Today, we've broken down the do's and don'ts of one of the trickiest parts of wedding planning: venue shopping.
DO: Scout venues completely on your own at first
While outside opinions and expertise are extremely valuable when venue shopping, we recommend sitting down at a computer as a couple--without planners, family or friends present--and scouting venues completely on your own at first. Treat it as a brainstorming session where there are no right or wrong answers. Don’t worry about logistics or availability--just start searching. The point of this practice is to focus solely on what catches your eye without worrying about anything else or taking into account outside opinions. You’ll often learn things about your style you never knew before. It also allows each partner equal say. Oftentimes, one person in a couple is less vocal about what he or she wants, and their voice can get drowned out that much more with an expert or wedding planner around.
DO: Start big
Just like with the previous tip, it’s all about treating your initial venue search as one big brainstorming session. Try searches like, “best wedding venues in…” or “best places to get married in…” and just take a look at what comes up. Use our “venue styles” page to look at the best venue options broken down by aesthetic. If you start big, you’ll always be able to reign in your search to more plausible options later on. It never hurts to take a look at the best options first. You may be able to afford a venue that you never dreamed you could--you’ll never know if you don’t start with an open mind and a blank slate.
DO: Bring the professionals in later on
After you’ve sat down as a couple and searched and scouted, you’ll likely be in a place to bring in other outside sources of advice and expertise. If, as a couple, you’ve established a solid idea of what you want in a venue, then an event planner can come in as an expert and help you enhance that idea (as well as provide some solid options for venues that fit within that plan). Once you’ve narrowed it down to your favorite options with your planner, definitely DO bring him or her along to look at venues with you. They’ll know all the right questions to ask.
Solidifying a venue is the first step in the wedding-planning process and, because of this, people often feel rushed to make a decision. After all, everything else--date, invitations, aesthetics, vendors--hinge on the venue you choose. But, don’t pick an option just because you feel like you have to rush a decision so that you can continue on with the rest of the planning process. Oftentimes, couples feel like a venue is going to fill up if they don’t book it right away, so they end up booking a venue before they’re sold on it completely in order to beat others out. The right venue and its staff will make you feel at-ease during your planning process and won’t rush you.
DON’T: Feel like you have to bring the usual suspects
With the popularity of wedding-based reality television shows and wedding websites, we are constantly getting bombarded with messages about the right way to wedding plan. As part of that, we often see images or read pieces that tell us which people we should bring to what (moms and maids of honor for dress shopping, bride’s parents for venue shopping, etc.). We’re suggesting that, when you go venue shopping, you should bring whoever you think will offer the best advice. Maybe your indecisive maid of honor isn’t a great person to help you choose between five different venues. Perhaps you have a coworker who throws the best parties. Why not bring her (and her eye for design) along? Maybe someone in your family works in the hospitality industry. They’d likely be a great person to have on your team if you’re looking at hotels or lodges. Think strategically and outside of the box--you can always bring your bridal party and parents along for a second visit to the venue once the details are smoothed out.
DON’T: book something that isn’t exactly what you’re looking for
This one sounds obvious, but so often, couples end up booking a venue that they think will work, when, in reality, it can’t deliver what they truly want. Oftentimes, weather plays a role in this. For example, if you want an all-outdoor wedding, don’t book a ballroom simply because tons of people have warned you about the possibility of rain. Don’t let others get in your head when venue shopping. If you have a solid idea of what you want, stick to that. And remember, start with a space you absolutely love and then make adjustments to account for any issues (such as adding a tent to avoid weather). It's much easier than starting with a space you're so-so about and trying to turn it into something you love. You should always have a backup plan, but don’t make the mistake of turning the backup plan into the main plan out of fear of weather or other issues.
What would you add to our advice? Use the comments section to let us know.