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  • Writer's picturePat Fermin

How to Choose a Wedding Venue

Finding your dream wedding venue is just a few steps away. Here's everything you need to know about how to choose a wedding venue.

The venue you select for your big day really sets the tone for your event, whether you go from a casual beach to a majestic ballroom. When it comes to how to choose a wedding venue, the whole process can feel pretty daunting and there are lots of questions that you'll need to answer. Will your wedding be big or small? Outdoors or indoors? Rustic or glam? Settling on the basics of your wedding will help you and your partner narrow down the many venues out there, and find the one that’s right for you. Here’s the rundown of how to choose a wedding venue, from start to finish.

Choose your wedding location.

In our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, weddings were traditionally held in the bride’s hometown. Nowadays, however, your wedding can be held anywhere—either partner’s hometown, the city where you currently live, a favorite vacation spot, even a destination that you’ve always wanted to visit. There are certain benefits to hosting a hometown wedding (convenience!), but destination weddings certainly have their perks, too (amazing backdrop!). You’ll want to select the general location where your event will take place first and foremost, as this decision will affect all the other details of your big day, from your budget to your venue options.

Decide if you want your ceremony and reception in the same or different places.

While it's certainly convenient to host your ceremony and reception in the same venue, some couples prefer to host the two events in separate spaces. Often, this is done so the couple can host their ceremony in a house of worship, but couples may also choose to host their ceremony at a park, in a courthouse, or elsewhere, following by a celebration at a wedding reception venue. It's important to decide whether you'll want a single ceremony and reception venue, or separate locations for each event.

Figure out your budget.

When it comes to how to choose a wedding venue, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is how much you can spend on a space. And it turns out that your venue and catering will compromise about half of your wedding budget. In the U.S., couples spend an average of $5,400 on their venue alone, with most couples spending between $2,700 and $10,500—not a small amount by any stretch. How much you’ll spend on your venue really depends on where you’re planning on marrying—renting a venue in a major city will likely cost more than one in a more rural area. Talk to your partner and any loved ones who may be contributing financially to your big day and come up with a total budget—then divide that number by half to determine the amount you can spend on your venue and catering (which may end up being a combined cost if you select an all-inclusive venue).

Come up with an estimated guest count.

Every wedding venue has a capacity—a firm number of guests that it can comfortably hold. This number is usually not flexible, so while you don’t need to come up with an exact number of guests before selecting a venue, you’ll need to have a pretty good estimate. There’s a pretty big difference between a venue that can accommodate 75 guests, and one that can hold 500. Don’t just pull a guest count out of thin air (“I want a 100-person wedding!”). Sit down with your partner and respective families to come up with a list so there won’t be any major surprises later on (you can always add or subtract a few guests if you need). The last thing you want is to fall in love with a wedding venue with a 50-person capacity only to realize that you have a 150-person guest list.

Think about your priorities.

Once you have a location, budget, and guest count, it’s time to start thinking about what your dream venue would look like. Sit down with your partner and choose three features that your ideal venue would have. For example, an outdoor wedding ceremony and cocktail hour space, in-house catering, and a rustic feel might on your must-have list. Or perhaps you’re looking for a venue that’s conveniently located, pet-friendly, and has accommodations for your out-of-town guests. The possibilities are endless and each couple’s priorities will be different.

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