Oooohhhh, this one is exciting! It’s a big deal to pick the place where it’s all going to happen, and all the dreams are going to come true: the space has a lot to live up to. It’s also really a launching point for your budget; it can make or break your budget in the long run, too! In this post, I’m going to talk about selecting our venue, the thoughts that went into the process, and the thoughts that SHOULD have been in there in hindsight! Hopefully, y’all can learn a little from some of the “mistakes” I made along the way.<3
The biggest things you need to know going into the venue hunt are: what’s your budget, and how many guests are on your rough draft guest list? Note I said rough draft list: as in, NOT just a thought number estimate in your head. I promise, sit down, and make the rough draft together, and depending on your family situation, one “head member” from each side (that way you can make sure the appropriate people are included off the bat). My wife and I THOUGHT our guest list would be around 50-80 people at the max and that number very quickly became 120. After we had already selected our venue!! Yikes. Thankfully, we were just under the wire, and it was really perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better space for our day (really our whole weekend) to take place. But I got lucky! Know your numbers. Also, your budget numbers: your venue, caterer/bar combined should aim to be 50% of your overall budget.
As with anything, it’s always better to start off with a little bit of research! Check out the wedding venues in your area. Wedding Wire and the Knot are lifesavers when it comes to comparing vendors in one spot easily. It also pays, in this case, to be a little nosey! Ask friends, look around your area and you might be surprised by an awesome space you wouldn’t normally have thought of. Some of the most awesome, on-budget weddings are in a gorgeous backyard with a willing host! In lieu of said backyard, however, we press on. Most venues in a given area are pretty on par with comparative pricing: a lot of times, when it comes to choices within your budget, it will come down to what is or isn’t included or allowed in the space. Many venues these days will give you a set list of vendors that they work with, meaning you must make your vendor selections off that list. This can make the biggest impact on your budget when you factor in catering and bar: you will have to choose from their providers specifically which means you cannot shop for price. Although that is the majority, there are still some venues that have more relaxed rules regarding the vendors you choose to use, as long as they are insured and licensed to provide the service. In my experience, these more relaxed venues are usually easier on the budget overall. When you have more control over the vendor choices, you have more control over the budget. But of course, if it’s a space you really love, it’s in your budget, and you’re happy with the options provided, then it’s your space.
Because I like details, I think it’s important to note that the venue also nails down a lot of logistics when it comes to the day/weekend of your wedding. Where is the venue located? Is it close, where people can easily drive, or far away? Where do you plan on getting ready the day of? Are you going to have the ceremony and reception in one spot, or in two separate locations? If two, how far apart are those locations? Transportation? All of these are important factors in selecting your venue. For example, Ellie and I selected our venue downtown where we live. This location is a big part of our daily lives and routines; it’s also close to everyone minus a handful of people that would be traveling from out of state to attend. The venue we chose was open to working with other vendors, allowed us to have flame candles (a really big deal to me! You should always check, each place will have rules about décor allowed such as candles) and had a GORGEOUS apartment upstairs (it was an old 1920’s firehouse) that was included in the venue rental. Because our rental cost was simply for the space itself (all other vendors to be found ourselves) we were able to opt to rent the space for the entire weekend of our wedding! Being able to enjoy our time in the space, from the morning of the rehearsal day until the morning after the wedding, we were just able to soak up so much love and fun and take our time. It really was one of the best weekends of my life. *sigh*
It’s also important to think about what the space provides. It’s kind of the backbone of the design of your event. The space that houses your vision should be a space that can be morphed and created with purpose and relative ease. What is the color palette of the space? Is it blank, or are there items of décor already in place? Is it décor that you like, or would you have to put a good bit of effort into making it look the way you envision it? These questions all factor into that budget that you created starting out! Remember that décor costs money, and if a space is going to take a lot to make it beautiful, you would probably save more in the long run by paying for a more expensive venue that would need less décor. A good example would be a historic home that you can rent as a wedding space, versus an event space at an oceanside restaurant. Looking at the space, would it need a lot to make it look like your vision? Don’t settle, and don’t jump on the first space! It’s ok to think about it for a second and weigh your options. The second Ellie and I walked into our venue, we knew: it just felt like the perfect space for what we wanted to create and to have all our closest people in. I also feel like it’s important to throw in a little note here about “Pinterest” and “reality”. The two can sometimes not co-exist: unless you have an insane budget. There is SO MUCH inspiration on Pinterest; it was probably one of the most important resources I used during my whole planning process and is one most important for SB as well. The important part to note is, let it be just that: INSPIRATION. There has to be a touch of reality with it also. Gorgeous pictures with flowers overflowing everywhere and beautiful fabrics draped perfectly down the walls; lighting for days (those super gorgeous Edison bulbs), every inch of space filled with luxe décor….whew. It’s great, but it costs money, and usually a lot of it! Don’t get too bogged down in the pictures and trying to make something replicate just so. Look for elements that you love and think of ways to recreate that. Elements can be easier to recreate than full-on whole space concepts. Ok, I digress from that note; we’ll pick that back up in a later blog post!
So, now that you’re armed with all this great venue knowledge, you can go out and find that dream space! Let it be fun, let it be happy, and try not to sweat the small stuff: there will be plenty of time for that later. Know your numbers (guest list/budget), do your research, and go hunt down that space!
Happy Planning Y’all!