Tips for Being Intentional When Choosing Your Wedding Venue

Woodend Sanctuary - Chevy Chase, MD (Image by Dani Leigh Photography)

Woodend Sanctuary - Chevy Chase, MD (Image by Dani Leigh Photography)

We're officially in the midst of holidays, and for us in the wedding industry, it's also a time known as engagement season - woohoo! According to WeddingWire, 40% of couples will get engaged during the months of November through February. Love is most definitely in the air! That means plenty of you will be kicking off your wedding plans as we transition into the new year. One of the first, and most important decisions you will make is choosing the location where you say your "I Do's" and celebrate your nuptials with all of your loved ones. Have you envisioned what your dream wedding day will look like? If not, now is the time to start! 

For those getting married in the District, Maryland or Virginia, the awesome part is that your venue options are plentiful. However, the most popular venues book up well over a year in advance during peak wedding season (late April through early November). Having two or more potential wedding dates, or better yet a season, will give you the best selection for venue options. If you're set on getting married in less than a year and need to commit to a venue ASAP, you will definitely find that having a wedding planner that specializes in your local area a smart investment. (Contact us to learn more about my Venue Scouting service) 

As you dive into the venue search, here are some tips to ensure that you are being intentional and efficient with your valuable time when choosing your perfect wedding venue. 

compile an estimated guest count

Before scheduling your venue visits, be sure to sit down with your fiance and any others whose input will effect your guest count. In most cases, those who are contributing financially to the wedding will have a say in the guest list. Based on your discussions, come up with a guest count range that your venue must be able to accommodate. Many venues have both a minimum guest count requirement, as well as a maximum capacity cutoff. I recommend that couples err on the side of the lower guest count, because it's always easier to add guests than to reduce them once you're committed to a venue and caterer. 

Your estimated guest count should be realistic for your budget purposes, as well. Booking the venue and caterer should not consume your entire budget - be sure to leave room for photography, flowers, rentals and decor, entertainment, and more!

determine your non-negotiables

Think about what your wedding absolutely must have. Have you and your fiance always dreamed of an autumn wedding with beautiful fall foliage, or saying your vows by the water? Make a list of your top three non-negotiables, and allow this to drive your venue search! If you want a spring wedding with gardens, greenery and nature, it wouldn't make sense to visit hotel ballrooms if they can't deliver on the vision you want. 

Will many of your guests be traveling a distance to attend your wedding? If so, you may want to consider venues which have on-site accommodations for your guests, or at least nearby lodging options, so they won't have to worry about getting lost in an unfamiliar area. Better yet, a venue that can host your rehearsal dinner and/or post wedding brunch is a lovely way to spread out the wedding fun for the entire weekend and spend more time with your guests traveling from afar. 

If it's important to you to be married in a church or house of worship, use your ceremony location to help determine where your reception will be. To be considerate of guests' time, the shorter the distance and "wait" time between the ceremony and reception, the better. Also, be mindful of the time of year your wedding will take place. If you are planning a wedding during the peak summer months, you should only consider venues which offer proper cooling and air conditioning to ensure the comfort of you and your guests. Melted cake? No thanks! 

what type of venue fits you as a couple?

Maybe your engagement came as a complete surprise, and you have no idea what your wedding day is supposed to look like. That's the best part! You can, and totally should curate your day based on your personality as a couple. How did you two meet? What are your favorite things to do together?

If you're outdoorsy and love spend your free time hiking or camping, a woodsy, off-the-beaten path venue may be perfect for you. If you're big-city dwellers and love all things luxury and grand, an high-end hotel or prestigious museum would appeal to you. Alternatively, a couple who wants a city wedding with a modern, avant-garde feel may opt for an industrial-chic art gallery. A couple who loves peaceful, romantic settings and the countryside may find that a European inspired winery or villa is their ideal location.

The entire wedding planning process should be driven by what inspires you as a couple and reflects your personalities, while taking your families and guests' interests into consideration, as well. Once you think about these important aspects, you will be much more intentional in which venues you consider - and when you look back on your wedding day, you won't just remember the "where", you will also know that special "why"

What's most important to you in choosing a wedding venue? Let us know in the comments below!