When combining lives with a true love and embarking on a new journey together, everyone wants their wedding day to run smoothly and beautifully. But, where does one start with planning a wedding? Whether you are an aspiring wedding planner or event leader, or need to plan your own big event, you probably need some ideas to get started.
Whether you have a deep passion for wedding and event planning, or you’re planning your special day, everyone can use some guidance to ensure this special event goes off without a hitch—with the newly-wedded couple happy and cherishing every moment.
If you are ready to start planning for the big day, here are some tips to help you choose a dream venue, the perfect decor, catering, and much more.
When to Start Looking for a Wedding Venue
Whether you’ve recently committed to a lifetime together with your partner, or you’re planning a wedding for a happy couple, it’s time to think about when and where to invite family and friends to celebrate together.
You may first encounter a ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ dilemma in terms of choosing a date based on the desired venue’s availability or prioritizing a chosen date and finding venues later. Logistics are often complex — keep in mind that guests may need to travel in order to attend. Keep this in mind as you work through the logistics of prioritizing a date or a venue.
Like anything else, though, you can’t please or accommodate everyone as much as you would like to. However, you can do your best to make it as easy as possible for the immediate family to watch over the big day and hope others can adjust their schedule and plans to attend.
Further, you can start planning and considering your options as soon as you or the couple feel ready — the sooner you start your planning, the less stressful it will be, according to Wedding Ideas. When you plan early, you can quickly identify and discover any wrinkles, iron them out, or adapt to something different. You can set and potentially add to your budget in the meantime, opening up new possibilities to make your day shine at your ideal location, or a newly identified one.
Make a Plan Beforehand
They don’t call wedding professionals ‘planners’ for nothing. You can start planning with expert help or on your own—perhaps you are the expert—to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Of course, anything can happen, so make sure to leave room in your planning for unforeseen problems or need for adjustments. If you’re planning your special day, ask your friends and family what you should consider that you may not have thought of. If you’re a new wedding planner, network with peers to learn more or consider developing a mentor relationship.
If the events of 2020 and 2021 surrounding COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s that flexibility and open-mindedness can help us plan and design a beautiful day despite any unforeseen circumstances, even if it doesn’t look the way we thought it would.
In your planning, consider developing a ‘must have’ and ‘absolute dealbreaker’ list. You might not be able to book your first choice, such as your family church or local bed and breakfast, but you might stumble upon the perfect runner-up.
Ideally, you’ll keep an open mind, but like anyone, you probably have some points that are non-negotiable for your wedding day. It’s also important to schedule a tour of the available venues to understand what they offer and take in the potential environment for your special day. You might find a second or third choice as charming, if not more so, than your original favorite venue.
Make a List of ‘Must-Haves’
It’s easy to get caught up in a list of ‘must-haves’ for your wedding. Television programs, films, and fairy tales have all created some over-the-top and possibly unrealistic expectations for brides and grooms. At times, it sets otherwise loving couples up for unnecessary disappointment.
Remember that gathering together with the love of your life, friends, and family or planning the most beautiful day for a couple, is the point of it all. As long as you find a safe and attractive wedding venue that accommodates the planned number of guests and the ceremony itself, you’re doing pretty great. You can create your own special touches with decorations, flowers, music, and setup next.
Here are some items that are actual ‘must-haves’ to ensure the guests are comfortable and having fun:
- Seats for everyone, especially if elderly guests plan to attend and cannot stand during the ceremony.
- A dance floor — your first dance with your new spouse is an essential element of your wedding.
- A spot for a music DJ or a live band.
Know Your Dealbreakers
Dealbreakers should be made clear when planning a wedding — but don’t let them get in the way or delay next steps. Remain flexible, open-minded, and accepting of feedback or additional perspectives if you arrive at a standstill. Here are some items over which brides and grooms draw the line:
- Preferred Dates. If aging or ill guests plan to attend the wedding, you might need to let go of either the preferred date or the ideal venue if it cannot accommodate the guests’ necessary and required needs.
- Liquor License. While some brides and grooms want or don’t mind dry weddings, most would like some spirits. Further, guests appreciate an open bar, which translates to long hours of fun and dancing. If a venue doesn’t have a liquor license, you might need to keep looking.
- Having the Ceremony and Reception in the Same Location or Near Each Other. For many couples and guests, it’s ideal to have the ceremony and reception at the same location or close by. When the ceremony and reception are at the same venue, guests won’t need to travel, find a parking spot, pay for valet service, and find their way to the right area. If you want to save your friends and family some headaches, you might keep searching for the perfect venue where you can do it all. Bonus points if there is an attached or nearby hotel.
Schedule Wedding Venue Tours
Once you’ve created a list of potential venues, your next step should be to schedule a tour of each facility. Top event planners who have studied event management will tell you to never commit to a venue before visiting and seeing it for yourself. Photographs are helpful and give you a decent idea of the wedding site, but when you see it in person, you can visualize the scene better.
You might not need to schedule a tour in advance with the site if you’ve visited the property prior, but it can help. The Martha Stewart Weddings website shares that brides and grooms benefit from taking a tour of the venue because they get to see it at its best and can start mentally planning the layout, flowers, buffet, and dance floor.
What to Consider When Searching for a Venue
The sooner you find and book your venue, the better, but there are a few more details that go into your final decision-making process.
Depending on your budget, you might experience some limitations as far as the size of the site, the date, and the wedding style you want. If you are flexible as far as date options, consider allowing for two or three different dates and times — you might find that vendors are happy to extend discounted pricing.
You might have a wildly creative side and can turn a warehouse into a wonderland. In that case, you can save a lot of money by finding a more bare-bones venue and decorating it according to your whims and style on a shoestring budget.
Minted recommends sitting down early in the planning process to set a budget to align potential and available venues with confidence, discarding those that will cause financial stress.
Location of the wedding is a vital and driving factor for a number of reasons — from guest travel to budget considerations. Regardless of where you plan your wedding, locally or in a faraway hometown, some of your guests will probably have to travel, but ideally, the fewer people who need to travel to your event, the better.
If several of your guests will make the trek to share in the joyous day, try to find a location as central as possible—without sacrificing too much beauty and charm—to make things easier and more convenient for your loved ones.
You might also consider factors such as whether you want an indoor or outdoor venue. If you want to schedule an outdoor venue, you might remain flexible about setting up something for mid-spring or fall, since there is so much competition for outdoor venues from June through early September.
As noted earlier, if you have your heart set on a specific date, the earlier you start your search the better, especially if it’s during peak wedding season from May through October.
Ensure that your preferred venues can accommodate your guest list. If the first choice venue doesn’t have the capacity to squeeze in best friends and beloved family members, it probably isn’t the right choice.
Like many brides and grooms, there may already be a set image for the reception venue in mind. You can see where the band will set up, the dance floor, the tables, and the open bar. If a venue doesn’t come close and the existing layout could inhibit any enjoyment, you might consider one that is a better fit.
Services and Amenities
The more services and amenities tied into facilities, the better for the wedding couple and guests. Some top services and amenities to seek in your venue include:
- On-site kitchen and catering services
- Chairs, tables, linens, and silverware
- Serving staff
- AV capabilities to allow for slideshows, videos, music, and more
In addition to any AV capabilities, you might also need to ensure that there is available Wi-Fi that your guests can use while visiting or that they can at least use their own data inside.
Make sure the venue has a relatively newly paved parking lot or valet service to make things easy for guests. Since things can get busy and congested during such events, you should identify any potential complications guests might encounter, especially if there is no valet service.
Does the space have the ambiance you have in mind? Most brides and grooms want to create and foster an aesthetic and overall mood during their wedding, and you probably do, too. If you don’t see the venue allowing you to cultivate the ambiance you want, despite your natural creativity, you might keep looking.
Research the Venue’s Reputation
Fortunately, it is easier than ever to get public reviews of a venue. Visit one of the many online review sites, such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google Reviews to see what others are saying. You might even ask friends and family members who have hosted or attended events at the venue to see what they think.
Making Your Venue Decision
With all these ideas, you might feel more confident in making your venue decision. You’ll need to strike a balance between standing firm in what you want and remaining flexible where possible and reasonable for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Are you interested in a career as a wedding planner or event manager? Earn your bachelor’s degree in sports, entertainment, event – management or your MBA – Event Leadership from JWU. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].