Daydreaming about your perfect wedding starts with the biggest step- deciding on the place! But what important factors go into choosing a wedding venue, and what really matters to you? As a wedding photographer of nearly a decade, I’ve seen–and documented–a lot of different scenarios at many different venues, and I can confidently say there are things you’ll want to consider before you book. But what are those things?
Well, let’s get to it!
Light, light, light! I don’t mean those ugly florescent overhead lights, I mean beautiful natural light that makes your photos classy & flattering.
When you tour or look at online photos, take note of any windows and how much natural light actually comes into the space! Your photos and videos will always look so much cleaner and better color-balanced if there is ample natural light.
It will also speed things up considerably, as we won’t have to tote around lights and take test shots to get everything looking okay (but, artificial lighting will still not look as classic as soft window light). For example, is the bridal suite just a room with overhead lights or is there space to breathe & windows letting in some light?
Look at the key areas you want featured in in your wedding. If the ceremony space is outdoors, will it be in the shade for that date/time of your wedding? If it’s in full sun, will it be beating down on it from above or setting gently behind you?
Shade is always best, but if you get married under a bright sun, ideally, have the light coming at you from a 45* angle or from behind.
The same is true for any areas you want to take other photos in, like your couple portraits in a garden or courtyard. Look for places with shade, or where the sunset will be taking place behind it, not shining light onto it as the sun goes down.
This can be a big one for couples! One of your very first questions must be this:
“Do you have an Open or Closed vendor policy? If open, can I see your preferred vendor list?”
Most venues have a mix of these things. They allow any vendor of most kinds, but they may have a Closed List for high-risk vendors like Bartenders and DJs/uplighting. Be sure to get clarity on which is which.
Their Preferred Vendor List is valuable because these vendors have rapport and working at the venue, and they likely already have their insurance on file with them. Te key difference is you don’t have to hire a Preferred vendor, but it’s a good place to start looking!
If your ceremony or cocktail hour is outdoors, this is a huge one! What contingency plan does the venue have in place for bad weather? Some great ways to resolve this are:
Family traveling in for your beautiful event may appreciate a shorter drive, or accommodations at/near the wedding venue. Many people host their wedding at a luxury hotel to solve both of these issues! But even for event-specific venues, proximity to other things can be something to consider.
Ask if the venue you’re considering offers any additional services along with their packages, you might be surprised at what in-house things they offer! Many venues offer things like bartending or staffing and will include it for a lower cost than if your hired those vendors outside.
This seems like an obvious one, but hear me out- if there is something icky about a venue, the only people who know about it are previous couples. You absolutely want to hear about both the good and the bad! And chances are good you won’t hear about the negative things from the venue, or from their Google reviews.
Post around in wedding Facebook groups or local community boards asking if anyone has experience at that venue, and if they’re willing to share their experience. You should also ask your coordinator if they know anything important from their previous events there!
I hope these tips help you feel more prepared going into your next venue tour, or in collecting lots of great venues online to start checking out! If you are a couple of mine, please always feel free to reach out to me with any questions about your venue or if you’d like advice on how to plan for amazing images there.