Wedding Venue Selection

Earlier this week I shared some tips for planning a destination wedding.  No matter if you’re hosting a wedding in the mountains, at the beach or right in your hometown, you’ll need to find the perfect place to celebrate. Finding a wedding venue isn’t an easy feat and it’s even harder if you don’t know what to look for or what to ask when you start visiting places. Our team has seen quite a few venues over the years and can quickly see through the good and bad and determine if a spot would be a good fit. Here are just a few guidelines we use to search for and evaluate venues on behalf of our clients:


Know your guest list before you start looking at venues! This will help you visualize potential layout options and floor plans while you are there. Many venues may be able to provide capacity charts or sample diagrams to take home. If you want the ceremony and reception to take place at the same location, make sure there is adequate and separate space for both to happen. Outdoor space is our favorite but it’s important to know the rain backup plan. Tents can often be added to outdoor spaces but come with substantial cost or are required to be reserved in advance without refund even if inclement weather never materializes. Ask the questions when you are there and make sure you know what options are available come rain or shine.

Lucy Cuneo Photography | Venue: Lowndes Grove Plantation in Charleston, SC

Lucy Cuneo Photography | Venue: Lowndes Grove Plantation in Charleston, SC



Find out how much time is included in the rental fee.  For our team to do a full design installation we typically prefer to have all day (minimum of 12 hours) and sometimes we may even need multiple days depending on the complexity of the installation. A full day will take into account 5 hours for the reception, at least 1 hour of clean up and 5 hours of deliveries and set up (so we can be ready 1 hour before guests begin to arrive). Depending on the venue and the location, rental deliveries should carefully be considered in the access time, as well. Rental companies will often charge after-hours fees for late night, early morning or Sunday pick ups or deliveries. Find out how accommodating your venue can or cannot be based on storage space they may have available. Sometimes adding an extra day’s rental can save you money in the long run!


If the venue offers in-house catering, be sure to ask what the food and beverage minimum is for the day. Ask to see sample menus with prices to make sure they are a good fit with your preferences and your budget. If you have your heart set on a certain style of food service, such as a plated meal, be sure to ask if the venue can accommodate that style for the number of guests you have in mind. If the venue does not offer catering, find out if there is a list of preferred caterers or if they charge a percentage of your catering bill as a hosting fee.   


Take a look and see if there are any additional rooms other than where the reception will take place. Ideally there will be 2-3 places for the bridesmaids to gather, groomsmen to gather and 1 room to be used as storage and/or green room(s) for the band/ vendors. This is particularly important if you plan to host your wedding ceremony onsite.  If the venue doesn’t offer in-house catering, it can be helpful to see the catering kitchen to know if there are any limitations that a caterer may face in servicing guests. It’s not uncommon for a caterer to add the cost of rental kitchen equipment to their food order, which can quickly increase the total cost of your catering bill quite substantially. 


Be sure to make note if the venue includes tables and/or chair and how many. These extras can sometimes help offset a higher rental fee. If none of these items are included, that’s no problem either- you just need to make sure to leave room in the budget for rental and plan for delivery access.


Rooms that have natural light are the absolute best and always pretty high on our list of recommendations and requirements! Natural light will make for the best photography and sunset provides the most romantic ambiance possible! 

Nancy Ray Photography | Venue: The Merrimon-Wynne House in Raleigh, NC

Nancy Ray Photography | Venue: The Merrimon-Wynne House in Raleigh, NC

If you think you’ve found the perfect venue, ask the sales manager if he or she can place the space on a tentative hold and offer you the first right of refusal. This means they will hold the date for you and if someone else comes along and wants to book it, you will have the chance to sign the contract first. We always prefer to review the venue contract before our clients sign to help make sure all the important information is included. Choosing a venue does require you to make decision quickly and efficiently but be careful not to commit to something that may seem too good to be true!

If you don’t want to search alone, we’d love to help!  One of the first steps in our full service planning and design process is to assist you in finding the perfect place to get married and take into consideration all these little details, to help you weigh the options.  If you want to chat more about finding the perfect place, we’d love to hear from you! 



Betsy KrugComment