Wedding Planning: Venue Selection

So you met the one, got the ring, and now want to start planning the wedding. If you’re like me, you ignore all those blog posts that tell you to “enjoy being engaged” for a while before thinking about a wedding (is it possible to not think about the wedding at this point?) and jump right in.  This posts discusses some things to consider initially.

Photograph by Lauren Carroll Photography, Il Mercato, New Orleans 

Photograph by Lauren Carroll Photography, Il Mercato, New Orleans 

1.       Prioritize the season, guest list, and venue.

Before you can decide on the venue and date, you have to consider what’s most important to you. If your first priority is a courtyard wedding in New Orleans, then that automatically excludes the hot summer months.  If your guest list is at 400 and can’t be cut, then you have to pick a venue that can accommodate those numbers. Finally, if you have your heart set on a particular venue, you can tailor the guest list and other decisions to that venue.

2.       Determine a budget.

If you are working with a non-negotiable budget, don’t waste your time looking at venues that you can’t afford. Make sure you are calculating venue costs appropriate by carefully reading the contract, paying attention to food and beverage minimums, taxes, gratuities, staffing fees, and any other added fees. Also note what the venue provides such as tables, chairs, catering, glassware, flatware, and figure out if that will be an added rental cost.  A planner can help you determine what a reasonable venue budget is in relation to your overall budget.

3.       Think about the reception style.

Determining whether you want a sit down dinner or a cocktail style reception is essential before picking a venue.  Formal sit down dinners require more space, as you will need seating for 100% of the guests. If you want a popular Southern style cocktail or station reception, you only need seating for a percentage of your guests. A venue that can accommodate 200 guests cocktail style may only be able to accommodate 90-100 for a full seating.  Also, seated dinners are typically pricier than cocktail style, so consider how this choice factors into your budget.

4.       Narrow down venue options.

If you’ve decided you want a sit down dinner for 200 guests with outdoor and indoor space, a planner can save you a lot of time and headache. There may only be two or three venues that meet that criteria.  Likewise, if you want to do a wedding for 200 on a limited budget, your venue options will be narrowed as well.  A planner can provide this information for you, so you can avoid looking at venues that don’t meet the specifics. If you are flexible on the season, guest list, and seating style, your options for venues will increase, allowing you to pick the perfect space that you love.