Now, you've made it this far in the wedding planning process. Congrats! This is where planning can either go really smoothly, or continue to be stressful.
Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for making it this far into your wedding planning and know that I am here to help take away some of your stress.
Thus far you have created a clear vision, nailed down your budget and have a close to perfect guest list. So now comes the time to make decisions and moves on your venue and/or venues if you want a separate ceremony and reception. Like your vision, your venue is going to be a place that is special to you and your spouse.
I know I have had a lot of issues with the typical wedding venues because I felt like it wasn't going to be special to me. I know that I hold a value of wanting where I say my vows and my "I do's" to be in a place where I can visit without having to go to another wedding in order to do so. Also, as a wedding photographer, I really don't want to get married where my past couples have. Those are special places to me because of the couples who let me capture their wedding day and I don't want to fight with those memories on my day.
Making the decision about your venue is going to be one of the tougher choices and it requires a lot of thought and shouldn't be rushed into. You are going to want to check in with your budget, because the venue and what it includes, is probably going to be one of the higher ticket items that you have to deal with.
Research, research, research
This is going to be key for nailing down your venue. Start by looking online. Websites like, The Knot, or Wedding Spot can be very helpful for initial research. You can check out an article I wrote about my favorite venues in AZ as well! (self promotion, I know).
Then move into compiling a list or a spread sheet of your favorite places. You and your fiancé can do this together, or you can do it separately. If done separately, come together with your research and see what overlaps and what doesn't.
From there, whittle the list down to a top 10 places that you would love to get married. Chances are, your date might not be available at all of them, so depending on the date or dates that you chose earlier, its time to take them to the venues and see whats available. Depending on that outcome, it's time to decide if you are flexible or if the date doesn't budge and the venue changes.
This is where having multiple "favorites" come in handy because if one date isn't open, it may be elsewhere.
Now that you have your dates in mind and your top venue picks, it's time to go out and see them in person. Luckily, a lot of venues will host open houses where vendors will come out and they will have set ups for the ceremony space, reception space and you can tour the groom and bridal suites.
It is great to see them set up because you can get a sense of what the venue provides and where you need to hire vendors. So take advantage of these opportunities. And if the open houses are a little overwhelming, which they can very easily be, speak with the coordinator to set up a private walk through. They are usually very accommodating.
All Inclusive or nah?
Another major thing to consider when venue shopping is how inclusive are the options. Depending on the packages they offer, the prices will be budget friendly and others may not. Some venues will have packages that include literally everything, covering entertainment, capture, catering and rentals and from there the inclusive options may become partially inclusive or even down to al a carte.
Sometimes it isn't your traditional wedding venue
It is becoming more common these days to settle for a more intimate wedding and a trending theme is to host your wedding in a backyard. Whether that be a family home, a friends ranch house or a place found on airbnb, the options are endless. The beauty of a backyard wedding is it can be extremely memorable because you are able to go back to that place without having to attend a wedding in order to do so.
It can also be a little cheaper because you aren't dealing with those large venue prices. However, a DIY wedding can add up to just as much as I am learning, so take that with a grain of salt.
You've got this!