Wedding planning requires a lot of reservations, bookings, tours, and tastings. And it all starts with booking the wedding venue.
The wedding venue will be your backdrop for your big day and it will influence your guest list count, what vendors you may hire, and even your wedding date.
When you start your wedding planning process, you may be overwhelmed and unsure where to begin. While some couples opt for a wedding planner to handle the organization and reservations, it’s perfectly simple to go about it on your own once you know where to begin.
We break down how to book a wedding venue in 5 simple steps. Once your venue is booked, the rest lines up with ease. At the end, we’ll give you some tips and tricks on how to navigate the rest of your wedding planning process once you’ve confirmed your venue.
What to Know Before You Start Your Wedding Venue Search
Before you begin booking a venue for your wedding, it’s important to know what you are looking for in a wedding venue. Wedding venues can be indoors or outdoors, host just the ceremony or reception or both, can have limited guest capacity, may not be accessible, can limit vendors, and more.
We outline some of the top items that wedding couples need to consider before they contact venues to book for their wedding. Consider your theme, guest count, and more. It’s important also to note what you’re flexible on and what is a hard limit – are you willing to settle for an entirely indoor wedding if it means you may include more guests or is an outdoor wedding a must?
Make a list, a spreadsheet, or include some notes on some Post-Its – whatever your organization style of choice is, map these decisions out so when you’re booking a wedding venue you know what you’re looking for.
Decide Where and When You Want to Get Married
First, you will want to think about the location of your wedding and the season or date you are aiming for. Consider outdoors or indoors, mountains or beach, formal hall or something casual, and so on. Nail down details like state, city, and neighborhood.
Factor in the season you are aiming for and how the weather may influence your wedding day experience. Know roughly what time of year you want to aim for, if any at all. Some wedding venues may only be open seasonally, so you don’t want to tour a wedding venue that doesn’t operate during your preferred time of year — this is especially critical for outdoor winter weddings, so know before you go on any tours.
Estimate Your Guest Count
You won’t have the final numbers of your guests until a few weeks before the wedding when you send out invites and request RSVPs. However, you need to know what size wedding you are aiming for when booking a wedding venue.
Count out roughly the number of family, friends, coworkers, etc. you may want to invite. Round your estimated guest count to a small, medium, or large wedding. Are you closer to 150 guests or 300? Much larger or much smaller? Anticipate everyone on your guest list RSVPing yes so you don’t accidentally book a wedding venue that isn’t suitable for your wedding size.
Set a Budget
The wedding venue will be one of the largest ticket items of your wedding budget. Your wedding budget will primarily encompass the venue, drinks, and food. You will set aside roughly 50% of your budget to cover these items.
Depending on how casual or extravagant your wedding will be, and how intimate or large your guest count is, you may be able to adjust your wedding venue budget. Low-end venues may cost around $5,000, whereas higher-end venues may be $20,000. For the average wedding, budget between $8,000 and $15,000 for your wedding venue.
Your guest count may end up being the biggest influencer in the venue price factor, so consider your guest list and budget carefully to see where you can find the balance. Knowing the budget is one of the most crucial elements to help you book a wedding venue stress-free.
Determine Reception, Ceremony, or Both
Wedding venues can be for your ceremony, reception, or for both. Some couples opt to have their ceremony somewhere scenic or intimate, like a church or overlook, that holds fewer guests and then they move to a larger venue for their reception.
Many wedding venues are set up to host both the ceremony and the reception, limiting travel and allowing for the easiest accommodations of guests and vendors. Consider what atmosphere you want for both your ceremony and reception and if one wedding venue can do both or if you prefer a combination of two different venues.
Think of a Theme
You don’t need to know the theme or color combination of your wedding right away, but having an idea of the atmosphere you want to create is very important. Some wedding venues limit what outside deco you may bring or what vendors you can hire, so know roughly what image you want to create.
How to Book a Venue for a Wedding
Now that you’ve got the finer details settled and ready to go, you can get on to the exciting part of booking your wedding venue! This is actually quite easy and can be very fun to do as a couple or family together.
Top Tip: Start EARLY. In-demand wedding venues can book up one year or more in advance, so it’s never too early to start touring wedding venues. Plus, you may receive an early booking discount on your deposit.
1) Make a List of Venues
With your list of wants and must-haves nearby, start searching for wedding venues. You can do this online via Google or wedding websites like The Knot, or by asking friends and family for recommendations.
Check each venue’s website to see guest capacity, accessibility, location, seasonal operations, and any other limitations. You will not see prices listed in most situations, as these are very dependent on rentals and guest count – you may contact a venue ahead of time for an estimate but this is often best done during a tour of the venue space.
2) Set Up Tours as Early as Possible
Once you have your list of possible venues, immediately start contacting them for wedding tours. A good number of wedding venues to tour are 3, based on budget, guest count, theme, vendor options, and more.
There is no magic number or limit to touring wedding venues, however. If you find the right location on your first visit, it’s okay to trust your gut if you’ve done thorough research. You may also continue to tour wedding venues until you find the perfect match.
The fewer wedding venues you tour the less frustrated you will be, so if you find several options, staying under 8 is a good amount to tour, compare, and finalize a decision. Plus, you never want to lose out on an in-demand date or earlier booking fee.
3) Review Vendor Lists, Guest Capacity, and Ask Questions
Before finalizing your wedding venue decision, ask questions during your tour and follow up with emails or calls as you think of things in the next few days. This is critical for booking a wedding venue you will be happy with.
You want to determine what rentals or services are included with the venue, what may be included with the venue but could be an additional fee, what noise regulations you may face during the reception, if other events happen on the property as the same time as yours, and more.
We’ve compiled a complete list of the top questions to ask your wedding venue, so bring along our downloaded questionnaire to any tour so you can be organized and get comprehensive answers at every location.
4) Pick Your Date
If the answers to your questions suit your needs and you think you’ve found the place, it’s time to pick a date from your venue’s list of open scheduling. Some dates will be cheaper than others, oftentimes Fridays or Sundays. However, you want to consider things like guest travel, holidays, and more when finalizing your date.
We recommend taking into account seasonal weather impact, holidays, ease of travel, and if the date or time will interfere with any other long-standing events.
5) Finalize the Contract and Send Your Deposit
Your wedding venue should send you a contract to review, sign, and confirm with a deposit in order to finalize your wedding venue booking. Once you’ve sent the deposit, you should be good to go!
And that’s it, you’ve booked your wedding venue and now the rest can follow.
What To Do After You’ve Booked Your Wedding Venue
After you’ve booked your wedding venue, you can start on the rest of your wedding planning. You will coordinate with caterers and bartenders who may be partnered with the venue or you can reach out to your own if there is no vendor requirement list. Focus on getting the caterer and photographer booked ASAP along with any entertainment you desire.
From there you can finalize your theme, pick out wedding dresses and wedding suits, consider centerpieces, write your vows, and look forward to the big day.