can be a daunting task. It’s hard to know where to start and what questions to ask. Don’t worry! We’re here to help. We want you to find the venue that best suits your needs and wants. So, we created this tool to help you get the basics down before you even start venue shopping. Click below for a printable worksheet and be on the lookout for our next blog post about how to compare wedding venues.