Wedding Venues | 7 Easy Shopping Tips

Shopping wedding venues can be stressful.  

Ready to start the search for local wedding venues? Then you my friend are in the right place!

Let’s face it – your wedding venue is likely THE biggest decision you’ll make during your wedding planning, and that’s a lot of pressure.

Today I’m sharing 7 easy Wedding Venue Shopping Tips.  Together we will review everything you need to know about finding the perfect wedding venue!

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Ready?  Let’s getting started finding your perfect wedding venue!

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3 Reasons Why Your Wedding Venue is SO IMPORTANT.

You know shopping for wedding venues is a really BIG item on the wedding planning checklist.  Here’s exactly why choosing your venue is such a big deal:

1. Your Wedding Venue dictates your wedding reception style

The wedding venue you select will set the tone of your entire wedding reception.  From colors to season, to wedding theme, your venue influences just about every aspect of the wedding day.

2. Your Wedding Venue sets guests’ expectations from the moment the invitation is received.

Your guests will have a much different expectation from a barn wedding vs. a modern loft wedding vs a wedding held in a hotel ball room.

Think carefully about the overall vibe you’re looking for at your wedding.  Much more about this point later on in our discussion, but trust me – your wedding venue will definitely make an immediate impression on your guests!

For now, just keep in mind that the venue you select should ultimately match your personalities & styles.

3. Wedding Venues will GREATLY Influence Your Wedding Budget

The cold, hard-cash truth is that your wedding venue will likely be the most expensive item on your wedding planning list.

In 2017, couples in the US spent well over $35,000 on their weddings, with the average wedding venue costing about 50% of the total amount spent.  That puts the average wedding venue cost at over $17,000!

Before You Start Shopping for Wedding Venues …

Whoa, there.  Before we even think about starting the search for wedding venues, there are some critical steps to cover on your wedding planning checklist.

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1. Calculate your general wedding budget

It’s critical to know your anticipated wedding budget before shopping wedding venues.  Remember that crazy number from before?  On average, couples spend about 50% of their wedding budget on the venue. 

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know whether you’re working with $10,000 or $50,000 before you get tangled up in phone calls & emails to event managers looking for venue quotes.

Once you have a general idea of how much money you’re working with, do yourself a favor and ONLY consider the wedding venues that fall within your budget.

Do you WANT your wedding venue be a splurge item?

Close your eyes and imagine these two options –

  • Splurging on a wedding venue that includes EVERYTHING, for a very expensive price tag,
  • Booking wedding venue that comes completely EMPTY, for a very cheap price.

Most couples can tell right away whether they’re up to the “DIY Wedding Venue” challenge.  For example, if you’re overwhelmed with work, school, out-of-state planning, or just aren’t up for the additional work, chances are that you’ll want to look for venues that lean towards all-inclusive.

On the other hand, maybe you LOVE project management, doing things your particular way, and have plenty of time on your hands to dedicate to the fine-print details.  An empty, DIY venue space might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Where do you & your partner land on the all-inclusive vs DIY wedding venue question?

wedding venues
A simple outdoor wedding venue can add affordability to couples on a tight budget. Photo courtesy of Tammy Horton Photography

2. Make a rough draft your wedding guest list

Your wedding guest list is also very important to consider before you start shopping for wedding venues.

Sit down with your fiance and brainstorm how many people will you invite to the wedding.  You don’t need to have a completely finalized list – a general idea will work.

Make a draft guest list and expect about 80% of people to attend.  For example, if 100 people are invited, about 80 will actually be there on the big day.

Given your estimated guest count, ONLY consider wedding venues that will accommodate your guest list.

wedding venues
Be sure to run a rough draft of your guest list before you start searching for the perfect wedding venue.
Photo courtesy of Tammy Horton Photography

3. What’s your preferred wedding season or date?

Do you have an ideal wedding season or maybe even a specific date in mind for your wedding? If your actual wedding date is set and not flexible, then a potential wedding venue’s availability will become a top question.

Maybe your actual date is flexible, but you really want to have a winter wedding.  Outdoors.  In Minnesota.  It could work (indoor conservatory?), but you’re going to have to do some special research in finding the perfect place.

To wrap it up – given your preferred season, consider all potential wedding venues & weather challenges in advance.  Above all?  Try to keep an open mind.  Flexibility will definitely be your friend throughout your search for the perfect wedding venue.

4. Finally, explore your desired wedding reception style.

Do you have a desired wedding reception style in mind?  Some examples are Romantic, Modern, Tuscan, Island, Whimsical, Farmhouse, European, Southern, Beach …

We’re going to dive into some various wedding venue types in a minute, and you’ll see the interplay of different venues paired with wedding themes / wedding styles come to life.

Be prepared to consider if a given wedding venue will compliment the wedding reception style you imagine.

backyard wedding venue
A backyard wedding venue is a wonderful way to keep your wedding plans simple & affordable.

Wedding Reception Venues | A Brainstorm

Next let’s break down some of the various options you’ll likely find as you start researching wedding venues.  I’ve also included some of the pro’s & con’s of each type of venue, where applicable:

Banquet Halls

Banquet hall wedding venues are quite common and can be found in most every town.  Let’s dive into some specifics:

BENEFITS of a Banquet Hall Wedding:

  • An affordable, budget-friendly option for hosting your wedding is a banquet hall wedding.
  • Ease of planning – Look for banquet venues that are all-inclusive, leaving less logistics and planning for you.
  • Set up & clean up largely handled for you.
  • Banquet halls come with liability insurance, leaving one less thing for you to worry about.
  • Often times an on-site coordinator will be available to organize wedding day logistics.

DISADVANTAGES of a Banquet Hall Wedding:

  • Lack of custom, unique details.
  • A large, open, empty space can be very expensive to decorate.
  • Lack of flexibility – you may be required to select from a set list of pre-determined vendors.

Hotel Wedding Venues

Much like a banquet hall, hosting your wedding at a hotel comes with both pro’s and con’s.  Let’s explore the details:

BENEFITS of a Hotel Wedding Venue:

  • Look for all-inclusive package options, leaving much less planning & logistics for you.
  • Having hotel rooms available at your venue is VERY convenient for your guests.
  • Enjoy onsite amenities like restaurants, bars, spa & fitness facilities is convenient for both you and your guests.

DISADVANTAGES of a Hotel Wedding Venue:

Hotel wedding venue disadvantages are similar to the banquet hall points above.  Lack of custom details, and lack of flexibility with vendors are two big areas to consider when shopping around and researching hotels.

Also keep in mind that hotel venues can be very expensive, especially if you’re forced to choose from a specific list of preferred vendors.  You likely won’t be able to supply any of your own food, drinks, or desserts, and these items add up quickly.

wedding venue banquet hall
What exactly comes included with this hotel wedding venue space?

Examples of RUSTIC WEDDING VENUES:

  • Barn / farm wedding venues
  • Warehouse wedding venues
  • Winery / vineyard wedding venue

Examples of MODERN WEDDING VENUES:

  • Loft wedding venues
  • Urban warehouse wedding venues
  • Rooftop wedding venues

INEXPENSIVE Wedding Venues:

  • Public parks & gardens,
  • Backyard of a friend or family member,
  • Local Beach or lakeshore,
  • Casual restaurant.

UNIQUE Wedding Locations:

  • Vacation rental property wedding,
  • Museum wedding venues,
  • Boat wedding,
  • Antique store wedding.
unique wedding venues
Zero decorations required at this unique wedding inside a quirky antique store!

Researching Wedding Venues | Things to Look For

By now, you’ve at least started to narrow down your wedding reception venue ideas.  Let’s review the key things to look for as you begin looking for your perfect wedding venue.

First, get organized.

First you’ll want to create a spreadsheet of questions to ask.  Columns can be customized, and include things like:

  • Cost, availability, capacity, layout, restrictions (preferred vendors like catering, decor, etc), parking & transportation, extras / perks (does it include a coordinator?  Guest rooms?)

Not a spreadsheet person?  That’s OK too, just have some sort of written list handy to guide your conversations and document your findings as you reach out to various local wedding venues.

Next, do an online search for local wedding venues that you may never even have thought of!

Sample Google searches to run:

  • Wedding venues near me
  • Affordable wedding venues
  • Cheap local wedding venues
  • Search wedding venues by price
  • Inexpensive wedding venues
  • Cheap venues for weddings
  • Unique wedding locations

OK, you get the point – now go out there and see what’s available!

Ask, how much do the wedding venues cost?

  • Call the events manager to discuss venue pricing.
  • Get a quote for your specific wedding size AND time of year.  
  • Don’t be afraid to call multiple venues so you have a healthy price range for comparison.

Ask, what’s included with the wedding venue?

  • Hosting your ceremony & reception within the same wedding venue is a HUGE bonus.  Major points for wedding venues that include a space for the ceremony and the reception.
  • Is a catering package available?
  • Tables, chairs, linens, tablesettings?
  • Parking?
  • Are guest rooms available?
  • Is there an onsite coordinator?

And finally, will the wedding venues accommodate your guest list?

  • Track different options (garden, banquet hall, etc) and capacity restrictions,
  • Understand the minimum AND maximum number of guests allowed,
  • Consider comfort of your guests – crowding, temperature, accessibility,
  • And finally, consider any special needs (handicapped guests, children, elderly).

Wedding Reception Venue Tour | Questions to Ask

When it comes time to tour your potential wedding venues, you’re going to shift gears into a very specific set of questions that you probably didn’t cover in your initial venue fact-finding mission.

Remember, knowledge is power – take note of the following when you visit a wedding venue location in person so that you have as much information as possible before making a final decision.

Miscellaneous wedding venue logistics & questions:

  • What time can we begin set up?
  • What time does clean up need to be completed?
  • Can we store anything at the venue in advance?
  • Are refrigerators & freezers available?
  • Make note of dimensions – seating area, dance floor, outdoor patios.
  • Note any miscellaneous spaces that can be dedicated for signage, guest book, gifts, cake table, place card table, etc.

Parking & Transportation to / from the wedding venue

  • Is parking included or an extra expense?
  • Will shuttles be required from ceremony site?  To guest hotels?
  • If using two separate venues for ceremony & reception, how far apart are the two locations?
  • Are taxis and/or ride sharing services like Uber & Lyft easily available?

Wedding Venue hours & timing

  • Will the hours accommodate your wedding reception vision?
  • Can additional time in the venue be negotiated before or after?
  • Will there be any other events held before or after yours?

BONUS: Your Perfect Wedding Venue | A Checklist

To wrap things up, we covered A LOT of information about finding your perfect wedding venue!  Before we go, two more quick ideas …

  • Save this post to Pinterest wedding board for future reference,
  • Share it with your fiance & anyone else who’s helping with the wedding plans,
  • And lastly, be sure to enter your email below to download the BONUS CHECKLIST for this post!

FREE Wedding Venue Shopping Checklist!

from the Wedding Planning Podcast

Simply enter your email address below!

You will also receive weekly updates & current promotions from the Wedding Planning Podcast.

View our full Privacy Policy here.

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What are your questions or comments on “7 Simple Wedding Venue Shopping Tips”?  Please post them below and / or on social media – links to our channels below!

Cheers to you & your fiance during this very special time –

xo Kara

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