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Read This Before You Start Your Venue Search

Photo: @heathernan

Welcome back guys. Today, we're going to chat about how to find your wedding venue. If this is the first post you found of this blog, I'm going to ask that you pause right here and go back and read the first few posts. So many couples jump right in to looking for their wedding venue, and that can lead to expensive mistakes and/or lots of disappointment when it comes to what fits within your budget. We'll fill you in on the other tasks that you should do before reaching out to any venues or vendors.

As a reminder to everyone else, we must start wedding planning by thinking about the priorities and your budget. You don't want to make the expensive mistake of planning backwards. So please don't skip those foundational steps of wedding planning. I promise you won't regret it.

Now onto the venue chat. Your first decision is going to be deciding what type of venue you want. There are three main categories that I typically divide venues into:

1. Traditional banquet hall or hotel venue

2. Backyard or a private residence

3. The unique venue

This (the unique venue) is going to be essentially any space that you're renting the actual structure of the building, but it doesn't come with anything that you would find at a hotel or a banquet hall. So the catering, the bar, the tables, chairs, all of that you're responsible for bringing in. But you're not necessarily hosting the wedding in your backyard. Let's talk about the pros and cons for each one of these categories.

If you're at a banquet hall or a hotel that has a venue, the pros are going to be that mostly everything is going to be included. This would be the food and bar, the rentals, tables, chairs. You don't have to worry about staffing or bartenders or anything like that. They're going to handle all of that for you. So the big pro is that you're going to have fewer vendors and details to worry about on your own.

Another pro is that you're going to have several options to pick from, in terms of the menu, the layout, the timelines...they're going to have samples or options for you to pick from, you're not creating these from scratch. Specifically for hotel venues, two more pros would be that everything can be right on site. The getting ready, photos, and at the end of the night you don't have to worry about any transportation. Plus the guests don't have to either, they can stay right on property.

And finally, most hotel properties will also have a restaurant or a banquet room that you can use for the rehearsal dinner or a brunch if you're doing that the next day. That helps keep everything in one spot and less vendors + details for you to worry about. The cons of working with a traditional banquet hall or hotel venue, are that you're probably going to be limited on bar or menu options to what they have on site.

Most spaces won't let you bring anything into their kitchen or serve at their bar, you have to go with what their options are. You might also find that they can have multiple events or weddings in the same day in the same space. So you want to ask about timing and what the policies are in regards to that.

And finally, banquet halls and traditional hotel venues can sometimes blend in together. If you're looking for something that is very unique to other weddings your guests have been to, it might be more challenging to make it feel unique if you're in a traditional banquet hall or hotel venue.

Let's move on to the backyard weddings. The huge pro of course, is that you have the flexibility to make it exactly what you want. You pick the caterer, the bar service, the rentals, all of that. You get to pick and make it exactly what you want. It will be a truly unique wedding. You also have the potential to save money as you don't have the minimums that you'll see in a traditional food and beverage menu.

The big con with a backyard wedding is that you need to essentially build the venue from scratch. So all rentals, the tent, the tables, the chairs, the knives, the forks, the napkins, all of that. You're responsible for bringing in catering and bar service staffing. All of those little details will fall on your shoulder to arrange as opposed to it being included with a venue.

You are the site manager, you are the event coordinator, it is all up to you. And finally, backyard weddings tend to end up costing a lot more than you anticipate. There's going to be a lot of things that you need to bring in that you might not think about at the beginning stages of planning. So make sure that you add some wiggle room into the budget for those unanticipated extra costs.

The third category, unique venues, falls kind of in between the traditional banquet hall and a backyard wedding. The pro is you're going to have more structure than if you were hosting the wedding at your house, but it still gives you some flexibility to be able to choose your caterer, your rentals, most of the time you'll also able to bring in your own bar, so that will help you save.

It takes away the stress of renting things like the tent and often chairs and the main hard rental items, but it gives you the flexibility to still be creative in making it your own. Another pro is that it's probably going to feel very unique to your guests that are attending if it isn't a traditional venue that's been around forever. The main pro of choosing a unique space is that you're going to have a little bit more structure than having a wedding in your backyard.

You will have the literal structure of the space that you don't need to worry about. In other words, you don't need to rent a tent, ideally, but you'll have some flexibility still in the food and beverage, the rentals, and some of the other details that you might not have in a traditional banquet hall or hotel. This typically means it can help you save money versus picking from a set menu. You can pick and choose what is important to you versus picking from a set package. But it really would depend on the cost to rent the actual venue on whether or not it is going to save you overall from a banquet hall.

In a unique venue their rental cost is pretty significant. And if you spend a good portion of your budget just to rent the space, that's going to limit the amount of money that you have to put towards the other details like catering, the bar, and other rentals that you might be responsible for bringing in. On the con side, you're most likely going to be doing a lot more hands on work than you would at a traditional banquet hall, but not quite as much as you would be if you were hosting the wedding at home.

Again, you'll probably have the structural details done, but you might be responsible for putting together your own layout and timeline, and some of those other things that a more traditional hall would have done for you.

Finally, some of these spaces, not all, offer their spaces as aside from their main business. An example nearby here is the farmer's market that functions as a farmer's market during the week, and then you can rent it in the evenings for events. In these kinds of scenarios, the person you're working with might not be an actual event manager. It might be a side role that they have to deal with for their actual job in working with couples for their venue.

So the con here is that you want to be aware that the communication might be a little bit different in these scenarios, and that you may be pulling more of the wedding planner role. There's nothing wrong with that, but just something that you want to know ahead of time. You want to know if they have somebody that is deeply involved in this role, or if you are going to basically be flying solo when it comes to the plans for the event.

If you're thinking about having a wedding at home, or maybe going to a unique venue, I would highly recommend that you download my free backyard wedding guide. It's going to outline the steps that you need to take to make sure that the wedding is going to fall within the budget that you're looking at. And you'll also find a complete rental checklist of the items that you may need.

If you are hosting the wedding at your home or in a space that isn't a traditional banquet hall, you can grab your free copy at While I can't address all of the questions and things that you'll need to ask as you're reaching out and touring venues, I do want to share some of the main things that you'll want to look into.

First, is the space that you're looking at available to have both the ceremony and reception in the same place?

If not, what would be your plan to host them in different locations? Make sure you're not asking for just the capacity for the dinner space, but also for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and dancing. See if they can send over a sample layout so you can take a look at them. When you're talking about the rental fees, whether we're looking at a traditional ballroom or a unique space, make sure to ask how many hours are included and also ask about the setup times, tear down times, and what the vendors are going to be expected to follow. This can be a real deal breaker if you have a lot of DIY items to set up, or if you're looking at an elaborate setup with a vendor team. If they're limited to only a couple of hours, that's going to make things really tricky.

And then finally, you're going to want to ask what rental items are included. Most commonly, we're talking about tables, chairs, the China service, glassware, all of those things that if you're going to a restaurant or a traditional banquet hall, they're typically going to have those all for you. If that isn't included in the rentals, it's going to be a significant price difference. So you just want to know ahead of time.

You can get the complete question checklist for booking your venue and vendors in the Wedding Planning Blueprint Course. Those details can also be found at There you'll also find resources for those looking for more help and even one-on-one support in planning your wedding.

What questions do you have about looking for your wedding venue? Find me over in the Facebook group, Wedding Planning Collective. And let me know if you found this post helpful. I will see the Facebook group members very soon, and I will see you all in the next blog post.

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