The Engaged Life #4: How to Pick Your Venue


I know this list is made kind of backwards, since your venue should be the first thing that you book after you get engaged, but I think it’s more important to have a foundation on understanding your vendors to effectively pick your venue. Let me explain how:

Step 1: Figure out how much space you need.

  • I worded it this way because you do not need to actually book a venue. You do, however, need to be able to accommodate all of your guests. If you have a small guest list, like making your wedding an immediate-family event, then you probably don’t need to rent out banquet space. A nice backyard would be sufficient.
  • The key here is that you need to fit everyone and be able to feed them. If your guestlist is slowly creeping up the double digits and getting into the triple digits, you may need to book a venue.
  • There’s no law that says that you are required to rent out a huge hotel banquet hall and invite everyone you ever met. Small weddings are just as legitimate as large ones.

Step 2: Outside or inside? Combination?

  • Outside weddings, especially during the spring or summer, are sometimes favorable because of the nice weather and added ambiance. However, you have to contend with bad weather if it does occur. Since you normally book months before the event, you’re not going to be able to predict the weather that far ahead. Most outdoor venues have contingencies for things like rain, but it’s still something that may interfere with the mood you’re trying to set.
  • Inside weddings are great to get out of weather. If you don’t care to have a wedding in the spring or summer months, you can potentially save a lot of money by getting married during the low season. If your wedding is indoors, then it doesn’t matter what the weather is like.
  • Note that there are a lot of venues that do combinations. The ceremony can be outdoors, but the reception is indoors. Or vice versa.
  • After you pick a venue, this is one of first things that you need to communicate with your photographer. Outdoor weddings require you to constantly be aware of ambient light and change settings accordingly. Indoor weddings have an entirely different set of challenges.

Step 3: What audio/visual equipment does the venue have?

  • On the audio side, does the venue have a house sound system or is your DJ responsible for providing that? If the venue does have its own sound system, take a picture of the connection to give to your DJ. You’d be surprised how many different types of connectors that audio equipment has (i.e. XLR, 1/4″, speak-on, banana, etc.).

    Actual picture I took when venue shopping. This picture alone tells me a lot about the venue.
  • On the video side, does the venue have projectors or TVs that you can use? If you plan on showing a sideshow, video, or same-day edit, this is a crucial thing to note. Figure out how you would need to get your media on there. Having a screen built into the venue is a lifesaver for everyone. Otherwise, you’ll either have to source it from an A/V rental company, an event company, or maybe your DJ.
  • What kind of lighting does the venue have? As I mentioned in last week’s article, lighting can make a huge difference. Many venues have lighting solutions built in. This is another thing you need to bring up to your photographer. If the venue is using colored uplighting, you want to make sure that your photographer knows how to shoot with flash. There’s no way around this. Otherwise, all of your pictures are going to be the color of your uplighting.

Step 4: Haggle

  • I guess this isn’t well known, but you can negotiate with most venues, or they can restructure their proposals to fit a lower budget.
  • No venue is “perfect.” There’s always something that you like a little bit more at another venue or could be a littler better. Bring this up to the salesperson. Chances are, the price they quote you is slightly inflated from the start to help buffer later negotiations. Be honest with them about your budget. Bring up any concerns you have. If they can’t meet your budget, they’ll more than likely meet you somewhere in the middle.

Step 5: Profit

This one isn’t as detailed as the other posts, but that’s because there’s actually a lot of preference involved in this one. I’m just bringing up some of the aspects that I feel a lot of people overlook.

Anything to add? Leave a comment below! If you have any questions, send them my way at I may not have all the answers, but my wife-to-be is actually a wedding planner, so I can always ask.

Happy hunting!





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