Category Archives: choosing wedding venue

How do I book a wedding venue?

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wedding couple dancing at wedding venueFinding a wedding venue may be as simple as typing in “wedding venues near me,” touring the venue, and signing on the bottom line. But booking the right wedding venue isn’t that easy for everyone!

There are so many beautiful wedding venues (especially true in the Milwaukee area). It’s hard not to feel torn between wedding venues—especially when the choice is so important. Your wedding venue is more than just a backdrop. It’s the foundation of every wedding planning detail, the first thing your guests see, and the place you constantly contact as you set other details in stone.

Fortunately, the process of choosing a wedding venue doesn’t have to be excruciating—especially if you follow these steps for finding and booking the “one” wedding venue that’s right for your big day.

Decide on a location for your big day.

The first step of finding and booking a wedding venue is a simple conversation. Talk to your fiancé and discuss key details of your wedding, such as whether you want a big wedding or a smaller occasion with close friends and family. Come up with a general number of guests you want to invite; your guest number doesn’t have to be exact, but you should have an estimate when contacting wedding venues.

Talk about your time; do you have time to plan your wedding? If not, add “wedding venue with a planner” to your list of wedding venue criteria. This is also your chance to find out if there are any “musts” either of you has to have. (Use this list of wedding questions to steer your discussion and get answers that guide your wedding planning.)

Most importantly, discuss where you want to hold your wedding ceremony and reception. What country/state/city do you want to get married in? Talk about whether you want a destination wedding or to get married in your hometown, the city you met in, or your current “adopted” city. If you have a favorite part of town, narrow down your location criteria even further.

Next, discuss the criteria for your venue (or venues) in your chosen location.  What do you want in a ceremony site?  Do you want a religious ceremony?  Or would you rather hold your ceremony and wedding reception at the same venue?  Do you need a venue near hotels for your out-of-town guests?

Set a budget.

Once you’ve narrowed down your location criteria for a wedding venue, set a wedding budget for the venue and vendors; this wedding checklist from Real Simple or a wedding budget app can be invaluable during wedding planning. In addition to setting numbers, have an honest conversation with your fiancé about where funds for the wedding is coming from.

Your wedding budget conversation may need to go beyond the two of you. If any friends or family has offered to help with the wedding financially, ask them for specific details and an exact gift amount. To avoid any misunderstandings, try to avoid general statements. “I can pay for the venue” or “I can help with the wedding dinner” is a generous offer, but also one that can lead to drama later; the gift amount they are picturing may be very different than the actual cost.

Decide on style and season.

The location and budget are the first of several criteria for your wedding venue search. Next, decide on the style of venue that fits you as a couple. What kind of big day do you both picture? Decide whether a rustic barn, urban loft, or an elegant wedding venue fits your wedding day vision.

Now it’s time to ask the big question: what is the right day for our wedding? If you’re completely blank on where to start, use this list of ways to set a wedding date (i.e. favorite season, special day, etc.) You don’t have to come up with an exact date. In many cases, a month or season is enough to start a wedding venue search.

Use your answers (and this wedding venue checklist) to create a short list of venues in your chosen location. If you have a set date, contact the venues and ask if they are available on the day. For couples not sure about the date, ask venues what dates are available during your favorite month or season.

Use interviews to narrow down the list of venues.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to set up a million wedding venue tours (pro tip: never book a wedding venue without a tour). Narrow down your list of wedding venues further by contacting venues and asking these questions:

  • Will my wedding be the only event held at the venue?
  • What is the guest capacity of your venue? Can your venue hold a ceremony and reception?
  • How much is your venue rate? How many hours are covered by that rate? What is the overtime fee if my wedding goes beyond that length of time?
  • Does your venue rate include any services and staffing? Is wedding planning services offered?
  • Does your venue carry liability insurance? (This can be important in case a guest is injured.)
  • Is there a cancellation policy?
  • Does your venue have a list of required vendors? Can we use our favorite vendor (i.e. caterer, photographer, etc.)?
  • Does your venue have a policy pertaining to alcohol? Do we need to bring in alcohol or hire bartenders?
  • Is there parking available? How far do guests have to walk to the parking lot?
  • Is the wedding venue handicap accessible?
  • Can I tour the wedding venue?

Set up venue tours.

A wedding venue tour is your chance to see the space guests see and the spaces you use. Ask the wedding venue staff to see the main spaces where guests circulate, as well as the restrooms, changing spaces for you and your attendants, and parking lot. Use this checklist for touring the wedding venue.

As you tour and contact the wedding venue staff, make sure you include your impression of their customer service into your final decision. Do they respond promptly? Do you feel comfortable interacting with the staff? As you plan, you are going to have to interact with staff quite a bit; make sure you are comfortable with the staff and their level of customer service.

Review and confirm.

Before you sign on the dotted line, review the contract for any red flags. Carefully look over the overtime fees and cancellation policy. Feel free to ask venue staff members any questions and don’t feel obligated to sign. Once you have your wedding venue booked, it’s time to move on to the next step of wedding planning and enjoy every step of the process.

7 Things to Know BEFORE You Contact a Wedding Venue

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wedding venue with dramatic backlighting and candlesTime is of the essence when you’re searching for the right wedding venue for a lot of reasons. Obviously, you want to book the right wedding venue (before it’s reserved!). Choosing your wedding venue is also the first of a series of wedding planning decisions—and one that you don’t want to spend a lot of time on (after all, you have a lot more to do on your wedding planning checklist!).

To get started (and finished) with this important first step of wedding planning(without touring a million different venues), sit down with your fiancé and make these major decisions BEFORE you start browsing websites and sending social media messages.

Location

To be clear, you don’t have to nail down exact location and numbers (i.e. date, guest count, etc.), but you should have an idea of where you want to hold your big day (a general idea of a city or town). If you have already reserved a ceremony site, find a wedding reception venue nearby; your guests don’t want to have to make a several hour (or even hour) drive to get from your ceremony to reception.

Your style

Every part of your wedding should reflect who you are as a couple, including your wedding venue. Once you’ve decided on the area you want to have your wedding in, think about what style wedding venue screams you. If you want to have a vintage wedding, a wedding venue with historic details can be the perfect backdrop for your wedding décor. For a couple who loves the country, look for a rustic barn. Want an elegant wedding? Search for venues with the architectural details that’ll make an impression on your guests.

Date (or month)

Again, you don’t have to nail down an exact date, but it would be helpful to have an idea of the time of year or month of your wedding. If you have your heart set on a particular wedding venue, ask for a list of dates available during the time of year or month of your wedding. But if you’re completely clueless about a wedding date, use these tips to choose the date of your wedding day.

Approximate guest count

There’ll be time later to make an exact guest list later, but almost every wedding vendor is going to ask for an estimated guest count. Don’t tackle crafting your wedding guest list alone, instead use these guest list tips to avoid hurt feelings from your fiancé and family.

Budget

A wedding budget is like a marathon. You don’t want to run out of energy at the end. When it comes to your wedding, you don’t want to have to skimp on important details because you ran out of funds. Use this template to create a wedding budget that you can stick to—and that gives you the amount you can spend on a wedding venue.

Once you have that amount, make sure you don’t go over the amount you have specified for the wedding venue. Don’t just ask for the rental fee; some venues charge overtime fees if the reception runs over a certain length of time and have additional costs that can push you over budget. Ask for the amount of the rental fee, how much time it covers, and what is included (i.e. tables, coat check staff, linens, etc.)

Wedding needs

If you have any special requests, ask them on your first phone call or message. You don’t want to cancel your reservation on a wedding venue and have to pay a cancellation fee. Add your special request to this list of wedding venue questions when you call or message them. Be wary of wedding venues that don’t respond promptly to your inquiries; if they don’t now, they may not get back to you later when you need information.

Any favorite vendors

An awesome caterer. A fantastic photographer. An over-the-top fabulous videographer. It’s normal to have a favorite wedding vendor that you want to include in your wedding day. Not every wedding venue allows any vendor into their facility; some venues only allow vendors from an approved list. If you have a favorite vendor that you absolutely want to include in your special day, don’t delay. Ask the wedding venue when you contact them, so you don’t spend your time touring a venue that you won’t consider later. When you do tour, ask questions from this list so you can make sure that wedding venue is the right one—and so you can move on to the next wedding planning step.

6 Steps to Booking the Perfect Wedding Venue

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wedding reception hall with uplighting with bride and groom names

You’re engaged?! Congrats! After you’ve had the all important conversation with your fiance and family, it’s time to start with the fun process of choosing the perfect wedding venue for your big day (here’s a full breakdown of venue factors).

Truth is, the process can also be a complicated one, especially when there is so much on the line. Choosing the perfect wedding venue is important; it’s the first part of your wedding your guests see (wow factor!) and the foundation for every wedding detail.

Think about location.

Your location decision can be as small as choosing the area you want to hold your wedding in, or as big as deciding what city is the perfect site for your big day. Once you’ve decided on a city, it’s time to narrow down your area and make a list of amenities that you need for your big day (i.e. parking, access for guests with mobility issues, etc.).

Consider your style.

Your wedding venue should reflect your style; after all, your style should start with your venue and come out in every detail. Decide whether a historical wedding venue with all those unique architectural details is your style, or whether a more modern urban or rustic venue fits with who you are as a couple.

Choose a date or time of year.

You’ve narrowed down location, style, and started on a list of amenities. Now it’s time to set that all important detail: the date (here’s a list of factors to consider when choosing your wedding date). Make a list of wedding venues that check off all your boxes, and use your wedding date as the final factor. There are two ways to use date when searching for wedding venues: 1) contact venues with your preferred date; or 2) contact venues with a month or season you are interested in and ask for a list of available dates. Either way, you should be able to narrow down your list of dates or venues with this basic step.

Contact the venues with your questions.

Once you’ve checked off the boxes and narrowed down your wedding venue options, contact your potential venues with this list of questions:

  1. What dates are available during the month/season I am considering? OR Is the date we chose available?
  2. What are your venue rates? What length of time does that rate cover? What is included in the rate?
  3. Do you hold other events at the same time as our reception?
  4. How many people can your venue accommodate? How many can be seated at dinner?
  5. Do you offer wedding planning services?
  6. Do you have preferred vendors I have to use? Or does your venue have an open vendor policy (which means you can bring in whatever vendors you want)?
  7. Can I hold both my wedding ceremony and reception there? (If needed.)
  8. What is your policy for alcoholic beverages? Is it provided or do I have to bring it in? Do you provide bartenders?
  9. What parking is available at your facility? Or is there parking available near your venue? Do my guests have to pay for parking?
  10. Are you wheelchair accessible?
  11. What staffing do you provide at my wedding? Who can I talk to about issues that arise on my wedding day?
  12. Do you have liability insurance? (Covers you in case of an on-site injury.)
  13. What is the cancellation policy?
  14. Are there on-site or nearby hotels for my out-of-town guests?
  15. When can I schedule a tour of your venue?

Schedule tours.

wedding venue with fall wedding decorNever book a venue without seeing it in person. If you can’t do the tour in person, ask someone you trust to screen your venue for you. Make sure you ask to see every area you need to use, including the changing rooms, outside areas, etc.

Review the fine print.

Don’t sign on the dotted line of your favorite venue before you ask about overage fees for going over the allotted time (ask if there is one), costs for staffing, or for tables or chairs. If your venue is outdoor, or you plan to hold part of your wedding in their outdoor space, ask about tent rentals just in case the weather turns bad.  A bit of due diligence now can lead to a stress-free wedding day later, held in the perfect wedding venue for your big day.