How to Find a Wedding Venue or Location

If you’re trying to plan your own wedding, one of the first things you will think about is the venue! One thing to keep in mind is that you should try to be flexible in selecting your dates. Your ideal venue might not be available on the particular date you want, but maybe it will be free the following week. You never know!

Wedgewood Banquet Center at Crystal Springs Golf Course in Northern California, Photo from The Wedding Lens!

Though there are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re choosing your venue, the top three concerns are: 1) cost, 2) comfort, and 3) date.

Finding the venue

The first step in finding locations for your wedding is thinking about what you want and checking your budget. Do you want a beach wedding? A wedding in the mountains? A wedding in a restaurant? Or in a hotel? Think about what you want.

Get an idea of what’s out there. Start searching the web! If you’re in California, Chicago, or Washington DC, I highly recommend checking out Here Comes the Guide which lets you search by type of location (site views, site types) and by region or locale. You’ll note that the prices aren’t included — because, as The Guide explains, there are way too many variables to give you a specific number. If you’re not in those areas, just search for your location + wedding venue. once you start looking around, you’ll gather what you like, what each venue includes, and what is out there.

Questions to ask the venue

You should keep in mind your budget and what you want from your venue – but you might not know what it is you want. Here are some questions to ask and things that venues may (or may not) include. Getting answers to these questions may prove that the location is perfect (or absolutely NOT) for you! And, of course, Here Comes the Guide has another great list of questions to ask when looking at a venue!

When reviewing this, keep in mind whether the venue is for both your ceremony and your reception. Some of these questions apply only if you’re looking for a venue for both. Other questions (like about chairs & set up) apply regardless.

  • Seating/guests
    • How many people can they seat/fit?
    • How much is the deposit/down payment? Is it refundable?
    • Does the venue provide chairs? Do you need to rent chairs?
    • Do they charge for the chairs/setting up chairs?
  • Facilities
    • Is there a dressing area for the bride & groom?
    • Are there bathrooms accessible to guests?
    • Is it wheelchair accessible?
  • Food, drinks, & catering
    • Does the venue provide food, drinks, or other catering? Do they have preferred vendors?
    • If they have food & drinks for weddings, then find out a price range, you will select your final food/drink options later. Most venues give a per person rate. (Be sure to check whether each price option includes a buffet, a seated dinner, an open bar, limited drinks, etc.)
    • Can vendors use the kitchen facilities? (Are there kitchen facilities on site?)
    • Is there a per-person cake charge?
    • Is there an additional charge for linens and utensils?
    • Is there a service charge for serving the meals?
  • Music, Dancing, Flowers & Decorations
    • Does the venue have a dance floor? Does it cost extra?
    • Does the venue permit amplified music?
    • Is there a sound system? Can an outside DJ or band use it? Is there a cost
    • Do they permit decorations/flowers? Can you bring in decorations from outside or does it have to be done through the venue? What is the charge?
  • Miscellaneous
    • Do they charge for clean up
    • Does the venue require wedding insurance? (Check out the blog post on wedding insurance if you have no idea what this is!)
    • Are there restrictions on the site? (no confetti, etc)
    • Do they have any other costs and fees? (service charges, etc)

 Remember, before you accept anything, make sure that you check out the venue in person — and see if you can look at it during the time of day you want to get married. That way you can see if there is sufficient lighting or anything else you should know.

And, before you sign ANYTHING, make sure you read the contract thoroughly! What happens if one side or the other needs to cancel at the last minute? Do you have to pay all the fees anyway?

Good luck!

~ Natasha

How to Create a Seating Chart

One of the more daunting tasks about planning a wedding is where to seat people at the reception.  While there are numerous ideas and suggestions of how to do it, some people opt to only seat the wedding party and close family and let everyone else select their own seats.

If you do a seating chart, make sure people who know each other are sitting together. As much as you want people to mingle at the wedding, people don’t want to go outside their comfort zone. You want your guests to enjoy themselves as much as possible! 

Sometimes that’s hard to do – you have single friends or several people who only know the bride and/or groom, but no one else. Do your best. While a singles table can be awkward (and it’s obvious what the bride and groom are trying to do!), sometimes that might be the only option in the end.

Keep in mind that seating is not forever. People can get up, move around, and mingle. If you can’t get all your friends at one table, split ’em up! It’s not like they can’t hang out before and after.

The bride and groom also need to sit somewhere!  A sweetheart table (for just the bride and groom) is a great idea because the wedding party can sit with their dates and friends. Also, people can easily approach the bride and groom. Alternatively, the bride and groom could sit at a table with their immediate family, again allowing the wedding party to sit with dates and friends. Guests can thank the families all at one time.  Another option is to have the bride and groom sit with the wedding party but not with family. It allows the wedding party to bond, but might make the family feel left out or excluded.

If you’re overwhelmed with seating, the WeddingBee tells us about creates your seating chart for you! You upload the names of the guests and they create the seating chart.  It’s free for certain sized groups and there are charges for larger parties.