Searching for the Perfect Wedding Venue

"So...where are you getting married!?"

This is the first question that people will ask you and your fiancé after you get engaged. They ask within the first five minutes. As soon as the celebratory texts and phone calls and greetings start arriving, people want to know not only the date, but the place and time and where you're registered.


You may think to yourselves, "already?" That's when the planning begins, and it hits you like THAT. 

When S and I got engaged, we were deliriously happy (and still are!) but we still were bombarded with confusion. Undoubtedly the MOST important part of your wedding is the venue. Now that we have our venue booked for next October, our wedding talk is filled with excitement and anticipation. We can really imagine the setting, in all of its autumn splendor, with a clear vision. We booked a beautiful, rustic, countryside venue complete with a 1700's-era estate, a restored barn, and even some livestock (the goats are my favorite part!)

However, choosing your dream venue can be a source of stress. When people began asking us, they were obviously excited about our news, but it started an internal stopwatch within me. And that ticking time is pretty real - if you have your heart set on a venue during a certain season, chances are you need to book it over a YEAR in advance! I felt the need to find the perfect venue, and FAST  (we got engaged in July and had our venue for October 2017 booked within the same month).

  I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say "it doesn't have to be stressful!" Of course it is stressful - prices, availability, and of course the theme/look are all very important variables that can complicate your decision. When we chose our venue, we had to consider all of those things. If I had to give advice, here are some pointers I'd offer:

don't overwhelm yourself

Do some research, keeping in mind where (and when) you can picture yourself walking down the aisle. Try to narrow down your options to keep your decision-making a bit simpler. Think of weddings you've been to. Think of your childhood dreams. Think of settings that are important to you and your love (see below).  As you will hear plenty of times while you're engaged, it's your day. While that sounds luxuriant, it can lead your mind to wander and even get swept up in all the possibilities.  If you can't decide, try a quiz, like this fantastic one from WeddingWire, to help you ease into your options. 

When you narrow down your choice(s), go to visit the place in person, if possible. This helps you to visualize everything, plus it gives you a sense of how the venue is run by the management and what types of accommodations/services are available. Picking a place with friendly staff was very important to us!

choose a place with meaning

S and I dated for nine years, so we've accumulated quite a number of "special" places. We grew up in small towns. So, could we do a small intimate backyard wedding? We went to college in the mountains. Could we do a rustic, outdoors-inspired ceremony? We did the long distance thing - S moved to Southern California. Should we have considered a modern, beachy wedding, or even a city wedding?  We've always had a special connection to the beach, too. After all, that's where we got engaged! So could we do an elegant, oceanside wedding? I had even entertained the idea of a destination wedding to Tuscany, where I had studied abroad. Could you imagine a wedding atop one of Tuscany's rolling hills, with wine and pasta aplenty with a small string quartet playing under the stars?

Finding a special place that fit all of the criteria (price, availability, customization) could have been a difficult process. After much discussion (and debate), we decided to stay true to ourselves. We aren't city people. We didn't share the Italy thing. We didn't want to inconvenience family by holding an oceanside wedding. But after thinking about our long history, we decided to go with a location close to our roots. While this might not work for everyone, it was a perfect fit for us.  In actuality, we got extremely lucky - choosing our venue was a one-hit wonder. We knew the size of the wedding we wanted (smallish, but not extremely intimate) and we knew the type of ceremony we wanted (modern, but with a faithful connection to heritage and tradition). So, we made a grand total of ONE phone call....and luckily, they had one date open for us. Our venue was too good to pass up...and the rest is history. I am so glad I didn't look anywhere else.

ask yourself: what's included, and what will it look like?

Options these days are endless, and most wedding venues have adapted to that. There is often a lot of flexibility with your venue, but this is something that you should look into. If you're like me, you want to DIY some parts of your wedding. Fortunately, my venue and the staff are extremely cool with that. It helps us as we harken back to visualizing our big day. There's a big difference between choosing the look you want and the celebration you want. We fell in love with the way our venue allows us to customize our big day to our liking.

When you're thinking about your LOOK, you're probably thinking thematically. Outdoors vs. indoors? Vintage vs. rustic? Modern city vs. city glamour? There are endless themes, and quite honestly, you can have it all. But sometimes these "dream" venues often embody only one or two of these themes. We decided to choose a rustic countryside barn because it was more of a blank slate than rustic barn; in the fall, when we get married, it will be surrounded by the glorious oranges, reds and yellows of fall. The enchanting cobblestones and wooden beams and fairy lights will speak for themselves.  Any decor we want to add is an option - a huge perk for us.

Another thing to consider revolves around price. What is included? One of the reasons we chose our venue is because a great deal of services are included in the package. Food, wedding cake, florals, the ceremony and cocktail hour are just a few of the services included in the price. It is great for planning purposes, and eases our stress levels a bit. We are also lucky because the staff is SO friendly, accommodating...and to our delight, really fun! We were delighted a few weeks ago when we had our menu meeting and left the premises feeling like we've known the event planners for years. 

most importantly: be flexible  

I always vowed to myself I'd never be a bridezilla - and that requires you to adapt to the inevitable situations that come with wedding planning. Your dream venue may not be available in the ideal month or date for you - so roll with the punches. Of course, pricing is important as well as choosing a place with meaning - but if something is out of the question or unavailable, think rationally. Your wedding is what you make of it. And really, it's supposed to be a celebration of your love as well as what's to come.  So if your ideal setting can't come to fruition, look around and do some thinking...wherever you end up with your wedding, it will be a BEAUTIFUL affair with lots of loved ones smiling up at you. 

Here are some links worth checking out: WeddingWire's best picks for New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles wedding venues.