How I Planned My Wedding: Finding A Venue
A WEDDING PLANNER'S PERSONAL JOURNEY
I thought it'd be appropriate to start off my new blog series with the first step of wedding planning: finding a venue, quite possibly the most stressful "vendor" to book (scroll till the end of this post to see tips on what to look for in a venue!). Finding a venue is difficult because although it is one of the most controlling factors in the design of a wedding, it is the element that needs to be chosen first. Without a venue, you have no wedding date, and without a wedding date, you can't book any other vendors.
Coming from the SoCal wedding industry where I interned for over a year, and inspired by the LA loft/warehouse weddings that flooded my Instagram feed at the time, I thought I wanted a modern warehouse wedding. After about two weeks of non-stop searching (literally non-stop, day and night), I found what I thought was the perfect space. I had combed through Instagram, The Knot, Here Comes the Guide, you name the wedding website, I had gone through it. I actually ended up finding my venue (The Barlow in Sebastopol, CA) through Yelp by searching for "modern warehouse event space" methodically in every city surrounding the Bay Area (I literally had Google maps open, and was searching through every city within a 2 hour radius). It had everything I was looking for: an outdoor ceremony space, indoor reception space, the perfect capacity, not too far away from the Bay Area, within our budget. I visited with my fiancé, we loved it, we booked it for April 29, everything went smoothly and I felt like the most successful wedding planner ever.
And then, I discovered fine art weddings and everything I thought I wanted changed...
...to be continued in next week's post: Design & Inspiration.
What to Look For in a Wedding Venue
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Be mindful of season when choosing a venue! An outdoor venue might be too hot during summer or too cold during winter - or even require an alternative rain plan during the rainy months.
Lighting is everything when it comes to getting beautiful pictures, and many indoor venue spaces have little to no natural lighting.
- There are so many types of venues, each with a different vibe. Choosing a major category for your wedding design (i.e. rustic, modern, fine art, garden, winery, etc.), or even a mix of two categories, is a great way to narrow down the types of venues you're interested in.
- One major factor in how your event flows is the way in which your guests will be moving through the venue. It feels the most natural when your guests enter first into the ceremony space, transition to an adjacent cocktail hour space, and continue forward to dinner at the reception space.
- Look for venues that have spaces that make sense for each portion of your event, or the ability to transform for multiple functions! An example of this is a venue that has one large area that is first used for the ceremony, and then "flipped" (an industry term for transitioning a space) for use as the reception space while the guests are at cocktail hour.
- Venues are all different in what they provide: some provide everything up to a full sound system and all rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, linens), and some are a completely blank space for you to customize and fill.
- One of most common restrictions venues have is catering. Many will require you to pick from a list of preferred caterers, and some even require all your vendors to be a preferred vendor. Some other common restrictions include insurance coverage, no open candle flames, no attaching decor to the walls or the ceiling, or a music cutoff time.
- Some venues also require you to hire security guards, valet, or pay a fee for use of a parking lot.
- Most venues are very upfront with all of this type of information, so make sure you ask thorough questions and read your contract carefully before signing!
- When a venue gives you a max capacity number, keep in mind that this is usually the max amount of guests you can seat using round tables, seating 10 at each. Long banquet tables or farm tables take up more room, so if you were envisioning a reception with all banquet tables, you most likely won't be able to seat as many as the venue says you can.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to look for in a wedding venue, but I hope this was helpful! Happy venue hunting!