How to pick the perfect wedding venue.

article by: Dani McEwin
PUBLISHED: October 6, 2017

We have created a step by step guide below to help you narrow down your search, and find the perfect venue for your dream wedding.

Are you trying to book in your wedding venue but don’t know where to start? There are so many places to choose from, each very different. We have created a step by step guide below to help you narrow down your search, and find the perfect venue for your dream wedding.

Step 1. Narrow down the area.

You may already know where you’d like to get married, but if not, you need to narrow down the area. This might be based on where you live, or if you want a destination wedding, narrowing it down to the city or suburb. For example, you may know that you want a winery wedding within 1 hour of Melbourne CBD, so narrow your search down to Yarra Valley or Mornington Penninsula.

Step 2. Create a list of every potential venue in the area you are wanting to get married in.

I have found that the best way to create this list is by using Google Maps on a computer (way easier than trying on a phone!). I suggest Google Maps rather than just Google searching the web, as if a venue does not have an optimised website they may not show up in Google depending on your search terms. However; most places will show up in Google maps simply because of their location, so it doesn’t matter if they haven’t optimised their website. So, get onto Google Maps on your computer, and zoom in on the suburb or location you are wanting. Then type in the search box ‘Wedding Venue’ and you will see a list of potential venues pop up. Type the name of each venue into an excel sheet in a list. Try searching on a couple of other terms as well, just to ensure you have an exhaustive list of venues. So you could also try ‘winery wedding’, and ‘weddings’ to see if anything else comes up. At the end of it, you should just have a long list of venue names.

Step 3. Figure out your main criteria and start culling unsuitable venues.

When I say main criteria, I usually break it down to two things. Cost per head for food and beverage, and venue capacity in guest numbers.

If you haven’t already figured out your budget per head for food and beverage, have a quick read of my article on ‘The first three things you need to do when planning your wedding’ and download the budget template so you can figure out what you can afford per head.

So add in two columns into your spreadsheet; a ‘cost per head’ column and a ‘capacity’ column. Start doing quick Google searches on these two criteria for each venue in your list. It sounds like a daunting task but it shouldn’t take too long as most venues have this information readily available on their website. If not, a quick call to the venue will give you the answers you need. Fill in your two columns for every venue (cost per head and capacity). Once you have this information, you can start culling. Filter the list by capacity, and then cut out all venues that are too small for your guest numbers. Then filter that list again by budget, and cut out all venues that are more than $10 a head over your budget. I say this because a lot of venues are willing to negotiate slightly, so if you look at venues only slightly over your budget you can probably talk them down to fit within your budget.  Now you should be left with a list of less than ten potential venues.

Step 4. Research your list of venues

Now that you have ten or less venues to look at, you can start doing some deeper research into your potential options. Go onto their website and download their wedding brochures, and read through those. Also look at pictures of the venue and see if the style of the venue matches what you want. For example, if you want a country barn style venue, looking at a Victorian mansion is going to be a waste of time! Based on the look of the venue, you should now be able to cull the list even further, down to around 5-6 venues. This is your shortlist!

Step 5. Create a venue scorecard.

Next step is to sit down and think about the things you will be looking for in a venue, and create a list of these things to rate each venue against. Some of these items might include ‘Options for outdoor ceremony’, ‘Options for indoor ceremony’, ‘food quality’, ‘photo locations onsite’. If you need help thinking of things, I have created a scorecard which you are welcome to download and use (click on the below link). Once you have your scorecard items, take this to each venue and rate each venue against each item (score out of ten).

DOWNLOAD OUR WEDDING VENUE SCORECARD HERE

Step 6. Go and see the venues in your shortlist.

Call up each venue in your shortlist and make an appointment to go and meet with them (very important!). I strongly advise against just turning up without an appointment. Firstly, it’s kind of rude, and secondly, there is no guarantee that someone will be available to show you around and you won’t get a good feel for the venue and have all your questions answered. Also, if there is an event on at the time, it’s unlikely that they will let you into the function room. Once you are at the venue looking around, make sure you take out your scorecard and cover off every single item on there. Give the venue a score out of ten for each of the items (write it down at the time so you don’t forget).

Step 7. Choose your venue.

Once you have seen the venues in your shortlist, either of these two things would have happened.

  1. You fell in love with one of the venues and it ticked off everything in your list, so you are confident that you want your wedding there.
  2. You are confused about which venue is right for you, and can’t decide between two or three venues.

If you are in the first category, then congratulations! You’ve chosen your venue! Now you can go back to that venue and negotiate pricing and inclusions. If you are in the second category then have no fear! Whip out your venue scorecard and look at the scores for those venues you can’t decide between. If there is one that has a significantly higher score than the others, it means it is the most suitable for you. If there are two that have pretty close scores as the highest, then make another appointment and meet with the event sales managers. During this meeting, tell them you can’t decide and you want to see what they are willing to offer you to help make the decision. This could be a discount on the per head price, or it could be throwing in lots of extras for free. Hopefully by the end of this second meeting with both venues you should be able to make a decision.

Step 8. Book in your wedding date.

The wedding world moves very quickly – dates that may have been available very quickly fill up at popular venues so make sure as soon as you know which venue you want, and you have negotiated pricing with them, you book in the date and pay the deposit immediately! As a guide, popular venues usually get booked on Saturdays around 14-16 months in advance, and less popular venues are booked out on Saturday around 12 months in advance. So; get cracking so you don’t miss out!

I hope this step by step guide has helped you pick the perfect wedding venue. If you need any further help or you are stuck, contact us and we will give you a free event consultation to help you on your way!

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