A wedding venue checklist is the first step to choosing the perfect backdrop for your big day. It’s also the start of finding wonderful staff to help you plan, providing a wonderful guest experience, and checking off other key boxes on your wedding planning checklist.
Choosing the right wedding venue is important. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, especially with our wedding venue checklist, which details the process step-by-step and gives you professional tips to help as you plan your special day.
___ Set key details
The first step of choosing the right wedding venue is to talk with your fiancé and set key wedding details. These details don’t have to be incredibly specific; for example, you can choose a month or season in lieu of an exact wedding date. You and your fiancé should discuss:
- Budget (Discuss how much is available for the wedding and how you intend to pay for it. If any friends or family have expressed an interest in helping financially, contact them and ask if they would still be willing to help and the gift amount. Use these wedding budget tips and tricks as you plan, and this wedding budget spreadsheet. Or use one of these wedding planning apps, many of which have wedding budget tools that can help you set a budget and track expenses.)
- Date, Month or Season (Use this guide for choosing the right wedding date. You can set a date based on a special relationship or family date, favorite season, good time for you professionally, or one of these other criteria.)
- Estimated Guest List (You don’t have to set an exact guest list, but should have an estimate of the number of guests. Discuss whether you want a small, intimate wedding or a large celebration, then set at an estimated count. Use these tips for setting a wedding guest list. You will need this when contacting venues so you choose a wedding venue with an appropriate guest capacity.)
- Style (Decide on your wedding style. Do you want an elegant affair? A formal, vintage event? A rustic, country wedding? Or a themed wedding with coordinated details? Your style dictates the type of wedding venue you are looking for, as well as guides every detail of your special day.)
___ Make a list of stylish venues in your preferred location.
___ Research venues online
As you make a list of venues that fit your needs and style, read through online reviews on social media and on wedding websites like Wedding Wire or The Knot. While the pictures online may be beautiful, never book a venue without seeing it first.
___ Contact venues with a list of questions.
Ask each venue the following questions to determine if they are available and fit all your criteria. If the venue is a good fit, ask to schedule a tour.
- Is the wedding date available? (If you don’t have a set date, it can be easier to find a wedding venue with available dates during your desired season or month.)
- How many weddings are hosted at the venue?
- What is the venue capacity? Is there space for a ceremony and reception? If so, will my guests have space to mingle while the reception is being set up?
- What is the venue rate? What does it include? Are tables and chairs included in the venue rate? Are there any overtime fees or curfews?
- What staff and services are covered by the venue rate (i.e. coat check, bar staff, etc.)?
- Does your venue have experienced wedding planners on staff?
- Does your venue carry liability insurance? (This can be important in case a guest is injured.)
- What is the wedding venue cancellation policy?
- Are there any vendors that the venue requires us to use?
- Does the venue offer parking? Or is there parking nearby?
- Is the wedding venue handicap accessible?
- What local accommodations are nearby for my guests to stay in? Are they easy to get to?
___ Tour the venue.
Seeing is believing, especially when it comes to wedding venues. Use the wedding venue tour checklist to ensure you are choosing the venue that doesn’t just wow you, but is also the perfect fit for your special day.
___ Review the venue contract.
It’s time to go over your contract with a fine-tooth comb. Use these tips for reviewing the wedding venue contract from the Knot to ensure that you have those proverbial I’s and t’s crossed.)
___ Confirm the venue.
During a wedding venue tour, it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty—so much so that you forget to ask about all those pesky practical details! However, those practical details are incredibly important to planning and pulling off the day of your dreams. (Just as important as actually seeing the venue. Never book a wedding venue without scheduling a tour. Sometimes online photos can be deceiving.)
While you’re absorbing and taking in all those beautiful details on your wedding tour, make sure you ask these questions and discuss the details that can make or break your wedding day.
- Is there nearby parking? How many guests can park in the lot/structure?
- How far do my guests need to walk? Is there a shuttle?
- What is the cost? (Tip: include parking costs in communications sent to your guests prior to your wedding day.)
- Are there any hotels in the area?
- Is there a public transit stop nearby? How far?
Spaces & Staff
- How many guests can your wedding venue accommodate? (Tip: have an estimated guest count before touring venues to ensure the venues are not too big and not too small.)
- Is your venue handicap-accessible? Are there any stairs my guests need to climb?
- Is there a dressing area for me and my attendants?
- Is the dressing room secure so we can store valuable items?
- Will there be a staff member on-site during my wedding? Who can I contact if I have any questions or problems?
- Can I see the restrooms? Who is in charge of monitoring and restocking the restrooms on our wedding day?
- Is there space for my ceremony?
- If so, do my guests have to wait while the ceremony site is taken down?
- If the site is outside, what is plan B in case of bad weather?
- Have other DJs/bands played here?
- Is there anything I need to pass on to my entertainer about your system?
- Can I bring in my own caterer or do I have to choose from a list or preferred vendors?
- Who do I contact about planning details? What is the best way to contact you?
- When does the contract need to be signed?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- Are there any deadlines I need to meet?
- Do you offer event planning services? Can you assist me with some or all of the planning?
Once you’re engaged (congrats!), it’s the logical question in wedding planning: “What is the first step in wedding planning? When does it need to be done?” The answer: find and book your wedding venue. Finding the right wedding venue is an important part of the process, and a step that determines many other steps of the wedding process. After all, you can’t send out wedding invites or hire a wedding caterer until you book a wedding venue.
When should I book my wedding venue?
When it comes to booking the right wedding venue, the sooner the better. At the very least, try to book your wedding venue for your date 9-12 months in advance. If you have less time before your big day, there is still hope. Use these tips to plan a wedding quickly. If your chosen wedding date isn’t available at your wedding venue, ask if another date around your chosen day is open (such as a Friday or Sunday).
How do I choose a wedding date?
Deciding on the right wedding date is also a process; it isn’t always as easy as opening your calendar and pointing. When you’re trying to coordinate your wedding date and wedding venue, you can use several different strategies to decide on the perfect special date:
- Choose a season. If you have a strong affinity for a certain time of the year, this is your chance to enjoy every aspect of it (in your décor, photo opps, invites, every themed detail!). Another advantage of choosing a wedding date during your season is that you have a long list of wedding dates to choose from. Contact your wedding venue and ask them what dates are available during your favorite time of the year.
- Ask your wedding venue what dates are available. A really special wedding venue can be a huge part of deciding on the right wedding date. If you want to hold your wedding at the venue, ask your venue what dates are open for your big day.
- Zero in on a special date. The day of your first date. Your grandparent’s wedding anniversary. If you want to hold your wedding on a special day, add this question (“do you have this date available?”) to your list of wedding venue questions and use it as a deciding factor whether to tour the wedding venue.
- Schedule your wedding date when you’re not scheduled. If you have a busy season at work, schedule your wedding for a time of year when life isn’t as stressful.
What do I do if my wedding venue is already booked on the date I want?
It happens. You contact a wedding venue you love about your chosen wedding date and they’re booked. If you have any flexibility, ask about days surrounding your favorite date (such as a Friday evening, Sunday brunch, or another weekend). A little bit of flexibility can guarantee you the venue you crave—and the first step of your wedding planning checked off (and booked so you can move on to the next detail!).