If you’ve ever dipped your toes into venue hunting, you know just how intense it can be. From guest size to seasons to vendors and more, it can easily become overwhelming. Before starting to schedule venue tours “just to check them out”, we recommend taking time to decide on a few of the basic logistics of your wedding. This way you and your fiance don’t leave the tour feeling confused and overwhelmed by all the questions and information they share with you.
To help support you through the topics we recommend discussing before going to tour a venue, we’ve put together a complete guide below!
Your wedding budget is arguably the most important piece you should discuss before a venue tour. Start by determining a general number you’d feel comfortable spending. If you are unsure of your exact budget, it is helpful to decide on an amount that would be a complete deal breaker. This is your firm, “no flex” number and will help you better understand your limits when discussing pricing with venues and vendors. Couples that can determine this number have higher success rates at staying within budget than couples that aren’t diligent about setting limits.
Your overall budget should include everything - including the little things! Make sure you include details like bridal party gifts, gratuities, signage/decor, rehearsal dinner, and even the food you’ll eat in the getting ready room. It can be easy to forget to include these details in your budget, but trust us - they do add up!!
Once you have a good idea of your overall budget, start getting quotes from venues, vendors, and extras. You then can start to modify and itemize the budget as you learn about different costs. It’s important to adjust as you learn more about what is and isn’t negotiable for you and your fiancé.
For venue specific budget allocation, The Knot found that couples spend roughly 30% of their budget on their venue. However, this percentage definitely varies. For example, if you are looking at an all-inclusive venue, you may end up allocating closer to 50 - 75% of your budget on your venue.
Pro Tip - Not all venues will show you a total cost. Be sure to ask about additional service charges, gratuities, and hidden fees like a “cake cutting fee” (yes, that’s a thing).
Day & Season
It’s important to think about your ideal season for your wedding date before starting your venue search! This will give you a great place to start when chatting with the venue about their availability. In order to have the most flexibility in your venue search, it is helpful to decide on a season and day-of-the week that interests you most instead of getting your heart set on a specific date. Unless there is significance to the date you want to get married on, picking a season over a date will open up more venue opportunities for you as dates tend to sell-out quickly.
Having a clear understanding about what you would like to spend will also help guide what dates and seasons you can consider. Saturday Nights during the summer and fall in Colorado are always going to come with the highest price tags. If a budget-friendly summer or fall wedding is a non-negotiable for you, consider the idea of a Thursday or Friday night wedding (we LOVE a Friday wedding for this reason)! If a Saturday night is your non-negotiable, December-March may be the perfect solution!
Pro Tip - If you’re hoping to stay budget-friendly by having your wedding on a weekday, try looking at the week of a big holiday that friends and family might already have off of work. We’ve seen couples score big with a weekday wedding the week of Thanksgiving, July 3rd, and Memorial or Labor Day weekends.
Location may or may not be a priority for some couples. If a majority of your guests are traveling for your wedding - you might want a venue that is closer to the airport or big city to ease the travel hassle. You’ll also want to keep in mind where you want to be staying on your wedding night and what would make the most sense for you.
On average, 80% of invitations come back with ‘Yes.’ This will be lower if you have a large amount of out of state invitations. Only look at venues that will hold your anticipated guest count and try to visualize what it will actually look like. If you only have 50 guests and look at a location that holds 250 guests, ask your venue guide what 50 people would actually look like in the space. Adversely, if you have 250 guests and the capacity is 250 - be sure to ask your guide to help you visualize that in the space. You want your guest count to make sense in the space, even if it might technically fit, it might not visually flow.
Although you might have a firm idea of the style of venue you’re looking for - rustic, modern, garden, don’t forget to think about the other venue amenities that are going to contribute to the feel of your wedding. Is an outdoor ceremony important? Would you want a beautiful deck or patio for cocktail hour? Is a good bar scene important? Space for the band? Does the transition of rooms make sense? Style, flow, and vibe of the venue are going to contribute to the overall aesthetic and experience of your wedding.
Venues are going to range from all-inclusive, DIY, or somewhere in-between. This means that they might have some in house offerings like catering or bar service, and some might be strictly just the venue space. Some venues also may have a list of required vendors, meaning you have to use the services they offer. The most common required vendors would be catering and bar service, but we’ve worked with venues in the past that require the use of their photographer, baker, and more! It’s important to decide if you’d rather have complete control of your wedding vendors or if you’d prefer to work with a venue that has all your necessary vendors included!
Pro Tip - if a venue has included vendors, they are often receiving a discount in return for sending business their way. Be sure to ask about specifics of what the vendors will actually provide. Just because it’s included, doesn’t always mean it’s going to match your vision
Many of these variables are give and take! Their ranking of importance simply depends on what is most important to you. For example, if a venue in your budget with your dream aesthetic does not fit your guest count, you'll have to weigh if the aesthetic or your guest count is more important to you.
As your personal wedding guides, we offer venue search assistance as well personalized venue recommendations based on your answers to the topics discussed throughout this blog post. We would love to connect for any questions you may have!