In my wedding journal I have a list of 89 venues in the Gauteng area. Each of those venues I have personally googled and researched, and of those my fiancé and I physically visited 13 venues. Twice to the one we eventually chose. Yes, I know. It’s a bit extreme. But my greatest fear with booking a wedding venue was not doing enough research and after booking a venue, discovering one I really like but didn’t know about. I wanted to know every venue out there because, to me, the venue was a huge part of the wedding. It essentially is the canvas on which to paint the rest of the details. It sets the tone, theme, backdrop for photos, and not to mention the biggest part of the budget.
I’ve mentioned before how the wedding industry can be overwhelming and how there is so many choices, and I quickly discovered that when venue hunting. The great thing about that is there is something for everybody. There’s castle venues, country venues, hotel venues, bush venues, rustic venues, luxury venues, and more! And I just tapped into the small pool of venues within a 150km radius of where I live. With the amount of options out there, it is a great idea to know what you’re looking for before you start your venue hunt. But if you’re like me, who didn’t know what I wanted, then perhaps more options is best. I wanted to see what was out there, how it looked and felt in order to decide exactly what it was I wanted. And thank goodness I did, because while searching I discovered what I thought I had wanted in the beginning was exactly what I didn’t want. I’ve found that the process of elimination has worked best for me.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt while wedding venue hunting before I found our perfect venue! (Well, I hope, we haven’t had our wedding yet!)
Before actually visiting the venue…
Do a full search on the venue
Websites are the first point of reference when googling a venue, but of course it’s a biased view of their best features. I found searching for the venue on social media very helpful. Not only viewing their profile, but actually viewing the photos they have been tagged in. The unedited ones that have been taken by guests. Also reading reviews on wedding blogs or magazines.
Decide on the non-negotiables
Make a small list of things that are important to both you and your fiancé, these can be as vague or as detailed as you want. For us, we wanted a venue that had a ceremony and reception area in one place so that our guests wouldn’t have to move. Because we have a lot of guests travelling from out of town, making sure the venue had accommodation or at least accommodation near by was also important. As well as having a great bridal suit and groomsmen’s room.
Ask for a package details
Once you’ve selected the ones you like, email them and ask for their packages. I realised this after viewing a venue and falling in love with it, only to find the price was completely out of our budget. It not only wasted our time, but also gave me false hope. I found it’s best to get as much information before making the trip to see the venue. Especially when the venue is a long drive away.
Make a list of questions
Once you’ve collected the wedding packages, and all other information (from their website and other sites) it’s good to make a list of questions for when you visit them. This helped me so much. I would write them down in my note book, and tick them off after I had asked the question. Although you can always email them afterwards, it was great to chat about it in person. Sometimes they would even give me ideas and help me envision what it would look like.
Choose your people
Decide on who you will take to see the venue to help you decide. My fiancé and decided to go just the two of us, and when we had narrowed it down we took my family to further help solidify our decision. It’s best to keep it small because a lot of opinions can be confusing. It’s also a good idea to take the person paying.
Choose a flexible date
When looking for a venue you need to have a date in mind. This affects price, seasonal menus and pretty much everything swivels on this date. (Goodness!) But have a few options in mind because 9 times out of 10 your date has already been booked by someone else.
When visiting the venue…
Take your own pictures
Although there are probably tons of photos that exist of the venue, take your own photos to refer back to. Especially take photos if the venue isn’t dressed up from a previous wedding as this helped me to reimagine what else I could do with the space. There will also be things that you’ve never seen online before like the bridal suit, or the guest accommodation if they have.
Although I had my note book of questions, I found that a few times information from their website or even their packages were outdated, or there are different terms and conditions for a new year. So sometimes I would confirm a few details just to make sure we were on the same page.
Feel the space
Some people call it bad luck, but I liked to walk down the isle and feel what it would be like on the day. A lot of the times, even after the walk through with the venue coordinator, my fiancé and I would walk alone through the space. For us, it also needed to feel right. And sometimes you just know.
After the venue visit…
Straight after visiting the venue it’s a good idea to write down your thoughts. This will help later on when you need to narrow it down, the small details will count. Write down as much details as possible about what you liked and what you didn’t like. I had to do this, because after visiting so many venues I started to get confused.
Make charts or make a decision
Some people can visit a venue and know right away that was the venue for them. Not me. I must admit I made a comparison table with the venues we liked showcasing what they offered, what I liked and disliked, what was included in the package, or extra special features offered. This was the way that worked for me, but it is time consuming. Laying it out in a table helped me see all the important points first and start chopping down the list quickly.
What are some of your wedding venue hunting tips or experiences?
*Images from Unsplash.