Choosing a Wedding Venue – Places to See & Questions to Ask

Unless you’ve always known the location(s) you’re going to get married and host your reception, finding a wedding venue can be a tedious and stressful task.

Before you start looking, it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions so you know the types of venues you should be checking out:

  1. What’s my budget? And how much of that can I afford to spend on venue(s)? I recently wrote a budget post that can help you figure this out.
  2. How many people am I inviting? After all, if you know you’re inviting 300 people, you can’t choose a quaint bed & breakfast that only holds 75.
  3. Do I want to have the ceremony and reception in different places or choose an all-in-one venue? Michael and I chose to do ours in the same place so we didn’t have to spend money on transportation from venue to venue.

Once you have these key deciding factors figured out, you’ll be able to schedule appointments with venues that suit your specific needs. Of course, there are tons of places you can have a wedding and/or reception. There are the obvious banquet hall type options, but there are also some venues you may not have thought of:

  • Art Gallery
  • Backyard
  • Barn
  • Beach
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • Boat
  • Botanical Garden
  • Community Center
  • Country Club
  • Historic Home
  • House
  • Library
  • Loft
  • Marina
  • Museum
  • Night Club
  • Park
  • Restaurant
  • Restored Building (Michael & I are tying the knot at a restored train station)
  • Rooftop
  • Ski Lodge
  • Theatre
  • Theme Park
  • Vineyard
  • Warehouse
  • Zoo

And once you look at a few venues and narrow down your list to your favorites, there are many other items you should be asking about, including:

  • Catering. Is it done in-house? If so, is the food good? What are your options and cost per plate? Is there a minimum purchase? Or can you choose your own caterer? Do you have to choose from a list of approved caterers?
  • Staff. Do they provide servers, bartenders, etc? If so, what’s the cost? Is tip built in already?
  • Tables, Chairs & Linens. Do they provide these? If so, are they included in the venue fee or is it an additional cost? If you have to rent these from an outside vendor, be sure to include that cost in your budgeting.
  • Alcohol. Does the venue have a liquor license? Can you bring your own alcohol to save money?
  • Decor. Are there limitations on decor? Are you allowed to have candles or other open flame? Are there specific clean-up fees for certain things (sparklers, rose petals, etc.)?
  • Payment. What’s the payment schedule? Is there a cancellation policy? Are there any other hidden costs? What exactly is included in the cost?
  • Weather. If its an outdoor location, do they have a backup plan for rain or other inclement weather? Is there a place you can put up a tent?
  • Parking. Is ample parking available? Is it free? Is there a close place for elderly guests to park?
  • Rehearsal. Are you able to use the venue the night before? Is it included in the cost? How long do you have it for? You’ll typically need an hour.

Where are you thinking of having your wedding?

*Image from Holger Thoss Photography.

About Nicole Denton

With a love of planning just about anything — from her own wedding, to bridal and baby showers, to dinner parties, and more – Nicole is the Plunge Project’s founder and former editor-in-chief. A New Jersey native, Nicole has called Chandler, Arizona home since 2013, where she currently lives with her husband Michael; two pit bulls, Shelby and Link; and cat, Kity Perry. A University of Tennessee graduate, Nicole has a bachelors in communications and a career at a rapidly-growing digital marketing firm.

10 Comments on Choosing a Wedding Venue – Places to See & Questions to Ask

  1. Andrea
    July 16, 2010 at 10:09 am (5 years ago)

    Also remember to ask if the rehearsal costs extra money. Sometimes venues charge by the hour, so although you think you can have the rehearsal with the cost of the venue, since it is normally held the night before the wedding, the venue may charge extra to have someone on site.

    • Nicole
      July 16, 2010 at 10:13 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Andrea! That’s a really good point — it’s added now :)

  2. Elizabeth
    July 16, 2010 at 6:55 pm (5 years ago)

    Some places that do their own catering also have minimums you have to spend on food/alcohol, which is something to consider if you’re planning a small wedding. We originally were planning to just have about 50 people, but the venue we loved had a pretty high food/bar minimum. If we’d had the smaller number, there’s no way we could have met the minimum (despite my attempts at bargaining for a much lower minimum). Ultimately, we really loved the venue, and upping our guest list to 100 *technically* isn’t costing us much more, since we’d have to spend X amount anyhow, but if you’re dead set on a small gathering, it’s definitely something to ask about!

    • Nicole
      July 17, 2010 at 10:20 am (5 years ago)

      Great point, Elizabeth! Thanks for adding :) I’ll mention that above as well.

  3. Sarah @ Honeymoons Blog
    August 6, 2010 at 5:49 am (5 years ago)

    What a great post with some wonderful advice and a very inspiring list of potential venues – It makes you remember places that you would have otherwise never considered!

    I totally agree that planning a wedding can be a lot more stressful than people originally think from finding the perfect venue to cater for your needs to what you are allowed to personalise at the venue and even hoping that the weather is good!

    • Nicole
      August 6, 2010 at 9:29 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks, Sarah! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  4. Bomi
    May 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm (1 year ago)

    You’ll need a commercial ltiialbiy policy of some sort. That’s a fairly specialized type of coverage, and not every company carries it. I would suggest going to Yahoo! and searching for ltiialbiy insurance for musicians. You also might want to call insurance agents in your area.

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  1. You're engaged. Now what? | The Plunge Project
    August 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm (5 years ago)

    [...] Once you know what you can spend, pick the date and make sure your venues are available on it. It’s also important to be really really sure of what your plan is before [...]


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