How to Choose Your Wedding Venue

How to Choose Your Wedding Venue

Your wedding venue provides the foundation for your celebration. It influences your design choices, sets the stage for your guests’ experience, and can make or break your budget. To help you choose the right wedding venue for your big event, we’ve created an 8-step checklist that will help you eliminate locations that won’t work and discover ideal spaces that will. Here are the 8 things you need to know to end up happy, not frustrated.

1. Ambiance and Style

From luxury ballrooms to rustic barns, beautiful beaches, modern museums, and historic estates, there is no end to the styles of wedding venues available. Choosing a place that fits your personality will make you and your guests feel right at home, so make a choice that is a reflection of your personal style. Love the great outdoors? There are a lot of lakefront locations, vineyards, gardens, and ski resorts that cater to adventurous couples. Love modern art and chic fashion? Check out sophisticated hotels, resorts, museums, and urban spaces. 

How to choose your wedding venue, photo by La Vie Photography in the San Juan Islands
Photographed by La Vie Photo - San Juan Island, Washington photographers
How to choose your wedding venue, photo by Laura Zyge, Lithuania
Photographed by Laura Žygė Photography - Lithuania photographers

2. Size

When it comes to booking your wedding venue and caterers, everything is based on the size of your guest list. Grand weddings of 200 guests or more need big dance floors, spacious dining rooms, and lots of parking and restroom access, while intimate weddings of 50 are much less demanding. The main thing to keep in mind is not to either crowd your guests or give them so much space it looks like you’re still waiting for guests to arrive.

3. Distance

How far your venue is away from your ceremony site will determine your schedule for the day. If the distance is more than an hour away, consider getting married in the morning or early afternoon and having your reception at night so people have time to snack and freshen up. If you are planning a destination wedding that people will travel to, you'll need to set up a group website, get out your invitations early, and help your guests with logistics along the way.

4. Privacy

"Bridal factory" is the description used among wedding professionals for places that run multiple weddings per day and allow the public to be near wedding guests. If you don’t want to see 3 other brides pass you on the way to your portraits, be sure that your space is for your use only. There are places that are so popular this may be a tradeoff for you; just be sure you get to decide before being surprised on your wedding day.

Private beach wedding venue - photographed by Citlalli Rico
Photographed by Citlalli Rico Photography, Cancun wedding photographers

5. Price

Your wedding venue, and catering (which may be included), can run up to 40% of your costs. We suggest you cap it there and no higher. That way you won’t come up short on all the other things you need and desire like a gorgeous dress and good photography, which can be priceless in the years to come. Expect to spend several thousand dollars on most venue rentals and tens of thousands for high-end properties.

6. Date

If you are getting married on a Saturday night during high season, you’ll pay a premium for the weekend date and time. Having your wedding on Friday or any other weekday may help you get a deep discount at some venues, so be sure to check with their event planner to get full details on their pricing policies.

7. What’s Included

Here’s the rub. You can choose a wedding venue that is already decorative with beautiful furnishings and lovely outdoor spaces, or you can transform a space into something entirely your own. The latter tends to be much more expensive. If you need to lay down your own dance floor, add lighting to create ambiance, or bring in all of the tables and chairs, each piece can send your budget soaring. Finding a place with in-house details that appeal to you can appear costly until you fill out your entire budget and take a look. 

Lake Como wedding venue ceremony, photographed by Ross Harvey
Photographed by Ross Harvey, London wedding photographer

8. Insurance

Most venues have insurance already, but if they don’t it’s all on you. Travelers and WedSafe are just two of the companies that can cover your liabilities and comply with venue rules. 

9. Climate Protection

What happens if it rains or snows? Tents and covered outdoor areas are a must for weddings where you want to be outside. Many locations have beautiful wedding tents on-site and some have covered patios with lovely views, which can save the price of a tent rental. For destination weddings, pay special attention to weather patterns on your date over the last several years. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently book your spot during times known for extreme weather conditions. 

Photographed by J. Olson Weddings - Minneapolis, Minnesota photographers

10. Rules and Vendor Restrictions

The fine print can be a deal breaker, so read it carefully. You may find out that the wedding venue charges a fee for you to choose your own vendors, or won’t allow candles, fireworks, bubbles or other items you’re looking forward to incorporating. They may have an early curfew or noise restrictions that will keep your party from popping, or they could charge extra for using the bridal suite and getting ready rooms. Be sure you understand any and all rules that could possibly affect you, and don’t sign anything until you feel assured.


Choose your photographer from our impeccably-curated list and have them or your planner send us your photos. We would love to see what you decided on and help you get published!