It certainly is one of the biggest decisions you will make for your wedding, and the pressure to get it right can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. With so many wedding venues available, you'd think choosing one would be simple, but it never is.
Your wedding is the biggest — and certainly the most expensive! — party you will ever throw, so it can be more than a little intimidating to start planning. There's just so much to think about! From crafting a guest list to choosing a theme and making sure the menu makes everyone happy, each detail counts.
And the biggest detail of them all is the venue. You can go as lavish or as simple as you want for most of your choices, and you can even skip out on traditions like bouquets and cake, but you have to get married somewhere.
The decision to get married is one of the biggest you will ever make. If you have just gotten engaged, congratulations; you probably think about where to book your big day. If you have not and just want to learn more about how to book a venue when the day does come, welcome – you are in good hands.
Fortunately, choosing a wedding venue doesn't have to be hard. Once you know what's available, you can follow a few simple steps to help you develop an initial wish list and narrow things down from there.
Engaged or have a clue you might be heading down that path soon? Huzzah! Congrats. You're serious about experiencing one of the best days of your life.
Weddings are awesome. At what other time do you get to gather all of your nearest and dearest, put on a massive party, and dance the night away? And it's all in honour of the fact that you've partnered up with the most amazing person you know. It's got to be the biggest win-win ever.
But. And we hate to have to mention a but.
Finding the place that all these celebrations are going to go down can be seriously tricky. Trust us, and we've been there. Hence why WedShed exists.
Table of Contents
- 1 Options For Choosing A Wedding Venue
- 2 Choosing A Wedding Venue – Much To Consider
- 2.1 Know Yourself
- 2.2 Location, Location, Location
- 2.3 Parking & Easy Access Parking (Disability Parking)
- 2.4 Can The Venue Hold All Your Wedding Guests
- 2.5 What Comes With The Venue Package
- 2.6 Price – The Bottom Dollar
- 2.7 Create an Initial Guest List
- 2.8 Think About Your Wedding Style
- 2.9 Is the size appropriate for your guest list?
- 2.10 Are there nearby accommodations for guests?
- 2.11 Is there in-house catering?
- 2.12 Be clear on what's flexible at the venue.
- 3 The Do's & Don'ts Of The Venue Space
Options For Choosing A Wedding Venue
When it comes to finding the perfect wedding venue, you have three basic choices:
- All-Inclusive: These venues often specialize in weddings and provide nearly everything you need for a wedding reception. A large number of these venues also have dedicated areas that you can hire for your wedding ceremony. They typically offer meal and drink packages, tableware and may also provide some decorations. Some packages include a DJ and/or MC to keep the party moving. All-inclusive venues often provide a basic wedding coordinator service to help you with some of the wedding reception planning, and they take care of all the logistics.
- Indoor Venues: These venues are a building, historical house, vineyard barn, art gallery, dance hall, or other large space where you can hold an event or party. They provide shelter for your event but not much else (if you are lucky, the venue may have tables and chairs available); you'll need to coordinate the other vendors. Most venues of this type have hosted many weddings, though, and they can provide you with a list of suggested vendors to help streamline your planning.
- Outdoor only Venues: Certain locations are ideal for outdoor weddings, and you can get pretty creative about where you host your wedding ceremony and reception. Like indoor venues that aren't all-inclusive, you'll need to plan catering, tables & chairs, tableware, music and other vendors on your own — including a marquee for shelter and perhaps even lighting and amenities such as portable toilets.
Choosing A Wedding Venue – Much To Consider
Only you can decide exactly how much time and energy you want to spend on planning your wedding. If the idea of trying to track down a caterer, bar service, tableware and glassware, tables & chairs, venue decorations, and lighting, all on your own, makes you feel panicky, then don't! Either spend the additional money to hire a wedding coordinator or choose an all-inclusive venue. There's a reason why all-inclusive wedding venues are hugely popular in Sydney.
If, on the other hand, you want the freedom to make every creative decision on your own, you may be more comfortable coordinating the event on your own. If you're a highly organized person, this is very doable but time-consuming.
Location, Location, Location
When choosing a location, it should be potentially close to the reception to minimize travel time during the day. It will also minimize other unforeseen issues by not having time-stretched. Choose a location that people can easily get to. Is it close to you or your partners family?
Parking & Easy Access Parking (Disability Parking)
Some venues are beautiful, but they can lack parking. Make sure that your venue has enough parking for everyone to drive and park. If the location does not have enough parking, people could be late trying to find a space and circling the block many times to find a parking spot.
Also, consider that your wedding may be a multi-generational event with grandparents and people who are less mobile. Make sure it is somewhere that they can walk to from their car. Does the venue space offer easy access or disability parking for your guests with needs?
Can The Venue Hold All Your Wedding Guests
Each venue has a limitation of how many guests it can hold and can vary from the venue's size to safety regulations. If you have 200 wedding guests, but the venue can only hold up to 150 guests, then the wedding will more than likely not take place there unless you decide to cut enough people to make it happen for that to be able to fit in the venue space.
In reverse, you may have 200 people, but the venue can hold 400 people. The venue would potentially cost more, but you would also have too much space. Everyone would be very far apart from each other. It is best to choose a venue whose capacity is similar to your final headcount for your wedding.
What Comes With The Venue Package
Some wedding venues come with only room for hire and catering. Other venues come with additional features such as photo booth hire, a budget towards styling/centrepieces or even a DJ to make the venue more enticing for you. In some cases, these are great benefits to have as they can save you time, money and fewer things to worry about. Keep this in mind when looking at venues if you have already booked a service for your wedding, for example, a DJ/MC/Band. If you have already booked the same service, ask if you can use the budget on a different offered service. You may be able to upgrade your venue package or even get a discount.
Price – The Bottom Dollar
So you have your ideal venue, BUT it costs an arm and a leg. Some locations are beautiful, have everything you want, come with some fantastic benefits however it costs more than you could have imagined. It can blow out your entire budget with no room for anything else. If you have worked out a wedding budget but realize you may require more money to spend. Decide as you have a couple of options available.
One option is to have your wedding later and save up for it a bit longer. Alternatively, you can try and find a more cost-effective location. There are some other solutions. In fact, Stephanie, our head wedding planner, goes into wedding budgets quite in-depth and is quite insightful.
We'd all love to have an unlimited budget to do everything we'd ever wished for with our wedding. Unfortunately, the reality for 99% of us is that our wedding budget will likely underlie most of our choices. The good news is that creativity goes a long way, and with so many great tools available to you today, you can have the wedding of your dreams.
The two biggest factors dictating your wedding reception budget are the number of guests and the price per head of the wedding packages on offer. For any given budget, it makes sense that the fewer guests you have, the more you can spend on food, drinks and cool stuff for your guests. If having a big wedding is important to you, then maybe consider some of the cocktail packages or venues that offer BYO alcohol or catering to keep the budget in check.
At the end of the day, it's you and your partner's choice. We recommend keeping an open mind during the discovery stage of looking for venues so that you can consider options from all the venues and packages available that suit your ballpark requirements. You can then compare options and find the optimum balance between guest numbers and package (price per head) for your wedding.
Sorry to begin with a boring one. It has to be said. Your budget will probably shape the style of venue you're working with. We use the word 'tentative' because, as ladies who have gone down the wedding planning path before, we realize that despite all good intentions, wedding budgets have a tendency to stretch. A budget blow-out is apparently a contagious condition that affects 98% of couples, we included.
Nonetheless, it's worth deciding what you're happy to spend on a venue and trying to stick to it. When choosing a venue, keep in mind what's included – do you still need to hire in tables and chairs? Extra portaloos? Don't get caught out with surprise costs – ask the venue owner or manager exactly what additional items need to be brought to the venue to get a fully informed idea of the actual hire price.
Create an Initial Guest List
How many people do you want to invite? First, make a master list of everyone you'd want to invite. Then make a secondary list of everyone you absolutely must invite. You now have a range to work with when shopping for your venue. This will help you narrow your search to locations that can accommodate your guests. You'll also get the most realistic estimates when you have a good idea of how many people you'll invite.
Think About Your Wedding Style
Let's get into your wedding style; in fact, one crucial decision to make regarding your wedding venue is the style. Let me give an extreme example to make a point. Let's say you want your wedding to have a more modern chic look and feel. However, you decide to hire a barn for your reception venue. If you had a more rustic style wedding, then this would make sense, but modern chic and barns do not go together.
You can easily dress up a function space to your liking. However, some have specific features or styles that make it almost impossible to work with towards your vision. For example, when I was getting married, I chose a location overlooking the water and had a classic theme to it. It matched my style perfectly but not for others. This why many wedding venues (while each with their points of difference) are somewhat neutral on the inside. Venues do this to be as compatible with as many clients as possible.
Is the size appropriate for your guest list?
Picking a venue that is the right size for your festivities is essential when planning your wedding and reception.
The last thing you want to do is have your guest sitting cheek to jowl because your venue was too small for the inviting group.
Please pay special attention to the capacity of any venue you are looking at before booking and ensure that it has space for the activities you're planning on holding.
The size of your wedding will dictate which function spaces are available within each venue. The Venue's Wedding Coordinators will work with you to ensure that you can find a space that best matches your wedding's size to help them optimize the use of their available space and, more importantly. Hence, you have the right ambience for your wedding.
Larger weddings would lend themselves to ballrooms in hotels, large dedicated function venues or even marquees. Mid-sized weddings of about 80 to 120 guests give you the biggest scope of choice, with most venues having a space that would accommodate this size wedding. Smaller, more intimate weddings suit restaurants, bars, private clubs and some boutique function venues.
Are there nearby accommodations for guests?
If you are planning on holding your reception somewhere a little further out than usual or if you have lots of guests coming from overseas or interstate, consider whether your venue has its own accommodation or is near accommodation that will allow your guests to stay overnight.
It's one thing to hold your dream wedding in a charming castle or country estate. Still, if your guests are unable to call taxis afterwards or get to accommodation, especially if they've been drinking, it will end the evening badly. You don't want your guests to be unsafe.
Is there in-house catering?
Whether you will serve a full four-course dinner or have some buffet with snacks, you need to know if the venue you are looking at has an in-house catering service.
If they do, can they provide you with menu options to suit your guests, including vegetarians, gluten-intolerant guests or those with religious food requirements?
If there is no in-house catering, you will need to add another job to your list, finding a caterer.
Be clear on what's flexible at the venue.
If you have your heart set on a particular caterer for your big day, there's probably no point in viewing a venue that works with a preferred company only. Find out before you make time for viewing what's flexible. Are you allowed to work with your own vendors of choice? Can you DIY-style the venue space? Can you BYO alcohol, or does it need to be purchased through the vendor? These are all things to consider when choosing your venue.
The Do's & Don'ts Of The Venue Space
All venues have restrictions of some kind. Make sure that these do not conflict with your wedding. These can range in quite a lot of areas. These can include what time your function has to end, sparkler exits (if they are allowed), allowance of real candles, open bar alcohol cut off, the local council imposed restrictions etc.
Some people think that just because you hire a space, you can do whatever you like, but that could not be further from the truth. Some venues are in a highly populated residential area with MANY restrictions, such as operating hours and sound restrictions. You may have your wedding in Sydney CBD, and certain alcohol restrictions come into effect depending on the alcohol serving licence they carry.
As you can see, when it comes to choosing a wedding venue, there is much to consider. Do not rush out and book everything without first consulting your wedding venue. Make sure it's the right fit, right budget, right style and the one that will be the best venue for your wedding.