I think one of the most difficult parts of planning your wedding is wondering how to choose the venue. It’s the main part of your wedding that isn’t an optional add-on. There are so many factors that you need to think of as well. It takes some time to set a budget, research, reach out to venues, and go look at them in person. It’s not something you can sit and wait for because venues get booked 1-2 years in advance, especially the “in demand” spots! I’ve been engaged for four months, and I’ve already seen/heard so many experiences about wedding planning from my own friends and family, so I’m going to share with you all my thoughts on the process – especially since I’ve already booked my venue!
Choosing your overall budget should be the first thing you tackle. That way when you’re looking for a venue (& everything else), you know how much you’ll want to spend per plate. This starts with a conversation with your partner, and possibly family if they’re willing to help pitch in for any of the costs (for the venue, or for anything at all for your wedding). When I was looking at venues, it was important to choose what is important or not to me, because that helped with the overall cost. Now your budget should include pricing for venue, wedding dress/suites, hair/makeup, gifts, cake, and outside vendors (caterers, dj, photographer, etc). When I saw the prices that venues were giving me, I almost freaked out! BUT this included things like linens, cutlery, staff, choice of tables, chairs, scenery, etc. These were things I did not want to think about for my wedding, so me and my fiancé actually both agreed that we would pay a bit more to avoid having to work/stress over the little things. One thing I learned: look at your overall budget for the wedding. If the venue is expensive, you can cut down costs on other things that aren’t as important, and just know that the cost per plate could include a lot of things you’d never think to include or want to spend the time on.
After creating a budget, it’s time to research some venues! Before you can even get started on that, you have to think about where you want to get married. Do you want to stay local, travel over an hour, or have a destination wedding? There are pros/cons to each option, and a destination wedding would probably be the cheapest option but you might only have a handful of people travel for it, and you might miss out on some important people being there for your big day. I decided to stay local so it was easy for my bridal party and guests to get to the venue. I thought about a venue about an hour away from our hometown, but then people would need to get a hotel room for the night if they’d want to drink. Not exactly my problem (in terms of cost), BUT then you’re expected to provide transportation to and from the hotel and that does not come cheap (I got quoted between 700-1,300 CDN!!). If the venue is cost efficient, then maybe limo’s and party buses could fit into your budget and this isn’t an issue for you. So if the venue is worth it to you, then location isn’t the biggest thing to worry about. (Book now, worry later lol)
When narrowing down your locations for the venue, it’s important to reach out to each and see their availability. If you’re looking for a specific date, it may be hard to lock it down (unless you’re looking to book more than a year and half in advance). Popular venue locations book up FAST – my venue is already fully booked for March-October (Friday-Sunday) NEXT year! It’s 10x easier to find a venue and select a date if you don’t have any specific date or time of the year in mind. Since this didn’t bother me as much, it was easy for me to find a venue because I was aiming to get married in the fall/winter knowing I would have better availability for venues/vendors, and I could even get better rates.
Now whether you’re looking to get married at a church or at the reception venue itself, this can make your decision much easier. If you’re going to get married in a church, you’ll have to get ready much earlier in the day and then add in transportation into your budget. The fees to get married in a church vs. the venue can be very similar so this would seem like more of a personal preference. If you’re looking to get married at your venue, you might want to choose somewhere that has nice scenery outside (or even inside) so you can take your photos onsite. I was thinking of getting married in a banquet hall, but because I was looking to have the ceremony and reception at the same place, there would’ve been nowhere nice to take photos before and in-between the ceremony and reception.
Number of Guests
Imagine you find the perfect venue with everything you want – only to find out you don’t meet the minimum number of guests or you exceed it. When I started to look at venues, I would reach out to them to find out their pricing and I was told by 2 of them that I didn’t meet the number of minimum guests! So I had to make the decision to either add more people to my guest list, or cut the venue from my list of venue options. Since I wanted to stick to a budget, I cut the venues from my list. Even if the plate per guest was cheaper, it would end up being pricier than others because of the amount of people I would have to invite.
When researching your venues, make sure they allow outside vendors if you’re looking for anything specific (such as DJs, caterers, décor companies etc). Most venues don’t allow outside caterers, so if you’re looking to have specific food at your wedding, you’ll have to make this a priority to look out for. I’ve even run into a couple venues that only allow their preferred vendors to be used – which can end up being pricier than finding your own!
Photographs with your partner, bridal party, and family are important. If you’re getting married on-site, you’ll want to make sure there are great backdrops for all your photos. Think about what would happen if it’s inclement weather – does the venue have sheltered areas for photos, or spots inside that would be ideal? If you’re getting married at a church or a spot offsite, then you don’t need to worry about your venue having picture perfect spots, because you’ll have plenty of options to choose from offsite.
This usually isn’t an issue, but living so close to Toronto, I’ve noticed venues closer to downtown not being able to offer parking, or having paid parking. I don’t think guests would want to pay anything additional on top of already attending your wedding, so I would suggest finding a venue with free parking so the stress of finding/paying for parking isn’t a hassle for your guests.
At the end of the day, I would say do your best to research venues online as much as you can. I searched up locations off of WeddingWire, EventSource, and through facebook group suggestions. I ended up finding my venue off of WeddingWire and contacted them through there.
At the end of the day, we chose The Arlington Estate!! (If you’re family or a friend reading this.. Save the Dates will be sent out in the new year.. so pretend like you have no idea where I’m getting married! Haha). For what we were looking for in my venue, it was (and IS) PERFECT. We needed a venue that we can have the ceremony and reception at the same location, and with that, we also needed somewhere nice to take photos on the property. It also had options for getting married inside and outside depending on weather. Since we’re getting married in November, it will be quite chilly – so the venue is perfect for the time of year 🙂