Choosing a Wedding Location

Whether you've known the perfect place for your wedding  since you were two or you're completely open to any possibility, choosing a wedding location can pose a multitude of challenges.  Luckily, with enough planning  and perhaps some room to compromise, you can ensure that you get your dream spot to tie the knot.

To Start

It's important to book your wedding site as soon as possible, not only to make sure that you get your desired venue, but also to leave room for planning other aspects of your big day.  To help make the decision easier, the bride and groom should try to attend all interviews  together and should take a pen and paper along to write down all pertinent information and questions about the venue.

It may also be worthwhile to make a list of definite must-haves--from an ocean view to a grand staircase--before looking at wedding sites.

Questions to Ask

Will it be a church  wedding or a civil wedding?  A church wedding requires that the reception afterward be planned around the wedding service, and you must often determine how guests will get from the service to the reception site.  With a civil wedding, traveling guests are not a concern, but a steeper price tag is.  You must also make sure that the chosen venue is large enough to accommodate both events and that it is licensed to hold wedding ceremonies.

  • How many guests will be attending? You should have a fairly solid idea, keeping in mind guests' significant others.
  • Can they accommodate my band/DJ/other entertainment? You need to check that the site of the ceremony has room for a wedding band, if you've chosen to have one, and that the reception site also has ample room for a reception band or DJ. And don't forget--room for music means you need room to dance as well!
  • Will guests sit or stand at the reception? If you're having a buffet-type reception then consider this: venues that may only seat 50 may hold 100 standing persons just as comfortably.
  • What's my budget ? As with any other aspect of the wedding, the venue should try to fit into your overall budget.
  • What's my theme? You want the atmosphere at your wedding to be perfect. If you're having your wedding in a beach town, why not carry that theme over to the reception with light coloured linens and seashell wedding favours ?
  • How much work will be involved? Venues vary in what they offer for weddings and other big events. While some may come with all the amenities you need to host a wedding reception, others may simply be an empty space--i.e. you need to arrange for tables, chairs, dinnerware, decorations etc.

Endless Options

  • At Home - A do it yourself wedding can be great if you simply don't have the budget for a luxurious venue. But saying 'I do' at home may require a little more planning and a little less extravagance.
    • Make sure you have enough bathrooms for your guests. The same goes for tables, chairs and glassware .
    • Consider having a wedding planner. Just because it's your house doesn't mean you have to do all the work. You still want to enjoy your day, so having some professional help may ensure that things are kept fun and less hectic. Plus, a wedding planner may be able to offer a fresh prospective on your property, and thus new ideas on how to arrange the ceremony and reception around existing features and yard space.
    • Consider doing the decorating yourself. Choose flower arrangements and centerpieces that fit your home and your theme. Functionality is also often a factor--having beautiful drink pitchers that double as centerpieces costs less money and takes up less space.
    • Have the food prepared off-site. Unless your kitchen can support a full waitstaff, it's best to have the food prepared by a caterer, and then have it delivered to you shortly before the reception begins. It may even be best to limit food to hors d'oeuvres, which often gives the reception a relaxed cocktail hour feel.
    • Tell the neighbors. If they aren't invited, send them some wine or pastries with a note explaining that you appreciate their cooperation during this family affair. This is especially important for apartment weddings, where neighbors may be subject to extra noise.
    • Mind the weather. If you're having an indoor-outdoor wedding, make sure that if it downpours you can still comfortably fit all of your guests inside your home.
    • Remember the lawn. You want to keep your yard looking trim and fresh for the big day, so maintanence is key. It's also important to plant flowers  early to make sure that they're in bloom when the wedding rolls around.
  • At a Hotel (Ball Rooms or Grounds) - Having your wedding in a hotel has a lot of pluses for a slightly heavier pricetag. 
    • Most have more than enough room for guests, and accommodations for them to stay overnight if necessary (at discounted rates, too!).
    • They also are often full service or provide special wedding packages, meaning that they may provide everything from tables, chairs, and dinnerware to decorations, music and a waitstaff.
    • They are often the most simple choice, because the layout of the rooms/grounds help to dictate where guests, food, dancing, etc. will be positioned.
    • They come in all sizes and styles. Hotels can accommodate varying tastes, from historic to modern, and can help you to decide a cohesive theme for your wedding.
  • At the Beach - Beach weddings often require the least work when it comes to decorations, because the locale itself sets the mood.
    • You may need a permit depending on how big your guest list is, so check with the local authorities.
    • Try to pick a more protected area where the wind won't disrupt the ceremony.
    • Be mindful of the hour you choose for the ceremony, as it may still be fairly hot even during evening hours. The time will also affect the tides, so make sure your location is far enough from the breaking waves.
    • Find a local wedding officiant so he or she can provide you with area tips and affordable package deals.
    • Rent an outdoor canopy  to protect your reception area from rain showers and uninvited beach critters and birds.
    • Keep everyone safe and comfy by providing enough shade, suncreen and bug spray.
    • Decide if you want flooring. While most beach weddings have guests go barefoot, some more formal affairs may have temporary, yet sturdy flooring put in place for the event.
  • Houses of Worship - If you're planning to have your ceremony at a church or temple, it's often useful to pick a location that offers room for the reception as well to eliminate travel time and costs.
    • Determine whether the venue is full service, or is offered on a rental basis. More often than not, churches and temples can provide the space, but not the food or decorations.
    • Book the family pastor or priest. Choosing a holy location is often an important part of keeping family tradition. To continue with this theme, it may be nice to have an officiant with whom you have a personal relationship.

Other great choices:

  • Auditoriums - Usually on a rental basis.
  • Mansions - Full service.
  • Bed and Breakfast - Full service.
  • Camp Grounds or Parks- Do it yourself.
  • Museums - Some offer celebration rooms, may help with special wedding themes,
  • Country Clubs - Most offer full service.
  • Convention Centers - Some offer full service, some are on a rental basis.
  • Resorts - Full service.
  • Yachts or Cruise Ships - Full service.

How to Look

  • Search the yellow pages! You never know what you may find.
  • Ask friends and family about other weddings they've gone to, or if they've heard of any exceptional locations.
  • Attend bridal expos. They may be a bit overwhelming, so grab brochures from the venues that you can, and take notes.
  • Flip through bridal magazines . Even if you don't find a specific venue from this, you are bound to get ideas about what type of venue you'd like and what extras would make the place great.
  • Check the internet for local wedding sites, and bookmark your favourites.

Wedding Location Checklist

To help you pick the perfect place, here's a list of important factors to consider no matter where you're planning on tying the knot.

  • Venue staff. You need a staff that is both professional and attentive to your needs to ensure that the day goes off without a hitch.
  • Special facilities. Make sure that the venue can accomodate all guests, including those with young children or disabilities.
  • Parking and transportation. Make sure it's easy to get to your venue, whether it be through car or public transportation.
  • Accomodations. If the venue itself doesn't have a place for guests to stay, make sure there are hotels within a reasonable distance.
  • Restrictions. Depending on building codes or neighborhood ordinances, some venues may have restrictions on the type of decorations you can have or the volume of your music.
  • Photos. Check to make sure the venue has good lighting and appealing spots for professional and family photo  opportunities.

Related Guides

Choosing a Wedding Date 

Save the Dates

Wedding Countdown Checklist

Choosing an Officiant