Along with saying yes to your spouse and your dress, booking your wedding venue is at the top of the list of big wedding decisions.
With so many unique locations to tie the knot, there’s sure to be the perfect place for you and your spouse to celebrate the first day of the rest of your lives. But, how do you decide if you’re destined for a rustic barn wedding or an enchanted estate affair?
We’re here to help with all the tips you need for how to pick a wedding venue to bring your wedding dreams to life.
What is a wedding venue?
Whether it’s a rustic barn, beachside tent, a Victorian bed & breakfast, or even your backyard, a wedding venue is the place where you host the events of your wedding day.
What are the most popular types of wedding venues?
While a wedding venue can be anywhere you choose to celebrate your nuptials, here are a few of the more common places to hold wedding ceremonies and receptions:
- Banquet Hall
- Country club
- Historic estate
- Hotel Ballroom
- House of worship
- Winery or vineyard
Whether rustic and casual or sophisticated and elegant, your wedding venue of choice provides the framework for creating ambiance and translating the theme and style you want for your day.
Do you need separate locations for a wedding ceremony and reception?
Depending on how you organize your wedding day, the ceremony might be in a different location than the reception. For some, the ceremony and reception are in the same building but in different rooms, or the couple opts for an outdoor ceremony and indoor reception.
If you’re utilizing multiple locations, you’ll likely be paying multiple rental and usage fees. Keep in mind the reception spot requires the bulk of the venue's budget and planning resources.
What other events do you need a wedding venue for?
Sometimes wedding celebrations become multi-day affairs, including rehearsal dinners and post-wedding brunches. Think about if you want a location that can handle all of the events on your list, or if you want multiple locations near the main event. Rehearsal dinners, for example, often include a ceremony run-through, so you’ll want to keep that within an easy driving distance.
How much does a wedding venue cost in the US?
Choosing a wedding venue isn’t a small decision. Signing a rental contract means putting down a non-refundable deposit and a payment plan agreement. So, exactly how much should you expect to spend on the venue for your wedding?
According to The Knot’s annual Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a reception venue in 2022 was $11,200. That’s more than a third of the average total wedding cost of $30,000 — and a big chunk of any wedding budget!
How to find a wedding venue: narrowing down your options
When you’re still flying high on the excitement of your new engagement, the venue possibilities for your dream wedding location seem endless. But, having so many choices can be daunting or even overwhelming as you start taking steps in the wedding planning process.
To make your wedding venue selection easier, hone in on the ones that best fit your needs. Tackle some wedding planning steps first to help you narrow down the options:
Determine the budget
First and foremost, figure out a budget for your wedding celebration (and do your best to stick with it). Determine how much of your budget you want to spend on the venue, and what that will encompass.
For some wedding venues, the cost only includes rental fees, leaving you to secure everything else like catering, decor, and even table and chair rentals. Other venues may have all-inclusive packages that cover everything from food and drink to decorations and photography, or you could have the option to customize services to fit your needs.
While prices might seem more expensive up front, compare it to the cost of having to find each vendor and service yourself when figuring out your wedding venue budget.
Get a feel for your guest list
The number of guests you want with you on your wedding day is a significant deciding factor for venue selection. If you’re thinking about a small, intimate party, you won’t want to pick a large hall that might seem too empty during the celebration. Likewise, if you’ve got more aunts, uncles, and cousins than you can keep count of, a smaller venue won’t cut it.
Once you know a number range, you can filter out venues by recommended capacity as you start your search. Also, some locations might have a required minimum for booking, as well, leaving you to pay for 100 guests even if you only have a group of 75.
Photo by @michellegodfreyphoto
Choose your wedding theme
Close your eyes and picture the surroundings you envision for your wedding day. Do you imagine you and your partner exchanging vows on the beach with a reception decked out in shades of ocean blue? Or, maybe you see yourselves in a historic manor house overflowing with elegant burgundy florals.
Your wedding venue plays an integral part in helping to bring your theme across, so look for a location that fits your vision or offers enough flexibility to adjust and decorate to your taste.
Decide on a location
Are you looking to keep it local or embark on a destination wedding? Figure out where you want to tie the knot that works best for your wedding plans.
Staying local means you have access to more resources and can get most of your planning done from home. Destination weddings, on the other hand, often require more research and planning. You may even have to make costly pre-wedding trips, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area and the amenities.
Once you know where you want your wedding, it will be easier to narrow down your list of venue possibilities within the region of your choice.
Figure out what you don’t want in a venue
Sometimes, you need to start with what you don’t want in a venue to find the perfect place for your wedding.
Ling’s real couple Sarah and Channing, for example, knew they didn’t want to do the same thing as everyone else in their southern hometown with a wedding at the local barn. Instead, they went on the hunt and found an incredible venue that combined industrial elements with a rustic and modern farmhouse vibe — the perfect blend of what each envisioned for their wedding.
Photo by Faith Ashlee Photography
Narrow down a date range
What time of year do you want to get married? Can you be flexible with availability or is there a specific day and date you aren’t willing to give up?
Your venue options might be more limited depending on how far in advance you want to book and how flexible you are with timing. Some of the more popular venues are fully booked at least a year or two in advance, so prepare to be flexible if you have your heart set on one specific place. Sometimes availability opens up if you’re willing to opt for a Friday or Sunday wedding, though, and they may even come with a discount.
What is the best way to find wedding venues?
Now that you’ve got a better idea of the type of venue you want for your wedding, it’s time to start the search!
Whether you’re crowdsourcing unique places or digging into online research, here are some of the best ways to come across the wedding location of your dreams:
Word of mouth from family and friends
You trust your closest friends to weigh in on your wedding dress choices, so why not get their opinions on wedding venues, as well? Your friends and family know best what you like and what you don’t, and can provide valuable insight into wedding venues that fit your vision.
Ask around and find out what their favorite wedding locations were, either as guests or for their nuptials. Dig deeper and see what they liked most about the location, what aspects worked well, and what could use some work, as well.
Utilize online resources
The internet is your friend when it comes to wedding planning. Aside from a good old-fashioned search engine, there are likely local wedding collectives that help with finding venues and vendors all in one spot. Also, big national wedding sites like The Knot will also have a wealth of resources and helpful details.
Consider places close to your heart
Think back to some of your favorite places as a couple. Perhaps you and your partner took a special getaway and loved the location and the memories. Sentimental locations make great wedding locations, especially since you’ve already spent time there and are familiar with the layout and amenities offered.
Think outside the box
Sometimes the most memorable wedding venues are places you wouldn’t immediately think of.
Perhaps you picture having a casual barbecue at a state park pavilion overlooking a cascading waterfall while guests dine on barbecue and play lawn games. Or, maybe you want to showcase a shared love of animals and tie the knot at the local zoo or aquarium.
Even if a location doesn’t “officially” offer wedding packages, try reaching out to sites that interest you and find out if they’re willing to make exceptions or try something new. You might be surprised that your favorite local restaurant will close operations for the night to host and cater your special event!
What to look for in a wedding venue: site visits
Once you’ve narrowed down your wedding venue possibilities, it’s time to plan a visit to see if the location lives up to your expectations:
Create a wedding venue checklist
Remembering what you want and need from your wedding venue can be a lot, so having a handy checklist of questions to ask when you visit will help you navigate the process.
Take detailed notes, and write down any pros and cons as you encounter them. It will also be easier to make side-by-side comparisons as you’re deciding between your top two or three locations.
While every bride will have different things at the top of their list of important details, here are some recommendations for basic topics to cover in your site visit or virtual meeting:
- Included services
- Ceremony and reception spaces
- Affiliated vendors
- Rules and Policies
Include any additional “must-haves” that you and your partner decide on as well, like scenic views, historic details, a stage for the band, and more.
Trust your first impressions
Just like the butterflies you felt when you met your spouse or when you tried on your wedding dress for the first time, sometimes you can walk into a place and just know that it’s the one.
Alternatively, if the vibe seems off when you arrive, it might not be the right venue for you. Trust your instincts!
Ensure the amenities meet your needs
Going back to your wedding venue spreadsheet, take the time to make sure the place checks all (or most) of your boxes. Even if the ambiance of the space takes your breath away, not having the infrastructure or amenities to support your event needs might be a dealbreaker.
Envision the decor possibilities
Keeping your desired theme in mind, do a visual scan of the space and see how you can incorporate decor to personalize the venue for your wedding.
What does the venue include with the rental?
Some event venues will provide limited to full-service decor and planning assistance, so be sure to find out what’s already there and available for you to build upon.
Take note of how the space is decorated, as well. While a banquet hall or barn might be a blank slate, a historic estate might be well-appointed and only need a few floral accents to complete your look. Be aware of any decoration policies and off-limits areas for outside decor, as well.
Consider different color palettes
Visiting the wedding venue in person can help inspire you to choose your color palette.
Look to the surrounding landscape, wall colors, building style, and more to guide your selections. Find what works with the venue’s existing appearance to help bring out your theme and style.
Here are a few of our favorite palettes to inspire the color choices for your wedding:
- White & Sage
- Garden Blush
- Lilac & Gold
- Lavender Aster & Burnt Orange
- Sunset Terracotta
- Russet Orange & Denim Blue
- Moody Burgundy & Black
Whatever colors you choose, use your creativity to include them in the venue’s decor.
Flowers for every type of wedding venue
Beautiful flowers are an easy way to elevate the ambiance of your wedding venue and showcase your wedding color scheme.
As you explore the space, think about ways to include florals in your wedding decor:
- Welcome signs
- Reception table centerpieces
- Chair decor
- Decorative arches
- Flower petals
With the wedding venue potentially eating up a big piece of your budget, consider utilizing affordable options to spruce up the already lovely space. Artificial florals, thrifted accessories, and a bit of creativity will keep costs down and style high.
How many wedding venues should I visit?
While it’s good to know all your options to make an informed decision, how many wedding venues to visit is ultimately up to you. Sometimes, the first venue you visit knocks it out of the park. Or, you might need to check out a handful or more before you get that good gut feeling. Visiting multiple locations also helps give you a feel for what you don’t want out of a venue, as well.
How to pick a wedding venue: red flags
Speaking of what you don’t want in a wedding venue — keep some of these warning signs in mind as you consider whether or not to book.
A few red flags to watch out for include:
- Poor communication from staff
- Hidden fees and unclear pricing structures
- Overly strict or unreasonable policies (e.g., limited vendor choices, curfew times)
- Lack of necessary licenses or permits
- Shortage of references
- Negative reviews
- Your vendors are unfamiliar with the location
Remember to trust your gut feelings, and if you have reservations, do your due diligence. You don’t want to have stressful surprises pop up before, during, or after your wedding.
Tips for Securing Your Wedding Venue
Once you’ve decided on the perfect venue for your perfect day, don’t hesitate to sign the paperwork to secure your date. As mentioned previously, wedding venues book up far in advance, so moving quickly will make sure you don’t lose out on your first choice date.
Be clear about your wants and needs
While some venue policies are set in stone, there is often wiggle room to accommodate individual requests. Be clear about any policies that would be a dealbreaker for you, like early curfews or vendor limitations.
Get it in writing
As you’re negotiating with the event manager or other venue staff, make sure you get any requests or promised services in writing. Follow up phone calls with emails confirming what you’ve discussed so you always have a paper trail to refer back to in case anything is missed in the future.
Cover all the bases
Try to go through as much detail as possible during contract negotiations, minimizing the chance of surprises down the road. Make sure contingencies are covered and that there are clear emergency cancellation and refund policies for both parties. Most importantly, read your paperwork thoroughly to ensure all the previously discussed terms are included.
How to Pick a Wedding Venue: Additional Considerations
While the wedding is a chance to perfectly customize your perfect day, don’t forget to take your guests’ experience into account when figuring out what to look for in a wedding venue, as well.
How accessible is your venue for guests of all abilities? If there are multiple stories, check for elevator access. Some older, historic venues or private residences may have accessibility issues, like small doorways, bathrooms that are too tiny, or lack of lifts and ramps.
Other ways you can ensure the comfort of all your guests include having sufficient seating and areas to rest, allergy-friendly food and beverages, and adequate sound levels.
Outdoor weddings are lovely, but since we can’t control the weather, it’s important to have a backup plan in case Mother Nature is having a bad day.
Will your venue agree to work with you in case of inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances? If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony before an indoor reception, see if the venue offers a “rain location” they will hold for you at the site.
Proper planning makes all the difference. For example, Ling’s couple Abbey and Garrett knew they wanted to get married in the picturesque mountains of Montana. Although torn between two stunning venues, they ultimately went with one that had both indoor and outdoor spaces. Even though they had beautiful weather, having a backup plan provided some much-needed peace of mind in an area experiencing turbulent weather events.
Photo by @ZakJokelaWeddingPhoto
Parking and transportation
Take stock of parking availability (or lack thereof) to make sure travel is as easy as possible for your guests. Note if the venue is easily accessible by car and close enough to accommodations for out-of-town guests. Also, pay attention to how far the parking is from the venue — guests may not love having to take a hike before and after the wedding (especially in heels).
If the venue also offers accommodations (like a hotel or bed & breakfast), try to set aside a block of rooms as a convenient option for guests. For other types of venues, look for nearby affordable locations to recommend to guests. Bonus points if the hotel includes a free shuttle service, saving you parking and driving worries.
Is your venue a one-stop shop for wedding-related activities, or will you be taking advantage of other nearby locations for pre and post-wedding fun? Take stock of what other activities, tourist sites, and food options are within distance of your wedding venue for guests who are traveling for the ceremony.
You may even want to utilize other local landmarks for wedding photos, so if a spot is on your must-have photo list, make sure you’re not spending too much of your wedding day traveling from site to site. The closer the better when it comes to local stops so you can fully enjoy the events of your day!
Dress up your wedding venue with Ling’s florals and decor
Now that your wedding date is secured, breathe a sigh of relief and cross “how to pick a wedding venue” off your wedding planning to-do list. Now that you’ve signed on the dotted line, you can focus on the more important things — like the decorations!
Explore our lovely wedding color collections and find the perfect flower arrangements for your wedding venue, from ceremony and reception. And, remember to tag us on Instagram @lingsmoment and show us the incredible ways you used Ling’s florals and decor to style your wedding venue.