Choosing a wedding venue can be a daunting task.  There are so many options!  Do you want to host your reception in a traditional ballroom with high ceilings and crystal chandeliers?  Would you like to dance the night away in a rustic barn filled with twinkle lights?  Or perhaps you’d like to toast your nuptials in a renovated warehouse with floor to ceiling windows and exposed beams?

There are hundreds of choices and it can be incredibly overwhelming but luckily we’ve come up with our top five things to keep in mind when choosing your venue to help you decide!

Budget

I’m sure you’re growing tired of hearing every wedding professional tell you that “BUDGET IS IMPORTANT!”  But it really is!  Whether you are looking for your dress, your florals or your venue you need to have a budget in mind so you can search within your set budget and not fall in love with something outside your price point.

So how do you determine a venue budget?  Generally speaking, your reception should take about 45-50% of your entire wedding budget.  So that means if you don’t have a complete budget set yet – do that first!  What does that 45-50% include you ask?  It should include your food and beverage costs, rental items, venue charge, cake, catering supplies etc.*

So once you have a budget for your reception in mind it’s important to ask questions at each venue such as “Are linens, tables, chairs and catering supplies included?” or “Do you have a minimum food and beverage charge?” or “Is there a fee to bring in an outside caterer?”  You want to make sure that there are no surprises that could increase the price later on pushing your dream venue outside of your budget!

*Keep in mind that everyone’s wedding is different and you may want to allocate 60% to your reception or 30% instead.  You may also want to have the entertainment as a separate line item or you may want to lump it into your overall reception budget.  Just be sure that you have each item covered in one category or another. 

Guest Count

While it’s tough to know your exact guest count in the early stages of wedding planning, it is definitely important to have at least a rough estimate of your guest list to help you narrow down your venue options.  It would be disappointing to find a local brewery oozing with hipster charm and character perfect for you and your fiance’s style only to find out that they can hold 150 guests and you’ve got 300.  Likewise, if you were hosting an intimate wedding of 50 guests you wouldn’t need to rent out the entire grand ballroom at the Hotel D’Fancy Pants.

It can be hard to tell the true size of a room based on online photos so when you’re researching venues, reach out and ask them for their room sizes and capacities before you go view 10 venues that are all too big or too small.  Asking questions prior to viewing a venue will help you ensure you find one that’s just right.

BUT keep in mind that some venues may offer reception options beyond a standard sit down dinner that can potentially accommodate your guest count!  For example, you can fit more people into a space if you host a cocktail style reception instead of a plated dinner.  However, at the end of the day if you find a space that you are in love with but the guest count is too high or too low be prepared to adjust accordingly to make it work.

Theme/Colours

The theme and colours of a wedding are a crucial element to consider when selecting your reception venue.  A rustic inspired, country wedding may look a little out of place in a sleek, modern, minimalist art gallery.  And a stunning blush, gold and navy wedding may be spoiled by a hotel ballroom with bright orange and brown paisley carpet straight out of 1974.

Now there are two ways to approach this: you could search for a venue that fits with your desired theme and colours OR you could find a venue you love and let the space inspire your theme.  Searching for a venue that fits with your desired theme has the potential to be a little tricky, especially if you live in an area where venues are limited or you’re getting married in a high season when many popular venues could be booked already.  But having a theme before searching for a venue does give you a good starting point when you’re narrowing down a lot of choices.

On the other hand, letting the venue determine your theme gives you lots of options which can keep you open to things you may not have considered before.  You may discover a restaurant that is perfectly suited to your style that you may not have considered if you were only looking at things that fell into a certain category.  But keep in mind that this also has the potential to be VERY overwhelming so be cautious and don’t try to look at EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE!

Lighting

This is something that many couples can overlook and it makes all the difference in not only your ambiance but also in your photos!  A refurbished factory filled with lanterns might be a really unique and cool option but a lack of windows or poor window placement could prove to be difficult for your photographer.  If making sure you have beautiful images of your reception is at the top of your priority list I would ask your photographer for recommendations on their favourite venues to shoot in.

It’s also a good idea to schedule a viewing around the same time of day that your event will be held to get a good idea of what the light will be like in the room if possible.  If you love a venue but the lighting isn’t ideal ask what sort of lighting options they have or what other couples have done in the past for their weddings.

It can also be helpful to search photographer blogs for past weddings they’ve shot at your potential venue.  Typing in “McMillan Factory Wedding Photos” into Google will bring up more images from photographers blogs and websites than simply searching through the venues website and social media accounts.  (This is also a great way to find a photographer who has shot at your venue with a style you like!)

Accessibility 

This one is very important and often forgotten about during the excitement of searching for venues.  If you have anyone attending your wedding who will be using a wheelchair, a walker or needs assistance of any kind it is incredibly important to make sure your venues are accessible.  While many hotels, banquet halls and public spaces such as art galleries are wheelchair accessible, there are still many venues that are not.  Historical buildings may have staircases instead of elevators and outdoor venues may have a beautiful tented area but no smooth walkway to get there.

Start your accessibility audit with the outside of the building.  Is there a curb ramp to get onto the sidewalk?  If the building has steps, is there a ramp available as well?
When you move inside check to see if everything you need is all on one level or if you’ll be going up or down a flight of stairs at all.  If you are, is there an elevator that can accommodate a wheelchair?
Check the washrooms, are they accessible and easy to use for everyone?
When you are discussing how to set up tables in the reception room consider how much space will be left between tables.  Is it enough for a wheelchair or walker to get by?

Remember that even if at the time that your selecting a venue everyone on your guest list is able to move around freely, that could change by your wedding date.  Grandparents could end up needing a walker or your cousin could break her leg and need a wheelchair!  Making sure that each and every important person in your life can attend your big day is invaluable.  And they will be honoured that you took the time to make sure they could come and celebrate with you.

Bonus Tip!

After you’ve done your research, viewed each potential venue and made sure to ask all your carefully thought out questions there is just one thing left to do.  Take a minute to think “Can I picture our wedding in this space?”  Think about the whole thing, how you want it to feel and look and the energy of the celebration.  If you can’t picture it in that venue then it’s time to move on.  Don’t forget, this day is a reflection of you and your fiance.  A venue can check all the boxes but it still has to feel right to you!

Good luck in your search and don’t forget, if you ever need any assistance we are just an email away and happy to help with any detail, big or small!