Now that you’ve checked out all the ‘First Steps’ for planning – it’s time to find a wedding venue! Hopefully you’ll have all the info you need to start looking, including: your proposed guest count, budget, overall wedding vibe, etc. With that as a starting point, here’s our best tips for finding the perfect venue.
Search and destroy. Take all your info from above and find some searchable keywords that you can use. Cities or parts of town, budgets, types of venues are all great places to start – then add ‘wedding venue’ to the end. For example: ‘Hollywood garden wedding venue’ or ‘Affordable loft wedding venue’. These should bring up first round results to give you a starting point, usually from an aggregator like www.venuereport.com or www.wedding-spot.com.
Compare and contrast: Find out everything you can about the venues and make a spreadsheet, Google doc or other comparable list, so you can see everything laid out in a way that is easy to see what the best choices are. You may have to call to get all the info you need, such as capacity, basic costs, required vendors, etc.
When we compile lists for our clients, we usually take their info and give a list of about 15-20 venues, and then from there they let us know the 4-5 they actually want to tour. We suggest you do the same – physically visiting venues is time consuming. Doing this bit of research beforehand will actually save you time in the long run as you won’t have to go to see venues that are not going to work for one reason or another and can be crossed off your list.
Details, Details: When touring the venue, in addition to all the questions you’ll definitely have – be sure to ask about parking, rental length time (i.e. how long you + your vendors can be in the space vs. you rental period, sometimes they are not the same), required vendors you must hire or a preferred vendor list you have to select from, noise ordinances + music timing, alcohol policies and any decor restrictions (can you have that confetti canon you want?).
Additionally, any legit venue doing business on the up and up will require insurance from you and/or your vendors, esp. here in California or other litigious states – so don’t be concerned by this if it comes up, it’s very normal.
Contracts + Commitments: Our one best piece of advice when it comes to finding + booking your venue? Actually read your contract. Don’t take anyone’s word for anything – it needs to be in writing. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten the wrong info from a site rep because venues tend to have huge staff turnovers. If there is something you really need to have happen (like them allowing your pet on site for the ceremony, or that they have said they will allow outdoor music until midnight when their contract only says 10pm) – make 100% sure the contract is updated or a rider added to cover these, as it is nearly impossible to get a venue to agree to something after you have already signed. Before you sign and pay your deposit is when you have the most leverage, and as such it is when you should make sure you get everything you want.
Don’t wing it: We do advise you to take what the venues’ contract, collateral and common sense are telling you. Please don’t book a venue that says it can only fit 150 people for a seated dinner if you plan on inviting 200+, there’s a chance your attrition rates won’t be as high as you think. If you’re looking for an all-night rager, don’t book a venue with a noise ordinance in a residential area – there will likely be less than zero wiggle room on your must-have loud music. It’s going to take more money than you’re willing to spend to turn a basic ballroom into an indoor garden if what you really want is an outdoor wedding. Consider these things and don’t assume ‘you’ll figure it out later’; chances are you won’t.
Photo Credits from top: Jana Williams, Laura Pedrino, Brian Mosoff