The Most Common Mistakes Couples Make When Choosing a Venue
10 Feb 2022 •9 min read
One of the first wedding planning tasks most couples complete after getting engaged is selecting their wedding date, followed closely by choosing a wedding venue! Whether you’re dreaming of an intimate destination wedding far away with close friends and family, a rustic-chic party at a floral-filled barn setting, or a modern-glam art museum for a stylish fête, the right venue can totally transform and enhance your wedding design. But the search for your venue can also be an overwhelming process, especially when there are so many potential options to choose from and so many factors to consider. Before you sign on the dotted line for a venue, you’re going to want to do your research! There are many common mistakes couples often make when choosing their wedding venue that can end up being costly and sometimes un-fixable. Take a look at these venue-search mistakes industry professionals most often see couples commit, and take notes to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes yourself!
1. Not getting organized FIRST!
“One mistake couples make when it comes to finding their wedding venue is not taking the time to get organized—before they start their search! We know you'd rather jump straight to the site tours, but hear us out. Before you even think about reaching out to venues, sit down with your fiancé and do your best to nail down these nitty-gritty details: Your ballpark wedding budget, best-estimate guest count, desired geographic location for your wedding, and a general idea of your wedding date or time of year. Knowing this information up front will set you up for venue-hunting success by giving your search some structure! It's a great way to avoid overwhelm since it will naturally narrow down your wedding venue options. It's also super helpful information for the venues to have, so be sure to let them know these things when you inquire.” - Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide
2. Waiting to start your venue search.
“You don't want to fall in love with your dream venue only to find out they're fully booked for the next 12 months, right? Wedding venues (and vendors, for that matter) tend to get booked up to a year in advance or more. So if you truly want your first pick of venue or have a non-negotiable wedding date already set, start your venue search ASAP and schedule those site visits as soon as you can.” - Jenna Miller, Creative Director of Here Comes The Guide
3. Not having a vision in mind.
“Truly, one of the most common mistakes couples make when choosing their venues is not knowing what their wedding vision is. Do they want a private estate, loft space, garden, historic property, barn, etc.? Choosing from all the options can really be a trying and consuming task!It's best not to waste time scrolling through large lists online, rather know what style you and your fiancé desire, the general location your wedding will be held in, and of course what you are looking to spend on the venue itself. Hiring a planner can help, as they have built great relationships with their local venues. Also, there will be additional costs outside of the venue fees, so make sure you know what those are before signing on!” - Sarah Kuhlberg, Creative Director, Colette’s Catering
4. Not creating a guest list upfront!
“Many venues have different capacities (and prices!) depending on how you want to use the space --cocktail hour in the barn? Tented reception in the field?Seated dinner in the lodge? Knowing your rough guest count ahead of touring will allow you to properly work with each host to understand what your wedding could look like at their venue. So early on, think about who is on each of your must-have lists and then build around that --for guest count estimates consider that this past year couples using Weven's planning system received about an 85% "yes" rate on their RSVPs.
Not only will this thought process help with identifying your venue, how it can be used and what that might cost, but it will also put you a step ahead on working with caterers to predict an accurate budget for your meal. At the end of the day your wedding is about you and your people --so start with that in mind and then find the perfect venue to tell your story!” - Sam McElhinney, CEO, Weven
5. Not thinking seasonally based on the location.
“Outdoor venues have their benefits for many reasons, however, choosing an outdoor venue during a potentially rainy season can catch you off guard! Have a backup plan for tents and heaters in the case of rain.” -Alyssa Abshier + Victoria Nadler, Co-founders, Amber Sol Collective
6. Not considering nearby guest accommodations.
“If you choose a travel destination at a remote venue or have many out-of-town guests, make sure to research accommodations that will suit your party size. You also want to ensure there are hotels available for every budget within a reasonable distance. You don't want guests to have to travel far after partying with you all evening!” - Alyssa Abshier + Victoria Nadler, Co-founders, Amber Sol Collective
7. Lack of transportation planning.
“Keep in mind that some venues may not have parking for all your guests and you may need to charter a shuttle bus. Additionally, if the majority of your out-of-town guests are staying at the same location, you may want to look into local transportation services to make it as easy as possible for your guests to comfortably (and safely!) get to and from the wedding location.” - Alyssa Abshier + Victoria Nadler, Co-founders, Amber Sol Collective
8. Not researching lighting at the right key times.
“If you visit your venue during the day, everything may seem fine and dandy, and you may not realize how much lighting you’ll need to bring in, especially if it's an outdoor event! You, or your photographer, will want to visit the venue at different times of the day, during the same time of year as your ideal event date, to get an idea of sunrise, sunset, shadows, etc. for photo purposes as well!” - Alyssa Abshier + Victoria Nadler, Co-founders, Amber Sol Collective
9. Not asking about noise and time constraints.
“If you’re a wedding party that likes to listen to music into the wee hours of the morning, make sure you’re choosing a venue that can accommodate your preferences! Indoor venues are great for reducing late-night noise. Additionally, oftentimes weddings go later than planned. Whether you are enjoying yourself and want to extend or certain events start late, things may take more time than allotted. Venues typically have a strict end time and that has to include time to strike the decor. Plan ahead by reserving the venue a few hours longer or even a day longer to give yourself the time to enjoy the event to its fullest!” - Alyssa Abshier + Victoria Nadler, Co-founders, Amber Sol Collective
10. Choosing a venue that has poor accessibility.
“You found the perfect most gorgeous venue, but it's in the middle of nowhere! If your guests are not local, consider the closest airport and its accessibility, as well as where you would have your host hotel accommodations setup. Also, consider a big wedding expense --transportation! If guests cannot call Ubers, you will need to shuttle them there and back, and transportation can be a hefty wedding budget expense many couples forget about! Plus, the wedding party transportation, and the newlywed getaway car!” -Stephanie Sadowski, SRS Events
11. Committing to a venue you can’t really afford.
“Don't commit to a venue you can't afford in the grand scheme of the overall wedding budget. Our rule of thumb is that the wedding venue including catering, bar and necessary tables, chairs and linens should be roughly 50-60% of your total budget. The other half of the budget is needed for everything else including floral and decor, entertainment, invitations and stationery, transportation, cake, and so on. You'd be surprised how often people think the price at the venue is the total budget!” - Valarie Falvey, Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
12. Disregarding cell service for guests.
“One mistake I see a lot in the Southern California region is disregard for the cell service around the property. If guests cannot call a rideshare service at the end of the night, there's a chance they will be waiting on the property for a while. One way to combat this is by setting up transportation for guests at the end of the night to a central location or hotel.” - Melanie Levin, Owner of LuckEleven Events(she/her)
13. Not leaving enough budget for rentals.
“Couples commonly assume that rentals are not very expensive and book pricey venues that require everything to be brought in. The problem here is that rentals ARE expensive and the venue cost will eat up a good percentage of the budget, not leaving much room for the rentals. Tables and chairs can be modified to meet a budget, but if you need to bring in a kitchen or tent then there is not much wiggle room.” - Melanie Levin, Owner of LuckElevenEvents(she/her
14. Not reading the contract in full.
“Some venues have rules that require couples to hire vendors that might not otherwise be necessary. For example, some venues require couples to hire a specific security and valet company which can add $2000+ to your fees without the ability to shop around for the best price. It's important to read the contract in full and ask the right questions to make sure the number they give out encompasses all the required vendors/insurance.” - Melanie Levin, Owner of LuckEleven Events(she/her)
15. Early noise ordinances.
“The one thing that seems to catch everyone by surprise on Cape Cod is the early noise ordinances! Be sure to check with the venue or the town if you are having a private event, as every location has a certain noise ordinance they have to abide by. Most brides and grooms want to entertain their guests until the wee hours of the night and with an early noise ordinance, it can be a big bummer. Ask your venue about after-party locations that they know of if the noise cut off is too early for you!” - Jamie, Cape Cod Celebrations
16. Not asking enough of these questions.
“What kind of celebration are you hoping to have? The more elegant and upscale, the more things to consider for the guest experience. Does your venue have ample, safe, and well-lit parking in a paved lot with a valet option? Are the restrooms inside plentiful, climate-controlled, cleaned often throughout the evening, and close to the event space? Does onsite catering offer plated meals with table-side beverage service for guests throughout the evening? If your event is in a cooler climate, is a coat check available for guests?” - Ashley Lachney (she/her), Owner of Alston Mayger Events
17. Not having a bridal or groom suite.
“Something to think about before choosing your venue is whether it has a bridal and groom suite for getting ready photos. If not, then you'll have to add more time to your timeline so your photographer can go to your hotel or home to take those shots and then travel to the venue for the ceremony.” - Lisette Gatliff, Lisette OC Photography
Finding your dream venue can be one of the most exciting parts of the wedding planning process, so keeping these tips in mind can make a huge difference in ensuring you’ll be able to have the wedding you’re envisioning without any issues down the line! The perfect venue can make or break your wedding plans, so it’s important to be fully prepared to start the venue search process. Keep this list handy when you start your venue search so you can ask the right questions once you narrow things down to your number one choice and make sure you’re really ready to sign that contract!
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