Welcome back for another wedding chat. Today we’re talking about venue, which is kind of a big deal because it can determine so many other aspects of your wedding.
We’ve already briefly discussed how venue can be the foundation for showcasing your style. It goes without saying that when you think of a wedding in a barn or in a church, you envision a certain style. So if you want to emphasize a warm, rustic vibe a barn is spot on. If you want an industrial, edgy, modern feel than you probably want to check out a renovated warehouse/mill or rent a loft. Modern? Peruse greenhouses or art galleries. Historic homes/gardens and atriums offer a classic, vintage ambiance. A church is usually traditional and formal. And outdoor weddings are versatile.
There really are so many options for venues; it just takes some looking (and creativity if you’re tight on budget like I was).
Typically, most brides know where they want their dream wedding to take place. I knew right from the get-go that I wanted my wedding to be outdoors/in a barn. To me, that was the perfect setting for a fun, romantic, vintage wedding. Even if you already “know,” I still encourage you to look at your options. It might surprise you that you prefer the historical plantation over the garden or the camp over the church.
WHERE TO START LOOKING
If you’re not planning on getting married at your own church or are planning to utilize a separate venue for the reception:
Get some inspiration on Pinterest and consider the variety of styles you could pursue. I was so latched onto the idea of barn that I didn’t look around too much. That’s fine, still if I were to do it again it would be a completely different wedding. That’s just aging and changing taste but I bring it up to show that you might like something more than what you were originally planning for your “dream wedding.” And it might turn out that what is available or affordable is a different kind of venue than what you hoped for. So, look around and familiarize yourself with a variety of ideas and potential options. Don’t worry, if you can’t find a barn for your rustic wedding you don’t have to forsake your rustic style, it may just look a little different than you imagined. And that’s ok.
Make a list. Utilize the Knot, Pinterest, friend’s advice, and/or your own thoughts to comprise a list of what you need to have at a venue. For instance, you probably NEED a kitchenette available if you are providing your own food. Or maybe you’re hoping to get ready on location; you’ll need a private room or building. Think through your “must-haves” & “hopefuls” and jot it down on paper. It will be helpful to keep this in mind as you search, reminding you of what to look for and inquire after. Make your venue work for you! But also be somewhat flexible with your needs. Usually there are ways to make things suit your needs; if it’s inexpensive, relatively easy to fix, and at a venue that you love—it’s worth considering. We provided home-made desserts and milk at our dessert reception but no kitchenette was available at the barn. We chose to make due with coolers and ice. It may not be ideal but it was doable. It’s up to you what is worth dealing with or paying a little more for.
Google local wedding venues. Keep it broad so that you can view all of your potential options.
Ask around to see if a friend or coworker may know of a place. This is actually how we found our barn–more on that later. This also applies to a close friend or family member’s property, even a non-wedding venue that’s special to the two of you (like a camp that you both worked at, favorite coffee shop, etc.). If they have a great space, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they would mind, you might be surprised at what creative, unique opportunities pop up.
Take note of your favorites. If you can’t call right away, keep a list of phone numbers and contact information to easily access later.
And if you’re really interested, call right away. The great venues are usually booked months and years in advance; so if you’re trying to get married in less than a year it’s harder to find something. Get on it right away and stake your claim.
When I say call right away, I don’t mean give them a deposit. I mean call and ask lots of questions & set up a tour. It’s hard to really understand a space until you see it in person. If you really like it, don’t delay.
Now when it comes to touring and making a final decision, there are some things you should think about (not just how gorgeous you two would look here).
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CONSIDERING A VENUE
SIZE? This is probably the biggest factor, especially for larger weddings. You need to know how many of your guests can comfortably fit there. If you’re hosting a meal, how will the tables fit in the space? How many people per table? How big is the dance floor? How many bathrooms? Can you fit other items, like a photo booth, guest book table, gift table, or favor table?
LOCATION? Is it near a public road? And if so, is it loud or distracting? Is it private property or will you have to deal with setting up boundaries? Do your best to think how far or easy the venue is to get to. Is it near to a hotel or restaurant? Is it easy to find (and if it isn’t, make sure to include directions in your invites)? Some people prefer a destination wedding or a small trip, based on what they have close by. I veered more on convenience since I love residing in Lancaster County.
WHAT’S INCLUDED? Is a caterer part of the fee? Is there a kitchenette for food prep and storage? Is there running water? Are there extra buildings available for getting ready? Do they have decorations that you can use? If it’s a barn, check out the restroom situation.
BENEFITS? Is the venue scenic so that you can take all of your pictures on sight? Can you all get ready on site to make it easier? Can you leave the decorations for a day or do you have to clean up immediately after? Can you access the venue a day or two before to decorate? Can you host your reception dinner there?
LIMITATIONS? Do I have to use your caterer? Do I have to use your decorations? Can I put signs in the ground? How long do I have to decorate and clean up?
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
A word on wedding venues versus non-wedding venues:
Wedding venues are typically package deals based on day of the week and hours you’ll use the location. You probably have to use their caterer, maybe even their decorations. That can eliminate a lot of stress on your end but it can also be very pricey & stunt your creativity. If everything is all there, it’s a lot easier! But if you want to be creative and do your own thing, you’ll find it’s a little too restrictive.
On the other hand, non-wedding venues may be cheaper but the venue isn’t designed for weddings. This means, you may have to be creative or spend extra money to make things work for you. Plus, you’ll have to do the legwork on the food and decorations.
If you really like a certain space, crunch the numbers and see if it really would save you money if you did the food and venue on your own. Weigh your options; make sure that you’re getting the best value of money and time for that price. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it, for either option.
OUR WEDDING VENUE
In our situation we were able to find a non-wedding venue and we had lots of freedom in return. For $700 I was able to rent one of the last historic barns in Lancaster County for a whole week. My mom had seen the barn in pictures that a friend had posted on Facebook, her daughter had gotten married there. So we went out on a limb and asked about it! Through her we obtained an e-mail to the owner of the property and set up a time to tour it. The owner and her family lived adjacent to the barn but they were very hospitable and accommodating, even offering an apartment attached to their house for our use before the wedding.
The barn was beautiful and felt truly historic, a little dusty and not “wedding ready” but with a little elbow grease, it could be. I didn’t love the bright yellow lights strung up throughout, but they were Edison bulbs and I felt like I could get over the yellow. The owner also offered us use of her various antique items stored in the barn: velvet couches, tables, mason jars, even a super cool two-seater bicycle. This fit perfectly with my idea of a vintage, rustic wedding with a coffee shop feel. We were hosting a dessert reception in the barn and wanted to offer scattered seating for rest, but the emphasis was on mingling and partying.
Being that it was not a wedding venue, there was not a bathroom or kitchenette with running water available. We determined that because we weren’t serving a full meal we could get away with only coolers and as for the bathrooms, you can rent some pretty spiffy porta-pottys now a days. There was also limited parking, but we were able to resolve this by asking a church cattycorner to the property if we could utilize their parking lot. My friend’s husband helped us to shuttle people across the road. *Side note* We did have a problem with people parking near the barn because they missed the church parking lot; it wasn’t too much of an aesthetic problem because we had taken pictures beforehand, it just wasn’t ideal. Looking back, I would have just done better with signage.
The location itself was beautiful. It was near the road but hedged in by trees and bushes so it felt private. I was worried about noise from the road but it turned out to be pretty quiet. There was a nice spot for us to set up chairs for an outdoor ceremony and the barn was big enough to hold us if it rained. The owner offered to mow the property the day before the wedding so we had one less thing to think about.
There was no way that I could think about affording the barn venue that I really wanted, so it was this barn or something completely different. In its unique way, this barn offered everything that we needed: a whole week to prep the barn & clean up after, creative freedom, no obligation to a caterer, a rustic atmosphere, an aesthetically appealing location for pictures, a place for the guys to get ready, and a large enough space to fit everybody. For us, it met our most important needs (and even non-important) and we made great memories there.
So be open to the possibilities. Don’t rush the process and take the first spot you look at. But more importantly, don’t put it off. Venues won’t wait forever and color schemes can be tweaked later on.
That’s a wrap on venue—can’t wait to chat with you again on our next topic, the wedding party.