des moines, iowa and beyond

workflow & systems strategist

Sweet Beginnings: Venue Selection

For Brides

The setting and backdrop to the day you become a Mrs. How the light will shine in the windows, the chandeliers and sconces on the wall, the grounds that will be full of laughter.

When searching for your wedding venue, there is a lot to consider and today I am going to share with you some things to think about and questions to ask when you look at spaces. If possible, try to visit venues a year in advance, so you can see what it is like the time of year you will have your wedding.


Everyone will have their own personal questions and this in not an exhaustive list, but one that hits all of the high points you’ll want to consider up front.

  • Are they available on your date? Remember when we talked about choosing your date? You’ll want to know going in if  you are flexible or not. If possible, try to have two or three dates in mind if  you have your heart set on a venue.
  • What is their capacity? Can the space accommodate the number of guests you need? This is important regardless of whether it might be too much or too little space. The Goldilocks parable fits here. To give your guests the best experience and for you to have an intimate and comfortable atmosphere, you’ll want a space that is ‘just right’ for the number of guests you expect. However, extra space is better than being cramped.
  • Are you able to choose your caterer or do you have to use one from their list or their in house kitchen? Same with alcohol. Often times, this can come with extra per guest/serving fees PLUS gratuity, so it’s important to know for your budget, as well as types of food and atmosphere you’ll want to provide to your guests.
  • Are you the only wedding that day? While this isn’t always a deal breaker, it is possible that a venue hosts 2-3 weddings per day. Depending on the size of the venue and distance from your wedding, that might be something you are not ok with. Also, if it is somewhere that is open to the public, like wineries, you’ll want to ask what those hours are on a wedding day and if there is an additional charge to you if you want the entire property private for the day.
  • What amount of time will you have access to the space?  This is important for many reasons. Some venues rent the space for a set number of hours and others for full days. Time is always a factor for logistics of set up, getting ready, tear down, packing and clearing out decor, etc. Some venues allow you to set up the day before for no additional charge, which can be very helpful. Be sure that time won’t be split, meaning that you’ll owe a balance for spending the whole day on your wedding day, though. Read the fine print! The implications to your timeline can also mean that you incur additional vendor costs if they have to pick up same day, instead of Sunday or Monday.
  • Can decor items be left to be picked up another day? Directly related to the previous point, but worth reiterating. At the end of the day, one of the last things you want to deal with is whether  you have enough space in  your vehicle(s) for everything. Gifts, decor, bags, extra food/cake and beverages, etc. all need to be taken out of your venue. Often times vendors and planners will create this exit plan and have larger vehicles available, but it is certainly a consideration for logistics. Knowing if you have the luxury of coming back the next day means you might be able to have vendors take their things and come back Sunday morning for all of your belongings.

View More:

{ Val Marlene Photography }

Other considerations:

  • The overall aesthetic. Does it go with your vision/design? This seems like a basic question, but when you start looking at numbers and get input from family and friends, it isn’t always a black and white decision. If the space doesn’t naturally lend itself to your vision, is it within your budget to make it what you envision? Any space can be transformed, but sometimes the cost of a different venue is less than the cost to dress up the space for your needs.
  • Proximity to church/ceremony location and hotels that guests will stay at. Again, this is a logistics and timeline consideration. If your venues are spread across town, you might need to get a shuttle or rent vehicles for the bridal party. Also, you might need to adjust your timeline and add details for guests between ceremony and reception. That likely means a cocktail hour, activities for guests, communicating to guests and family (possibly via printed material) and more. All of those things add to your budget.
  • If you plan on an outdoor ceremony and/or reception, what is your rain plan? Is there an option there, will you incur costs to get a tent rented at the last minute (set up and tear down for that), etc. Weather has many implications, but you want to be sure you have a back up plan for anything that relates to adverse weather. Especially if you plan on an outdoor event that doesn’t have a building nearby to accommodate your guest list.

Of course, with any vendor, you will want to do a cost comparison and think through your overall budget. That is a big reason why I always recommend your top three budget priorities and drafting your budget first. I know I have mentioned budget a lot in this post, but your venue and location can have a BIG impact on your bottom line. You do not necessarily have to go for something fancy, but be sure it is a place that you will look back on and enjoy the day there. Try to consider your guests and their experience. Most of all, you are going to celebrate your first hours of marriage there, so like most other things you should love it.

Happy venue searching and feel free to share if you have other tips for brides!

xoxo, Jenn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *